Christian Moses wrote:
George, this part of your post got me thinking (and it's only Tuesday, I hate thinking before at least Thursday..). I think I understand what you're saying here, but I'll just have to disagree to some extent. I know the kind of interaction you're talking about, I had a nearly identical thing happen to me at the first AikiExpo, as chance would have it, I was playing with some stuff that I'd learned from Takeda Sensei at the time. The guy just stood there arm outstretched as I moved in around him and began to massage his eyelids, "That's not moving me, " he said... Um, yeah ok. At the time I really felt that it spoke poorly of his training (and I still do to a lesser extent), that he would allow me (a complete stranger) to get into a position that made him so vulnerable rather than following the path to safety that I had presented for him. While I still feel that's partially true, I also now see that I was also failed. I did not control the situation. He had the option of simply not following what I was doing. Bad on me. Do I expect aikido to only work on those with a strong sense of self preservation? I would describe this encounter as satsujinken, a dead lifeless encounter with all of the trappings of martial art, but none of the true budo. So how does this relate to your quote?
I agree that being immovable at the expense of all else is not martial, not interesting and kind of stupid. BUT, I don't feel that it's fair to say that the goal of being un-throwable/immovable is not a martial value. I think there are a lot of judoka out there that would certainly disagree. Mifune Sensei was known for being undefeated in randori and nearly impossible to throw, and yet he was able to accomplish this with a spirit of katsujinken, of a living and vibrant martial spirit. I think that as we develop deeper understanging about how our techniques work, we should simultaneously learn how to make those very techniques harder and harder to be applied on us. That isn't to say that we should strive to make ourselves unthrowable in aikido at all times, that would be silly, but those same subtle/internal skills and movements that can accomplish a kokyunage that seems to come from nowhere and take no time can (and should in the right context) be used as uke to block a technique. This is entirely possible to be done in a very dynamic and martial way. I would also point out that this ability, to be unmoved, has a deep tradition within aikido, whether it be the unbendable arm, the 'jo trick' or the quiet structure that forms an ikkyo pin...
Chris, I know where you are coming from on this... as you know, I am quite used to training with folks who are quite hard to move... But I think that we were largely wrong to train that way and it accounts for why it took so many of us so long to start "getting it".
Endo Sensei is quite strict about his ukemi requirements. He does want good strong attacks, solid commitment. But he does not want tension. I really think he is right in this. Half of ones training interactions are on the ukemi side of the roles. If you exhibit tension as uke and then try to do relaxed technique as nage you are constantly giving the body and the mind mixed signals.
Having been exposed to a substantial amount of Systema at this point, I can see the result of proper training in this regard. They do everything they can to get rid of tension. They are all quite strong from the conditioning they do but they do not do technique with any tension at all. Their senior students are VERY good, better than what you'd see in Aikido in an equivalent amount of time.
At this point I believe that the essential purpose of the physical training in Aikido is to remove tension, both mental and physical. This has to do with losing ones "fear". Aiki requires this relaxation. We are programming our minds and our bodies to react to conflict in an expansive rather than contractive manner. Hunkering down and being immoveable is inherently a contraction. It is a withdrawl of the outgoing energy which makes aiki possible.
One does not move a rock using "aiki", unless, as Mike Sigman would probabaly maintain, you include "internal power" as inherently part of "aiki". I don't but I understand why he might. In my own understanding, aiki is the way in which we use the opponent's sensory system (the five senses and the intuition, or sixth sense) to move his mind and thereby get him to move his body. It is this aspect of Aikido that I am interested in. Anyway, when the two opponents come together the defender establishes the Ittaika
or "single body" in which it is impossible for the attacker to move separately from him. The attacker must maintain an evenly distributed awareness in order to deal with any strikes to his suki or to feel any attempts to unbalance him. this outflow of consciousness is what makes it possible to move someone "effortlessly" in the aiki arts.
Now, with most reistant people, their very resistance gives you the energy to move them. I can get get a 300 pound guy moving with light hand pressure, especially if I tell him not
to let me move him. But a more knowledgeable guy won't resist, he'll cut off his energy. He'll ground it out and attempt not to respond at all to what he feels you doing. This makes any sort of "leading his ki" impossible. At that point if you want to move him, you need to supply the energy. At some point I will probabaly make a study of how to generate that kind of power. My exchanges with Mike Sigman have given me some insight into what that might entail but it isn't the focus of my practice right now.
So in the instance of my experience at Summer Camp, I suppose I could have stood there looking at the fellow and resting my arms on his structure. He had cut off the attack so there was no reason to move at all, really. Harmony and balance had been restored when he stopped his attack. It made no real sense for me to attack him and I wasn't at all open for any move on his part... I only did so to show him that his collapse of energetic outflow made him completely open. Had he re-initiated the attack I would have had what I needed to get him to move.
The example of Judo is a bit off the mark, although I don't totally disagree with your point. Mifune was unthrowable while he kept his energetic outflow, his awareness at all times. He had to because he was still feeling for the opening to throw the other guy. It's a bit different than the guy who is acting as dumb as a rock. People at this point have a very hard time throwing me... My attacks are more relaxed than ever but I am very large and now that I have relaxed more, it makes it very hard for people to move me at all. That's why they need to use "aiki". They get me to move myself. Saotome Sensei weighs less than half what I weigh and he has no problem at all moving me around.
Now Mike Sigman gave me a shot that knocked me about 3 or 4 feet and took most of the air out of my lungs. He did it with no wind up and did it with a pulse strike to my shoulder! So I am not saying that one can't move me with power; it just takes a lot and you have to be very good to do it that way.
Don Angier Sensei, Endo Sensei, Saotome Sensei, and Toby Threadgill all have moved me relatively effortlessly but they were all using my own outflow of energy to do it. I doubt if any of them could move me if I just collapsed my energy field and grounded out, at least not without some technique designed to elicit a response like an atemi, a painful, pinch, a shock to the structure, something along those lines. It just seems like an awful lot of effort to get something moving that doesn't want to be. If there is no attack, why worry about the throw?
Anyway, I regularly get to do my stuff with folks who know virtually no ukemi so I get my reality checks.(That's important for ones practice but not all the time) I did a class for some club security guys and the average weight in the class was about 275 lbs. I could move them just fine and taking them down was no problem... but I sure as hell didn't want to go to the ground with any of them. What a bunch of beastie boys. They were easy to move because they "tried to be immoveable" if you know what I mean. That's a bit different than what I was talking about.
Anyway, I figure I can conventrate on one aspect at a time in my training. I may get to the point at which my focus becomes developing internal power but right now my interest is in developing my abilty to neutralize the attacker's power. I remember someone saying (Okamoto Sensei, perhaps?) "If you understand what was done to you, it wasn't aiki". I want to understand that. I am just arriving at the start of being able to do it. I just don't need to worry about hauling a bunch of human boulders around at this stage in my training.