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Old 06-25-2008, 10:36 PM   #23
Gernot Hassenpflug
Dojo: Aunkai, Tokyo
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 319
Re: Aikido™ and Aiki…do. Where are we at?

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
/../ a good place to start /../ is by asking a few simple questions /../.
  1. Given the three sources you mention, would you say that the methodologies were basically the same?
  2. Given the same three methods, are the "stated" goals for the practice basically the same?
  3. In your opinion, or from what you have been told (please specify) what are the phase one goals of Misogi-no-Gyo
  4. If you care to speculate, or speak from your own experience, (seperate from the first few phase changes) what is/are the long time goal/goals of Misogi-no-Gyo?
Hello Shaun, I think you read part of my post wrong (see Rob McPherson's reply below yours), I'll mention where below. So to your list:

1. Yes, the same. Since you're spent upward of 10 years with Abe shihan and I only three, you can judge for yourself if and how the teaching changed over time. All I know is that on the one hand Abe sensei's closer deshi say that he teaches far more, and more explicitly, than say 10 years ago; and on the other hand, the misogi training for students has effectively been stopped even at gasshuku owing to various political correctness and social problems (first the ladies', and finally even the men's). Maybe I could say that the dojo-cho's instructions on o-takebi/o-korobi and torifune's three variants was more detailed than at some of the other places, but it was not any more so than the training in general: emphasis on the center, stopped breath, sounds, etc.

2. Stated goals: well, this has been unclear to me from whichever source. Not only to me, but to others in the dojo too, except in extremely general terms which again do not provide concrete and specific useful tools to work with. Concentration on and lowering of center, relaxation of shoulders and so on. This is partly what I mean about not being stage one.

3. Oops, this is where I think you misread my post. I wrote that I think misogi *is* not stage one, rather than what its goals might be. I have now a particular view of what the goals of misogi are and how the practice achieves them, but I do not think that they qualify as stage one or entry-level methods of training.

4. I am not qualified on this point since I do not have detailed instruction over a long period of time, and I believe I am currently training stage one with other more direct methods which are akin to the direct method which I believe Abe shihan was implicitly teaching
by having us always stand in the straight arms and straight legs posture for the entire class. I will therefore only say as pure speculation on the *physical* aspect (leaving aside owing to inexperience that I think physical and spiritual cannot be divided) that misogi-no-gyo will have in the long term extremely strong effects on the connective tissues of the body, including the skin, making the body extremely strong and pliable with very good connection and inter-control of all parts. I think your body shows very good evidence of that, as does Abe shihan's, although I am afraid I cannot say the same for the vast majority of his students except insofar as they are still young.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
what is the first stage to which you are referring?
I think you mistook my mention of first stage as referring to an initial effect of misogi training? But what I meant was, as Rob McPherson states, that the first stage is something related to the structure and mechanism of the more obvious solid elements of the body: the skeleton and the muscles working around and through the various joints, independent from breathing. The basic stance that Abe shihan teaches us to stand in---arms straight at the elbows and knees (he is adamant that they must not be bent, and almost every time he corrected someone trying to do a technique to him it was to straighten the elbow; the other main correction was to made sure the stance was even and stable against push or pull). Without the upward stretching of the body and the straightening of elbows, there is no chance that the back muscles will begin to do the actual work of moving the arms, forearms, wrists and fingers, instead of local muscles. And similarly the connection from the back muscles down to the ground. This I believe is stage one, and depending on how well people realize this and manage to change their own bodies to work in such a fashion, determines how much they can use at the next stage misogi to improve their mechanism and conditioning.

The above is my opinion, I am not claiming that it is correct, nor the only way forward.


Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
My sense is that every person who steps into a dojo starts off with the physical aspect of the art. This is how it should be. From a physical perspective we have techniques (waza) and various sorts of movement (sabaki - te, tai, ashi, koshi... etc.) These are the outer forms, or empty forms of Aikido.
I can agree completely with the above.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
Misogi, too, has an outer form - all of the specific practices (gyo) from which it is comprised. The gyo are, in an of themselves empty. They are often seen as spiritual, or even worse, religious in nature. /../
I think I can see what you mean with empty form, but I personally do not agree with that view. I prefer to think that the physical action must have a physical benefit if the person practicing it knows what it should be---and I do not mean repetition training, I mean reforming the body as stage one described above.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
However, I think we can safely say that a person can practice techniques for decades and be as far off from discovering even the deeper physical aspects of Kokyu, moving with Kokyu, and throwing with Kokyu, but again these things are all (mostly) physical in nature.
This is a bit unclear to me, probably owing to the medium, since what you said to me when we were training together was never unclear nor difficult to understand when felt! I prefer to think, at this point, that kokyu is physical, related to changes in the body and the use of such new body structure, with or without breath: remember that Abe shihan used to say while demonstrating (and letting us feel his stomach and groin(!) musculature) that he can do the same things with a full breath, while breathing in, while breathing out, or with no more breath left in his lungs just with the trained musculature. The breath can add power he said, but it is not the essential part.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
They are not what lies at the heart of Aikido because, just as the sign says, "There are no techniques at the heart of Aikido." This is where misogi-no-gyo comes in. However, I believe it important to say that I don't think misogi is, or should be used as a substitute for training, rather it is a supplement to the training, and in this manner should be approached at the very beginning of one's path in order to both augment and deepen it in a way that would not be otherwise possible.
I can agree with what you say here, even that misogi should be done from the start (in aikido). It is so far removed from stage one that even if done "wrong" there are more advantages than disadvantages---I think owing to the softness of the approach. I think the problem for me is that there is a disconnect between the supplementary training in misogi and the basic training that is needed to get real benefit from the technique-based training in aikido. You see, when training with Abe-shihan, the emphasis was not the technique, it was the stance, and that I believe is the stage one method which in my opinion can be made much more explicit and direct. Then, as you say, supplementary training with misogi can give more benefits to those that practice it.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
Again, I am not sure what "barrier" it is to which you refer, but I am wondering if there is an assumption that someone must run into the wall over and over before they realize that there is and that they should use the door... /../ perhaps you are saying that one needs a fair level of understanding, say 5 years of training in the physical elements along with a similar depth of experience in the transformative aspects of misogi in order to properly integrate the two over some period of time. If that is what you meant, then I would tend to agree. I would be curious to hear Kinoshita Sensei's opinion on that, so much so that I will ask him when I next have the honor and opportunity.
Yes, something like what you write in the second part of the above. I meant a literal physical barrier, a barrier comprised of body structure which needs to be transformed. I know it will eventually happen using Abe shihan's postural training method, but it is very very slow compared to more direct methods of doing the same thing (which, admittedly, again qualify as supplemental I suppose). That means that progress is not only measured in terms of practice time, but in terms of how damaged an individual's structure was when they started. I would not hesitate to judge that someone with a more damaged body in the structural sense needs to train to break through that damage (correct the structure) and this might not even be possible without knowing more painful/direct methods. I might go so far as to speculate that that is why individuals went outside aikido to look for better methods, because some standard method with very little variation cannot help the variety of needs of its practitioners. It would be interesting to hear opinions from you about this in the future. I am afraid I was blown off too many times when asking direct questions that it would probably not be a good idea to try again.

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
/../ My investigation of the outer form of both Aikido waza and misogi waza lasted about 10 years. It was at that point that both Abe Sensei and Kinoshita Sensei individually began breaking my form after not having made one point about it verbally. I guess about two years later into my training I realized why - THERE IS NO FORM! However, and this must be said, you can't start out that way, without form I mean. Then again, there is all this effort to try and raise the "vertical axis" (no pun intended) and its relation to a ground path to be the pinnacle of internal focus. While I am sure that these are very important elements, they are basic elements at best. I believe that ground path becomes (mostly) irrelevant at some point. I say this because of some of the things I have been able to experience first hand, things I won't go into here. I definitely agree that these things take years to develop and decades to master.
I appreciate your perspective here, and I agree that the points I raised are very very basic. I believe though that so many people miss then (for example the vaster part of the students in Abe shihan's dojo), and also most have no way of getting past stage one owing to the indirectness of the methods. For example, the most common side-effect of the specific stance used was stiffness. Now, with a lot of individual instruction on the mat (which was not propagated to other students) some long-time students "got" that connection through the arms to the back and the ground and could "lift" their partner with straight arms. However, this was against partners who did not "get" it yet, and I believe the overall level is very low even if in my opinion the achievement of that first stage is the most important (in the sense that if you don't get there you aren't going to go anywhere else either with more advanced training tools).

Shaun Ravens wrote: View Post
/../Had I not sought out Misogi I do not think I would have changed my focus, and probably would have hurt a lot more of my training partners. There are many people on this very board who think they have come a long way on their aikido/martial path. /../
I have no doubt that misogi has been of great use to you personally, and it will continue to benefit many people. That is after all why it is somewhat of a stnadard. However, the problem I think is exactly that because it was a perfect method for one person after trying and amalgamating tons of other things, it may not be so good for others who have to mash together their own regimes once they understand what they are trying to achieve. Abe shihan too trains differently from his teacher. He also does other things than misogi, which he does not talk about publicly because publicly he wants to preserve the teachings of Morihei Ueshiba. I agree that it is better to try to preserve one true path than to change it and teach one's own thing if one is trying to propagate a baseline (regardless of what one chooses that baseline to be, the founder's one is possibly the best choice in a martial art style model).

I hope this long-winded post does not elicit an equally long response

Best regards,
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