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Old 08-03-2007, 12:05 AM   #1
Lee Salzman
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Tension in "soft" application

Rather than mucking up David's thread with my own concerns, I figure I may as well make an ass out of myself in my own thread.

I recently got the chance to learn how to practice in depth contradictory muscular tension and its application in striking and grappling. But to say the application is unsubtle might be an understatement; again, striking and grappling (more "Chinese Olympic wrestling team" than "Chinese", one might say)... But things Dan Harden has described still leave me a bit puzzled about where there are possible similarities, and yet differences I can't account for at all. How one could even begin to apply it in "softer" settings, or whether it's really applicable and maybe that it (after a point, anyway) may be barking up a wrong tree for that sort of thing.

Long, boring exposition follows:

Relaxation is covered, but its used as a way to be aware of involuntary tensions you may be carrying, getting rid of any possible interference with that relaxation from previously acquired movement patterns, and then finally using relaxation as a reservoir from which to explode into tension.

The coordination of the body is done through directed, whole body tension, where initially the directionality is learned through the practice of certain shapes/lines, but eventually "lost" so that it can be expressed from any position or movement that is of practical value. The directionality is "blunt", though, in the sense that everything works to move there, although still expansive in trying to make sure you can potentially move in any direction, say, initially starting along 3 basic axes, then moving to directions in between, then splitting along those axes and then eventually more directions, and some other minor things like torquing, and even using it eventually on various positions on the ground for bridging, hipping out, pushing someone off, transitioning control, etc. None the less, there is still an attention to various small parts of the body, but only to get them properly working to support the whole.

Structure is built off of this by training these patterns of activation to involuntary levels, first in stereotypical positions but then later stopping at any point along movement you feel (mid-step or mid-strike or what-not), and practicing the coordination there until you've covered the spaces with a "web" of coordinated positions then expanding this into a sustained activation through actual movement till its basically bullet proof regardless whatever the level of outside stress applied to you is.

But the expression of this is ultimately... explosive. Practicing rapidly changing the directionality of the tension, being able to express it at a point of impact through the main joints as suddenly as possible and as suddenly relaxing it, or when someone is impacting you, or jolt someone on contact.

The grappling application is more done at extreme tensions, going slowly at first and especially stopping at positions the other person may put you into that you feel weak, and using this as feedback for what to practice solo. And likewise, if you sense a lack of resistance in the other person's structure, you practice exploding into it by releasing the tension you've got going on. Eventually, working up to where all contact is just explosive movement to jolt the other person's structure and break their ability to resist, and eventually even before the actual contact.

The overall feeling of this from the man I learned, when he was purposely trying to overwhelm me in a clinching scenario, was, umm, not unlike an earthquake... as I was still *thinking* of reacting (not even yet moving to compensate) to his initial jolt, trying to regain my balance, he had already popped me around another couple times, to where I just had no time to stand up. No subtlety here, though, by the time you're contacting someone you're exploding into them, but no time for leading or even conscious thought just as a matter of pace.

I'm still digesting this and attempting to put it into practice even as its own system. But, as I initially had went out to learn this stuff as a result of some of Mike and Dan's discussions here, and I am still curious about the applications thereof, I am still left with the feeling that, well, it's just... different. Maybe in an apples and oranges kind of way, it's a more refined way of fighting than just flinging your meat around, but it's still an apple, and not necessarily going to work for making orange juice. Even what I've read of the Aunkai stuff and others, well, it just seems radically different in the end. And even beyond the whole Chinese vs. Japanese aspect of it...

So, is some of the machinery in the end the similar as what one might go after for "soft" application, just tweaked here and there for the different purpose, or fundamentally different?
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Old 08-04-2007, 02:11 PM   #2
Pete Rihaczek
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Hi Lee,

I've read a number of your posts and they've always made perfect sense, but I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. You went and trained with some guy in some system (who is he, what system is it?) who does everything explosively, and you're asking...what? Sorry, maybe I haven't had enough coffee today.

Pete
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Old 08-04-2007, 02:59 PM   #3
Mike Sigman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
But, as I initially had went out to learn this stuff as a result of some of Mike and Dan's discussions here, and I am still curious about the applications thereof, I am still left with the feeling that, well, it's just... different.
I can pretty much assure you that there are many variations of levels, skills, abilities, etc. Without seeing what you're talking about, I'd say probability favors that you're certainly not talking about the same things I'm talking about. Sounds fairly harsh.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 08-04-2007, 04:15 PM   #4
Lee Salzman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Peter, I was just trying to explain very clearly what I was learning as a centerpiece for discussion. It seems that, what I am doing has no real relation to what Mike imagines is qi or is useful to aikido, even though I might think otherwise. So that, yes, people could comment, "Okay, this just isn't anything related at all" or "that's stupid", or even discussion of how one might take such machinery and apply it to how they practiced aikido, or if there really is any utility in doing so.
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Old 08-04-2007, 04:25 PM   #5
Mike Sigman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
Peter, I was just trying to explain very clearly what I was learning as a centerpiece for discussion. It seems that, what I am doing has no real relation to what Mike imagines is qi or is useful to aikido, even though I might think otherwise. So that, yes, people could comment, "Okay, this just isn't anything related at all" or "that's stupid", or even discussion of how one might take such machinery and apply it to how they practiced aikido, or if there really is any utility in doing so.
Well wait a minute. I agree with Pete... I couldn't understand what you were trying to describe and so I said
Quote:
Without seeing what you're talking about, I'd say probability favors that you're certainly not talking about the same things I'm talking about
Few people do things alike. You're misinterpretting what I said into "has no real relation to what Mike imagines is qi". Nothing can be discussed if simple statements can't be observed, IMO.

Fine. You saw something that impressed you. You have not described what happened physically at all. You're throwing out words about tensions, etc., but only generally. Try backing up, as a suggestion, and describe what happened, just for starters.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-04-2007, 05:09 PM   #6
Lee Salzman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Addendum: this is a derivative of yiquan from the Han lineage.

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Well wait a minute. I agree with Pete... I couldn't understand what you were trying to describe and so I said Few people do things alike. You're misinterpretting what I said into "has no real relation to what Mike imagines is qi". Nothing can be discussed if simple statements can't be observed, IMO.
Well, this was pretty much a description of what qualities were literally trained. I guess I could be more specific as to the how.

For example, the first step with the relaxation is just to make sure that your muscles are actually pliable according to a third party. Just get someone to move your limbs around, or feel the flesh of the muscle and make sure it is soft and not contracting at rest, in say, the shoulders. If that is verified, you make note, "Okay, that's what relaxation is, as reference." This is then reinforced, by taking this feeling, and seeking it in motions. First, by say, raising up the arm, then letting it suddenly drop and swing, keeping that feeling. Then you add in motion of other parts of the body, like opening and closing the hand, bending of the arm, or movement of the legs, say, to try and interfere with relaxation in the part you are working on. This is done at a few places, like the wrists, the shoulders, the spine, the neck, the shoulder blades, legs, arms.

For tension... one of the first things you learn are ways of extending the body into lines. The first way emphasizes, if you were to outstretch your arms to both sides, a line running from fingertip to fingertip, through the shoulder blades along the torso. Then you have the line from from foot to shoulder, just in the normal erect posture, on both sides. So if you assume as staggered foot position, and if you start with hip and knee bent, you can extend the joints from the back foot up to the shoulder on the same side, into that line, while also reaching out forward with the arm on the opposite, and back with the other, getting the line through the shoulders in agreement with the one through the body. There is also a counterextension running from the other foot through to the other shoulder, but in such as a way as not to interfere with the main direction of extension. There are variations on this with both arms extended, or seeking lines more applicable for striking. This is practiced in movement, as a stepping exercise, to help get a feeling of what joints are working in movement.

Next step, you start in a stereotypical position, and begin actual tension. There are some awareness exercises, where someone pushes on you through your arms in six basic directions - up, down, left, right, forward, back. You don't let yourself collapse, and just make note of the feeling of activation. You then start reproducing this feeling all by yourself, but with resistance from the antagonist muscles counteracting the attempts to move by yourself muscles.

Standing, with hip and knees slightly bent, arms up at a shoulder level as if hugging something, so that you're more or less in the middle of all the extremes of your range of motion. So you practice trying to move in those 6 directions above, letting the antagonist muscles keep you external still. At first, you just "push" without much thought as to how, just to get used to it. Then there are specific steps to make sure various joints are active, like arms trying to travel away from torso, bottom of the spine away from the top of the spine, internal/external rotators of the leg or arms, extension or flexing of the hip, and then after focusing on these going back to getting them all working as a whole again.

Then you try practicing this in extremes of motion, arms outstretched high, or low, or out, or collapsed in. Then directions in between those 6 directions, then various positions of the legs, until you have covered most of the space of your range of motion. And are coordinated at those positions in almost any direction without having to think about it. After a while, this is also done on various positions on the ground that are relevant to grappling.

When you tense, you pay attention to turning it on suddenly everywhere, without any mental delay or thought, hold it for a while to practice coordination, then try to release it as suddenly. You work on coordination at low tension. But you also practice trying to push everything to the limits, contracting as hard as possible and furthering that intensity while holding the contraction to make sure you're not holding out. Then you later try to make these more sudden "pop"s, on and off very suddenly with no holding. Next, you practice doing these "pop"s in rapid succession, rapidly changing direction as fast as you can do while still trying to maintain the coordination you have been working on.

Once you have a good grasp of the static work, you extend the tension into movement. So instead of tensing forward while just remaining still, you move your body forward through the tension. Most of the same qualities worked statically are worked here. The exception being that when you work on switching, you work on fluid changes of direction of movement, either sudden or a smooth blending of direction, in response to targets you are seeking out in your visual field, so that you are also working on your ability to rapidly spot and react to things. This moving tension is practiced with a partner also to help isolate any holes in it when tensions are being applied to you externally, through various modes of contact.

Later, you take this movement and make it relaxed again. At the end of the movement, you suddenly move into the static tension, continuing the direction. This tension is maximal, and intially it is held for a while, but then you make it more of a "pop" that is released as suddenly as it comes on. You work up to making that initial movement a very sudden, relaxed impulse, then getting that sudden tension at the end, and springing back immediately. This basically becomes striking through various joints, "fali", although there were more dimensions of movement in which this was worked than just striking. The work again focuses also on making sure you can do this in rapid succession, in many directions, in response to visual targets, or against a heavy bag.

After that, just lots of refinement of the situations in which you can apply it, and practicing it in relevant application.

The question in the end, though, is whether this type of work is really something that could feasibly be applied to aikido and how. The character of it is very much for rapid, brutal interchanges, more so than blending with people and leading...

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 08-04-2007 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 08-04-2007, 08:30 PM   #7
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
Addendum: this is a derivative of yiquan from the Han lineage.
Yeah, but the Aikido on this forum is a "derivative" of the Ueshiba lineage. Lineage tells us little about anything, sadly, because all teachers have a majority of students who are not all that good. I don't even know how good Han XingYuan was, in relation to Wang Xiang Zhai. Han had a reputation for being rough and tough, but I know of lots of rough and tough guys, so I'm just in the dark on this one. Wang Xiang Zhai lost a few fights, too.... so you can see how this sort of conversation leaves me nonplussed.
Quote:
Well, this was pretty much a description of what qualities were literally trained. I guess I could be more specific as to the how.

For example, the first step with the relaxation is just to make sure that your muscles are actually pliable according to a third party. Just get someone to move your limbs around, or feel the flesh of the muscle and make sure it is soft and not contracting at rest, in say, the shoulders. If that is verified, you make note, "Okay, that's what relaxation is, as reference." This is then reinforced, by taking this feeling, and seeking it in motions. First, by say, raising up the arm, then letting it suddenly drop and swing, keeping that feeling. Then you add in motion of other parts of the body, like opening and closing the hand, bending of the arm, or movement of the legs, say, to try and interfere with relaxation in the part you are working on. This is done at a few places, like the wrists, the shoulders, the spine, the neck, the shoulder blades, legs, arms.

For tension... one of the first things you learn are ways of extending the body into lines. The first way emphasizes, if you were to outstretch your arms to both sides, a line running from fingertip to fingertip, through the shoulder blades along the torso. Then you have the line from from foot to shoulder, just in the normal erect posture, on both sides. So if you assume as staggered foot position, and if you start with hip and knee bent, you can extend the joints from the back foot up to the shoulder on the same side, into that line, while also reaching out forward with the arm on the opposite, and back with the other, getting the line through the shoulders in agreement with the one through the body. There is also a counterextension running from the other foot through to the other shoulder, but in such as a way as not to interfere with the main direction of extension. There are variations on this with both arms extended, or seeking lines more applicable for striking. This is practiced in movement, as a stepping exercise, to help get a feeling of what joints are working in movement.

Next step, you start in a stereotypical position, and begin actual tension. There are some awareness exercises, where someone pushes on you through your arms in six basic directions - up, down, left, right, forward, back. You don't let yourself collapse, and just make note of the feeling of activation. You then start reproducing this feeling all by yourself, but with resistance from the antagonist muscles counteracting the attempts to move by yourself muscles.

Standing, with hip and knees slightly bent, arms up at a shoulder level as if hugging something, so that you're more or less in the middle of all the extremes of your range of motion. So you practice trying to move in those 6 directions above, letting the antagonist muscles keep you external still. At first, you just "push" without much thought as to how, just to get used to it. Then there are specific steps to make sure various joints are active, like arms trying to travel away from torso, bottom of the spine away from the top of the spine, internal/external rotators of the leg or arms, extension or flexing of the hip, and then after focusing on these going back to getting them all working as a whole again.

Then you try practicing this in extremes of motion, arms outstretched high, or low, or out, or collapsed in. Then directions in between those 6 directions, then various positions of the legs, until you have covered most of the space of your range of motion. And are coordinated at those positions in almost any direction without having to think about it. After a while, this is also done on various positions on the ground that are relevant to grappling.

When you tense, you pay attention to turning it on suddenly everywhere, without any mental delay or thought, hold it for a while to practice coordination, then try to release it as suddenly. You work on coordination at low tension. But you also practice trying to push everything to the limits, contracting as hard as possible and furthering that intensity while holding the contraction to make sure you're not holding out. Then you later try to make these more sudden "pop"s, on and off very suddenly with no holding. Next, you practice doing these "pop"s in rapid succession, rapidly changing direction as fast as you can do while still trying to maintain the coordination you have been working on.

Once you have a good grasp of the static work, you extend the tension into movement. So instead of tensing forward while just remaining still, you move your body forward through the tension. Most of the same qualities worked statically are worked here. The exception being that when you work on switching, you work on fluid changes of direction of movement, either sudden or a smooth blending of direction, in response to targets you are seeking out in your visual field, so that you are also working on your ability to rapidly spot and react to things. This moving tension is practiced with a partner also to help isolate any holes in it when tensions are being applied to you externally, through various modes of contact.

Later, you take this movement and make it relaxed again. At the end of the movement, you suddenly move into the static tension, continuing the direction. This tension is maximal, and intially it is held for a while, but then you make it more of a "pop" that is released as suddenly as it comes on. You work up to making that initial movement a very sudden, relaxed impulse, then getting that sudden tension at the end, and springing back immediately. This basically becomes striking through various joints, "fali", although there were more dimensions of movement in which this was worked than just striking. The work again focuses also on making sure you can do this in rapid succession, in many directions, in response to visual targets, or against a heavy bag.

After that, just lots of refinement of the situations in which you can apply it, and practicing it in relevant application.

The question in the end, though, is whether this type of work is really something that could feasibly be applied to aikido and how. The character of it is very much for rapid, brutal interchanges, more so than blending with people and leading...
Actually, the descriptions are somewhat better than the vacuous references to a mostly American-written book on judo that Justin Smith keeps naively referring to, but it simply doesn't tell me enough to even react to. It's like saying "hit him with a punch (or atemi)"... means nothing to me unless I know if the guy is using jin or not. Big guys can punch hard, but so what?

I guess my main reservation is this: pretty much most people that understand what the qi from the ground and from the heavens is about would know immediately what me, Rob, Ushiro, Ueshiba (in his douka), Tohei, etc., would be talking about. The idea that we have to explain it and justify it over and over pretty much assures me that someone doesn't really understand these things. Really.... they're fairly obvious. A lot of people say that back-channel, too. The best thing to do is to simply go visit people and see what they're talking about (not saying that I vouchsafe everyone who talks, though).

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:20 PM   #8
Lee Salzman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Hah, Mike, now you're misinterpreting me. Nice to see we've started off talking past eachother so early in the thread.

I inserted the reference to where it came from only because Peter asked, no more, no less. It is not used as justification for anything. There is nothing in what the Hans are passing on that is heavily divergent from say, the Yaos. It just is what it is.

And again, I am only asking about relationships of this to other things to clarify what it is. This is not about asking you to justify anything, or trying to put you on the defensive, if anything this is asking you to point out relations you see, or just to say there are none.
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:31 PM   #9
Mike Sigman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
There is nothing in what the Hans are passing on that is heavily divergent from say, the Yaos. It just is what it is.
There is nothing "heavily divergent" in the various schools/factions of Aikido, either, but you'll find a number of different takes on the True Way (tm), if you see what I mean. I know a lot of different westerners with 3rd generation "Yiquan" who are markedly different from each other and most have no jin skills... yet some do. Do you see my problem with the "lineage" thing and the vague description you gave in your original post, in terms of my perspective? Or not?
Quote:
And again, I am only asking about relationships of this to other things to clarify what it is. This is not about asking you to justify anything, or trying to put you on the defensive, if anything this is asking you to point out relations you see, or just to say there are none.
I'm not the least bit "on the defensive", Lee. I can't tell, from what you've written, whether you have the least intimation about what jin really is. Honestly. Give me a better clue; that's all I'm asking. My comment was more that you should have been able to spot the conversations from Rob, Ushiro, Tohei, and others, if your "lineage" used such a thing. Seriously... this should be a lay-down, not a protracted conversation.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:57 PM   #10
Lee Salzman
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Mike, what clues would you like? I have no qualms about supplying them. While that is not everything, that is a fairly literal overview of what it is. So if something is not clear, please point out where and I'll be happy to elaborate.
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Old 08-05-2007, 12:19 AM   #11
Pete Rihaczek
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Re: Tension in "soft" application

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
Peter, I was just trying to explain very clearly what I was learning as a centerpiece for discussion. It seems that, what I am doing has no real relation to what Mike imagines is qi or is useful to aikido, even though I might think otherwise. So that, yes, people could comment, "Okay, this just isn't anything related at all" or "that's stupid", or even discussion of how one might take such machinery and apply it to how they practiced aikido, or if there really is any utility in doing so.
OK, that makes a bit more sense. Thing is, you're writing an awful lot of stuff, and it's difficult to grasp a physical description based on words, unfortunately. What you're describing sounds like some videos of Yiquan that I've seen, which is unsurprising considering they were probably from the Hans. From the description it sounded pretty rough, which would make it different from what Mike does and I think Rob as well, but who knows. It may be a valid approach though, it's just something where you would have to meet up and feel things. Ultimately no internet description has ever come close to being a substitute for that. Aikido definitely seems softer than that approach, but it really depends on what's being developed in the process. So, it sounds different, could be somewhere in the spectrum of approaches, but there's really no way to say unless you can meet Mike, Rob, etc.
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