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Old 11-25-2012, 05:54 PM   #122
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: Is aiki a clash of forces?

Years ago when I first started learning to polish swords I had a guy teaching me who had me doing all sorts of stuff I didn't understand. One day I had a sword in front of me, a chinese made Japanese style sword, and I was going to reshape the entire thing. I was puzzled about one thing, however. The kissaki (tip) was poorly formed and I knew I was going to need to reshape it. I asked him "where should I place the yokote (dividing line between tip and blade itself) on this sword? I'm not sure where to put it given how poorly shaped most of it is."

His response was that I needed to simply do it to understand where it went. But I pushed -- I mean, really, how hard is it just to tell me where it should go? You know, "put it right *there*" and draw a little arrow on the scan I sent him. He replied that it wasn't really that simple or really that straight forward as many things go in to determining where that particular thing should form. I was frustrated, of course, because i wanted to do a good job on the thing and I didn't understand why he couldn't just answer the question. Finally he told me that I didn't know enough to understand the answer, even if the answer appears to be a very simple "right there" kind of thing. That frustrated me beyond belief.

Fast forward many years and I had a guy e-mailing me questions all the time about polishing. One day he asks me essentially the same question I had asked years ago. I looked at his picture and smiled because for the first time in a long while I thought back to our original discussion and how frustrated I was. And as I looked at the image this guy sent me asking me the same question, I realized that I couldn't really answer his question and do it any justice. And even if I *did* say "it goes right here" and put in an arrow very likely it wouldn't end up right in the end even if he put it there. Because there are so many factors in this topic. Because it is only one part of a vastly larger whole that requires holding the blade in hand, rolling it around in space, looking and understanding the blade. then putting it to stone. Then seeing how it was shaping out. Then refining the all the surfaces that would be "around" that point until the yokote (the dividing line) would form itself automatically as a result of a 1000 other things.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Words are imperfect representations of thoughts and experiences. And in the case of certain things there are dramatic limits to the value of verbal or written communications until a certain baseline of commonality is found. Thus far you have been quite strident in your questions, but you've also managed to frustrate most everyone who has tried to answer them. You say you understand what they're telling you but virtually all of them say "no, you're misinterpreting and not understanding what we're saying".

It is a testament to your tenacity and likely your sincerity that people have continued to answer your questions as much as they have. Maybe you should return the favor by letting it rest for a bit, at least until you get out on the mat with the people you're talking to. Then maybe you can roll that thing around in space together, look at it, see it together, and find out what might ideas might form automagically by simply experiencing something directly.

Then you can wave it all away or explain it however you see fit. But until then... I think you've hit the limits of the discussion.

Best of luck with it. Does it really need answering on-line before you get on the mat? Maybe you should consider just how very much you'll convince yourself of some model of what's really happening and make yourself even more skeptical and unable to experience whatever it is that these folk are doing...

To me it's like discussing how a long, complex recipe with complicated preparation will taste on-line. That's all fine and good, but you might want to reconsider criticism and over analysis until you actually get a chance to taste it first... Then by all means...

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