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Old 03-16-2013, 02:09 PM   #34
Cliff Judge
Dojo: Aikido Shobukan Dojo
Location: Columbia, MD
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 897
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Bob, thanks for noting those thoughts on the permanent record. I have been trying to put 95% of that into words for some time now but have only managed a few vaguely coherent posts. So in that vein...

I keep meaning to write up a long post about the parable Neko no Myojutsu which I read a couple of times over the winter in various translations. Humor me while I attempt to share some thoughts on the striped cat.

For those of you for whom bells do not immediately go off that is "The Mysterious / Sublime / Supernatural technique of the Cat" written in the 1720s by a swordsman named Issai Chozan. Karl Friday's translation is probably the best, followed by Wilson's. A swordsman has an unusually powerful rat in his house, and he employs a succession of cats to rid himself of it. The rat defeats four of them, and then an old, frumpy-looking grey cat simply walks up to the rat and removes it. The other cats and the swordsman then ask the old cat to explain how he accomplished this feat. To each the old grey cat imparts a bit of Taoist wisdom, appropriate to their level.

What struck me when I first re-read this was how the cat that used internal power, the striped cat, was only the second of three. The first cat was technique, the second was internal power, and the third was what I would actually call aiki, though it may be better to call it kage.

The striped cat straight-up says he uses breathing exercises to fill his tanden with ki, he says he stands between heaven and earth, he can knock rats out of the rafters with ki. He says he follows whatever his opponents are doing and spontaneous technique just comes out.

The old cat's response is basically that for all of this training, the problem is basically that the striped cat views it as "power" in the first place. As long as he orients to ki as a type of power to be used, he is always in opposition with everyone else. No matter how powerful you become, eventually you will be defeated by someone who has no care for their life.

The solution is something about cultivating and moving in accordance with "true ki" and my boiled-down take on that is that it is an issue more of clarity of vision and awareness.

I apologize for rambling, but really my main point is, look, swordsmen at the turn of the 18th century regarded this stuff as only the second of the three levels of budo before you are actually good. The first level is superior technique and excellent physical prowess, the second is internal power. You've got two more leaps to make (third learning to mirror and surround the ki of your opponent, then finally learning to move with the ki of the universe) before you can defeat a strong cornered rat. Even the old cat, who moves in accord with the universal ki, admits that there is an even GREATER cat a few villages over. THAT cat just sits around and the rats evict themselves - he does everything by doing nothing.

But most humans go crazy for the striped cat stuff, it is something amazing that you can feel. You can make a spectacle out of it. I saw a clip of Ikeda Sensei - I do not have a link - taken a few years ago, apparently for a Discovery Channel show. These physicists put Sensei and an uke on scales and measured there weight. Then they took readings while Sensei had broken his uke's balance and was dynamically preventing him from regaining it. Sensei was lighter and his uke was heavier. And there was an additional 8 or so pounds that were unaccounted for!

And yet, some viewing the clip said, this really doesn't measure what is really going on here. Because looking at the event simply in terms of exchange of force obviously paints a limited picture of it.

As a closing disclaimer I do believe internal power is a thing, and I am doing my research on it. I just worry that people are going to burn down the forest for the trees by obsessing over it.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 03-16-2013 at 02:21 PM.
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