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Old 07-29-2009, 05:17 PM   #387
Sy Labthavikul
Dojo: Aikido Academy USA of Alhambra
Location: Los Angeles area, CA
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 98
Re: Is It Missing In Everybody's Aikido?

At any rate, it's dangerous to take terms that already have a meaning which you understand and try to map them onto a skill set that you don't possess. You might end up thinking yourself into a corner. Sort of like smoking in a crowded room, you may end up affecting others. My advice to fellow data miners would be to consider the source carefully before you start digging.
Thanks, Michael. I also have a technical background, but all this discussion of what is/isn't "it" and aiki using mechanistic terms I'm not 100% convinced are appropriate in this context (my favorite is vorticity when we aren't dealing with fluid flow) is making my head spin. Since I've always been fascinated by internal strength skills and how it relates to aiki, I always guiltily hope that some kernel of wisdom will drop in these discussions so I don't have to do the hard work of going and learning these things from someone reputable, but your cautionary call to reason kinda woke me up.

I remember about a year ago I met a friend of a friend who said he had studied with Tim Cartmell for years (who himself studied with a number of internal martial artists in Taiwan and mainland China). This gentleman, who was a trained engineer and worked for JPL, told me he had come up with a model of how internal strength differed from external strength.

He said external strength was the contraction of muscles, causing limbs to swing about joints. The extension of the arm really is the contraction of the anterior deltoid and the triceps, among other things. There's a limit to how far such muscle contractions can go, and our nervous system tends to fire muscle contractions in a piecemeal, isolated way, and this is its limitation. The muscle tension created also made it difficult to have tactile sensitivity because of our tendency to focus our attention on that muscle contraction. Sure, it jived with my understanding of anatomy so far.

Internal strength, however, was about the expansion of the fascial network surrounding the muscles, including the muscles themselves. He likened it to a hydraulic system, with pistons everywhere in the body. It aided the muscle contractions of the external strength system, allowing for less tension needed and therefore allowing the body to maintain a certain degree of relaxation. This relaxation, coupled with all these pistons everywhere, gives you a very sensitive tactile sensitivity, like a bunch of force sensors all over your body, allowing you to feel and respond to outside forces very quickly. Basically, training the fascia made your body into a geodesic dome, a tensegrity structure.

This fascinated me because I had begun studying myofascial anatomy trains and tensegrity as part of my physical therapy studies ( I wasn't exactly sure HOW one was able to control certain fascia, but I let him continue his explanation with a demo.

Unfortunately, his demo was to blow out a candle flame with a short range, unchambered punch. He was surprised when I wasn't impressed; I told him I could also do that, and did so. It was something I did with college buddies as a parlour trick (along with the exploding beer bottle bottom trick). He then tried to demonstrate his tactile sensitivity with a few baguazhang and xingyichuan throws with me resisting; they didn't feel much different from the techniques I practiced with the aikidoka and judoka I know who would be quick to admit they don't know what internal strength is. It certainly didn't feel anything like the one time I was lucky enough to get uprooted by a student of Chen Bing at a taijichuan seminar.

So despite the appealing theory, I came away from the experience without the secret of internal strength, just a theory that in all likelihood would be lucky to be even similar to an analogy of whats going on, and the friendship of a fellow martial arts student just as perplexed as me. We probably would have learned more just cross training with each other than sitting in a bar, discussing biomechanics over beer, but to academics, theory (and beer) has got a dangerous appeal.

Oh well. Anyone know of a teacher in the Los Angeles area who's got "it"? I feel like I need to think less and train more.

train as if the tengu will never visit, execute as if they already have
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