Something doesn't sit right with me when I read all these comments about "One must feel, one must experience, to understand." Certainly, I can agree with the idea that feeling someone's ability to absorb and redirect your energy, to expand their energy so as to counter your own, to bring the ground up, etc, etc, might convince you of the legitimacy of the claims of the exponents of internal power. What I wonder about, though, is the claim that a personal experience of these abilities is vital to actually learning to do it yourself. For example, my shihan has done things to me physically that are astonishing. He has locked me up in nikyo in such a way as to totally freeze my entire body. I couldn't move a muscle (this was before putting on nikyo osae)! Unfortunately, my shihan speaks English very poorly and couldn't even begin to describe what it was he had done to me. This has happened to me a few times at his hands but never has he been able to explain what he was doing to make this paralyzing action possible. And simply feeling what he had done to me has not enabled me to replicate it. Without a verbal explanation, his physical skills remain largely a mystery. I saw some of what he did, and with these scant visual cues and an understanding of the underlying principles of Aikido, have been working to unlock the mystery of such incredible nikyo. I have, after some trial and error, been able to do so…somewhat.
So, what would my shihan have to do to communicate his skill effectively to me? Feeling his technique is only useful to a point; his ability to lock me up so completely convinces me that it can be done, but without verbally describing to me what he is doing, I cannot readily decipher his actions so as to reproduce them myself. Sure, I can observe his timing and gross motions, I can see how he stands, how his arm is angled, how his wrist action is performed -- all the external, obvious things. How he organizes himself internally, however, to produce the total-body locking effect in me is something I cannot understand simply through feel, or sight alone. Essentially, I only experience the end-product of his ability, not the internal, physical process by which it is accomplished. For that, I must be instructed -- verbally.
I guess the thing that I have a problem with is what appears to me to be an over-emphasis on feel as a means of imparting internal power skills. As I have explained, it is not by itself particularly useful for learning, or even absolutely necessary, I suspect. I seriously doubt that an intelligent person, with access to comprehensive visual aids and a careful verbal explanation could not, with dedicated practice, eventually reproduce the skills of Mike S., or Dan H., or Akuzawa sensei without ever actually feeling them do their internal power thing.
My experience in Aikido plays into this point of view, actually. As a result of circumstances beyond my control, I haven't had a direct teacher of my own in Aikido since I was third kyu. I am now ranked sandan. For most of my training, I didn't have someone guiding me through all the nuances of Aikido movement and technique. I didn't get to feel how a technique was done whenever I wanted. I had to employ what I knew of the principles of the art and pour over videotapes and books and practice, practice, practice in order to achieve my present ability and rank. But I did it. I was able to advance in skill without regular opportunity to feel the Aikido of top-ranked aikidoka. Certainly, such opportunity would have been excellent and doubtless would have advanced my training faster than it has advanced, but the fact remains that it was still possible for me to develop skill in Aikido even though my circumstances did not allow me regular access to someone of higher skill than my own who could demonstrate the correct feel of technique. So, I wonder seriously about just how vital having hands-on training with an adept in the area of internal power actually is.
I wonder, too, if there isn't some resistance to sharing the method of developing internal power openly because those who could share it have had to work hard to develop their own skill and don't think, consequently, that it should be made readily available to others. Is there a sort of "if it cost me, it should cost you, too" attitude at play in the unwillingness of those who claim skill in this area to share openly and fully how to develop such skill? Maybe…The problem with this sort of thinking is that it doesn't take into account those who really, truly can't train directly with skilled teachers of Aiki, but who would very much like to learn how to manifest it. They are simply told, in essence, "You don't have it and if you don't come to me, you can't have it. Tough nuts." This kind of response makes all the posts by those who are skilled in Aiki that express concern about the loss of this martial element in Aikido quite disingenuous. Their interest can't be in helping the art regain such an important part of its skill-set or they would be more willing to do all that they could to help any who practice Aikido who wish to develop Aiki to do so. Instead, they say, basically, "I am the mountain. You must come to me," which seems to suggest, not concern for the development of Aiki in Aikido, but simple self-aggrandizement.
Anyway…I have gone on. Let me say that I would very much like to deepen my Aiki ability. Unfortunately, time and economics prevent me from being able to study with those who could help me to this end. Is there really no other option but to do without any instruction from these folk? It seems so. I guess I'll have to figure it out on my own as best I can…Here I go again.