View Single Post
Old 01-18-2013, 09:49 PM   #18
Cady Goldfield
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,027
Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
But what I pose is the question what if aikido is, to someone, far more: anything from a wonderful exercise to embodied crisis intervention on a physical metaphoric level to a spiritual practice to . . . and they wish to integrate their aiki/IS training within whatever methodology their aikido offers (or their teacher offers) - without doing violence to the dojo/style they are training, while enhancing their own skills. That poses a number of dilemma, one of which you note.
Thank you for clarifying for the sake of the slow-on-the-uptake.

My initial reaction is that one would have to stick to the non-contact IS conditioning drills such as those you've cited (shiko, suburi) and also taking ukemi (without starting any "funny business"), though some of these things might require some skillful outward adaptation to make them conform visually to the dojo's version. But sure, there are lots of ways to do "double-entendre" training. Holding structure while standing, practicing internal absorbing and projecting, and splitting of force with the tanden and meimon while in seiza listening to Sensei or standing while awaiting one's turn at a drill, as long as you are not touching someone, are all ways a person can train unnoticed.

With the exception of taking ukemi (although one can throw himself around, I suppose), all of the other things are solo training practices which can be done anywhere, alone. I don't see any issue there. The real challenge is in how to incorporate surreptitious aiki practice that involves sustained body contact with another person. Even making subtle applications during partner waza, on a regular basis, will eventually "out" the practitioner. Everyone starts to wonder why and how that 2nd-kyu can do things the san-dans can't...Trust me, this can happen very easily with, for example, kokyu nage. An aiki-conditioned body causes a person to be and to do something that clearly feels "different" to other aikidoka, even when he is observably doing "exactly" what everyone else is doing and following all of the training protocols to the letter. Even someone who is in the early stages of internal body conditioning will feel different -- though for another reason...because he does not yet have refined control, and his movements will be obvious and foreign-feeling to a partner.

So, in my opinion, there are limits to what one can do in one's home art and dojo. For the partner-training, it may be best to get an outside training partner or two, or perhaps an inside confidante at the dojo who will pair up and train during open mat hours. In the latter situation, two people practicing drills such as kokyu-nage and tenchi-nage can look perfectly "normal" to bystanders.

But what if a certain martial art is essential to someone, and they are willing, even, to take a longer, even incomplete road towards IS because of their loyalty to their martial arts practice, if that is, in fact, unavoidable.
There are no ground rules about what one can and can't choose to use. If he has access to someone who can teach him internal skills separately from any art or formal system, it will save a lot of time getting to the meat of the skills and choosing what he can use in his "home" art. But, the longer road would be having to study a completely different art that incorporates internal concepts. It would be a drag to have to wade through someone else's entire syllabus just to get to the "goodies." That might not be worth it.

Regarding the skillset itself, I don't believe that a person must embrace the entire corpus of internal training (though there are certain fundamentals that can't be ignored or avoided). In my opinion, he can cherry-pick what he is able to apply to his art without conflict... as long as he has learned enough to make an educated selection of what can be kept and what can be discarded without pulling a keystone out of his foundation.

I'm aware of koryu that have some level of IS training (often rather attenuated in this era). But should they practitioners abandon every aspect of the ryu that is not IS training? The question becomes more pointed if it can be correctly asserted that their particular methodology is a limited subset of the possibilities of IS training, that in some respects, their ryu gets in the way of 100% comprehensive IS skills. The counter to that may be that they have integrated specifically and only the technology from IS to accomplish what the ryu is geared to accomplish.
It's not my place to speak to the business of koryu, but I'd venture that in becoming a part of such a ryu, one's task is to keep the chain of practice and transmission unbroken and preserved through the generations, yes? In that respect, could one ever legitimately discard any aspect of that practice that has been handed down thusfar intact? Conversely, if such a ryu were to be made aware of a greater body of internal skills that would make it more effective and powerful, would they snub that opportunity? That's something to ponder... along with wondering whether it really matters whether their internal practices are "complete" or not, if in fact what they have is sufficient for accomplishing precisely what the art is meant to accomplish, as you noted.

For the rest of the world, aikido and otherwise, if someone truly loves and is dedicated to practicing and perpetuating a particular art, but also recognizes and desires the benefits of certain skills that are not part of that art's body of training, the obvious fact is that he will have to find some way of blending the compatible aspects and reconciling the differences, or else keep them as separate disciplines. It's okay to "know stuff" but not "use stuff" in order to continue practicing an art and staying true to it, in my opinion. Though, I can't imagine how someone with a very aiki-conditioned body can do or be anything but an aiki-conditioned body, 24/7 and 365 plus Leap Year. There are some guys I just can't picture being able to switch it off anymore. Maybe there gets to be a point where you really can't go home again.

So, back to what I believe is your initial point - it is certainly conceivable to me that some aspects of aikido training, as it is structured - - - - as it's always been structured - may get in the way of IS/aiki training. Maybe not, maybe so. It'll be interesting to see what people come up with.
I'll be interested to see that, too. These are exciting times.

Oh, and by the way. Some years ago, on more or less, an intuitive basis, I started structuring aikido along what I referred to as five themes (kyoku), using five vectors from ikkyo to gokyo. There is a phenomenal series entitled KAJO, that takes this far further and with more rigor. The writer, proves, I believe, what I've long asserted - that Osensei consciously selected specific techniques from the larger corpus of Daito-ryu for specific training purposes. This essay takes into account Roppo (six directions) - and, in my view, establishes that the particular techniques (including kokyunage/iriminage from the 1930's - a reference to a discussion on Kobayashi sensei's reminiscences) were structures as a comprehensive "container" for IS training, as Ueshiba viewed it.
Ellis, you and Stanley Pranin have been my main portals to understanding aikido and the people who have built upon it, so I happily defer to your vast historical and experiential acumen. However, it absolutely makes sense that M. Ueshiba picked what he considered to be the most germaine exercises from Daito-ryu to represent essential core conditioning practices. Why carry over a boatload of convoluted waza from the abundant DR collection (some of which were reputed to have been creative license taken by S. Takeda because... "Hey, I can do that!"), when all you need is a handful of basic examples to serve as vehicles to carry the underlying lessons of IS and aiki?

Thanks for the brain food,
  Reply With Quote