Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Where's the hara?
Thanks for replying.
If you will allow me to work my way through my own thoughts, using your ideas/terms…
I think I may get what you are saying. Definitely, it is very interesting and it has certainly made a simple question that wanted so badly to stay at the level of anatomical locations take notice of itself -- forcing it to become more than it ever thought possible.
I think at one level you are using a binary logic (e.g. desire and aversion) to demonstrate a tactical optimum -- one particular to the maai necessary to maintain both connection and a center-to-center relationship between nage and uke. At this level, which is deceptively simple, it almost seems as if your position is making use of a philosophy of balance and/or of middle ground. In particular, you are suggesting that one cannot be "too close" or "too far," that one must be "just right" (in between "too far" and "too close"). Since we are talking about "center" here, or even "hara," we are to understand that this "just right" is interdependent to both having a sense of center and an experience of center. That is to say, to speak of "hara" or of "center" (which we may or may not want to equate), but to not understand either one as part of an interdependency is to miss something huge about "hara" or "center." If I may, I would say, to be stuck on the anatomically positioning of "hara" or "center," such that we lose track of this interdependency, is to be stuck at a very mundane or embryonic level of understanding and experience regarding "hara" or "center."
Your position also asks us to realize that any sense of "hara" or of "center" should include a correct notion of body/mind. That is to say, we cannot find "center" by physical means alone -- absent of spiritual, mental, and emotional considerations. While theoretically, it may seem very possible to "locate" one's "hara" or "center," in actual practice, where "hara" or "center" is most needed and most presumed, knowing where one's "hara" or "center" is on or in one's body amounts to little. Such an attempt opens one up to Korzybski's critical statement of, "A map is not the territory." If we look at your examples of desire and aversion, we can see that we are indeed looking at things of the mind -- things that do have an affect on the body. For example, often we are too close or too far because we are anxious, or too insecure. It is rarely the case that we are just "too close" or just "too far." There is usually an emotional content to our physical expressions. For example, depending upon our personal history and make-up, our insecurities can have us attempting to smother uke's actions, rather than letting them complete themselves. Lacking in faith, we force techniques hoping that some sort of application of Target Creation will suffice in meeting our perceived idea of "success." "Success" mistakenly being understood and experienced as an end to one's feelings of insecurity. As a result, we stop relating to the whole of the situation, we come to neglect the interdependency that exists between our center, uke's center, the center of the technique, the center of the encounter, and the center of the Universe. All that lies at the "center" of things is our insecurity and our attempts to quell it, but this "center" is no center since it negates all else that is in relationship to it. It is egocentric, and by that we mean that it is neglectful even of its own periphery. Thus, it is an anti-center, of sorts.
The same would apply for being too much on the side of aversion -- it too may be seated in insecurity and anxiousness. That is to say, a particular state of mind can easily affect our physical use of center in the direction of either extreme. If we are of a personal history and make-up that has us more fleeing than smothering when we attempt to alleviate or address our fears, it is quite possible that we will lose the center of the technique, and the tactical center of proper body mechanics, simply because we adopt the anti-center of egocentricism (as we attempt to find ourselves a new "secure" state of body/mind via pushing or keeping uke away).
Therefore, it would seem to me that you are quite correct in suggesting that our notion of center could have, or even should have, these notions of "just right," of body/mind, and of interdependency. I think these elements are definitely important and do indeed seem to be some of the major things missing when we instructors say to students, "Use your center." That is to say, and referring back to an earlier post I made in this thread, it is the absence of these things that leads to a loss of mutual context or point of reference, which leads to a lack of understanding and/or immediate availability of center -- which leads to the (practical) meaninglessness of such phrases. My early attempts to get students to focus upon the interdependent relationship that should exist between their head and their feet (and thus the center of those two peripheries) is my effort to get folks to realize that there is more to "hara" or "center" then mere location (as on a map). It is my attempt to get them to realize that there are also these other things involved: "just rightness," body/mind considerations, and a law of interdependency.
At another level, one born out of your use of interdependency, your position is extremely complicated, but also extremely sophisticated. Earlier, I mentioned the center of uke, the center of nage, the center of the technique, the center of the encounter, and the center of the Universe. We may want to understand these things as permanent and individual entities. However, because of the law of interdependency, we have to acknowledge that these things do not exist until they all exist. Yet, equally, we must say, because that is so, because they have no independent nature of their own, these things do not exist. Because the latter is what we may misunderstand the most, we may be better serving ourselves by understanding center not as some thing or some things we should gain but as some thing or some things we should lose. I can acknowledge that to some, particularly those who train only or mostly in Shu level training and/or in Kihon waza, this last statement is absurd and even irrelevant. However, equally, I can acknowledge that to those who are fulfilling the Shu-Ha-Ri model and/or doing a lot of spontaneous training, pointing to a place on your body and saying, "Use that," is equally absurd and irrelevant.
Thanks for the impulse to think some things through (a bit more).