George S. Ledyard
The idea that engineering / physics models can explain what is being done in "aiki" is possible if one just wishes to explain in a sort of overview how forces might be balanced or directed. But the fact is that "aiki" and internal skills involve the action of the intent on the myofascial structure. I cannot remember anywhere in my readings of physics works ever hearing the terms intent or myofascial ever used. Not in engineering either. ... Neither of these descriptive systems were designed to describe body skills or talk about the interaction between the mind and body.
I have been working through connections between these mechanics issues and the physiological systems that deal with them -- and specifically the myofascia -- on these forums since 2008.
Myofascia, a form of "smooth muscle" tissues (like the uterus) are affected by certain hormones and by certain mechanical factors. (Notably, they are immune to adrenaline/epinephrine.) But they are contracted by oxytocin (the "loving protection' hormone), by inflammation hormones (histamine) -- and more particularly for our purposes, by repetitive mechanical stress and vibrations, as anyone knows who has experienced clenched hands on a yard tool like a shovel or rake used repetitively.
These first two effects provide increased structural integrity -- and in the second case, aids limb immobilization when injured. The latter mechanical observation however is more subtle. Local twitch response is a spinal reflex, like flexor/extensor reflexes. When it is problematic, it is implicated in myofascial trigger points -- which frequently have a postural cause
-- a disruption of normal stable structure to which the body responds by excessively activating myofascial bundles -- which shows that they are intimately concerned wiht posture -- i.e.-- structural stability.
Local twitch response is also seen in what the literature describes as physically "strumming" a tautened muscle bundle. Vibrations thus have physiological effects on reflexive action and the myofascial tissues which strengthen structure. We already know that tonic vibrations are involved in vertical structural stability as a mechanical matter, so these are plainly related aspects of the structural system that we are working on. Furitama is a resonant frequency ~5/~10 Hz. Resonance is something potentially catastrophic that any structural protection system MUST be designed to respond to swiftly, and would be the obvious frequency at which to prompt such structural effects to have destructive effects on stability.
Long story short --all the shaking, shuddering stuff has a very real set of physiological objects to which it is directed, as well as the "crawliing skin" stuffs of myofascial "suits" attested and which are also implicated in the very reflexive protection systems I have noted above. Structural stresses, particularly torsional stresses, create moments in patterns that are the precise mechanical equivalents of moving, loopy oscillations (rotations). When you add the tonic vertical oscillation of mechanical stability, we are plainly in the right territory mechanically and physiologically for the types of structural manipulations and responses in play on these deeply interrelated issues.
This is an objective language for the phenomena we are discussing, empirical and not subject to some of the defects of transmission we have historically seen.
On the other hand, the Indian, Chinese, Japanese literature offers highly developed descriptive terminology for precisely this purpose. ... Aikido literature, at least as it exists in English to date, simply does not have anything like the descriptive terminology that exists in the Chinese internal arts.
If you can get repeated exposure to a teacher who has a consistent terminology and can show you in his or her body and your own what these terms mean, then you can start to talk to other people who have that same experience.
And is the art to be doomed again ? It has failed before in relying on a recurring pattern of using idiosyncratic bodies of terminology, framed on ad hoc models, analogies or metaphors to illustrate its actions -- and tied only on the personally shared experience of those who have been able to label those the hysical phenomena with those terms?
When they die the knowledge dies with them, and only a select few seem to "get it" natively in those terms. Kudos to those who may have found (or found again) their superior methods -- but the content of the physical objects or systems to which those methods are directed can be easily lost or misapplied -- look at the aiki-taiso/chinkon kishin. In other words, we would be replicating the very problem that has recurrently cause the transmission of the knowledge to fail
, over and over again.
I really don't think Sagawa was intentionally holding back the "secret knowledge.. I think he was one of those that "got it" in perceiving the manner of action -- but he was not well-able to describe for his own students what exactly he was doing. He knew how he had developed it and developed it further -- and tried to use those traditional modes to transmit it -- and failed MISERABLY. I could go further and say that the existence of "okuden" teaching on these issues may be more a function of the face-saving of Asian teachers whose personal accomplishment is often not shared by many of his immediate students -- who did not "get it." And when they find those who do "get it" they can save face as to their ability to teach what they plainly know -- by claiming "secret teaching" for those selected as "worthy" students -- precisely because they do not actually need it -- they just "got it."
Ueshiba recognized this problem implicity. He tried a different mode he hoped might work better. His recourse to Kojiki's concrete mythical images is an admission that some of the other more traditional means of communicating principles in CMA and equivalent Japanese adoption was necessary. So he tried the concrete images embodied in myth. His Doka are a similar but slight variation on the same approach -- and they actually have invaluable images that match these concepts.
But his approach also failed MISERABLY -- in terms of ensuring regularity of transmitting the spooky "power" that some people DO GET from the training methods he nonetheless transmitted -- Ikeda (whom I have felt) is among the most recent crop of aikido leadership that seem to have "got it." IMO. It is in feeling him and precisely in wrestling with this confusion in the traditional concepts that caused me to pursue the task of finding a more correct way to overlay the Western concrete objective terms onto the Eastern terms. I have had a modicum of success -- if any one cares to read my blog posts.. I can define ki in terms of purely Western ideas, and with consistency of reference in BOTH systems
. I don't think Ikeda is willingly inscrutable -- I think he may lack what O Sensei and Sagawa lacked -- a more reliable way of putting what he knows.
Aiki -- being an applied aspect of ki -- and a subtle one -- has required this degree of delving into the mechanics and physiology. I think the effort has been both fruitful and worthwhile. I am not actually indulging any advice on method at all. What works works. But the old concepts are the danger
to future transmission, and have proved so, over and over again. In debates over the terms of reference (hardly just little ole me alone) they can be a danger to present transmission as well.
While nothing is perfect, physiology and mechanics are not vulnerable in those ways. This body of concepts I have been teasing out promises more yet -- and not from agreeing with me -- but for anyone willing to wrestle with their mind on these concepts
as willingly as they will do with their bodies -- they will assure the future of their skills and methods because they will be better able to describe them in objective terms..