Ron Tisdale wrote:
I think the point is that this sort of power may not be as necessary when you are young and vigorous, but as you age, it becomes more and more necessary if you plan on holding your own with the young guns. I hear Shioda Sensei really started implementing the idea of 'soft' kokyu ryoku sometime in his 40s...I'm 44 as of yesterday, and I need a different way to do things. The 20 something brown and black belts can be a hand full without it.
Actually, the level of this power can be unusually high (and I don't claim to be able to demonstrate it at that high of a level, either... not by a long shot) and even "young" people have been known to demonstrate a pretty high level. I remember one of my teachers mentioning one of his relatives in the 1800's was known to use a spear that weighed 24 pounds.... when he told me the story he said something like, "Of course, you can only use a spear of this weight if your qi is very strong; even normal very strong people cannot manipulate a spear of this weight".
Of course, these are just stories, but the idea of someone gaining this form of strength to compensate for age is very common... both Shioda and Ueshiba said similar things about the usefulness as you get older and it's a common idea in Chinese discussions, too.
There's a reason why you get strong doing these things. One reason, the qi/ki thing I'm not going to get into because it's complex and because .... well, just because.
The other reason is the kokyu part and I'll make a quick stab at telling why that part increases your "power" as you get older. For a very simplistic example, picture Tohei standing on one leg with his partner pushing on Tohei's forearm to show that Tohei is difficult to move (we could just say that Tohei has "root" or "is rooted"). What Tohei has done basically (this is a very simple example; it can get much more complex) is rearrange the way his body is handling forces so that the responsibility for the force goes to his back leg. If he is letting his back leg handle the push, then he only needs enough strength in the rest of the body to transmit that responsibility. With a lot of practice, the "transmitting" portions of your body can be weirdly soft, but that's another story and it also involve the ki/qi I'm avoiding.
So think of it like this, one-legged Tohei kokyu demonstration: If you carry a large stone, it takes a certain amount of effort. If you put the large stone in a wagon and pull it, it takes less effort to move the stone over the same distance. If you automatically establish load-bearing paths through to the sole of your foot as you walk with the stone, you're sort of allowing the leg to bear more of the load, similar to the way the wheels carry the load in a wagon. As I've pointed out a couple of times in this forum, the essence of a lot of "from the middle" stuff is to actually let the lower body do all the work possible.
If Tohei used that same force all the way through his body while absorbing a push slightly and then pushing back, the path through to his rear leg will allow the real leg to do most of the work. So despite appearance of using his arms, Tohei is letting his lower body do almost all the work.
Anyway, I'll stop there because I'm already unhappy with the too-simplistic attempt to convey an idea of how you can be "strong" while you're not using much strength in your upper body. And remember, there's more to it than just this one part.