Gernot Hassenpflug wrote:
......I would say that - from the limited exposure I have had - that the earlier students get away from trying to do things with muscles the better: not because the muscles will not in fact be used, but because our usual understanding of "usage" is not correct for (dare I say) Asian martial arts premised on the use of jin/kokyu/ki. I'm getting a clue that there's a "point of no return" where a flip in thinking occurs and one's body use simply becomes different and never goes back to what it was before. So in that sense, anything one does before that "flip" using muscles explicity, most likely (I think) burns in bad patterns. As Abe sensei and many other teachers say, first use ki, then work on the (very different) "power" and (very different) "speed". Minoru Akuzawa, whose exercises are decidedly physical, also advocates this approach, in my experience.
I think this is a very important point, Gernot. There are the cool parts of using the kokyu/jin forces. And there is the very powerful strengthening of the body "structure" by tying it together (although, bear in mind that there are different ideas of how this is done). But those things are only part of the whole picture and my worry, just like you said above, is that people will go for these baubles thinking they have the whole. There's more to it than that. First of all, the "muscle" issue has to do with the points of tying the body together, but not merely with just "structure" and "tension exercises". Muscle has to be foregone while you work on this new kind of strength, even though it means leaving yourself weaker for a while.
Secondly, and probably the big giveaway if someone is worrying whether they have the "full process", is the use of the dantien to control the whole body. And I mean control it. Not assist every now and then. If you go the route of muscle and some jin skills, you'll automatically limit forever your forward progress. When Tohei and so many others talk about "relax", they mean it, but it's a complex understanding of "relax" and what you have to do while you're "relaxed".