Blew My Mind...But Not My Spleen
Just back from meeting Dan Harden and his crew of immoveable people. It was really a great experience and I want to thank Dan and all his folks and all the people who came to the seminar for making it so productive.
First, I'd like to say that Dan is everything he says and everything "they" say. He gave me a few light taps that blew me back several feet each time (four thigh "kicks", a palm to the back of my ribs, a few double palms to the abdomen, a shoulder smack, numerous sweeping forearm strikes....maybe one regular punch...and one or two others, as well as some throws and a lot of generally leading me around helplessly). Every time, it felt devastating, yet I didn't get injured because he really was just giving me little taps. I would just hate to imagine what would happen if he put a little effort into any of those strikes. In fact, he said people had convinced him to go easier because he had previously given some people mild injuries. I now really appreciate the possibilites behind internal striking arts. It blew my mind, but thank God, not my spleen!
Second, I found Dan's power and movement to be very much like Minrou Akuzawa (Ark)'s. His training method also seemed very similar and the ways he would move to demonstrate certain ideas were just perfectly consistent with Ark's. I mentioned that to him and he reminded me that both he and Ark descend from a lineage of koryu aikijujutsu, via Sagawa, and koryu sword so it's natural that they would have very strong similiarities but some interesting differences as well. Dan's exercises were a lot of work but not as much "burning in" as Ark seems to do. We did a good bit of burning in with Dan, but mostly just to get us to identify the pathways and connections we were trying to find. Then we worked those connections more subtly--not to say that I fully understand Ark's method: he did tell me to come see him in Tokyo and that he would cover things on a different level there--but having been through two days with each of them, I make these surface observations. They are definitely on the "same" track: the track to the middle of themselves. Their results prove the validity and importance of each of their approaches. It behooves any serious martial artist (of any art) to meet both of them.
Third, Dan especially asked me to comment on the number of aikido teachers who made the effort to attend his seminar. He expressed a lot of gratitude for them and a hope that they will continue to develop. I can say certainly that aikido will take a big leap forward if even those twelve teachers really incorporate his methods into their instruction. Dan made it very clear that "If you want to learn this stuff and just keep it for yourself and not pass it on to your students, and make yourself superior to everyone, I don't want to know you." His intent, as he stated clearly before the seminar, was to get the teachers to learn this material so that they could re-incorporate it into the greater art. I think his efforts will have great effect in the coming decades. Aikido will become increasingly dynamic on this side of the "Great Peaceful Western Sea" and maybe the Japanese will begin to show more of what they know of internal power.
Fourth, the atmosphere was strong and positive, like Ark's seminar. Dan was very open and upfront. He answered many questions I've been developing as I've followed this topic over the past few years. We went into "winding" and tons of other subjects in detail and I saw how the ability to absorb incoming force results in "bouncing" the force away. I felt Ark do that, but in Dan's seminar we went more into how it happens. The weekend was filled with amazing new experiences that showed me that, even after 35 years, there are still completely new levels for me to see and I really appreciate that (from both Dan and Ark).
Last, the whole weekend was a blast. Lot's of laughter, good humor, great conversation and real revelation of things that I've been reading about for all these years without understanding them at all. I do believe that people who begin aikido from this point forward will experience a very exciting wave of transition back to the deepest roots of the art. I feel lucky to have seen the beginnings of that movement over these last few years and very encouraged for the future of the art.
So again, thanks to Dan and all his folks and best wishes to all the folks I met there after getting to know them here on aikiweb: Mark Murray, Marc Abrams (and Mayda), Josh Phillipson, Lee Salzman, Tom Holtz, Rob Liberti, and others whose names don't instantly pop into my exhausted mind. And thanks to Andy Prochnow, Jill (whose last name escaped me), Tom Garimaldi and others I'll suddenly remember after I post this. They helped keep the instruction coming through clearly while Dan worked with other small groups within the seminar. It was a perfect learning environment.
So to all who have been thinking about pursuing internal training, I can say with everyone else: Get out and meet people, especially Ark, Mike and Dan. I'm sure you will want to meet them again and again.
But as for Dan Harden, I am pleased to be able to say from experience, you cannot go wrong meeting up with him.
Best to all.