Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Re: Ki-Society Workshop in Denver, Dec 06
Here's probably what should have been the lead-in to the thread:
At the suggestion of someone on AW, I decided to go see David Shaner Sensei
teach at a workshop in Denver. What actually sold me on the idea of going
was that Shaner was a Japanese-speaking westerner, high-ranking in the Ki
Society, etc., that could probably show and explain in idiomatic English
what the thrust of Toheis commentaries, training, etc., were about.
It was a nice workshop, although it turned out to be one of those that
accidentally flooded the dojo space so that when techniques were practiced
you had to be careful on the ukemi or you might crack your widdle noggin.
I went in an old gi with a white belt and determined that I would more or
less keep my mouth shut, without being too obnoxious about it, so that I
could hear not only Shaner Sensei's opinions on the workings of
ki-mechanics, but also the opinions of various yudansha (on how they
perceived/did ki-mechanics) at the workshop. I also made an effort to say
that I "didn't understand the technique, could you tell me what to do" a
great number of times so that I could hear the verbalizations, from
white-belt up to the yudansha levels.
There were various interactions and impressions I could mention about the
workshop (we've all been to Aikido workshops, for the most part, and it was
the usual assortment of interactions, nice people, people wanting to work
the pecking-order stuff, and so on), but I want to focus my discussion
purely on the ki-mechanics stuff, since that's all I really went there to
After listening to Shaner Sensei's explanations on the Four Basic Principles
and watching a little bit, I began to get a feel for the direction of the
perspective that the Ki Society has and how it differs from my own
viewpoint... so I thought I'd toss my comments out there for discussion,
Shaner Sensei was very personable and articulate, but at one time he made
the comment that Tohei Sensei described the ki-mechanics "scientifically"... a point I would argue is not really true, although I think I appreciate the
fact (and I've said this before) that at least Tohei made an effort to
systematize Ki-Aikido in respect to the ki-mechanics. How successfully he's done it, politics, etc., are all other discussions. For what it's worth, I thought the workshop was the most explicative and focused qi/jin or ki/kokyu workshop I've ever seen in Aikido.
Actually, just to get it out of the way, there has never been any doubt in my mind that the ki-mechanics Tohei talks about and the qi/jin mechanics are the same thing. It's so much of a given, that it's not worth any prolonged discussion. I also noticed that during his talk and references to thinks that Tohei had said, a number of very famous Chinese sayings came into the conversation, although Shaner Sensei may not have been aware of that. The lead comment at the beginning of the workshop was the term "Fusoku Furi", which he translated as "No Contact; No Separation". The famous Chinese saying in relation to the qi/jin skills is often translated as "No Resistance; No Letting Go".
I tried to think of several very simple remarks to make, so I'll make 4 quick ones:
(1.) Shaner Sensei was very clear about the jin/kokyu force related to weight. Although he referred constantly to "keep weight underside", he was very clear at one point in saying that the point of contact with the opponent was directly connected to the center of the weight. Here we agree completely. I tend to say that there is a "path" or "connection", which I stress in not breaking and not using muscle to effect, but the idea was the.
(2.) The jin/kokyu forces (Ki-Aikido seems to call all things "Ki", but that's part of the problem, I think, which hampers people from really understanding what's going on with the actual mechanics) from the ground (rather than the weight-derived one in the comment above) are simply referred to a "coming from the one point". My comment and suggestion would be that if more people in the Ki-Society simply understood that the "one point" conveys the forces in as pure a way possible from the ground, they would probably go ahead by leaps and bounds.
(3.) The idea that you only have to relax, keep a good attitude, and so on is nice, but it's not the whole story. Missing from the story is that the "connection", the "path", whatever can be developed by not using the primary musculature, but the "connection" needs to be developed and strengthened over time. Instead of developing the connection and so forth, too many people in the Ki Society probably spend a bit too much time focused on just relaxing. Yet I know anecdotally that Tohei himself has done "connection"-type exercises. So I think this should be brought out more as a focus of practice. Just as an example of an ancient traditional exercise in China for the down-weight (heavy-side under) exercises, they used to float an inflated goat's bladder bag in a tub of water and rest the hand on the float, holding it down slightly using just the center. The purpose of the exercise was to strengthen that "connection".
(4.) I watched quite a few times as Shaner Sensei pulled Uke "straight down", etc., etc., and was very "relaxed", etc., etc., but what he did was pull Uke's center into a "hole" where there was no balance. Yet he never mentioned it except once in passing. Meanwhile I watched a lot of people continue to try to pull Uke down into a place where there was no hole and Uke had support under his feet.
Anyway... those were 4 quick comments in the line of suggestions I would personally offer with the intent that they be helpful.
Did I learn something. Yes. I saw a relationship that I vaguely knew about but which I generally ignored because I used something of a different mindset. When Shaner Sensei explained it a la Tohei, it suddenly clicked... so a nice thing that I had way under-utilized will now be worked on. It's not something I can describe briefly and it has to do with a type of jin skill I use, I'm just going to avoid the lengthy (and probably unproductive) attempt to describe it.