Ian Thake wrote:
OK Mike, if I understand you now, then to try and paraphrase/grossly oversimplify your argument:
"Swinging a bokken - like pretty much everything else in aikido - has a bunch of subtleties that will be lost on the casual observer. Nobody is going to understand those subtleties just by watching a video and practising a lot. They are, however, still going to be able to give someone an almighty whack with the bokken at the end of the practise."
So it's not that Trainee Swordsman X is failing to improve because he's copying the move without some esoteric understanding, he's simply copying the move badly?
Which doesn't seem too controversial in itself...?
Roughly speaking, you've got it, but the problem is that although it is subtle in the sense of being able to see it, it is far from subtle in doing it and training it. Take for instance someone who knows how to use their body more or less correctly in applying a nikkyo... it's "subtle" (an outsider can't see the difference), but the effects are not subtle at all.
I once heard a story about Chen Fa Ke taking on a "bandit" who had a spear... Fa Ke had a staff. At the moment of encounter, Fa Ke did some sort of diverting move to the bandit's spear and then poked a hole completely through the chest of the bandit with his staff. When I heard that story, I discounted it as perhaps being an exaggeration. When I met Chen Fa Ke's grandson, I brought up that story and asked how he thought his grandfather moved when he did that hit. He showed me and it took me 2 years to figure out what he showed me. It was subtle, but it was a way of adding tremendous power, once you train it. Yet, if I had seen it earlier in my life it would have meant nothing to me.
My point is that these "subtleties" we're talking about in the bokken training are quite critical to the kokyu power in Aikido-proper. When someone says "Aikido doesn't use strength and you should relax", what that really means is that you should not use normal strength, but you should train the kokyu strength as high as you can and you can only learn kokyu strength by (a.) having someone show you how to train it and (b.) by relaxing and relinquishing all the old "normal" strength. Subtle to see, not subtle to actually do.