Join Date: Sep 2005
Re: What is "Aikido"?
I have read a lot of what you have written about what I will call your 'Gyro-dynamics Hypothesis'. I don't mean that in a condescending way, I just need a name for it. I won't pretend to have tried to parse *everything*, but I think I get the gist of it. I also went through a period of thinking in similar terms, and I *do* see why this and similar paradigms are seductive. I even think that the conceptual/psycho-physical tools you are using may be valuable in developing an intuitive model for moment-to-moment application. *However*, I am not sure this model is the best one to apply in *developing* the body conditioning/skill necessary as a base; and once you have switched paradigms (if you were to do so), you might find that other ways of thinking do the job as well - or not. I am not volunteering this analysis to insult you, or to get into an argument about the funky physics of it all. Rather, this is a good faith effort to communicate something tangible - in case it might help you or someone else thinking along your lines.
First, I will acknowledge that what you have developed is probably working for you, in terms of providing the conceptual key to applying technique. *But* I think you have explained well the reason for it when you said, 'I am following some concrete intuitions that I gained in flying helicopters for ten years. I sense that there is an applicaiton of the gyrodynamics that I understand from that experience to better understanding of the human balance system and from that to better understand aikido techniques.' As a helicopter pilot, of course you will have developed a finely tuned ability to interact to real-time dynamic physical instability and to intuitively guide a system governed by reaction to fluctuation in the manner of your choosing. That you have been able to link this ability into your aikido waza is a great accomplishment (in my non-patronizing opinion, which is probably not worth much). However, I think the gyrodynamics aspect is useful for *you* because *you* learned the 'piloting' skill flying helicopters.
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The problem is that you're invoking a more complex model than necessary. *Even if* it's possible to construct an analysis that depends on gyrodynamics, I don't think it is as required as you think. For example, you say (about nikkyo) that 'These physical forces are not easily described by other by other than gyroscopic means.' I think that's a stretch. I think most people can see, with a little thought, how a roto-rooter plumbing snake, for example, could be understood without any gyroscopic analysis - if it were rotating very slowly, so I think it's a stretch to say that you need to invoke virtual gyroscopes to explain such a simple phenomenon.
Why would I argue that the simpler theory is better? I could invoke the famous Occam's razor, but I won't - since then we could argue about its application and applicability. I will instead point out that the problem with a gyrodynamic model as the core of a theory is that it does not address in any way at all, how to develop the body. It may (or may not) be a good theory for how to use the body, and you might take the approach that just using the body in this way will then develop it in the correct way, *but* the danger in this approach is that it *assumes* that what you are doing *and your understanding of it* are already ideal, and that all you need to do is find the right descriptive language to communicate that to others.
For myself, I find it makes more sense to assume that a lot more development is possible than what I can do already. I further assume that there are things which are hard to understand before you have achieved the practical basis for understanding them. It is on that basis that I would be extremely hesitant about synthesizing my own explanation based only on the *result* of training, and not on the method of achieving this result. In other words, your theory is at best *explanatory*, and you admit it is not even fully-functional as such yet. Competing 'theories' *are* 'complete', even if they do not quantitatively address mathematical abstractions. Most importantly, the 'theoretical' components are really just there as a way of allowing the *practical* components to be integrated into the knowledge culture in which they developed. Any 'modern' theory meant to replace an 'outdated' one should probably have extremely similar functional properties. It would not be untraditional for theories and methods to become more and more refined and therefore better as knowledge grows, but it would be a mistake to throw out the old in order to build something new from scratch - in my opinion.
There *are* traditional methods for explaning, understanding, training, refining these skills. They do not happen to require gyrodynamics. They *can* be updated somewhat to account for our predilection for physics-based analysis, and this is probably an improvement - but it is an *incremental* benefit. If we throw the baby out with the bath-water, then we lose the one really good thing there, which is a tried and true training system. We know that people like Takeda, Sagawa, Ueshiba, and many others throughout history have applied systematic methods to accomplish startling results. I think it's a *very good idea* to try to understand exactly what those methods were before tyring to put them into our own words.
If O-Sensei were still alive and you could convince him to suit up for an infinite barrage of motion-capture experiments, I am sure the results would be interesting. Honestly though, if he were alive, I would rather train with him and try to find out *how* he did what he did - even if that means not knowing precisely *in scientific terms* what it was that he had accomplished. I am not in any way arguing against a physical understanding, just suggesting that *unless you know that you have mastered the full spectrum of the aiki skillset* it might be premature to introduce an explanatory framework which is more or less discontinuous with what is traditional. I don't think trying to find bits and pieces that seem to support your hypothesis really helps either, because it creates a somewhat sketchy intellectual climate - which I know you do not intend. If you *know* that what you are proposing is 'new and different', then it doesn't really matter about the common imagery - which probably can only confuse anyone who tries to reconcile the 'new system' with the 'old system'.