Can I ask you, as the aiki heavyweight on the thread, what, if anything, you think is of particular value from the Tohei approach? What's worth keeping or focusing on for those of us who don't currently have access to an aiki-qualified teacher?
Measuring or weighting these things can be difficult. I don't see myself as much of anything, much less an "aiki heavyweight."
Remember that up until 2006 I trained in a closed dojo in the woods. I do what I do, and that's that. People can make of it what they will, it doesn't change what I am doing.
Getting into details about what I think about Tohei's method, is pointless and will only serve as fuel for some nebulous internet debate- one which will not benefit me in any way.
Let's just say that there are different methods people use to connect the body. Breath training and moving from the center is not a panacea to all that ails us. There are ways and means to connect the body, ways to use that connected body to cancel and absorb, also to issue, to load and release, to open and close, etc. There are also ways to absorb while issuing, to offline while entering. These things are done in a digit, in a limb, and/or with the whole body.
I have never seen Tohei express anything of what I am talking about as a totality or method of movement, nor have I seen him express the same type of spiral movement I see in Ueshiba. But, hey, I didn't live with the guy, I just watched him on video, read his book, felt some people who trained in Ki society, and watched others. If he were doing what I am doing I would have seen it, read it, or had others at least be able to discuss or understand what I was talking about. As for judging it I will leave that up to others.
Is it fair to call Tohei's method a failure, as some did here, because the ki society did not produce cookie-cutter people with power? If the goal is to produce guaranteed results then I think we could make a case that all martial arts have failed to one degree or another. But, then we could say that about dance, gymnastics, golf etc. At a point there needs to be an individual ownership that involves; talent, skill, work ethic, mental acumen, testing, practice and so on. It is far to complicated to make such simple statements. Let me say that Bills comments about Aikido being in such poor shape are not meant to be all inclusive; it was a generalization of the state of affairs, and most senior teachers I have spoken and trained with seem to agree. So in that regard, Bill's comment seems to be a consensus among the teachers I keep meeting.
At any rate when it comes to ki and moving from center, I think it is going to be as empty an endeavor in the future as it was in the past. Why, because I think history is just going to repeat itself. It is going to be interesting for some people to find out if moving from the center and moving with ki...is enough to get the job done, and this time in a more educated environment. In my opinion it is not. There are ways to train to connect the body and there are ways to train to move those connections and they are not all the same. People with internal power do not all move the same, and some have flaws in movement. Nothing else will do but getting out and about, testing methods and people and finding out what gels with your own goals and intentions. I recently had this discussion with some aikido teachers who are currently doing that very thing.
And whilst I'm here, what are your thoughts on the effectiveness of (1) Zhang Zhuan standing chi kung and Yiquan, and (2) Feldenkrais Method, which you might know nothing about but I'll ask just in case (it's all about mind/body coordination, but perhaps lacks the sweat and tears for what you're talking about.)
I stand, and also move in extremely slow movement drills. Standing, slow movement with and without heavy weapons, and breath work, are the cornerstone of what I do.
It is what
I do while I am standing,
I move slowly and
I breath...... that creates aiki power.
I haven't met anyone yet in aikido who I considered to be soft. Most are actually pretty hard. But that is just my personal experience so far. As I said in 97' on the aikido list, "Good Daito Ryu is very soft. It is more like Taiji than aikido."
I think one of the key problems is that Aikido believes it is a soft art, mostly due to it's evasive circular movement. Being soft, while having the ability to generate power and control requires specific training. You don't just "get soft" by relaxing or from externally evading power and moving out of the way. It just doesn't work that way. Moreover, you won't find soft power that way, no matter how long you train. The aikido teachers I am training with are finding that true softness under pressure was harder to attain than they thought and is extremely beneficial to their own training goals.
I have met Yiquan people who were awful, and some who were good. Of the ones who seem to have gotten something out of their training; we seem to be able to talk shop quite nicely. I just did a seminar this last weekend and among the participants was a Yi quan guy. He tells me I verbally addressed and then physically expressed many of the concepts his Chinese teacher had imparted. He reads these pages so if he is interested, he can address your questions better than I could. FWIW I have sat at a table with two Yi quan guys, and while one was expounding on his training methods, the other guy looked at him like he was nuts. Sound familiair? I can tell you- for example- that I have talked with DR people who said to me "How could you have seen that out of this?" Where I responded "How could you have not?" I think like everything else in Martial arts; it appears to be a case-by-case basis.
From what I have read...nope, I'm not interested.
From guys I have met..nope I'm not interested.
I had one fellow at a taiji get together watch me pushing hands with a bunch of folks and then come up and tell me he could improve my push hands and my moving from center. He was a feldenkras teacher. I said "Really, show me?" I then proceeded to move him all over with a finger, break his balance and deconstruct his posture, then had him try all of that on me. Then I asked him what he thought he could possibly teach me? So.... nope, I'm not interested.
I don't see how my opinions help in anyway. I think it's best if we all go out and form more of our own, but there ya go. The good news is that people are out there talking about this stuff openly, and there are plenty of experts out there teaching soft arts, along with some amatuers demonstrating and sharing whatever it is they do. It's an interesting time to be in the aiki arts, or any tradtional art for that matter.
Good luck in your training