Thread: Funakogi Undo
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:23 AM   #23
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: Funakogi Undo

I come from a family of scientists, heck, I was virtually raised at JPL and CalTech during the height of the space program. And growing up everyone figured I'd end up in the hard sciences. I can't turn that off.

But... I think of other things. Chanting in church. How that chanting can be shown to calm the nerves, changes physiologic properties, alter things that are said to be autonomic. Is the chanting bringing you closer to God? Or is it a practice that allows one to calm and achieve a different type of consciousness? And through that different type of perception do we not see things differently and possibly find things we were incapable of seeing before?

Rituals, chants, movements, sound, etc. One can probably say with a great deal of scientific certainty that the detailed, specific explanations of old may in fact be incorrect. They may not be rigorous and verifiable explanations of what is being done or what the body is being trained. However, there is always the possibility that these behaviors, like chanting, like praying, like any number of things done all over the world can do things that we simply have not yet defined.

Look at articles about strength. I've seen more and more articles about people learning about "functional" fitness talking about changing the focus from individual muscle training to "whole body" training. Learning to lift something with the entire body rather than locally. Doesn't this seem to fit into some of the ideas of connection? Relaxation? Think of the contradictory things talented people say -- "relax, you'll be stronger".

I am of a scientific bent. But I also have felt people do amazing things. So I listen to what they say, I watch what they do, and I try to resist the temptation to shove every round peg into the square boxes I have.

Funakogi is a great example for me. My sensei would talk about bending the fingers down so you don't cut off the flow of ki. He would talk about extension and movement as always being connected. Connect to the one-point then back out to the fingers but also down to the floor. Ground, connect, move. Since I work alone I'd often do the aikitaiso by myself as a break (which I need to do in order to get the kinks out). I remember one day feeling a sort of "pulling" along the outside of my arm, up into my shoulders, then down into my center. If I didn't curl the fingers down the sensation went away. I remember thinking "ah, I wonder if that's the feeling sensei is talking about when he says you need to feel your ki flow and feel connected". Hmmmm.... Then years later taking a seminar with Toby Threadgill and listening to him talk about funakogi. Then working with Mike Sigman. And although we do our funakogi a bit differently, his explanation of suit and grounding (staying away from his Chinese terminology for now) resonated. Different explanation. But the effect was the same.

One thing that is consistent among the IS guys is that at some point you need to build the IS body to continue along that path. The exercises done are one of those paths.

In my sword craft work one thing I was told repeatedly was that you must be *very* careful about deviating from the traditional methods. Because often the traditional methods involve thousands of small things that you may not even be aware of. Why the hole in the nakago of a sword is drilled larger than the pins used to hold the sword together is a good example. All production companies drill them in place. Many craftsmen outside Japan drill them in place (i.e., the hole in the handle is the same as the hole in the nakago). It turns out that it is a very bad idea long term in terms of being able to keep the handle tight because it negates the ability to do something very simple to quickly tighten the handle. But if you don't realize this tiny detail it is something you could easily discard as "unnecessary" tradition. But it isn't. It turns out to be a tiny detail that is very important. Just not when it is done. I think a lot of what we learn is like that.

Someone mentioned shu-ha-ri. I'm a firm believer. I'm also a believer in doing your level best at whatever you're doing, even if you don't believe the explanation. There is sometimes a very good reason why it was done that way. And while it may not be the express reason given, you toss that away and ignore it only at your own peril.

I'm rambling and not even sure I'm making myself clear. So I'll go back to my cave and look at the shadows on the wall some more while I'm feeling philosophical... Carry on.

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