Ron Tisdale wrote:
Due to the kindness of Shaun Ravens, I was able to spend 3 days training in Iowa with Abe Sensei, who focused on using ki in technique during his time there. Most of the techniques we studied involved focusing on bringing the power from the ground using the big toe, 'clamping down' on the 'one point' with the breath, keeping our arms straight and uke's arms straight. Abe Sensei's methods seemed to me to work best with absolutely no slack in the relationship between shite and uke, at least while learning his methods. Perhaps the need for this is greatly reduced as you advance.
Some of My Own Observations
From all of the above.
Relax the shoulders as much as possible. The kokyu / ki / Aiki power seems to get stopped in shoulders if there is any tension there at all.
Close the spine. There was a marked difference in my sucsess at Abe Sensei's technique when I relaxed the shoulders in combination with closing the gap between the shoulder blades. This helped not only with Abe Sensei's technique, but with Yoshinkan waza as well.
Focus on the big toe...that's where the power seems to come from. Keep your weight centered on the ball of the foot beneath the big toe, and try to structurally align everything between there and your contact with uke.
Hello Ron, Interesting what you say about the spine, and well done on gettting to the seminar, I heard it was a great success. From my experience, Abe sensei stresses relaxing the upper body and focussing entirely on the hara. He always says there are 2 ways to do his technique: with conditioned muscles of the hara, loins and so on (no breath needed), and with the breath itself. In the latter he will demonstrate how hitting one's own hara will send the vibration straight to uke if the pathways in the body and arm are correctly lined up. If I tense my shoulder even slightly it is "no good", and same if I bend my elbow even fractionally. The spiral to and fro of the technique is much easier initially with straight extended arms. Also, the fingertips should be lined up with the partner's hara ideally, and your own, and the finger used as the center rod of the spiral should not deviate but continue extending in that line like a speartip. Regarding the tension between the partners, yes, it is easier to feel a result that way, but the technique does not seem to depend on it. Even on a relaxed partner it seems to work. And certainly, if you partner only starts to resist your movement at a later stage, that is when you apply your "bringing mind to center" and sort of snap-shot freezing your body alignment as you perform the miniscule to and fro spiral before going in the direction you wish to. I hope that makes sense against the background of the seminar. It is very important that your outstretched fingertip is connected to your center by an immovable rod, so that the arm is neither liftable nor push-downable, nor moveable to either side. Then you can move the fingertips from center.
I just want to add here my own thoughts, something I've pondered about for the last two or three years, and only found the answer to last week at Akuzawa's class in Tokyo (thanks to Mike Sigman for the continual prodding, and Robert John for the kind introduction): the problem of lower body stability in any posture, such as after tenkan, or when being held (pushed, pulled). Most people in the dojo avoided a direct answer, and only Kinoshita sensei, the dojo-cho, laughed and said first comes the hardness (as I was trying to do it) which is not good enough, and then softness, as he stood on one leg against my fruitless pushing. I became more and more engrossed in finding ways to stand straight, and learned some things, as well as picked up bad habits. Mike's talk about a suit was the critical step here. Last week's first introduction to various exercises for 6 direction strength are likely the core thing I am looking for. Central to that is upright posture and focus on the spine, and as part of the self-realization and strengthening there is quite a bit of putting the shoulder blades together, as is mentioned many times in this thread. Abe sensei does not seem to put his together emphatically, but he does drop them backwards. I think the important thing is the dropping, so that they are free to be moved in any other direction (fore-back, up-down, back-fore, side-to-side).