On the web site:
I think softness is key as well.
From my vantage point it is not simple as saying "soft."
Unfortunately I tend to part company with almost everyone in Aikido and Taiji and other so called *soft arts* once I see and feel their understanding of what soft is. Soft has always....always...been associated with power. It is just not the type of power people think of when you use the term power. It is almost a waste of time talking to people about it.
- Needle in cotton
- Four ounces can move a thousand pounds
- Ten units of force being handled with 5 and 5 or 7 and 3
- Guest hand / host hand
- Heaven and earth ki releasing the mountain echo
- The weight of a feather or a fly alighting inducing rotation
- Aiki being Opposing powers
- Dual opposing spirals creating friction that give birth to in/yo
On and on and on and on...
These things are all based on a common theme of unification that produces power. It is this central power or support that makes all of the rest of the legendary soft arts so powerful. Ueshiba quoted them to a deaf audience and I am doing much the same.
Tension or hard training before soft?
All I can offer is my own experiences here
For starters I disagree with that idea completely. All it really identifies is that young men are somewhat stupid and testosterone driven and have to wait until they are older to think. To that, I have personally taught younger guys not to fight the way others did and they grew up with soft power and approaches to budo.
For adults? Hard before soft is not needed either.
It's hard to think of it as just an opinion when I have very real experience teaching people from years of damage in hard budo, years of damage in so called soft budo and newbies with no martial background. My *opinion* is that the ones who comes from hard backgrounds are the hardest to teach. The ones who come from soft arts are also difficult due to their skewed definitions of what soft is. Most people I encounter from the well known soft arts offer either of two approaches:
- When they are controlled they offer muscle and shoulder movement like everyone else.
- Evade and offer noodle arms
Most people who participate in soft arts are not very educated about the history of their own arts or the soft arts in general. Hell most don't even know there were soft arts compared to hard. Typically their entire view is traced back to one or two teachers (whom they respect and admire) opinion's on what budo movement is. The realization that soft arts have a profound history, with definitions and practices completely eludes them. You'de have thought that at some point they would be asking: "Where are the new legends?" "How come we don't get it?"
Nope. Instead the new approach is that the legend weren't legend worthy either.. Why? Many teachers seem to feel that after 30 years in budo what they feel like must be what everyone felt like, so the legends must have been an exaggeration.
The newbies are more of a clean slate that just accept and work on what you show and you don't have to work out their decades of bad habits and preconceived notions that keep fighting them....and me. Don't get me wrong, It does work for experienced people; according to hundreds of VERY experienced and rather jaded teachers I have had good success with retraining them and re-educating them on what soft truly is and it continues to invigorate their practices, but they will be the first to tell you it was startling, stunning, life and career changing, and a difficult process to wrap their heads around.
I am a huge fan of the soft arts and their potential, just not westerners definitions of what soft is. Particularly those who constantly evade and noodle arm in Aikido and Taiji and yet are 100% convinced that they don't and have no idea whatsoever how to explain hundreds of sayings and explanations for what soft power used to be about for thousands of years before we took over with our version.
I think my web page on The Method
offers my view on a progressive model fairly well.