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Old 01-24-2011, 06:05 PM   #49
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Aikido training - Why are you searching for internal strength?

Joep Schuurkes wrote: View Post
I did suggest however that to the average hobby Aikido practitioner the superior stability, power generation and stress channeling/absorption one can gain through internal training aren't of that much use. Of much more use is what happens when you can redirect forces with little to no overt movement.
Hi Joep,
Personally, I have come to the conclusion that everything starts with the platform. I am not saying that the emphasis needs to be on power development at the start or even that the kind of power the IP folks are talking about is necessary to be doing great Aikido. But the stable platform is simply the foundation of all technique, without it, waza is just a hollow shell with no content. It should be taught and developed from day one.

In my opinion, most of us have trained backwards. The emphasis in my training was overwhelmingly on movement and execution of whole technique. Static technique was important but overall probably wasn't more than 20% of the practice at most. For Sensei it was all about movement. And our daily training focused on whole waza the vast majority of the time. The very first technique I did after donning my brand new gi in class when I started was yokomenuchi shihonage. That's an absolutely crazymaking way to learn anything. Talented people may actually get some skills that way but it has to be the most inefficient way to do it I can think of.

My experience recently, after working with a variety of folks at the Aiki Expo, training in Daito Ryu, seeing how folks like Don Angier, Mike S, Dan H, Akuzawa, and others teach proper body mechanics, experiencing how Ikeda Sensei is trying to translate this stuff for Aikido folks, I have come to the conclusion that I should train my students quite differently.

I actually think that, at the beginning, we should do at least 50% paired static work designed for getting folks to understand connection, proper relaxation, and how to give direction to the energy of the connection without compromising ones own balance and structure and without tension. I think that another 20% should be learning and doing the various solo conditioning exercises that develop the structure to do this. And maybe 30% would be devoted to the various entries used in Aikido with the aim of being able to execute the same skills one can do in the static context from movement. I'd focus on the ability to get kuzushi from every attack we do and not worry much at all about lots of actual technique. Once people could adequately do all of the above, I would start adding waza.

Of course, I don't actually train my people this way. Why? Because I am responsible for teaching Aikido within a certain organization. This organization has a set of requirements wit recommended time in grade requirements etc. Were I to do what I am talking about, at the five year point at which everybody is supposed to have taken Shodan, my students wouldn't be able to pass the 3rd kyu test. I'd still be teaching them the component pieces of what I believe to be great Aikido. However, at the ten year mark, I think I'd have some folks that were better than I was at 20 years.

Another factor would be whether folks would be patient enough to put up with the idea that after five years or so they still would be able to do diddly martially. Folks always want to feel like they are moving towards some goal and that is difficult to see working in the manner I am suggesting. All the rapid change was at the end of the process in this manner rather than at the beginning as it was when I trained.

So, what I am actually doing is somewhat in between. I don't have the complete freedom to experiment... I do not wish to put my students completely our of kilter with the folks in the rest of the organization. Sensei expects that our people know certain things at a certain level of competency at a certain stage. But I think I may try my ideas out at some point in the future...

I think that it is important to recognize that there are more than one variation of "internal skills". The folks posting here, while undeniably extremely high level, do not represent the sum total of what is available out there. They simply represent a set of teachers who, quite generously, are open to working with people from arts not their own, and therefore offer easier access for Aikido folks.

It's a good idea to know as much about what is out there as possible and also to understand precisely what ones goals are for ones Aikido. Is Endo Sensei your idea of great Aikido? Because he does not put much emphasis on power at all. Is Chiba Sensei? Then I think internal power development would be crucial unless you are already someone with ridiculous physical power already. For me, Saotome Sensei represents the "Gold Standard". He certainly uses some subset of internal power skills to do what he does at 130 pounds but he'd be the first to admit he didn't have the kind of power O-Sensei had and that's what the IP guys are trying to convey.

I think Aikido folks should look at this stuff with a couple of consideration: a) I don't think anyone's Aikido wouldn't be improved by some work in this area b) introducing enough of this work to radically change your Aikido for the better isn't difficult; even a bit of experience can change everything you are doing for the better c) this work is trans stylistic. You can introduce this training into your routine and still execute any technique with the outer form required by whatever style you are following and finally, it is quite possible to do what i think is really fantastic Aikido without having the degree of skill in IP that is discussed here.

But "aiki" cannot be separated from internal skills. If one aspires to do Aikido that involves more than physical strength, then internal skills are required on some level. To me the baseline is can a 130 pound person do the kind of Aikido that the teacher is showing? Can a female student do it just as well as a male? Is it the kind of Aikido that can keep improving after age 50 or does it deteriorate as one loses standard physical strength with age.

For most of the Aikido out there, the answer would by no to most of those questions. For the Aikido that involves an understanding of "aiki" the answer would be yes to all of those questions. Internal skills are an important part of the "aiki" equation. I see no pint in doing what I did which was train my brains out for 25 years only to discover that there was another paradigm operating in what my teacher was doing. I think we might as well take the trouble to teach folks properly right from day one. It will be slower at the beginning but will keep people from wasting a lot of time later on.

On the other hand, if folks like the purely physical Aikido, then hit the weight room, get out the kettle bells, and build your structure to the nth degree. This is still just a series of choices folks make about what they want the end point to be in their training.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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