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Old 05-20-2005, 07:38 AM   #43
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
Re: Basic elements of Aikido

Rupert Atkinson wrote:
The problem with Aikido is that while we are all riding in rather a small boat together we, its various adherents, are not unified in major areas - training method, ki, philosophy (religion), competition, or sometimes even technique. The only way to really nail it down is to go back to the source - Ueshiba - He is Aikido.
Well, the initial idea of the thread was along the lines of the common discussion in some members of the Aikido community that "anything is Aikido", "Aikido is what you want it to be", etc. The question suggested that if there is nothing set down in writing, etc., then no one has the right to say that someone else's Aikido was not Aikido and they have a free ticket to practice anything they want and still call it Aikido. At least that's the way I read it, having seen that point made many times in the past. Note that it's only a small (but still too large; they block progress while misleading beginners) but vocal segment of the Aikido population that tries to sell this idea, BTW. Generally what's happening is not uncommon in martial arts, but it usually boils down to a change in a martial art wrought by people who were never experts in the art and therefore never had the right to "make changes" or to insist on anything to do with the art.

The answer is that O-Sensei did put in writing a number of things, but specifically those writings refer to ki development... except he was deliberately and traditionally vague to the uninitiated. However, it doesn't take anyone a great deal of knowledge to see immediately what O-Sensei meant, so the delicate question is why the western experts and translators missed the references to ki development... O-Sensei is not the only Japanese to know or have known those references. Some of our resident Japanese-culture-language experts need to get out the shovels and go to work.

In a general way, developing ki and kokyu skills can be thought of as developing 2 different muscles that wind up working together in your body. There's a few different ways to approach developing those 2 muscles, but the choices are limited, just as you're limited in the number of ways you can strengthen your biceps muscle. O-Sensei, Tohei, and a number of others have basically pointed out developing those 2 "muscles"; O-Sensei says the development of those 2 muscles is the "blade of Aiki"... so it's of paramount importance, not something that should be put on the back burner just because one's peer-group is as lacking as anyone else... seeking comfort in the herd is not the way to go.

Given that you can't develop those 2 muscles by just wishing them to develop, you're constrained to only a couple of approaches and they turn out to be essentially working on the same basic principles. O-Sensei used the standard wordings that are referred to as "mixing the power of heaven and the power of earth in man", which is a reference to the basic approach to ki development. More than that he mentions the general training concepts that standardly accompany this sort of training, leaving no doubt that he was referring to a specific set of knowledge from Chinese sources.

In talking to Stefan yesterday, I was trying to think of some definitive "classical" work that he was asking for, but the problem is that some of the phrases in O-Sensei's writings can be found in so many sources that it becomes a matter of context, not just quote. However, I did a quick search last night and came up with probably the best original source for the 2 essential terms in O-Sensei's writings, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Ti Nei Ching), which may have been written as long as 4,000 years ago (this raises another question in regard to India, but I'll let it pass). In the opening section, the Emperor tells the court physician:

"I have heard that in ancient times there were the so-called Spiritual Beings:

They stood between Heaven and Earth, connecting the Universe;

They understood and were able to control both Yin and Yang, the two fundamental principles of nature;

The inhaled the vital essence of life;

They remained unmoving in their spirit;

Their muscles and flesh were as one;

This is the Tao, the Way you are looking for."

This is the earliest source I can think of which references the idea of mixing heaven and earth in man. Like many Chinese traditional concepts, it permeates the basic rationale of a number of fields, but most particularly the study of qi, qigongs, and martial arts. It is a mainstay. When you add some of the other allusions that are very specific to martial arts and martial qigongs, as O-Sensei did, it becomes inescapable... O-Sensei had access to basic knowledge of Shaolin-derived martial qigongs. The question in my mind is not *whether* he had access to this sort of Chinese material (that's too obvious), it's *WHERE* and *WHEN* did he get that knowledge since it is so grudgingly relayed to foreigners by the Chinese (those ultimate of xenophobes).

Regardless, it is as Rupert says... Ueshiba is the ultimate source and he considered the ki and kokyu skills to be the mainstay of Aikido as he meant it.... not a casual add-on. And as I've remarked in the past, it is my experience that it can be almost impossible for someone to go back and change the way they move in a martial art to this way of power that involves extensive training to accomplish. If you're doing it using "normal strength", it is a rare person who can alter their martial art to this way of movement. Tohei discusses the difficulties in learning to do things "relaxed" and how O-Sensei did it in front of his students but few caught on and changed to that way of movement.


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