Joep Schuurkes wrote:
I think our imagination fails us here.
Few attacks during practice are deliverd full speed, full power, full intention. (And a lot of the time rightly so, but that's a different discussion.)
If someone swings a sword at your head it is easier to convince yourself that this is a serious situation. If someone grabs your wrist (the other side of the spectrum) and pushes, it is hard to get the same feeling, although a wrist grab doesn't need to be all that harmless. (Perhaps a better example: morote-dori can be used to go to yonkyo.)
So the problem might be that few ukes attack properly, often they lack the skill and the proper mind-set. You can observe this as well in uke's attack, as when tori/nage has begun doing a technique: many uke seem to think that all they need to do after attcking is fall over at the right time. While what they should be trying to do is moving in such a way as to try to gain advantage. Many techniques make little sense without uke trying to do so.
Gaining the skill should be quite easy, it can be thaught. Training the proper mind-set tends to be quite difficult, at least that's my experience.
I think this is exactly what I am imagining. The underlying issue with this rationale (overall) does not seem to be (so much) that weapons are all "right" but rather that body art is all "wrong." This applies even if we think in potentials: It is not so much that weapons can or could improve our body art, but rather that our body art is most likely being practiced poorly or incorrectly.
The jump in logic here, for me, is that it assumes that folks that cannot practice with a martial intensity in their body art all of a sudden can practice with that intensity once there is a bokken in their hand. This, in my experience, has just not proven to be true or accurate. The truth is that as folks practice, THEY PRACTICE.
I do not want to suggest that there are not levels of practice and/or of intensity and/or that there is nothing to learn at the lower levels of practice and/or intensity. Moreover, I do not want to suggest that only higher levels of practice and/or intensity teach us something. Most certainly, I do not want to suggest that any one person's practice is innately inferior, innately lacking, and/or innately delusional (or the opposite of these things) simply because of the intensity level it is opting to operate under. What I am about to say falls under the commonly held position that different intensity levels teach us different things and that some of those things are better learned at specific degrees of intensity.
As an example of what I am referring to when I say "As folks practice, they practice," I would like to ask you all to take a look at three different applications of the form Sansho 1, part 1 (from Chiba's weapons curriculum). One can see this paired jo practice executed at different levels of intensity if one looks at Bruce Bookman's example at the Aiki Expo 2005, my own version on our web site (http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/v...ikijoone.html)
, and Frank McGouirk at the Aiki Expo 2002. I have chosen these examples because they may prove to be the most accessible.
As for the martial elements mentioned thus far (i.e. maai, power, "sword spirit," etc.), and as these things are connected to intensity, I would say that all three versions teach about maai. For me, all three versions teach about maai in the same way that body art does. Thus, in them, you see the same rights and wrongs as you do in body art: folks are in the right place, folks are too far away, and/or folks are not penetrating enough, etc. As for power, again, you see that it is just like in body art: Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. You will see folks that have the proper Directional Harmony, proper Body Fusion, and proper Back-up Mass, and you will see folks that do not. As for "sword spirit," and assuming that this means a kind of "energy charge" and/or a total investment of our being and/or the presence of some kind of conduit upon which we can focus our body/mind keenly, etc., it's there in our practice or it is not. Whether we hold a weapon or not, it makes no difference. The three versions offer different degrees of such a thing.
The variation on intensity as seen in these three examples, for me, suggests that it is not as folks are saying: If you put a weapon in your hand, your practice will be martially charged in a way that it cannot be through body art. What I imagine folks are trying to get at when they speak of "intensity" in their weapons practice is not so much an actual martial intensity but rather the presence of a kind of primal fear (one that probably goes way back in our history of evolution) of being struck with a piece of wood. Because of how some often practice in their body art, the cultured fear of being hit with flesh is often not as "intensifying" as it should be and/or as being bonked or rapped with a jo or bokken may be. I will grant that operating under a fear, whatever that fear may be, makes things a bit more emotionally charged. However, that charge is not the charge of martial intensity and thus that charge really has no capacity to instruct on matters of distance, timing, body positioning, etc. This is why the presence of such a fear does not innately produce improvement upon these areas -- as some are suggesting here. In addition, this is why we in the end see the same old percentages of correct form and incorrect form in our weapons practice. Moreover, what one should realize, such primal fears are very often addressed by our habitual ways of dealing with them. That means, for example, as we are subject to delusional and/or egocentric behavior in the face of such fears, so too will we habitually respond to the fear of being bonked or rapped in our weapons practice. In this way, we are even further from the catalyst of a true martial intensity. Thus, through our weapons, we may come to know even less about distance, timing, body positioning, etc.
Note: A great example of this last point is to note how far folks enter into their attack with shomen-giri when their nage is set to perform some sort of disarm or throw (unarmed). Without a martial intensity, folks will enter all the way to strike nage with their hands - not the sword! To be sure, this error in distance goes far to allow nage a nice disarm and/or throw, with little need to irimi (the hard part of such a technique!). One can see this error performed by folks of every rank -- folks that are not able to maintain a martial intensity that is there for all of us only because we have willed it to be (not because we hold a piece of wood).