Just over a year ago, I posted a thread called Ki Eureka, detailing my recognition of ki after nearly forty years of martial arts training. Just before that, I posted a thread called jumankai: kata no chikara wo nuite, detailing my intention to relax my shoulders 100,000 times. I’m sure the relaxing of the shoulders contributed, along with my recent years of seeking Internal Power aiki, to my sudden recognition of ki, one year ago. It has been quite a year, on every level of my life. But very recently, I experienced something that takes the internal power search to a new level. It relates to Phi Truong’s question to me on the thread A Primer on Aikido, Aiki and IS.
Phi said, “david, where is the dantien/hara movement comes into play? would have thought it one of the central tenet of IS.”
I answered, “It is, isn't it? I left it out because I don't understand it. So that's something I need to figure out.”
That’s certainly not because I haven’t tried to figure it out. I’ve been doing tai chi since 1980 or so, but I was never taught the real use of dantien there. And I wasn’t taught specifically about tanren in aikido. A lot of that effect was right there in all my study, but without specific instruction on it, I didn’t even know what to look for—much less how to use it. So the IS/IP/Aiki discussions on aikiweb and elsewhere have been very helpful and I come back here to post some results.
Now, recently, I’ve had another strange insight. It relates to the expression of the face and the development of internal power.
Not long ago, I mentioned that I got a good feeling out of doing some exploratory finger movements that made me recognize the connection of my fingertips to my dantien. I would move a finger a little and I could feel it “pulling” at the tissues that connected it to my dantien. Lately, I’ve felt that connection between my dantien and my face. I can manipulate my facial expression and feel the tiny connections to my dantien.
In fact, I believe that the facial expression is created by the dantien’s response to things in the environment. The dantien creates the expression of the face through tension along the lines of the connective tissue. By Feldenkrais’ reasoning, the brain controls the body, but you can also affect the brain by attentive movements of the body. Likewise, though the dantien creates the expressions of the face through its feelings, we can intentionally change the state of the dantien by changing the expression of the face.
This reminded me that I had heard someone say that you should smile while doing aikido. I didn’t take that too seriously at the time because most of the people I saw smiling while they did aikido had a kind of insipid smile that made me want to puke. And their technique was nothing to write home about. So I never thought much about that. But when I recently felt the connection between my face and my dantien, I remembered that saying and that made me think of Tadashi Abe, who had such a strange smile.
But I didn't’ come to this thought by smiling. I came to it by having a very bad expression on my face. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it and when I thought about it, I could feel direct connections between my face and my dantien. So I relaxed my face and I felt something relax in my dantien. I felt the release of energy I had been exerting to clinch my dantien in the way that would generate the facial expression I was wearing.
Especially with negative feelings, we can put a lot of “stomach” into the face. This is partly because the bad face has roots in eating something bad. The caveman eating something bad would involuntarily make a horrible facial expression so that his wife, children and friends would know not to eat what he was eating. Then, face-making evolved to include any visceral rejection of anything—someone’s behavior, for instance. When we don’t like something, we reject it first with our stomach and the tension in our stomach (as if we are trying to throw up) creates the face we show.
Now, when I realized that my face connected directly with my dantien and that relaxing the face freed a lot of energy in my dantien, I felt all this extra energy in my being and I thought, “I’ll bet you could affect other people with this kind of invisible energy.” Of course, people do read body language (as well as facial language) and if you’re in a state where that kind of energy is freed, other people will feel more cooperative with you just because you are not tense and your face is not threatening. Still, my sense was that I could actually reach out and touch someone with this energy that was anchored in my dantien. And I imagined that must in fact be a big part of haragei—silent communication through the “hara-art”. I knew that a lot of haragei involved “stomaching” the various points of view and ambitions of the members of a group. But this feeling that I could actually affect other people with all the energy I had freed in my stomach…this stuck with me and I spent some time pondering that.
Still, finally, I had to say, “If this energy isn’t clinching up my dantien, what should it be doing?”
At that moment, I realized that, rather than clinching the stomach or traveling astrally, the proper way to use that energy, which is ki, is to push it out from that center and into the hands and feet and head—to fill up the body as a foot fills a sock.
So the body…is the sock of the ki. (There you go, Mark Freeman.
I hope it was worth it!)
It sounds silly, but if you can feel this, like your ki is as real and present as a foot, and that this real thing extends out into the body as if the body were less real than the ki, and more like clothing for the ki…I think you must be getting the feeling of ki.
That is how I feel now, a year after getting the recognition of which part of me ki is. I have a ki-body inside my physical body, as if the inner body is more real than the outer body. And now I feel like I’m at the point where I can start seeing how to cultivate this much further and apply it at will.
One thing I’ve had a sense about that might be mistaken is the idea of letting the attacker “feel the ground” through your body. When he pushes you, he feels as if he is pushing against the ground, itself. Now I’m thinking that you can do this with almost no muscular involvement if your ki firmly presses the ground on one side and firmly contacts the attacker on the other side. Your ki feels the ground and the attacker’s ki feels the ground through your ki. I won’t know if this really makes sense until I can get someone to push on me. But think about that: to do it, your ki has to be pushed down into your foot…as if your foot were only a sock that is filled by the real foot, which is the ki foot. When we clinch up the dantien and screw up our faces like we’ve eaten an unripe persimmon, it pulls the whole body’s ki up into the dantien. So it’s not down in the leg and therefore cannot press against the ground. But when the ki from dantien presses down into the feet and into the ground and simultaneously into the torso, arms and head, then all of the ki is pressing into the ground and the attacker’s ki should sense the ground on contact. And if his ki is all tied up in his clinched up dantien, it will reference “ground” from your body instead of from gravity and his own pressing into the ground…
So manipulation of the center to release the energy trapped there is one kind of use of the dantien for internal power. It’s part of the process, I think. But the most important thing is to clearly feel that the body joins at the center and use the center as both the source of energy, the source of grounding and balance and the universal joint that transmits power from the lower body to be applied with little effort by the upper body.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, but just in the few days since recognizing the hara connection to the face, my feel for the hara and its influence on the movement of the arms and the strength of the legs has become much more subtle and very interesting.
And guess what?
It makes me smile!!!