Dojo: Chikushino Rental Dojo
Join Date: Jan 2013
Musings on a Hawaii IP Seminar
一点の気 (無) から陰陽の2つの気に分かれ, 陰陽の気は交流して万物を産み出すのである。
A spot of Ki (Nothing) is divided into two Kis - positive and negative. The dual Kis interact and give birth to all things in the universe.
Traditional Aikido vol 5 p 36
(口伝) 胴 (腰)の動きは両足にあり、頭の動きは両手にあり。
The rotation of the hips determines the movement of both feet. The movement of the head determines the movement of both hands. Ueshiba Morihei
Traditional Aikido, vol 1 p49
(口伝) 腰 (胴)の動きは両足にあり、頭の動きは両手にあり。
The hips determine the movement of both feet. The head determines the movement of both hands. Ueshiba Morihei
Traditional Aikido, vol 4 pp 118-119
Thoughts on the December Hawaii Internal Power Seminar and the future of Aikido
I've had a few days to recover from the Jet lag, coach seating (oy my shoulders and knees!), and the shock of returning to cold Japan from sunny warm Kailua. (Oh cooing doves, how I miss thee). I handed out the omiyage to friends and co-workers, caught up on a few meetings at work, getting back in the groove of things. It's also taken me this long to begin to collect my thoughts on the experience and the working model of IP and Aiki as taught at the seminar. Now a little personal background. For about, ohh just now 23 years or so I have been training in Aikido. For 19 of those years I have been an Iwama style guy. During that time I've devoted quite a large chunk of my life to the art, at one point I quit my job to become an uchi deshi with a high ranking instructor. I've turned down opportunites for promotion at work in order to keep up my training schedule at the old dojo. I've taken ukemi from a bunch of the big boys. I was once violently assaulted on the street and successfully defended myself against my attacker using solely Aikido (kokyu ho of all things, guy never saw it coming). And once, yes, I did walk four miles uphill in the snow just to get to the dojo. Well, maybe it was three and a half miles, but you get the point. I'm kind of an Iwamaniac.
So, now to the nitty gritty. Given all that, what did I think of the seminar and this whole IP deal? Well... as I've explained, I've been training for 23 years or so. I'm 41 now. So, for more than half of my life I've been doing this art and for just under half I've been in Iwama style exclusively.
Honest opinion: I learned more about Aikido this past weekend than I have in all of my 23 years of practice. Being given access to this training model is simply transcendental. There is no other way to say it, this is Takemusu Aikido. And, it DOES NOT negate that which I already know, it does not negate the legacy of Saito Sensei and my years in the Iwama tradition, in fact it illuminates all of it in such a way as to show us how we should be training. This is the power we've been seeking for years but could never achieve, no matter how hard we pushed ourselves in training or how much sciatic nerve crushing ukemi we took. IP is everything we got into Aikido for in the first place, it can be supremely soft and just stunningly devastating in the same moment. To put it another way, "This. F***ing. Rules!"
The Hawaii guys jokingly refer to their training location in the park as Area 51. An apt description, it seems to me. We've had the proverbial Aikido UFO up on blocks in a bunker for years. One Aikido lineage has the alien bodies in a tank at Hangar 18, another is making velcro and superconductors from the reverse engineered wreckage, and yet nobody knew what made that sucker fly. Well, IP is the reactor and now we can take that Aikido UFO out for a spin. Did I mention that I suck at metaphors?
So much of what we do in Aikido makes sense in light of traditional IP/Aiki training. So much so that it's hard to pick a starting point. Well, I suppose we could start by reading our own text books. Saito Sensei's Traditional Aikido series contains a plethora of information that pertains directly to IP, and yet I've never once, ONCE, heard a teacher explain it in as cogent a manner as was done in the seminar, much less talk about its existence. There is far more in those books than just the pictures and yet, that's precisely how we've been using them. Step by step picture guides for gross physical movement. That's a start, but the words, the real content... what do they mean, how does that drive what we do? This is bloody important! We've got a lot of work to do.
And it's not just reading the English translation either. Some of that stuff, it seriously needs a second pass by a translator who knows not just the traditional IP terminology (Chris Li I'm looking at you! I mean surely we can do better than "Body Exercises and their Unlimited Ramifications" for 体術その無限の展開. It makes it sound like one's chances of getting into a good school are ruined unless you meet the fitness requirement.) That's just one thing, but here's the quote that got me started on my whole "What is this IP noise and how does it jibe with what we're told to do?" quest.
Here's the English translation of a kuden, an orally bequeathed teaching mind you from O'Sensei himself, from Vol 1 of Traditional Aikido, describing Kamae for taijutsu and bukiwaza. "The rotation of the hips determines the movement of both feet. The movement of the head determines the movement of both hands." Okay, I'll follow you there, the first part sounds exactly like what we've been told how to train. Except that the Japanese text doesn't say that. It doesn't say rotate at all, it says movement,動き . The movement of the hips determines the movement of the feet.
But wait, O'Sensei's kuden uses the word Dou, 胴, the trunk, upper body, or torso. The movement of the trunk determines the movement of the feet. Hips, koshi, 腰 , is in parenthesis next to dou. So it should be taken as a qualifier for dou. (The second appearance of this kuden in Vol 4 of the series has a different translation and somehow koshi takes precedence and dou is now in parenthesis. I guess the kuden are kind of flexible, zing!). Now Japanese regional anatomical terms can be frustratingly indeterminate. Ashi can mean foot, or calf, or leg, there are separate kanji for these with the same pronunciation, and the Japanese will use them in print to differentiate between foot and leg. Orally, one can grasp the meaning from context, tone, or nuance in the voice. So to impart the nuance in print, we see the use of dou and koshi in parenthesis to indicate what section of the body moves the legs.
What is koshi? Well, that depends. Most westerners say hips and pat their pelvis to indicate their hips, so move your hips. Check, got it, we do that. (Funny side note about hips here in Japan, the English word hip is used to mean the buttocks, which can lead to all sorts of funny situations where everyone becomes embarrassed and giggles uncontrollably. Can't open the door, put your hip into it, hilarity ensues. But I digress.) What about koshi as the Japanese commonly use it? I've gotten a lot of different answers from a lot of native Japanese. It could mean anything from the loins, to the pelvis, to the sacrum, to the waist. Just like ashi, things get fuzzy. So let's find the overlap. Dou, trunk of the body, what part of the trunk? The koshi. And where does that overlap, in English? How about the waist? The movement of the legs is determined by the waist. What possible driver could there be for power at the waist?... And what of the head determining the movement of the hands? Why, it's almost as if there would have to be, oh I don't know, something attached to the head that could determine the movement of the hands? What could that be?... Sorry to be a tease but you'll have to take a seminar to find out.
The clincher for me, that one moment that really made me go, "Yeah this is it!" was an answer to a nagging little question (actually kind of a BIG question) about Aikido training and efficacy, in just about every style or group I've trained with, Iwama included, that has always bugged the hell out of me. The age old newbie question in response to a technique against a grab. "Why not just let go?"
My learned response/answer over the years has always been, say it with me now, "Because you're giving a serious attack." I have held on so many, many times over the years as uke, well past the point where my hand would naturally open or when I'm in such a contorted position that holding on is ridiculous given that I could just let go and punch my partner. I've thought about this conundrum while holding on to Shihan mind you, (I could just let go right now but that'd be wrong) and I've even seen Shihan change out uke for ones who don't let go during techniques. Check out Youtube, it's all over the place.
The answer to "Why not just let go?" after the IP/Aiki seminar. "Well, I couldn't." All my grabs became attraction points, Yin and Yang (the 2 kis from the headliner quote) were made manifest and that's all she wrote. My hands were glued to the instructor and I could not, for the life of me, get them off of him. And I tried. Never have I had that happen. Just, stuck to nage and then tossed like a pie in the oven. Now, go back and look at those photos, look at the waza O'Sensei is doing, look at the waza Saito is doing. Why can't the uke let go? What are we doing? What do we need to do?
Well, metaphorically speaking, we're going to have to smile wistfully at the old homestead and do some remodeling. Tear out the old wiring there in the wall, it's a fire hazard. And the old land line's gotta go, install some T3 cable up in there, that's gonna cost ya. Got some asbestos up on the second floor, so you won't be staying up there for, oh, a long while now. Plumbing's gonna have to get ripped out, new marble countertops, mahogany rails get refurbished, chandelier's a loss, strip out the lead paint, oh and you'll need an exorcist because the closet is haunted. Let's face it, with all of that and the roof work the place is going to be pretty darn unlivable for a while....BUT! But, after all of that. Your house is going to be in great shape. Comfortable to live in and everything you've always wanted. The envy of all your nosy neighbors, and a welcome place for friends, family, and strangers alike. Worthy of the name AIKIDO. It'll take time, effort, patience. Pain. Intent. And humility. But all of that will be worth it. It is well past time to stop living in the shell of what this once great mansion has become. We've got to take command and restore this Noble House back to its glory days. The traditional methods of IP and Aiki development now openly available for the asking, is the way to do this. This work has been around for a long, long time and finally it is within reach. For more than half my life I've been seeking this.
To quote the great water engineer William Mulholland. "There it is. Take it!"