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Old 02-08-2005, 11:21 PM   #12
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 498
Re: Breath, Aikido & Misogi

Mike Sigman wrote:
Hi Shaun:

Although Kokyu is more or less translated as "breath power", it's more than that. It's part breath (an important part) and part a skill of forming paths to the ground (or paths from the weight in downward cases, but that's another story). Many of the demonstrations O-Sensei did, like the jo trick, like taking a steady push to his head while seated, like taking a push from a student's head into his stomach, etc., etc., are actually demonstrations of Kokyu as well. The literal meaning is not always what the idiomatic meaning is, in many languages.

The "rowing exercise" is probably a great basic exercise to focus on, but let me add a thought or two, if I may. Again there is the breathing part, but it is essentially a qigong that affects the body as a whole (think of it as pressurizing and de-pressurizing the skin of a football with the intent of strengthening the skin). The more readily accessible part of the "rowing", despite any comments about speed, is in how the oar is moved. A good practice toward correct rowing would be to take a 10-pound brick and put it on a table in front of you at about stomach height. As you push the brick forward with your hands, actually let the movement of the dantien forward be the power actually pushing the brick (maybe think of your dantien being where your hands are). As you pull the brick, think of an imaginary string from the brick to your obi and pull the brick with your obi. That's how to correctly work with a brick and also with the single oar in the back of the fishing boats the Japanese used.

In other words, I liked your post, but I felt like the focus was too much on the breath, which is not all Kokyu is about. But I really appreciate your laying out those eight steps. Good information.

Mike Sigman
Mr. Sigman,

Thank you for chiming in and bringing life back to the thread. In any case, while I don't necessarily disagree with you, I might have to not agree with it how you chose to make your points. One could say that it is a point of semantics, so please allow me to clarify my previous statement. If you note, the thread is entitled "Breath, Aikido & Misogi" indicating that there is a relationship intermingled between these three elements. Kokyu is breath power. Kokyu-ho is breathing method, kokyu-dosa is breath-exercise and kokyu-nage is breath throw. Of course, there is always flexibility when dealing with anything - including these definitions. Let's not forget any number of interpretations, too - both correct and incorrect ones. However we have to start somewhere. Temporarily fixing these definitions as I have above allows us to have a concrete discussion using actual reference points rather than imaginary ones. Just to point out, these are not my definitions…

So in this case, breath power can surely indicate the "Skin of the Football" as you put it. That is where I would agree with your statement. So to where you speak of the connection to the ground, for that too can be said to be kokyu. There are several levels of understanding of this. One can connect to the ground at one level, and at another level one can transfer the ground up through their opponent and/or their opponent through the ground. The shoulder can have kokyu, the elbow, the wrist, etc. and one can mistakenly develop this kokyu, becoming very powerful, that is until they meet someone who understands how to instantaneously (katsuhayahi) release these particular examples of kokyu.

Moving on; I chose not to delve into the actual relationship between Misogi, the breath and Aikido for several reasons. First and foremost, because many people were interested in the practice as it was passed directly from O-Sensei, and not necessarily the meaning behind the actual physical practice methods. Many people had not had an opportunity to find this information in English in any concise record, and all in one place. After reading this post on Aikido Journal, Stanley Pranin went and re-interviewed Abe Sensei and a fairly good translation was then presented to the public. Sadly this was only in Japanese. The article only scratched the surface, as the obvious questions that one would ask as follow-ups were not asked, or at least not included in the published article. My point is that if it is a choice between a presentation based upon my training with Abe Sensei, or something that comes directly from Abe Sensei, I would always recommend that later.

Second, it really takes a considerable effort and time to train in this manner. Most only take a cursory glance at it, and even that occurring over their lifetime training in the art. Therefore a more complete explanation would have been like piling a bag full of thousand dollar bills on a homeless man. Chances are he would end up dead by the end of the evening, having over-consumed in one manner or another.

Thirdly, if people had a sincere interest they could have contacted me, as many people did - from all over the world, actually, for more information.

There is so much more to be said. I recently returned from Japan, where Abe Sensei encouraged the four of us who have been going to seek this training from him over the last dozen years to go even deeper into this training. Much was revealed, and we each have a new respect for what O-Sensei was actually doing when he did Aikido. Of course there is much training to be done.

Lastly, one minor point. Using Chinese terms (dantien & Qigong) to relate to the training might be a bit confusing. As you know the relationship between in (yin) & yo (yang) in the Chinese and Japanese explanations are 180 degrees out of sink. Neither is wrong, just that you can not go back and forth between them in the course of discussing the flow of ki within the body -- and from within the body for that matter. That does not take the different types of "jing" into account, nor how jing is not the same as its Japanese counterpart in this context.

With regards to the Jo "trick" as you put it, I patently disagree with your analysis of the mechanics of demonstration. However, I can agree to disagree for the time being, but more on that later. I will give you kudos on your understanding of kokyu, and not let the language or the semantics get in the way of acknowledging you for that. I think that you might agree -- in the end it is all kokyu, and it isn't O-Sensei's Aikido without it -- that being the (unspoken) point of my initial post. Glad you caught it.

I no longer participate in or read the discussion forums here on AikiWeb due to the unfair and uneven treatment of people by the owner/administrator.
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