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Old 03-09-2007, 12:33 PM   #1
ChrisMoses
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Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

This probably could have been placed in the Baseline thread, but I'm hoping for a new tone/direction. Warning, this thing is LONG.

Let's begin with a short discussion of what exactly we mean by internal vs. external martial arts, concepts common within Chinese martial arts circles. All of the books in my martial arts library that deal with Chinese arts introduce this concept within the preface or opening chapter, but I don't think a single one of my Japanese budo books even mentions the concept (save one specifically comparing Aikido to Chinese Arts). At this point, I'll spare the reader the suspense by just stating that the real point of this piece is that despite frequently being referred to as an internal art, Aikido exists today as an external art. I'll go further (for the sake of argument) and state that I don't believe that internal arts (the way they are understood in Chinese arts) exist within traditional Japanese budo. Now before I get blown across the internet with your mighty e-fa jing, let's examine what it is I'm specifically *not* saying. To be clear, I'm not saying that no budoka have ever developed powerful internal skills, that internal skills have no place in Japanese budo or that we can't all learn a lot from exploring exercises and arts designed to teach these things. Second, let's look at what I actually mean by internal and external arts. I believe that what really separates an internal art from an external art is the *teaching paradigm* itself. I think Aikido is often misunderstood as an internal art due to its complicated nature and emphasis on softness/relaxation. I feel this is an error. Hard/soft are not good indicators of internal and external arts. Hsing Yi is universally accepted as one of the major three internal styles, yet is known for its powerful and (relatively) linear movements. My experience with internal arts has been very limited, and I owe a great deal of thanks to Rob John and Akuzawa for the wealth of information that they've given me in the extremely short amount of time that I've actually gotten to spend with them. So with that said, here is my overly-simplistic take on what makes internal and external arts different, forgive me for stating what must be for many, extremely obvious. An internal art forces the practitioner to become extremely introspective about what is happening within their own body. The kihon of the art exists to help reshape internal structures of the body (often developing support muscles) and teach the disciple how to really feel. This is often done at the expense of any kind of practical application. It is often considered far more important for the Tai Chi novice to learn what their body is really doing than to understand how the movements of their form would translate to an actual confrontation. Speed is often discouraged, and if what you're doing is comfortable and natural feeling, you're probably doing it wrong. On the flip side, an external art will focus on the outside shape of the body. To offer an analogy, an internal art is like a sculptor using clay to gradually build up a form from the core outwards, and external arts create a mold to be cast, the assumption being that the external form will eventually lead to a correct internal state.

It's my belief that the Japanese education system is decidedly external. The idea is that understanding comes from repetition and mimicry. This is the same whether you are learning calligraphy or kenjutsu. Almost without fail, whenever someone brings up a budoka who has (or had) great internal skills, they had a few very simple suburi that they did a nearly inhuman number of times, daily, for their whole life. We're all familiar with stories of OSensei doing thousands of spear thrusts, or misogi no jo in the woods for hours by himself. I've heard other stories of Daito Ryu sensei who would perform hundreds or thousands of shiko (sumo stomp exercises) every day. I would assert that while these things certainly have the potential to develop amazing internal power, they still exist as exercises within the external teaching paradigm. Over time, the shape and repetition of the external shape of the exercise gradually educates internal awareness. To be perfectly clear, what we are talking about is an external paradigm attempting to teach internal skills. This is, I believe, what Tohei was doing with the ki no kenyukai. He was attempting to teach internal skills, but was still trapped in an external teaching paradigm (or more correctly, testing paradigm, if you will).

Baseline skill sets and clues through language

We can learn a lot about an art by the language used to describe it, certainly not as much as feeling it in the flesh, but it can be a valuable tool. Ellis Amdur has written some excellent pieces on Aikido, and one that has resonated with a lot of people was, "Hidden in Plain Sight." Think about that for a moment. That phrase basically sums up the external teaching paradigm. A shell or form is taught which gradually leads one to a deeper *hidden* understanding, namely the internal aspect of the art. I'd also like to go back briefly to the interview quoted a number of times in the Baseline thread (http://www.aikidofaq.com/interviews.html). Specifically, let's look at this phrase (again…), "Finally, we ended up pitting our strength against each other. I sat down and said to Tenryu, "Please try to push me over. Push hard, there's no need to hold back." Since I knew the secret of Aikido, I could not be moved an inch." I don't have the Japanese text, so if someone felt like offering what word he was using for "secret" that would be great. Using the translation as a guide however, I'll point out that OSensei does not say that since he understands the basics or kihon of Aikido he could not be moved. Rather he was unmovable because he knew the "secrets of Aikido." Again, we are talking about an external teaching paradigm, one where the external form eventually develops internal skills. In clearer terms, the techniques of aikido had led to his being able to be unmovable (external paradigm) rather than his skill of being unmovable leading to his ability to do aikido techniques (internal paradigm).

Okuden, kameamea final attack!

Hiding the good stuff is also very typical for Japanese ryuha. Schools often had whole portions of their curriculum that were considered safe for outsiders to see and practice and others that were not for public consumption. The idea was that if someone was to come and study for a relatively short period of time and then leave, they would not take anything of real value (or anything that would give them an advantage over those in the ryuha who remain). In the sword ryuha that I belong to, we have a branch in Brazil that has basically been cut off from Japan since the early 20th century. In that school, a new student must study kendo up to shodan before learning the seitei (standardized, non ryuha specific) iai kata. Then they have to reach shodan in seitei iai before beginning to actually study Shinto Ryu's kata at all. Imagine if you weren't allowed to learn any aikido until you'd achieved black belt in two other arts first! Even in my line, students are not allowed to learn the uchi no kata (inside forms) until they reach shodan and are actually considered a part of the ryuha. My point is that there is a long and very real tradition in budo of hiding what you are actually doing, not only from prying eyes, but from your own students!

Is Chris really defending Aikido? Is he feeling alright?

I suppose it might seem that I'm really going on the defensive here for aikido. I suppose to some extent I am, but my intent is more to offer a better analysis of what aikido really is so that it can be fairly judged. I do not feel that it's fair to judge an external art by internal art standards any more than it's fair to judge an internal art by external art standards. Do I think that things are OK the way they are? NO. Let me put that another way, H E Double Hockey Sticks NO. I think the teaching paradigm (as I've experienced it) sucks. Most people have no idea what exactly they're doing , why what they are doing works or how to control their internal structure to correctly/efficiently move. I think a few people are really trying to change that, and I wish them all the best. It's bound to be an uphill battle. Gambatte! I would make an appeal to Mike (and to a lesser extent Dan) to judge the art for what it is. I completely believe that the stuff it sounds like you guys are showing people is going to change the way they do aikido. I think that getting an internal arts perspective on what it actually is that OSensei very well may have been doing can save literally decades of stabbing around in the dark. From my own experience, it was a revelation to learn some of Don Angier's principles. Suddenly I had a lexicon to describe what I was doing and what other people were doing. It all suddenly made sense. Then after working on some solo structure (internal) stuff and then meeting Rob and Ark it was like, "Aha! I got how the technique works on the outside, now here's what needs to be going on inside me to really make that work!" So perhaps instead of blasting everyone and their teachers for doing it all wrong, we could start anew with a different tone, say, "Hey, I think I know something that will really improve what you're doing and save you a lot of time and frustration over the years, but you'll have to trust me and try something new." It is just as unfair to criticize aikido for not being a very good internal art as it is to rag on boxers for being bad grapplers, judoka for being bad strikers and Tai Chi guys for wearing pajamas in public parks. You guys should feel like you've made your point that what you have to offer could be a really valuable part of ones aikido training. You have, anyone who's going to get it, already has or will need to feel it firsthand.

So why is it we all suck anyway?

Almost done here, one last point to make. I believe aikido is such a long and difficult art to become a proficient martial artist with because we're literally taking the hardest road possible. It's an external art, that depends on internal skills to be successful. Man, that's rough. Also, and paraphrasing a Hsing Yi book I read recently, any martial artist is defined by a combination of their speed, power and technique. According to the writer in question, speed is the most important, followed by power, and finally by technique. I'm sure this is up for debate, so bear with me. Using his logic, if you're really fast, you'll be able to do what it is you do know, and avoid what they know. They can have all the power and technique in the world, but if they can't get a hold of you, what good is it going to do them? Then comes power. Everyone's heard stories about a martial artist getting knocked out by some meat head in a bar. Look at some of Tyson's fights when he was really on top. He just needed one good shot and it was over. If you can generate a lot of power, then it won't take a fancy technique to get the job done. Note that I'm not talking purely about strength. To steal some more Chinese concepts (please clue me in if there are comparable Japanese ones, they have never come up in my studies in as clear a terms…) power (jin) is formed by physical strength/structure (li) and qi/chi/ki. Finally, you have technique. Frankly, all the technique in the world is useless if you're too slow to use it, and can't generate enough power to make that technique work. In most styles, aikido focuses almost exclusively on technique specifically over speed or power. Man, no wonder it takes 20 years to learn iriminage… Looking back at the early Aikido generations (the ones who were promoted so quickly) we see extensive judo backgrounds. If there's anything judo does really well, it teaches speed and power. So these guys came into aikido primed to take advantage of any technique that aikido taught them. Is it really any wonder they got so good so fast?

So for those of you who skipped to the end (and frankly, who could blame you…) Aikido, because of its teaching paradigm is actually an external art which could benefit greatly from insights gained through internal arts and practices.

Thank you, and remember to always tip your bartender…

Chris Moses
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:03 PM   #2
Marc Abrams
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Chris:

Excellent post! I had been discussing this topic on other threads. I think that the problem with the transmission of Aikido has a lot to do with methodology of teaching. My guess is that in an effort to "preserve" what O'Sensei was teaching, people focused on teaching the techniques that they perceived that they were taught, as opposed to the principles that the represented. Your neighbor, George Ledyard is actively engaged in trying to re-think the methodology and teach the art in a manner in which a person can grasp the "internal" aspects of the art. My guess is that the people with Judo backgrounds "advanced" in the early stages of the art as they used their Judo skills to fill-in for their learning of the "internal" aspects of the art.

Your thesis on the separation of "external" and "internal" arts will take some serious deliberation. I do think that Aikido, at it's highest level, should be an "internal" art in that speed and strength are canceled out by the connection that exists with the attacker. I think that one of the truly hard aspects (which I am trying to figure out as I teach my students) is how to remain "soft", centered, and feeling the experience of what is occurring while being attacked in a strong/fast manner.

It is interesting what you point out about Angier Sensei's influence. I have recently begun training with one of this old students, James Williams, and seek out Ushiro Sensei whenever he is around, for similar reasons to the one's that you gave. I find that they are helping to provide me with a paradigm to understand the internal principles underlying Aikido, and consequently helping me tremendously in my own training. Speaking of which, I must go into NYC for my own personal training. Keep the threads of these critical ideas going. I believe that Aikido will emerge as a better taught art as a result.

marc abrams
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:17 PM   #3
Mike Sigman
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
I believe that what really separates an internal art from an external art is the *teaching paradigm* itself. I think Aikido is often misunderstood as an internal art due to its complicated nature and emphasis on softness/relaxation.
The comments aren't bad, Chris, but you're arbitrarily assigning nomenclature in a tricky arena. The so-called "internal arts" are the arts of Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and a few others. About the only thing that defines them is that they use certain approaches to ki/kokyu skills and other arts use different approaches. In terms of "internal strength skills", the "neijin", all the Asian martial arts have them. It's de rigeur. And all the tenets of all the Asian arts make it clear that they're in the know (that includes O-Sensei's douka, koryu secret documents, etc., as far as I've ever seen). Can we do most Asian arts using "normal strength" to execute most techniques? Yes... and that is the wrong way to do it.

So should Aikido use "neijin", "internal strength"? Yes. Is it one of the arts that fall into the direct category of the "internal arts"? No. What's happening is that the terms "internal" and "external" are loosely used to define two different parameters and your discussion appears to confuse the two usages. Until you straighten that part out, the discussion can't intelligently progress.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:25 PM   #4
DH
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
"Finally, we ended up pitting our strength against each other. I sat down and said to Tenryu, "Please try to push me over. Push hard, there's no need to hold back." Since I knew the secret of Aikido, I could not be moved an inch." I'll point out that OSensei does not say that since he understands the basics or kihon of Aikido he could not be moved. Rather he was unmovable because he knew the "secrets of Aikido."
I've said this exact same thing-how many times?
I'm left with frolks either telling me
a. How dare you. You left and you don't know aikido.
b. How dare you. Only Ueshiba understands what he meant
c. How dare you. I still do AIkido and I KNOW what ueshab meant and that aint it.

To which I off to "do" aikido with them and they can't "do" a freakin thing to me. Why?
And they? I moved all over the place.
Does it leave a sour taste in my mouth? Ya. Listening to all this debate and grandious looong explanations and then I touch them and they have nothing. Over, and over and over. From shodan to 8 th dan. I remain unimpressed. Not so much by the techniques -I wrote them off many years ago, but rather by any real skills that express Ueshiba's admonisions and training. And then to realize others have these skills and don't openly teach them...Argh

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
Again, we are talking about an external teaching paradigm, one where the external form eventually develops internal skills. In clearer terms, the techniques of aikido had led to his being able to be unmovable (external paradigm) rather than his skill of being unmovable leading to his ability to do aikido techniques (internal paradigm). …
Actually I think you have that backward.
I dnlt care if we call it an internal art-thats a name. But it was EXACTLY his internal "skills" in Daito ryu that led to Takeda, Sagawa and Kodo being lauded and Deguchi and many many others recognizing Ueshiba as brilliant. I just give the credit where it belongs. You guys don't. And if he added to it good on him.
It is perfectly ridiculous to assume the leading martial art guys of the day were so stupid that they were blown away by his "techniques." What they felt was his DR Aiki.Which is a compendium of internal skills. It is these skills that make the pretzel logic plausible
NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
So you can talk-correctly IMO-about Aikido's degridation to the external art it is today in many peoples hands.
I keep looking past the low level folks and all the "twirlin and dancin" to what it can become....again in the right hands.
Ueshiba-ha Daito ryu was always based on internal skills. Period. His change to aikido was a change to bounce away and cast off with various uses of aiki. Aiki-age which is peng jin- being just one of them. It was his vision and choice to no longer use the more Koryu oriented DR skills to bring the uke in for a kill (wrapped up with the legs and other postions for knife work) but to realize he could remain unntouchable and fullfill his vision just by casting them off. Which is where and why Aikido's unique Ukemi can about.

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
So perhaps instead of blasting everyone and their teachers for doing it all wrong, we could start anew with a different tone, say, "Hey, I think I know something that will really improve what you're doing and save you a lot of time and frustration over the years, but you'll have to trust me and try something new." …
Sounds like you're quoting me in what I've said to many when I am NOT talking about MMA. When I talk about Aikido its what I said and showed to all recent visitors. I've even told people not to say the're training here. JUst go and improve their skills and art. Who cares who gets credit.
Its not who's right
Its what is right.

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
So for those of you who skipped to the end (and frankly, who could blame you…) Aikido, because of its teaching paradigm is actually an external art which could benefit greatly from insights gained through internal arts and practices. …
We may never agree but no biggie.
Aikido is and always was meant to be an internal art. Its the only way its technical syllabus has much merit. I just can't pressume to insule Ueshiba as an imbecile who didn't know what he was talking about, or showed and did. Nor that the many extremely experienced martial artists who saw and felt him were awed by his wristy twisties and the idea of turning form an attack.
They were never that stupid or easily impressed.
We were.

Dan

Last edited by DH : 03-09-2007 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:49 PM   #5
DH
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Edit
I wanted the last paragraph to say this.

Aikido is and always was meant to be an internal art. Its the only way its technical syllabus has much merit. I just can't pressume to insult Ueshiba as an imbecile who didn't know what he was talking about, or showed and did. Or his vision of change.
Nor assume that the many extremely experienced martial artists who saw and felt him were just somehow "awed" by his (rather common IMO) wristy-twisties and the... oh so unique... idea of turning from an attack. Lets get real. These accomplished Budoka-many of whom were the best in their fields, were never that stupid or easily impressed.
We were.

They ran head long into internal power and wrote about it. Their astonishment included Takeda, Sagawa, and Kodo. We just chaulked all that acclaim up to "waza."
So, do we reduce the observational skills and experiences of all those incredible budoka as just being as dumb and easily impressed as us?
Or where they the smart ones after all? Correctly identifying that there was, as stated, an "unsual power" behnd all this?
If we agree with any of that.
Then what direction do we take?
How?
Dan

Last edited by DH : 03-09-2007 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:58 PM   #6
ChrisMoses
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Hmm, you guys seem to be missing some of my post here.

Please correct me if I'm wrong (and by correct, I don't mean tell me I'm wrong, please write out what is correct).

Within Chinese arts, there is an assumption that all paths lead to the same place, ie internal arts can produce efficient and practical fighters and external arts can produce students with incredible internal strength/chi. The distinguishing factor is rather what order these things are taught and how they are taught rather than what the end results are.

I can't think of any martial art that wouldn't be better if done by someone with neijin/internal strength. The question then becomes, which direction are you going in your teaching? I frankly think Aikido would be a lot better if it was an internal art, but the syllabus simply doesn't seem to be there. I don't have access to what DR's actual syllabus is, so I can't comment on that. If anyone would like to send me the Takumakai maunal, that'd be great though...

Mike, would you care to clear up the two usages that I'm confusing? I attempted to limit my discussion to the teaching paradigm rather than any kind of end result or the qualities that are eventually developed at the end of ones training.

Chris Moses
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:14 PM   #7
Mike Sigman
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Quote:
Christian Moses wrote: View Post
I can't think of any martial art that wouldn't be better if done by someone with neijin/internal strength.
That's why they all have internal strength in them and why anyone who only does an Asian martial art, "internal family" or "external family either one, with just normal strength is doing it wrong.
Quote:
I frankly think Aikido would be a lot better if it was an internal art, but the syllabus simply doesn't seem to be there.
What you really mean to say in order to be correct is "I frankly think Aikido would be a lot better if it used internal strength, but the syllabus simply doesn't seem to be there." Think about that for a second.... Koichi Tohei's Ki-Society does just that, whether we cavil about his methodology or not.
Quote:
Mike, would you care to clear up the two usages that I'm confusing?
"Internal style" = Taichi, Xingyi, Bagua, Liu He Ba Fa, and a few others. They "use the dantien to hit with".

"Internal Strength" = Ki, kokyu, jin, neijin, etc.... ALL styles, both "internal style" and "external style" use these powers, but in different ways, hard or soft, using various muscle-jin combinations and various power augmentations (shaking power, bounces, etc., etc.).

FWIW

Mike
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:21 PM   #8
Fred Little
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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Dan Harden wrote: View Post
I dnlt care if we call it an internal art-thats a name. But it was EXACTLY his internal "skills" in Daito ryu that led to Takeda, Sagawa and Kodo being lauded and Deguchi and many many others recognizing Ueshiba as brilliant. I just give the credit where it belongs. You guys don't.
Dan,

I agree that Sagawa has a great rep, as do Ueshiba and Kodo.

It is my experience that the same problems of incomplete transmission and loss of efficacy you reference in aikido are very much present in at least one line of DRAJJ.

What evidence do you have about specific training methods that undercuts the case Christian made? If you can document the existence of these methods, how is it that they have not been sufficient to prevent DRAJJ from undergoing precisely the same degeneration as what you term Ueshiba-ha DRAJJ?

Takeda had a great many students who didn't amount to squat.

So he had three who did. So what? Maybe the genius lay in their sheer persistence along with an innate ability to steal the technique and had zip, zilch, zed, nada to do with the training method of DRAJJ.

Maybe Takeda was precisely the same kind of sorry scheming moneygrubbing withholding scoundrel you seem to assert all senior aikidoka are.

For your case to stand, you have to prove that that supposition is wrong.

And let's be clear: you can't do it. If you could do it, you would have done it in the past 10 years. And you haven't.

That has nothing to do with the case of whether "internal skills" will benefit other martial artists, whether you have a set of valid "internal skills," whether you are personally have acquired such skills, whether you are generous about sharing those skills, whether Ueshiba, Kodo and Sagawa had "internal skills" or whether they acquired those skills after training with Takeda.

There is one question in play and one only:

Where is the evidence of specific and explicit methods of transmission of specific "internal skills" to the specific individuals within the specific art you name again and again?

Where is it aside from your speculations based on an incomplete historical record?

Where indeeed?

FL
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:28 PM   #9
ChrisMoses
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
"Internal style" = Taichi, Xingyi, Bagua, Liu He Ba Fa, and a few others. They "use the dantien to hit with".

"Internal Strength" = Ki, kokyu, jin, neijin, etc.... ALL styles, both "internal style" and "external style" use these powers, but in different ways, hard or soft, using various muscle-jin combinations and various power augmentations (shaking power, bounces, etc., etc.).

FWIW

Mike
I understand that distinction, and I thought that was clear in my first post. Perhaps you could point out where it appears I'm confusing them? Also, do you agree that internal arts teach from the inside out, or is hitting from the dantien the sole criterion to be used? That isn't a distinction that I've heard. Do you have any comments on my sculpture analogy for instance?

Chris Moses
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:32 PM   #10
DH
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

In writing and in direct transmission.
Its where they go it.
And where he got it.
And its rather obvious unless you think they made it up by themselves.
The real questions is the same as in Aikido; How come few got it or few were taught it? Or for that matter we can add the many who complain about the same thing in the CMA.


Maybe Takeda was precisely the same kind of sorry scheming moneygrubbing withholding scoundrel you seem to assert all senior aikidoka are.
That's both snide, smacking of an agenda and innacurate to boot.
And if you're going to tell me I'm using the disgusting language -you-just used here and the others folks -in- aikido have ascribed to Takeda...care to cite where_____________________________?

Dan.

Last edited by DH : 03-09-2007 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 03-09-2007, 02:34 PM   #11
ChrisMoses
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
What you really mean to say in order to be correct is "I frankly think Aikido would be a lot better if it used internal strength, but the syllabus simply doesn't seem to be there." Think about that for a second.... Koichi Tohei's Ki-Society does just that, whether we cavil about his methodology or not.
No, I meant what I said. I think good aikido depends so heavily on having good internal skills, that it's a shame that it's not structured as an internal art, meaning one that works first to develop internal skills and then progresses to how to apply those same skills.

I'll respectfully disagree about the ki society. I think that if you have some internal skills, their tests confirm that, but I think they don't really work well to develop these skills from nothing. They do not teach you how to be, they might give you some feedback in your explorations, but they don't teach this the way that I have felt from the very little amount of internal training that I have done.

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Old 03-09-2007, 02:39 PM   #12
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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I understand that distinction, and I thought that was clear in my first post. Perhaps you could point out where it appears I'm confusing them? Also, do you agree that internal arts teach from the inside out, or is hitting from the dantien the sole criterion to be used? That isn't a distinction that I've heard. Do you have any comments on my sculpture analogy for instance?
I don't want to get off into a tangent that diverts from your debate position, Chris. The heart of what you're saying is enmeshed in how Aikido is taught and I think that's where you need to stay. Remember though that there are the ideas of hiden (as in "Hiden in Plain Sight" ) and Gokui. It's a complex discussion.

My comment about your usage of "internal style", which I delineated in my last post, should support the position that you're sometimes confusing "internal style" for what should be a reference to "internal strength". I'd like to see you continue with your argument by considering Tohei's approach to teaching Aikido in your discussion. Maybe you're on to something, but it's unclear what the Ki-Society approach does to general observations.

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Old 03-09-2007, 02:54 PM   #13
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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No, I meant what I said. I think good aikido depends so heavily on having good internal skills, that it's a shame that it's not structured as an internal art, meaning one that works first to develop internal skills and then progresses to how to apply those same skills.
Then you're supposing that the "taught from the inside out" idea is a criterion and I've never seen it used as anything other than an offhand comment. Aikido does not use dantien controls the way the real "internal arts" do, so it won't clear the hurdle to be part of the internal styles, IMO. Aikido would have to use six-harmonies movement to be an "internal style" so I'd differ on the nomenclature, but I understand what you're trying to say now.
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I'll respectfully disagree about the ki society. I think that if you have some internal skills, their tests confirm that, but I think they don't really work well to develop these skills from nothing. They do not teach you how to be, they might give you some feedback in your explorations, but they don't teach this the way that I have felt from the very little amount of internal training that I have done.
You're quarreling with how they start with internal training and how successful they are (which I'd agree with you, BTW), but technically they treat the internal skills as an intrinsic part of their curriculum. I absolutely agree that's the way it should be taught. *HOW* it's taught is the question, isn't it?

Chinese internal arts often have "jibengong" or basic exercises that are practiced in order to develop starter-level internal strength before forms, etc., are begun. Sometimes a year or two will be spent just doing jibengong. It's a good idea. Of course, sometimes students are shown the jibengong and not really told how to do them, so a person can still wind up doing an "internal" martial art in an externally-driven fashion.

But wait..... Kokyu-ho-dosa, Aiki-taiso, etc., are actually jibengong that have managed to get perpetuated as external exercises somehow. The problem might just be that there was a critical lapse in true transmission, either by fault of some teacher or by fault of some poorly-perceptive students. Regardless, my opinion is that the correct teaching methodology is right there in Aikido, waiting to be used once the basic skills get introduced correctly in a viable number of places. I.e., I'm fairly optimistic that change is not far off, as we speak. And as soon as a few people really get a handle on putting the basic ki/kokyu skills back into mainstream Aikido, I think they should toss the "outsiders" out. >> danged troublemakers<<

FWIW

Mike
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Old 03-09-2007, 03:11 PM   #14
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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Then you're supposing that the "taught from the inside out" idea is a criterion and I've never seen it used as anything other than an offhand comment.
I was paraphrasing specifically from "Hsing Yi Chuan: Theory and Application" by Shou-Yu Liang and Jwing-Ming Yang.

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You're quarreling with how they start with internal training and how successful they are (which I'd agree with you, BTW), but technically they treat the internal skills as an intrinsic part of their curriculum. I absolutely agree that's the way it should be taught. *HOW* it's taught is the question, isn't it?
The problem I have with the ki society methods (and I say this as someone who has a shodan from a ki society offshoot) is that the explanation for how to accomplish a particular goal, is the goal itself. If I don't know how to 'extend ki', being told to 'extend ki' isn't very helpful. All of the aiki parlor trick tests (unbendable arm, closed finger circle, plank across chairs) and whatnot are fine and all, but I feel there has to be a better and more specific way to teach the internal dynamics beyond telling people to do these things and then repeatedly testing how well they do them. If you actually build a methodology to develop these skills, then the tests have value, but tests generally make poor lessons. IMHO

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Old 03-09-2007, 03:14 PM   #15
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

The lack of understanding is spellbinding.

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Old 03-09-2007, 03:21 PM   #16
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

In writing and in direct transmission.
Its where they go it.
And where he got it.


That doesn't identify a specific mode of transmission of internal skills. If Takeda had the magic "it," I can just as easily suppose that the really observant and brilliant students who hung with him the longest picked up the essence by the external method Christian references in his original post. The question is whether there is a discrete method of training "internal skills" unique to DRAJJ. You have provided no evidence of such a method.

And its rather obvious unless you think they made it up by themselves.

Or unless I've met some real geniuses who really are incredibly spongelike in their ability to absorb things they are interested in and utterly unique in the presentation and development of those things.

The real questions is the same as in Aikido; How come few got it or few were taught it?

Agreed And that is the question I'm asking you to answer wrt to DRAJJ..

Maybe Takeda was precisely the same kind of sorry scheming moneygrubbing withholding scoundrel you seem to assert all senior aikidoka are.
That's both snide, smacking of an agenda and innacurate to boot.
And if you're going to tell me I'm using the disgusting language -you-just used here and the others folks -in- aikido have ascribed to Takeda...care to cite where_____________________________?


That is merely making explicit in words what is implicit in your habitual tone.

But be explicit. What you call "snide" I call a reverse thought experiment. And damn if it didn't hit one of your buttons, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT IT WAS POSED AS A HYPOTHETICAL AND NOT AS AN ASSERTION OF FACT.

What's my agenda?

What is the nature of the inaccuracy?

From my side, my answer is simple: my agenda is to make it clear that connotation is as important as denotation. Echoes, resonances, and implicit suggestions often carry more emotional weight than explicit statements. The inaccuracy of hyperbole, or making explicit what has remained implicit is the essentially honest "inaccuracy" of caricature.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

FL
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Old 03-09-2007, 03:27 PM   #17
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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but I feel there has to be a better and more specific way to teach the internal dynamics beyond telling people to do these things and then repeatedly testing how well they do them. If you actually build a methodology to develop these skills, then the tests have value, but tests generally make poor lessons. IMHO
Well, I agree with that. You're basically saying that the ki-development/tanren part of Aikido should be clearer and more quickly functional, it appears, and I'd agree. In a sense, regardless of its shortcomings in practice, the theory of Tohei's approach is just that. However, let me point out, looking back at your initial thesis, that even so-called "external arts" (like, say, Uechi Ryu karate) have their own "tanren" exercises (Sanchin kata) and the only real problem is that the exactly theory and how-to's haven't been shown to most westerners, so the idea of training from the "inside out" could be applied to most external arts, as well.

YMMV

Mike
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Old 03-09-2007, 03:41 PM   #18
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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However, let me point out, looking back at your initial thesis, that even so-called "external arts" (like, say, Uechi Ryu karate) have their own "tanren" exercises (Sanchin kata) and the only real problem is that the exactly theory and how-to's haven't been shown to most westerners, so the idea of training from the "inside out" could be applied to most external arts, as well.
Not disagreeing with you. I would point out (simply because I do make a distinction between Chinese martial arts and Japanese budo) that Uechi Ryu would not be considered by most to be Japanese budo, as it is a karate form, and thus of Okinawan and possibly some Chinese origin.

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Old 03-09-2007, 04:23 PM   #19
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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This probably could have been placed in the Baseline thread, but I'm hoping for a new tone/direction.
Hope springs eternal.

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... the real point of this piece is that despite frequently being referred to as an internal art, Aikido exists today as an external art.
Yep.

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Christian Moses wrote: View Post
I believe that what really separates an internal art from an external art is the *teaching paradigm* itself.
Yep.

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I think Aikido is often misunderstood as an internal art due to its complicated nature and emphasis on softness/relaxation. I feel this is an error. Hard/soft are not good indicators of internal and external arts.
Yep.
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An internal art forces the practitioner to become extremely introspective about what is happening within their own body. The kihon of the art exists to help reshape internal structures of the body (often developing support muscles) and teach the disciple how to really feel. ... On the flip side, an external art will focus on the outside shape of the body ... the assumption being that the external form will eventually lead to a correct internal state.
Yep. Obverses.

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It's my belief that the Japanese education system is decidedly external. The idea is that understanding comes from repetition and mimicry.
Whereas the socialization in Japan is remarkably internal, complex, and many layered.

And oddly enough the Western system of education has tended toward the internal and analytical mode of education and away from the rote methods. And at the same time the "external" Japanese (and Korean) martial arts are vastly more popular here, fitting our much more "off the cuff" socialization.

Inevitable compensations, perhaps: where there are hills -- there must also be valleys. In-Yo.

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Over time, the shape and repetition of the external shape of the exercise gradually educates internal awareness. To be perfectly clear, what we are talking about is an external paradigm attempting to teach internal skills.
Yep. And the other way, too.

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[Tenryu Pushing O Sensei] In clearer terms, the techniques of aikido had led to his being able to be unmovable (external paradigm) rather than his skill of being unmovable leading to his ability to do aikido techniques (internal paradigm). ... my intent is more to offer a better analysis of what aikido really is so that it can be fairly judged.
A goal we share, even if our methods may differ.

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I think the teaching paradigm (as I've experienced it) sucks. Most people have no idea what exactly they're doing , why what they are doing works or how to control their internal structure to correctly/efficiently move.
For me it was not so. Maybe I was lucky, or exceptional, but I think not on either count. But, I am a very internal, analytical person. Most of my learning has been self-directed and critical even when under instruction, and I tend to disregard what people say they mean and look more at what they actually say and do. Stubborn that way. So, there you go.

Of course, to save time let me just say that I must therfore not know what I know, .. or don't know what I don't know, OR.. I forget, but Dan or MIke know what I know or know what I don't know or don't know what I don't know ... or something else Rumsfeldian along those lines ... Just to save everybody the time

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...it was a revelation to learn some of Don Angier's principles. Suddenly I had a lexicon to describe what I was doing and what other people were doing. It all suddenly made sense.
The problem with that being, not its effectiveness or authoritative nature, but its communicability. That lexicon may not be broad enough, and it may still be too figurative to allow a skeptical frustrated student ot access the material on his own and from his own observations. That is a strong Western trait that the training paradiogm in these arts has yet to address. That is why I am doing what I am doing in working through strict terms of physical dynamics as much as I can and looking for BS flags on anything that I propose that is simply not sound mechnically. That would be as opposed to being ill-fitting in some other lexicon, which was the tenor of much of far too much of the earlier debate.

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So perhaps instead of blasting everyone and their teachers for doing it all wrong, we could start anew with a different tone, say, "Hey, I think I know something that will really improve what you're doing and save you a lot of time and frustration over the years, but you'll have to trust me and try something new."
at the same time it may be helpful to come to COMPLETELY bland neutral territory to avoid the my language your language arguments. Again, that is what I am working on.

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Almost done here, one last point to make. I believe aikido is such a long and difficult art to become a proficient martial artist with because we're literally taking the hardest road possible.
Yep. El Capitan. North Face of K-2. No one does that to find the easy way to the top. There are other reasons for doing it.

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... paraphrasing a Hsing Yi book I read recently, any martial artist is defined by a combination of their speed, power and technique. According to the writer in question, speed is the most important, followed by power, and finally by technique. I'm sure this is up for debate, so bear with me. ...
Aikido, because of its teaching paradigm is actually an external art which could benefit greatly from insights gained through internal arts and practices.
One issue think I would quibble. Musubi -- connection is more imortant than all three.

Speed does not matter if you do not connect; power does not matter if you do not connect; technique does not matter if you do not connect.

If I connect, in a fundamental way, with him:

Speed does not matter; he moves me as he moves himself;
Power does not matter: mine is joined to his, not contesting it;
Technique does not matter (See Dan?); because the technique is simply doing what he wants to do.

We train in different techniques to learn different ways in which our partner expresses the motion of his desire. We train at different speeds to learn how our partners expresses the urgency of his desire. We train at different power levels to learn how our partner exresses the depths of his desire.

Ultimately, it is learning to abandon our own desires and invest ourselves completely in our partner's desires. Which is simply to say, as OSensei said : True Budo is love.

Big mountain. Huge. Biggest one there is.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 03-09-2007 at 04:34 PM.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 03-09-2007, 04:39 PM   #20
gregg block
 
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

All nice thoughts. but a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. Think to much beyond that and you have already lost
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Old 03-09-2007, 06:17 PM   #21
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Christian,

I wouldn't get too hung up on the terms, which is all too easy to do. Some things that I've gleaned off various threads on various boards, is that

1) so called internal seems to be simply good posture, efficient movement, etc., even in the best descriptions from internal theorists

2) some internal theorists say that even external arts have internal stuff in them

3) some internal theorists say that internal strength is simply a training method

4) some think when internal strength is used it would look like regular ol external stuff

If you put 1-4 together, coupled with the fact that there is no test to say if something is internal or not, even the so called experts can't make any real distinction.

Besides claimed different types of strength or the intrinsic vs. outside forms distinctions, another school of thought is that internal refers to martial arts created in China (taijiquan, for example), while external refers to martial arts originally created outside of it (shaolin, for example).

At least the latter has a fairly objective definition, is not too debatable, and is supported by how 'nei' (internal, http://zhongwen.com/d/164/x186.htm) and 'wai' (external, http://zhongwen.com/d/165/x126.htm) are used everywhere else in the Chinese language.

A secret of internal strength?:
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:46 PM   #22
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

Greg,

Not sure what you are really saying, but I don't really think a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.

Yes..in the sense of what they are at face value yes.

However, There are what I would consider effective punches (good), and ones that are not so effective (bad or not so good).

In my old TKD days I learned to punch quickly and off center a little. Why? Because my TKD was sport oriented and concerned with speed and placement, and guarding against a quick "tap"counter. So, I did not really learn to punch correctly.

Then I learned a little better in Karate, but we still punched some what at the outside (external).

Then I learned how to connect my Karate Punches together with the ability to influence center through aikido.

Then I took some Muay Thai...and I learned how to put it all together, moving my body in correct alignment, relaxation, and movement to punch into someone and through them...influencing their core and balance.

Same with kicks.

I don't go so far as to say that there is a definite distinction between internal and external...but there are punches kicks that are different, designed to affect different things...some people can use these skills more effectively than others based on their knowledge and skills to influence the center and mass of the other person, more honestly.

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Old 03-10-2007, 07:34 AM   #23
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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...The problem I have with the ki society methods (and I say this as someone who has a shodan from a ki society offshoot) is that the explanation for how to accomplish a particular goal, is the goal itself. If I don't know how to 'extend ki', being told to 'extend ki' isn't very helpful. All of the aiki parlor trick tests (unbendable arm, closed finger circle, plank across chairs) and whatnot are fine and all, but I feel there has to be a better and more specific way to teach the internal dynamics beyond telling people to do these things and then repeatedly testing how well they do them. If you actually build a methodology to develop these skills, then the tests have value, but tests generally make poor lessons. IMHO
In contrast, I wasn't taught that the goal is both method and object. Generally you try and convey the feeling of the principle, like "ki is extended", a newer interpretation than "extend ki". Once the student catches the feeling of how to do something, then they can reproduce the process for themselves.

The Ki Society is a centralized organization. That means the teaching methods are the same in Japan as they are in the US or elsewhere. Therefore they don't take into account the differences in culture. If you tell a Japanese student, "Extend Ki." they might have an idea of what you're talking about, since ki is a fairly common word in the Japanese language. If you tell an American student, "Extend Ki.", they will scratch their head and ask, "What's a Key?" since the word is foreign to the English language.

The teaching methods are developed at Ki No Kenkyukai, Ki Society Headquarters (KNK). They are transmitted through people like Kashiwaya Sensei, a chief technical advisor, who makes regular visits to KNK. Various Ki Society dojos outside of Japan also send people to attend national instructors' conferences. At these conferences new methods and activities are introduced. If you are in a dojo which does not send someone to these conferences, you are outside the information loop.

One of the goals of Koichi Tohei was to standardize the teaching of aikido. To do this he developed methods for teaching ki development and ki aikido. KNK serves as a think-tank/research group transmitting its activities and methods to various Ki Society dojos. Therefore ki aikido is a dynamic (changing) style of aikido since the time K. Tohei left Hombu dojo.

How does this stack up on the local level? Results vary. If you've got a dumb instructor, then you've got a dumb instructor. It doesn't matter which style of aikido they teach. However if you've got a good, active Ki Society instructor, then you have someone who can tap into information from some of the best teachers the Ki Society can provide.

Last edited by tedehara : 03-10-2007 at 07:48 AM. Reason: Serendipity

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Old 03-10-2007, 07:36 AM   #24
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

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I'd also like to go back briefly to the interview quoted a number of times in the Baseline thread (http://www.aikidofaq.com/interviews.html). Specifically, let's look at this phrase (again…), "Finally, we ended up pitting our strength against each other. I sat down and said to Tenryu, "Please try to push me over. Push hard, there's no need to hold back." Since I knew the secret of Aikido, I could not be moved an inch." I don't have the Japanese text, so if someone felt like offering what word he was using for "secret" that would be great.
Nice catch. This is a somewhat juicy quote.

「...とうとう力比べをすることになってしまったんです。
『ぢゃ僕は坐っているから、天竜さん押して下さい。遠慮しないでもいいですよ。』
と押させたんですが、僕の方には、合気の秘法があるからビクもしない...」

My translation:

"...at last we ended up having a contest of strength.
'Well, I'll sit down, so you push me, Tenryu-san. You don't have to hold back!' I said and had him push me, but because I had the secret (methods) of Aiki, I didn't move an inch."

秘法 hihou, "the secret, secret method", is a nice loaded term. In general it refers to any secret methods of anything. Unlike gokui or ogi, two terms often translated as "secret" which refer to an essentially hidden nucleus, hihou refers to methods which are specifically not shown to other people. Also, in Mikkyo Buddhism, it refers to, in the broad sense, all of the practices, and in the narrow sense, those particular practices that should not be taught without sound reason.

Since Ueshiba was an Omoto believer, I don't believe he meant any particular Mikkyo nuance to his words. However, I do believe since he's talking about how he kept Tenryu from pushing him over, he's referring to methods which he was in no mood to teach openly and explicitly, particularly to a large organization like the Aikikai. An organization which he was originally opposed to in the first place.

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 03-10-2007, 07:52 AM   #25
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Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?

And yet the "secret" methods of Aiki are outlined in DR.
With all their surprising corrolations to what I have seen of two Internal arts so far. DR's In-yo ho can and did stop Ueshiba's students in their tracks.
But, as was argued in the other thread. It doesn't exist and Ueshiba was "unqiue in all the world" and no one else can and will eve be able to do it so just ignore this stuff, settle for being less and get on with waza.
Dan
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