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Old 02-09-2007, 12:34 PM   #507
Dojo: TNBBC (Icho Ryu Aiki Budo), Shinto Ryu IaiBattojutsu
Location: Seattle, WA
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 931
Re: Baseline skillset

Robert John wrote:
Words say a lot though. And anyone that's called me out hasn't made me eat them so far
Well that's as good a segue as any...

I hadn't checked in on this thread in a while, and I admit to skimming about the last 2/3s... I wanted to make a few points however.

First, let me offer some distinctions that I think are being ignored or perhaps that people are just unaware of. The usual disclaimers apply: you might do things differently, I haven't felt everyone, I don't know everything, terminology may differ, warning generalizations ahead! Ok, now that that's done. I believe that aiki movements can be generally sorted into active and passive connections. My experience has been that (at least within the Aikido circles I'm most familiar) that passive connection is the dominant paradigm, both in terms of philosophy and practical mat time. Passive connection emphasizes relaxation, sensitivity and leading. The way most people practice this ignores the necessity of any kind of fajing as I currently understand it. Kokyu (the best aiki term I can think of to describe fajing) exists in this context as a way to relax more and more to allow the encounter to happen. This often leads to the idea of musubi, of blending with the encounter. This isn't exclusive to aikido, if you look at the Roppokai, they're doing the same thing within Daito ryu. On the other side of the coin, you have active connection aiki, the kind that feels like you ran into a brick wall or got blasted with a firehose. Hopefully we've all experienced this kind of training, where as uke, we feel oddly compelled to move and fall a certain way. The stuff that Kondo Sensei demonstrates of Daito ryu is a great example of this kind of connection.

Before I met and started training with Neil, while I'd felt the active connection stuff, I don't think anyone had ever told me how to do it, or that they were even doing it. Then after meeting with Rob and Ark, I found a whole system for developing the internal skills necessary to have this kind of connection without the loss of sensitivity that comes from simply muscling through someone. Often, when people were doing active connection, they would explain what they were doing in terms that led one to use passive connection. This kind of aiki depends on powerful kokyu/fajing. It's critical that it be done right so that this kind or unstoppable power can be delivered with maximum efficiency and disorientation to uke. So if you primarily do passive connection stuff, what Rob, Mike and Dan are talking about will generally not make a lot of sense and will likely not sound like aikido. Here's what confuses me about aikido: *every* super-senior mucky muck in aikido that has tossed my sorry butt around has used TONS of active connection, such that I felt powerless to stop their throw, and yet, almost none of them teach how to do this, but rather seem to focus almost exclusively on passive connection. As a result, almost all of their students, who are now teachers in their own rights, continue to focus almost exclusively on the passive connection stuff. Long story short, I now believe the stuff Ark's teaching is (or at least can be) the baseline skills that explain how all those senior Aiki folks did what they did, but only if you give up the notion that passive connection is the only thing going. Mind you, I'm not saying that active connection is the only thing going either, I realize that a combination of the two is critical. Ark was able to easily transition from passive to active connection as smoothly as he did (I believe) because when you get these skills down, internally *you as nage* aren't changing much internally, but rather you're just changing the direction of your focus. Even when you're whisper soft, your internal structure is sprung *not flaccid* so that the moment that kokyu/fajing becomes most advantageous, you simply release it outward. Now from the other side, it feels like nothing, nothing, nothing, EVERYTHING! If however internally you're doing nothing as nage, you have to start something to generate power, and that gets telegraphed a mile away. That's one of the reasons that in the second video posted, the receiver gets bounced off so hard, there's no wind up or opportunity to absorb the power release.

There's a belief in aikido that when you (as the attacker) exert a lot of pressure/force on nage, you somehow weaken yourself. This is only true if you don't understand how to generate this force without coming out of your own base. I was at an aikido seminar recently with a senior aikido teacher who I greatly respect, both personally and martially. We were doing a kind of standing kokyuho exercise, and because I was using some of the internal stuff I've been playing with recently, my partner was having some trouble moving me. I should be clear that I was backed WAY off from the level of resistance I'm used to. The instructor came over to show that "the harder I resisted, the easier I was to throw." He assumed the role of nage and asked me to resist, so I resisted very hard using the rear cross and some of the dynamics of the push-out exercise (at least as I understand it now…). Once he felt enough pressure, he said, "good," and then went to do the kokyu to show how much easier I was to move. As he pressed into me, I felt him rebound and then he had to shuffle step backwards a couple inches to catch his balance. This is someone who has decades of training over me. He made quick eye contact and I shifted to a more typical muscular (meaning more what he was expecting) resistance and he finished the move. There is no way I could have done that six months ago.

That's good enough to start. On a related note, Rob John was good enough to agree to do a workshop here in Seattle on 2/17 while he's in town. There are a few spots open (space is limited), so if you'd like to attend, shoot me a PM or an email and I can give you more specifics.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
Budo Tanren at Seattle School of Aikido
Shinto Ryu Iai-Battojutsu
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