Leading the mind
Hi all! Got another question...
There's a point in practice when you stop waiting to be grabbed from static and begin working with timing, positioning and leading uke's attention/intention.
Is this shift in practice obviously taught in your dojo, or simply picked up on? Is it focused on at a certain rank, or whenever the practicioner feels the shift themselves?
To me, its seems it needs a certain depth of understanding of principles and ideas, and is a realization of direct expierence; but, also, a foundation needs to be laid to build from.
What say you? Just curious...:D
Paula, I know of at least one dojo (somewhere in Kentucky) where the sensei showed examples to the white belts after just a few weeks. I think though that it was during a discussion of the progression of skill in Aikido. In any case he just used a slight of hand type of movement and waved his hand in front of uke's face which really did distract the poor chap sufficiently.
The two dojos that I train at do this sort of training on a regular basis as part of the class. All people in the class do the techniques because the classes are quite small ( 1 dojo typically has about 6 people on the mat while the other has about 30 people on the mat).
With some very minor variations and in most classes, everyone in the class does more or less the same techniques irrespective of grades. More experienced students are expected by sensei to demonstrate greater proficiency and ability with these techniques.
We do structured exercises in stages:
1. Static with Uke grabbing;
2. Uke coming into grab and Tori/Nage allowing Uke to grab;
3. Both Uke and Nage/Tori moving with Nage/Tori just keeping out of reach of Uke but still close enough for Uke to think he/she can still grab.
In some classes it progresses to tsuki and shomen atemis by Uke.
Typically We only work on one of the basic techniques. For example, we might do ikkyo from each of the above attacks for that particular class.
Regardless of whether it is static or dynamic, blending, understanding Uke's balance, use of centre, proper use of movement, posture, clear intent etc is integral to the exercises.
Hope this helps. All the best for training :)
We, Tenshinkai Aikido, go from the static to the dynamic pretty early. Learning that timing is very important.
Where I train, we're encouraged to do the more flowing style, after we have learned the technique (generally) first.
Leading the uke really doesn't have to do with a majical wave of the hand. It can be done with or without touch. If it's done without touch it is done by leading the uke. So if the uke attacks by grabbing, instead of waiting for them to get a good strong grip and blocking their motion, you move your hand away right before uke comes into contact. If uke is commited they will continue to try to grab your hand. From what I know, uke has to be committed for this work and can't just be standing there. If it's done with touch, you move as soon as contact is made and let the uke do all the work with his momentum from his attack. Basically, either way all you are doing is taking uke's attack, extending it beyond the point of contact and redirecting it into your choosen technique.
I like to train statically to learn to work with uke's grip and learn to do a technique generally. Now that I'm 3rd kyu, I'm encouraged to move away from being static.
My sensei encourages fluid technique from day one, although some days will train one over the other.
The ability to work from a dynamic situation, someone stepping forward to grab, is done in ki society dojos, through ki timing. That is to say, you learn to move when the uke's intention or will is directed towards you. To do this, you need to develop a feeling of empathy or oneness with your uke.
Ki timing is different than physically reacting to uke's grab. If you just react to someone's attack, you're usually moving too late.
A common ki timing exercise is to have someone step forward to grab. When you feel their intention, or ki, come towards you, you say "One" out loud. The uke lets go and grabs again. Nage say "Two" when they feel Uke's intent. On the third grab, nage says "Three" and performs the technique.
It's important for the attacker (uke) to vary the timing of the attacks. You don't want to be caught up in a rhythm of attacks.
This sort of stuff is usually taught on day one or as close to start as possible. As was pointed out, it's a foundation that needs to be established, so other things can be built on it.
Re: Leading the mind
In many Aikido dojos you could stand there with your hand out and as the uke approached you could simply turn your body and the uke would follow the hand around you in a circle. That is total "wishful thinking" Aikido.
It is impossible for someone to lead the intention of an attacker without strong, clear intention himself. Many Aikidoka think they are extending their energy merely because their arms are extended. But if one is experienced one can see that their Minds stop out at the tips of their fingers. It is easy to step in and crush them because their technique doesn't start until the moment of physical contact which is too late.
If you look at the manner in which traditional kobudo work you often see that the forms they do start with the partners far apart and then they move towards each other until the space is such that the physical technique begins. At the end of the form the partners move back away from each other to the original distance. This accomplishes a couple of things one of which is to develop a strong mental connection over distance with the opponent. Ellis Amdur Sensei, with whom I trained for a few years, said that in many ways the part of the form before and after the actual technique is the most important. You can see that they still train this way in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. In modern Aikido the folks that put the most emphasis on this are the Yoshinkai folks with thier "stiff" looking beginning and end to the techniques.
It is my experience that very few people understand this aspect of Aikido before the mid yudansha levels if that. I have trained with people who were trying to do it but didn't have the power or clarity of their intention to acomplish it. On the other hand you could feel Saotome Sensei make a small shift in his intention in the pit of your stomach from ten feet away. Ikeda Sensei defeats you before you even attack with what I call "the look". Mary Heiny, who is literally half my physical size feels large to me when we are on the mat because her spirit is so large. And Tom Read is an absolute master of using his movement and projection to place you right were you need to be in order for him to effortlessly throw you. Gleason Sensei's "attention" grabs you long before you physically grab him.
There are ways to train this kind of thing but most important is simply strong training. In my opinion I can't remember training with anyone who could do this well who couldn't strike well. I think that one of the ways in which to develop the kind of spirit needed to effect people at a distance is developed by working on attacking as fiercly as possible when acting as uke. I have never seen a dojo in which there was little hard physical contact where people could do this kind of thing. The strong physical practice leads to a strong spirit. Once you have a strong spirit you can start to subtract out the physical and use the Mind.
There are variations of techniques which can help one develop this skill but they simply can't be done succesfully until the Spirit of the Nage is strong enough to reach out to the partner and "take" his attention.
Wow! Spot on, Ledyard Sensei!
Great post, George.
I agree George. You should write an article about that very subject. I think you open eyes with that kind of information.
Many people equate strong training with heavy, physical workouts. How many people will be laid up because of physical injuries due to training like this? How many people will have to quit aikido because of injuries, compared to people who will benefit from such training? I recognize you wrote strong training instead of brutal training, however that is a common misconception.
Everyone from Admur to Gleason that you have mentioned, has trained in Japan for several years. Very few of us will have an opportunity to train there. Is that the only place we can find this type of intense training?
As another internal art, Tai Chi also faces a similar problem. Yet serious practioners of Tai Chi usually practice Qigong, a meditative art that teaches people how to relax and focus their mind. Developing exercises that trains the mind might also help an aikidoist's practice.
Whether you try to develop a person's spirit through exercises or strong training, it isn't an easy thing to achieve. For someone to extend their mind beyond their body and perform a technique, IMHO should be considered to be an advanced aikidoist.
I would be glad to hear any thoughts on the subject. Especially interested to read an article, if you decide to write it.
Many people plunge headlong into Aikido from relatively sednetary lives without any general physical preparation and expect the training itself to be all the conditioning they need. People who enter a sport like basketball, football, or gymnastics generally don't do this. I think 2 well-designed strength workouts per week as a conditioning supplement/preperation is a minimum. Add 2 more dedicated endurance workouts and you've got a reasonable fitness routine.
I'm not sure if the problem out there is the paradigm of fitness and conditioning, or just laziness. I'd like to work to help people be able to train more, train harder, and train without injury. However, I tell it like it is: if you want it, you've got to work for it. That's a hard sell.
Kevin Wilbanks, CSCS
Developing Strong Intention
But a tremendous benefit can be had from doing weapons training, especially with the fukuro shinai, in which there is seldom any injury.
Even when the practice is empty hand it is more a matter of the focus of the Mind than it is speed and power. Do each technique with full concentration and intention even whne you aren't putting speed and power into the technique. Recieve each attack as if it were a razor sharp sword coming at you. Even slow practice can develop strong intention if approached in this manner.
Injuries are inevitable in a physical art but they do not need to be seen as an integral part of developing strong intention.
It is also not necessary to go to Japan to do this. There are a number of Aikido dojos which put an emphasis on this as well as quite a bit of classical training (especially jodo which is growing fast) available in the US. In fact anyone who wishes can start to put this element into his practice by simply putting attention on this aspect of his training.
OK, I have to de-lurk for this one.
Ledyard sensei wrote:
"It is my experience that very few people understand this aspect of Aikido before the mid yudansha levels if that.
<< It is my experience that very few yudansha understand this period, nevermind the mid level view! I also have to believe that it's due to a lack of experience in situations where "uke" is not just cooperating. It's too easy to get "lazy" in this area of training >>
"I have trained with people who were trying to do it but didn't have the power or clarity of their intention to acomplish it."
<< Again, they've probably never actually applied this so the concept escapes them. Again, dojo practice with a "cooperative uke" makes it easy to become lazy here >>
On the other hand you could feel Saotome Sensei make a small shift in his intention in the pit of your stomach from ten feet away. Ikeda Sensei defeats you before you even attack with what I call "the look". Mary Heiny, who is literally half my physical size feels large to me when we are on the mat because her spirit is so large. And Tom Read is an absolute master of using his movement and projection to place you right were you need to be in order for him to effortlessly throw you. Gleason Sensei's "attention" grabs you long before you physically grab him.
<< Great examples here however, as a fighter and boxer I am accustom to being hit. That said, I react a little different to people's "intention". When I'm attacking and I mean really attacking and not just following nage around, I could care less about nages intention, looks or reputation. In my experience one should not "intend" but rather do or don't, anything else just leaves huge openings.... >>
back to lurk mode.
George had a very interesting post. It really adds to the learning curve for being uke too.
On a simpler note we have been told recently by our Shihan to include training where uke pushes and pulls (applys to grabs and strikes).
I think this is a step used to develop the feel for your response. I also think its part of static training and is intermediate to the leading and Kinonagare training George speaks of.
1. Static - neutral, ie: just hold in place firmly
2. Static - push or pull
3. Kinonagare - blend, lead
It was suggested to us stage 1 is kept to until a student does their 1st test . Stage 2 is introduced after that. Not to say that basic static training won't be used throughout training as a learning tool by all ranks.
The 1st stage may be the foundation you mentioned. It allows the student to learn their tai sabaki, etc. Once that is in place then the dynamic aspects start to be worked on. I know for myself anytime some new movement is shown to me I like to go back to the basic static mode and go through the form until I think I get it. Then I can begin to work out the blending and feeling part.
Wow, many insights here! I agree with most of the angles, from Ki development to strong training. I wonder, though, IMHO can't those two aspects combine through concentration? Isn't that zanshin? I find that when I can maintain a powerful, focused concentration--even if I'm not training that hard physically--that I'm sweating like a pig and more exhausted than if I'd run five miles. Could this not be 'strong' training and the development of strong will and ki projection? I have noticed that intense concentration tends to make others a tad nervous...So how to balance powerful focus with welcoming mutuality depending upon the situation; the constantly shifting matrix. A large portion of what I'm working to feel/understand.
Did I wander off topic? So much for concentration :)
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