Erick Mead wrote:
I am looking at techniques, acknowledging that while timing occurs, it ought not be operative; musubi should be operative. As a somewhat dimensionless quantity, it is not bound by the ordering or relative quantities in time, once it has arisen.
While there is without doubt a psychological component to this, I have always been impressed by the very concrete nature of the man's thinking (even in his spiritual flights). Musubi is not merely psychological, but objectively real in my experience, and given your own teaching, I suspect you agree. When, depending on very subtle cues -- including relative differences in timing -- an attack may flow into any of several dozens of techniques and their many varaitonal taisabaki, it is the musubi that dictates (too strong a word) the technique variation and its timing, not the other way around.
The question is how to address training speed, timing and rhythm concepts to musubi as a primary matter, and not a derivative one.
I definitely think you and I are on the same page here...
If anything stands out about Aikido in its martial incarnation, it's about the idea that the fight is over at the instant of physical contact. It is very Japanese in that sense in that its central principles comes from sword... one cut, one death. We take that core idea and then at the moment when we could have cut the enemy down, we have the option to choose not to. In practice this is what should be happening. However it is often not what is going on. mnay practitioners think they should vacate their space in response to an attack and they call that blending, then they try to get kuzushi someplace along the line in the interaction. In the real world of fighting that might happen since we aren't yet O-sensei and our technique isn't perfect. But it isn't a correct understanding of what we are shooting for.
Ki musubi is about reaching out with ones attention and "touching" the opponent. He, of course is doing the same thing and the coming together of the two attentions creates musubi. In an objective, scientific sense one can always talk about "timing" because one is looking at an interaction from outside. But that isn't what O-Sensei was talking about, I think. When he talked about these issues he was talking about how we experience them subjectively.
This is something I have been working on quite a bit. Ushiro Kenji talks about this in his classes. Also, I am convinced that this is what Saotome Sensei is doing when he enters (although he doesn't explain it). The mind must precede the body if one is to move. The body doesn't simply move on its own. By projecting ones attention out to the partner, by placing ones attention "inside" the opponent's guard rather than "outside" in a defensive sense, one attains the feeling that the movement is in some sense already accomplished. What remains to be done is simply allowing the body to actualize what has already happening in the mind.
Doing this completely shifts how one experiences time. Things start to slow down, much like how you see things when you've had an accident and you can see every detail of an interaction which actually took a couple seconds. It comes impossible for the opponent to move separately from you, to create that gap that gets him ahead of you in order to strike some opening. No matter how fast he comes, you feel like there's plenty of time to move, no feeling of having to hurry. Total relaxation of the mind and body is essential for this to happen, mental tension will make this impossible to do.
People talk about getting kuzushi instantly at the moment of contact but this is very difficult, if not impossible if one hasn't established musubi before the movement ever started. I have been experimenting with observing my students at the dojo and my practice partners when I travel, attempting to discern where they are placing their attention when they stand across from me. Most folk's attention stops at their own physical extension. You tell them to extend and their attention goes out to their hands or the tip of their own sword. More advanced people extend their attention out to the partner but usually their minds are caught by the attack itself and their attention only extends to the attacking limb, not inside it to the attacker's center. When you start to be able to see this, you realize that the folks who can't place their attention "inside" your attack and connect with your center, are always a bit late in their response. Normally I find that I can hit them at will or at lest, they can't take my center on the moment of contact and they end up in danger of being reversed.
I have a variety of ways to get people to project their attention. One that works well for students of all experience levels is to give the students shinai. One student will start in seigan and then move through all of the various kamae in sequence (order doesn't matter). The other will look for the mental opening that would allow him to attack. We do a tsuki attack but the targeting is kept purposely lower than normal so that no one gets hurt. His job is to "feel" when there is the mental opening that allows him to attack. The defender should be able to counter any attack no matter what point the defender is at in his movement from one to another. Many folks are ok at each point when they are in the kame but have trouble keeping their mental projection when they shift from one to another.
Another method I am using to get people to place their attention inside the attack, rather than on the attack is to have the students do the atemi before they do the technique. In other words the attacker is doing shomen uchi or yokomen uchi and the defender simply moves in with his own shomen strike. This gets the student to focus on the openings rather than the attack. If they can keep this feeling even when they shift to doing a conventional technique, their attention is at a totally different place than it was when they were trying to deal with the attack.
Anyway, the visualization of already being inside the attack with your mind is very powerful. You definitely start to experience things differently and many of the principles that O-Sensei talked about start to make sense. At least that has been my experience and I can see it making a marked difference in my students.