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Old 01-25-2007, 11:48 PM   #249
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,568
Re: Baseline skillset

George S. Ledyard wrote:
So where is the disconnect? I think that the first issue lies in trying to define some aspect of the energetics as "not Aikido". For me, as a student of Saotome Sensei, there is very little that would be described as "not Aikido".
... As far as I was taught, about the only thing that one can pretty much say "isn't" Aikido is the use of pure muscle power to overcome the strength of the opponent. Taht would not be considered 'aiki" and therefore would not be part of Aikido.
That was what intrigued me about O Sensei's statement of adhering to the "principle of absolute non-resistance." Westerners look at this and may pass over it as simple hyperbole, among the many other superlatives we so carelessly lace into our own speech.

I know that you have been a student of Eastern thought long enough to recognize that "absolutes" are not a common expression of priniciples in China, and perhaps even less so in Japan. Hyperbole is not a strong note in Japanese idiom, quite the contrary. That statement is therefore somewhat startling in its context.

It is for this reason, it seems to me, important as an entry point into O Sensei's thoughts about what distinguishes his art. That is what led me down this path as means to better identify what distinguishes aikido, so as to better describe it, physically. I thought about what it would mean, mechnically, if one took him seriously to mean "absolutely no resistance."

"Non-resistance" is the only absolute I have seen or heard of in aikido. I knew from my training that it did not mean "not hitting people," because atemi is too indelibly woven into the art for that. I knew it did not mean just allowing oneself to be hit: pacificism even in a "peaceful" martial art only goes so far. It did not mean using no force. It certainly meant highly advantaged force.

So I started looking at techniques and the physical interactions of ordinary training in the dojo to see what suggested itself, and found myself observeing the differences in which power is exrpessed by the body in ways that I could intuitively see and feel as "aiki" and those that did not. At first I tried to simply descrbie the "aiki" movements in isolation without real success at a model, although some ideas came out of that..

Looking more carefully at the corrections I was typically giving to distinguish with students a proper from an improper movement gave me a set of isolated comparison of movement that lead me to my present line of thought.
George Ledyard wrote:
But being able to join with the intention of the opponent in order to enter intside his attack and end the confrontaion with one strike would be part of the art. the ability to neutralize the power of an attack simply by directing ones attention and intention in various ways would be part of the art.
Amen and Amen.
George Ledyard wrote:
Understanding how to relax ones body completely to abosrhbg and redirect the power of the opponent would be part of the art.
Dead men are as relaxed as they get -- well, until rigor sets in, anyway -- but you get the point. So far as I have been able to tell, however, dead men don't practice Aikido, at least not with any degree of success, unless you count complete harmony with the earth. So something about the relaxation is not relaxation, but it is not muscular force or power as we ordinarily think of it.

It is a category-breaker in both languages, but in Japanese they simply live without the category and do fine with the holistic concepts. As do the Chinese when needed. We are Westerners. Category is our intellectual life blood, and holistic thinking is very much on the fringes of our culture. That is not a value judgment either way, it is just a fact of distinction between tendencies in the East and West.

This thing certainly exists mechanically and should have a mechnical description of its function, whatever the breakdown in categorizing it ( and therfore naming it) in common language. It occurred to me that finding a technical catergory for this class of movement might also lead me to a better common terminology in Western tongues to supplement the Japanes holistic concepts.

While I chuckle at Justin's tagline ribbing on where to locate one's crotch area, I know enougth about classical Taoist writing to say that such an expression is hardly an odd image for that body of knowledge, and indeed, they get far more graphic than that and unshamadely so. So I cut Mike slack on things like that. But such idoms, Chinese or Japanese (as in the Kojiki), are totally misunderstood by most Westerners, which is why it is, frankly, very funny.
George Ledyard wrote:
So arguments which say that one very succesful way of doing a technique is Aikido but another successful way of doing a technique is not don't make much sense to me. And they don'y help me in any way learn what I want to know.
Japanese tend to define by inclusion. It is the key to the social dynamic that exists there. Westerners tend to define by exclusion. Thus, to understand Aikido in a Western way it is important to define what it is not, in a way that may seem superfluous if one approaches it in terms of Japanese understanding. Nevertheless, O Sensei,a nd his son are said to have directed or at least encouraged students such as Saotome to come over here, both to teach and to learn some of these aspects of our ways of thinking.They did this successfully, and produced many students, and many fine works discussing and teaching Aikido in that way .

Now this body of knowledge is capable of being worked on by Westereners with a firm grounding and recognition in those Japanes econcepts, and explaining them to a wider audience in our own modes of thought. While I am far, far from it being appropriate or competent of me to do any of that for a general audicence, people like me are looking to explore possible tools within our own competence to broaden the understanding so far as we can within our bounds .


Erick Mead
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