George S. Ledyard wrote:
It's taken me over 25 years of being on the mat five or six days a week to start getting this. [snipsky]
But all the explanation in the world won't make any difference if people aren't training. The small number of folks who are training really seriously I think are making a stab at getting what these teachers are doing at an earlier stage in their training than I figured things out but the many folks aren't training hard enough to get it even though it's being handed to them. There's simply no substitute for mat time.
I don't see it quite that way, although time and effort practicing is certainly a given. The point I'd make is that if you don't know how to practice or if you practice incorrectly, you either never get it or you only get a few bits and pieces. A good part of my visiting this forum, in fact, was because I suddenly got another piece of curiosity about exactly how much the Japanese knowledge of these particular skills developed... regardless of how hard they practiced
... because if they weren't shown how to do these things first, the practice didn't give them enough to discover more than the rudiments. This is why I think maybe Gempin (Chen Yuan Yun or other similar names) had a temple built in his honor near Tokyo. I think he showed the Japanese some amount of the Ki and Kokyu training along with some aspects of ancient shuai jiao techniques. I also speculate (that's all we can do at this point in time) that he only showed limited amounts of information, so my curiosity has been to see what various Japanese arts contain in terms of this information (unfortunately, it still has to be felt to be confirmed, although stories help point the way to information).
My martial arts, before going into Aikido, was around 14 years of judo competition and karate, so my interest in things like being able to fight, being strong, etc., wasn't particularly a factor in the curiosity I had. I met a visiting Hombu Dojo dan in the mid-70's and felt within him a form of strength that I hadn't encountered before, so I wound up doing Aikido for more or less 8 years before I decided that few people in Aikido knew how to do more than bits and pieces of a larger puzzle. So I went to the Chinese martial arts and only studied with demonstrably skilled people who had trained on the mainland, etc.
But backing up a bit in that story, let me emphasize that because I couldn't get any information on what was obviously a core skill in "Real Aikido" (TM) I never had any illusions from the start
that all the techniques and extended practice I did ever gave me claim to any real expertise in Aikido. I was a beginner and knew it, even after that number of years. The people around me who were swishing around in hakamas, worried about pecking orders, dan ranks (I have some), women's issues, quasi-religiosity, etc., were never of much interest to me and seemed to be hugely missing the point.
Worse yet, as I got to know more of how this stuff works and started always looking at the broader picture (partially why I'm spending some time on this forum), etc., I finally realized that judo came from an art that had these kinds of skills and we'd never had a clue... and karate (I studied on Okinawa) came from arts that used variants of these skills, also. My point is that with all the years of practice I've had, I missed how much I was missing. So I had to re-evaluate (and I've done it several times now) and start over. It's not something you can go back and just "add in", except for some rough elements that miss the important building blocks, IMO.
"Mat time" won't really give it to you, either. Learning how to honestly move using your center and the jin forces requires re-training the way you move over a long period of time so that this form of power is instinctive and the subconscious will carry it for you automatically. The whole body, down to the fingers, is moved and controlled in 2 related ways by the power of the middle region. If you've spent years practicing moving "the normal way", it's not an aid... it's actually a hindrance to any real success. If you think about it, you'll understand why Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, etc., are done so very slowly for the first few years... it's to re-train the body movement before getting into techniques done with the wrong movement basics, etc.
And it's a lot more complex than I feel like writing about... that's why it's so highly valued as a prize to know and keep retricted in Asia. The fact that Tohei and Abe sensei's had to get a lot of their knowledge from someone other than O-Sensei tells you the importance of the information to those two and also to O-Sensei, I think.
Frankly, seeing the importance of this part of it, I get a little irritated with the distractions so much of Aikido (and other arts, but Aikido is the worst in terms of extraneous distractions) has allowed itself to be drawn to. It's very difficult for me to listen patiently and "respectfully" to the peripheral noise in Aikido when I know for a fact that almost all (statistically) of what everyone is doing is in fact incomplete Aikido at best, if you can see my perspective. I.e., we're all beginners. Almost none of us are the experts we thought we were. We're better off stopping and then re-starting slowly while working on correct movement for a year or so than to spend umpteen more years frustratingly trying to "add in" minor things on top of wrong basic movement, IMO.
Ultimately, results count. Do we want to do things wrong but that look good and impress beginners... or do we want to do things right and impress the real experts?