Rob Liberti talking about Ki skills wrote:
I understand that there is a slow way to break through - I think it sounds an awful lot like taichi - which I'm fine with. I think it can be done in aikido class, but I agree that sempai to help show the way are highly desireable. I have a shortage of them in my location, so any ancillary exercises, drills, or katas would be very helpful. I guess it seems to me that since I know the surface level social coordination so well, I am able to set up classes to help get people there in a linear, incremental (iterative maybe?) way. It seems like someone who knows the self coordination side should have been able to set up classes to help get people there in a linear, incremental (iterative maybe?) way. I assumed that is was Tohei (and Moriama sp?) sensei's tried to do. I think that since they didn't continue to do the basic waza (to my knowledge) it didn't transfer very well to those students without any background in basic waza - this is just from my very limited experience with Ki society in my area. I keep hoping that someone comes up with a list of principles I can follow about this area to help keep me on track (and spin my wheels less). So far I haveb't seen many beyond 'relax, extend ki, weight underside, keep center' or whatever they are. Training to eventually grasp the meaning of these ideas is one (very long) way. It seems like someone who done the work who is also very articulate might be able to express these ideas in an even more helpful way and speed the procress along.
Well, as I've said before, I think that movement in Aikido, as in Taiji and many other martial arts, requires an investment in slow, mentally-directed movement at first. Rushing into fast, hakama-flowing movement or into competition is a waste of time. Cooperative movement and a lot of time practicing basic movements in order to change the basic way you move
Tohei, when he split from Hombu Dojo, wanted to be successful and he used the keystone of Aikido, "Ki", as his banner. It was a brilliant move and he supported the focus on Ki with a number of "exercises" or "tests" that point toward the basic skills. Essentially, the point I'd make is that the basic waza and exercises of traditional Aikido are more than adequate as practice media and the "tests" are sort of supplemental so that you can gauge your progress. I.e., all Aikido is the same, when done correctly, regardless of style.
I agree that Tohei's four points aren't very helpful because he never really tells you how to do anything. It's easy to say "keep your one point", but if you don't know what he's talking about you can imagine a large number of possible actions that might be called "keeping your one point"... and most of them wouldn't do more than occupy your imagination.
I'll give a shot at explaining the Four Points a little more clearly. I'll need to break in into separate posts, because some of the explanations require that I do preliminary explanations. Just give me a minute to go put on my Nomex suit.
Keep One Point:
A good way to begin understanding "keep one point" is to have someone push against your stomach/dantien area with the palm of one hand (he should keep his elbow straight and you should have one hand holding his arm behind his elbow). You relax and let your back leg absorb all the push. Relax your lower back... now and always. See how far you can move backward to where your weight is more or less directly over the back leg... it's hard, like a balancing act, but it's good practice. When you're comfortable doing this and letting his push go through you to the ground, stay relaxed and move forward, letting the relaxed force of the ground move your partner (he should only be giving you around 5-10 pounds resistance) backwards ( he just sort of allows himself to walk backwards while maintaining a steady force to you). You should be able to walk almost as naturally as going down a sidewalk.
If you can walk forward using the ground conveyed through your middle to your opponent, then you can do the same thing with a slight variation. Put one hand against the sternum of your partner (his hands are by his side; he will simply be a "dummy" offering a slight resistance) and "pretend-feel" like his hand is still against your stomach and walk him backward again, using the ground to your middle straight to your hand. I.e., your hand should feel like it is just an extension of your middle. Notice how you're beginning to get a glimpse of "keeping your mind in your hara".
If you grasp the lapel of your partner's gi-top, pull them toward you about one step. When you pull, imagine that you are pulling using your belt (obi). Practice various pushes and pulls imagining that all pushes are really the middle pushing; all pulls are the middle (or the obi) pulling; the arms and torso are simply objects through which the pushes and pulls from the middle are transmitted.
If you are going to lift something, think of it like this. Imagine a flower-pot on a table at waist height. You walk up to the table, grasp the pot on both sides, and bend your knees so that you can "get under" the pot and "push it up with your middle". Over time, you can learn to walk up to the table, grasp the pot, and make a subtle shift in your middle and stance to "get under" the pot with almost no discernible movement. All lifting is really "pushing up from the ground" ... it is never "lift with the shoulder muscles".
To apply downward force, think of it like this. You are near a tree that has various long branches coming out horizontally, starting low to the ground. You walk up to one that is about crotch height and straddle the branch. To bring the branch down, you have only to somewhat drop your weight, which is centered within the crotch area.
Next you walk over to 2 horizontal branches that are about armpit height. Let the weight of your body be in your armpits and slightly sink to move the branches downward.
Next walk over to a single horizontal branch about chest height, put the backs of your elbows down on the branch and *bring your body weight to the elbows*. Don't try to do this to heavily or your other muscles will kick in. You want to do it lightly for a few months until your body learns to bring weight without a lot of tension.
Lastly, put your hands, palm down, on a branch (not too far away from your body) and sink down with the weight of your body in your palms.
With practice, you can put the weight of your body on any underside surface of your body. That's what "keep weight underside" means. But it involves you moving the weight of your middle to where you want it with your mind, doesn't it? Like in "mind and body coordinated"?
If you think about the four directions of "power" we just discussed, push, pull, up, down, they all involve using your middle as the source of power, in each case. I.e., you must practice doing everything with your middle, so you must focus on the middle in all movements: "Keep your one point". You cannot develop this form of power from the middle if you try to move too much weight or engage your primary muscles.... you must stay relaxed so that the mind can recruit the muscles it wants. I.e., don't relax so much that you fall in a heap on the ground, but stay relaxed.
I'll discuss "Extend Ki" in another post, Rob. Does any of that help?