Bryan Bowman wrote:
Your theory that there's a kind of unified theory encompassing a whole range of 'high level' martial arts like Aikido, Taiji, XingYi, Bagua, etc... is quite tempting... but as you say it would be remarkable or 'weird', especially considering the secretive nature of most martial styles, especially the further you go back.
That's what I can't get.
The sense I get from your posts is that you think all these arts have drawn from a same pot, so to speak.
To use the analogy of a 'pot' futher. In reality all Asian martial arts styles have a separte pot that they guard quite feircely.. isn't it therefore more likely that the 'famous' people in these styles innovated and developed their own methods for, basically, 'doing things more efficiently' and that since we all share a human body the best way for doing these things 'efficiently' will be, essentially the same or similar.
Perhaps these things, like Aikido, were developed to very 'high levels' without outside influence from this pot, and it is our human desire to see connections and meaning in isolated events that sees a 'pattern' start to emerge, when in fact there is none?
Well, you're making some good points. In fact, I'd be arguing your guess at the most reasonable development of these skills in martial arts, except for a few things that pop to my mind (not in any order):
1. If there were many different developments of essentially different body skills, etc., they wouldn't all be based on the ki/qi paradigm... which they are.
2. In about 1982 I helped edit a translation of the "basics" of Chinese martial arts... weirdly, it turns out that these "basics" and the sayings and poems around them are pretty much accepted throughout all the martial art styles. I don't know why, but this unifying and codifying seems to recur in various areas of Chinese studies. Just to mention an example, Tai Chi has a famous saying that many practitioners talk about as if it were the hallmark of Tai Chi: "Using one ounce to deflect a thousand pounds".... that saying is common throughout almost all Chinese martial arts in relation to high level of skill.
3. The old "poems" etc., show up as markers ... perhaps a skill could have been "re-discovered", but if the skill shows up and the person showing it also knows the standard terminology (As Ueshiba did), that pretty much lays the question to rest. This is the main killer to your thesis... the recurrence of the well-known sayings and admonitions of ki development using the same or similar words.
4. There is only one way to do some of these skills correctly. The whole sets of skills took many generations to develop and it would be simply impossible for any one person to happen on the same skills or putative similar skills that I've never seen in a *grouping* that is like the standard grouping. Mathematically almost impossible.
5. Given the trading and cultural position of the Chinese in earlier days, it seems pretty natural that the countries who also acquired these skills got them from China.
Another point worth noting is that we are beyond the peak days of martial arts. Few people try to maintain the old traditions in the old styles and there is no new developments of skills driven by the need for martial arts, as it was in the old days. In other words, any suggestions of innovations since the peak days would require scrutiny... the probability actually leans in favor of most martial arts following a pattern when they exhibit similar characteristics (and if you've ever watched the qi and qigong demonstrations of a Chinese martial arts tournament, you'd know that the martial demonstrations fall always into certain well-known things that can be done with qi... nothing more.
The more troubling thing to consider is that there is a strong possibility that some of the old martial styles, the ones that are now currently called "external" styles, may have incorporated the more sophisticated techniqes of six-harmonies movement, but they have lost them. The way these things get lost is because the teacher is too sparing of what students he teaches these "secret" methods", and it doesn't take more that one generation of lousey students to lose things, if a martial art is fairly small. "Liu He Tanglang" (Six Harmonies Mantis) is an example of a martial art that probably was a sophisticated internal art at one time, but is now a more "external" martial art.... but one which still uses basic ki and kokyu skills. The basic ki and kokyu skills are the next thing to go, if they're not passed on. Ultimately you wind up with a "normal-strength" martial art, regardless of how effective it is, that has lost all but the rudimentary and easily-discovered aspects of kokyu skills. Aw.... I'm rambling. Too early in the morning.