This book, by Sandra and Mathew Blakeslee, is a fascinating exploration of how the human brain uses multiple mapping systems to organize the body, its space, anyone and anything in its space, and so on.
Ever wonder how you can pick up a bokken and simply know exactly where its tip is, just by "feel"? Or how, if you grab someone's wrist, you can actually visualize where all their other limbs are with your eyes closed?
For many years I heard my teacher, Saotome Sensei, when describing the connection between two partners, "It's on the surface..." all the while gently running his hand along the surface of your arm. He would then proceed to simply rest his hand on your arm or shoulder and your balance would break. No discernible change in pressure at the point of contact was felt, your body just started moving. Sensei would then start talking about "auras". For years I had no idea what he was talking about. Even when, after a quarter century of training, I could begin to duplicate the results, I still didn't have any idea why what I was doing actually worked.
This book explains why much of what seems magical about "aiki" can be explained in terms of "body mapping". It has much to say about how and why practice actually produces improvement in performance, also how too much practice can actually create a mapping disorder which degrades high level performance.
Personally, I look at daily practice differently after reading this book. The need to start slow and get the "feel" of a movement, a connection, a technique before doing a lot of repetitions incorrectly has been powerfully driven home.
Anyway, I think that any teacher of the art of Aikido can find all sorts of fascinating areas for exploration in this book. It is very much non-technical with lots of descriptions of research done by people in a variety of fields all of which touch on body mapping. I would really recommend this one, especially to instructors, but really anyone who is involved in a practice of some sort which involves the body. It gives new meaning to mind - body connection.
For this title go to:
Aikido Eastside Bookstore
(Original blog post may be found here