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Old 09-13-2008, 08:40 AM   #1
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Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

This will be an ongoing thread as I am rereading through it and will post relevant sections when I get to them.

As always, this is in regards to aiki...do.

The book is more a technical guide than anything else, but it does try to encompass the whole of aikido.

There is a section dealing with Tohei's unbendable arm. While I think that using intent to concentrate on a point beyond the person's fingertips can be a good idea, that is only half of the teaching. There is intent going out the arm and intent coming back into the spine. Half intent only gets you so far.

In the section on dynamic factors, the authors show that it is better to move out of the way of an incoming force and to never meet that momentum head on. Unfortunately, the founder of Aikido is known for doing just that very thing. See thread "Push Test with Ueshiba".

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=78

So, it seems that the authors have missed a very important concept that the founder demonstrated throughout his life.

In the Theory of Defense section the authors make note that it is meaningless to concentrate on the physical conditioning or the strategies of defense without developing inner conditions. I think that's a great idea. However, they ruin it by noting that the inner conditions are things like inner calm and constant control. They miss structure and aiki.

Then, in the section, Principle of Centralization, the authors get close. They talk about the center of elevation and that the sum total of one's upper weight is channeled downwards through the legs into the ground. A good start. They are missing a few things, but still, not bad for an introduction. As with the arms, there must be contradictory forces, so you have all that intent going down into the ground, but you must also have it coming back up into the center.

In the section, Theory of Defense, there is a diagram that shows a triangle with a screw top in the center of it. The outer points of the triangle have arrows going both ways. If that screw was one's spine and the outer tips were the fingers, what an important concept to understand. The authors even go on to talk about keeping the vertical alignment of the body. Again, they brush upon some very important concepts, but don't expand them in detail.

The authors talk about "relaxation" and that concept. I think they do a good job of getting the basic idea introduced and explained.

Stopping there. I'll continue later ...
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:56 AM   #2
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post
There is intent going out the arm and intent coming back into the spine. Half intent only gets you so far.
Mark,
What is the path the 'intent' utilizes to come back into the spine?
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Old 09-13-2008, 10:34 AM   #3
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Ricky Wood wrote: View Post
Mark,
What is the path the 'intent' utilizes to come back into the spine?
If you're just starting, use the bones as the pathway for both. While it isn't what you *should* do, I found that I physically brought my scapulas together when I first started. My shoulders weren't relaxed enough at that point. So, if you're bringing intent back into the spine and your scapulas are physically coming together ... well, that's what I did for the first month or so. And then I started relaxing enough that my scapulas stopped coming together, but I kept the intent going.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:12 PM   #4
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

In the section, The Principle of Extension, there is an intriguing paragraph. I'll quote it here.

Quote:
Westbrook and Ratti wrote:
Aikido begins, in fact, with the fundamental assumption that every human being possesses this ki: this vital force which when concentrated in a single unified stream can be extended and channeled into a practically irresistible action of defense, into a technique.
Wow. Take that single unified stream and think of that like what we talk about in "intent". Take that "intent", point it (extend) and direct it (channeled) in various ways and you have extending ki. Pretty slick.

Then they try to tie this concept into the unbendable arm, but that isn't really "extending ki". The unbendable arm is structure. yeah, it can be thought of as "extending ki", but that tends to confuse issues when you really start "extending ki".

And they still try to define ki as energy in the universal sense. Doesn't help get better at aiki...do if you think that way.

The authors barely mention abdominal breathing, but tie it into concentration and centre. Again, they touch upon important aspects, but don't go into detail. Instead they spend much more time detailing physical motion.

The authors touch upon push tests as examples of progress. See the push test thread for more details:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14991

They talk about wrist stretches, but don't mention using them to build the "suit" as some call it. They talk about extending ki, but that's it.

They talk about the rowing exercise, etc and note that you should be immovable, but they don't talk about how to get that way. The best that is mentioned is a recommendation from Tohei that you "think heavy" under your arms. Not much help.

The rest of the book is physical descriptions of techniques.

Overall, it has glimmers of ideas about structure and aiki. Only interesting if you've experienced these things firsthand, though. Otherwise, too general to really get the understanding.
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:21 PM   #5
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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They talk about the rowing exercise, etc and note that you should be immovable, but they don't talk about how to get that way.
Mark,
Would you please fill in that gap for me?
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Old 09-13-2008, 12:38 PM   #6
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Mark,
Would you please fill in that gap for me?
Get the contradictory forces going in your body. Build your structure. First step.
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Old 09-13-2008, 01:32 PM   #7
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

Since words are at best either "put this here now" directions or good metaphors of some type, and we keep telling newbies they have to get on the mat to feel aikido....how can a book be expected to teach something that has to be experienced in the body ? ....
not that books aren't valuable adjuncts; I'm questioning the expectations of the critique.

Last edited by Janet Rosen : 09-13-2008 at 01:33 PM. Reason: clarity, I hope

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Old 09-13-2008, 02:08 PM   #8
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Since words are at best either "put this here now" directions or good metaphors of some type, and we keep telling newbies they have to get on the mat to feel aikido....how can a book be expected to teach something that has to be experienced in the body ? ....
not that books aren't valuable adjuncts; I'm questioning the expectations of the critique.
Hi Janet,

A very valid post. Thank you. And, I do agree that books are valuable adjuncts. But, also, in the same way that notes taken during a seminar, or notes taken during training are of utmost value to the person so that they can remember points or key topics, so, too, should books hold such information.

As I mentioned in one of my other review threads, I am not looking at these books with "techniques" in mind, but rather looking for core values in aiki...do that perhaps are there.

And so, if they are there, then like good notes, one can read the books so that one keeps the points and important topics readily at hand. Especially if training is only once every 3 to 6 months. And like good notes, one can perhaps glean deeper understanding down the road.

No, they are no substitute for hard work, solo training, dojo training, etc. Instead, they are a supplement to help hone the mind as we hone the body. A doorway into other people's training where they may have grasped these concepts and put them down on paper so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Do I expect to find anything in-depth written in the books? No. But finding small snippets like I found in this book are kind of neat. As Ellis said, hidden in plain sight.
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Old 09-14-2008, 07:17 PM   #9
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

Mark, your point's well taken. I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that the principles, outside of somatic practice, essentially fall into the semantic realm of metaphor. And part of metaphor's difficulty is that its incredibly open to interpretation. One reader may "get it" and another may not, but offer the same principle with a different metaphor, and somebody else will "get it."

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Old 09-15-2008, 09:26 AM   #10
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Mark, your point's well taken. I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that the principles, outside of somatic practice, essentially fall into the semantic realm of metaphor. And part of metaphor's difficulty is that its incredibly open to interpretation. One reader may "get it" and another may not, but offer the same principle with a different metaphor, and somebody else will "get it."
I agree. And even my understanding will change over time. So, if anyone has different interpretations, I'm always open to them. These are just how I view things at this time. Hopefully other people will add their interpretations.
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:18 PM   #11
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

Hi Mark,
This book was written by two shodans if I remember well.There is really something to discuss about it?????? I will never recommend this book to any aikidoka.

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Old 09-15-2008, 02:53 PM   #12
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post
But finding small snippets like I found in this book are kind of neat. As Ellis said, hidden in plain sight.
As a beginner in Aikido I really liked this book. Being only slightly less than a beginner now I think it gave a lot of good food for thought. I think of it as a very generalized Aikido book...maybe a 101 level course book? I liked it because the ideas were so simple. They gave me a simple mental starting point (unified body actions in particular)...to supplement what I was getting on the mat.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:56 PM   #13
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Re: Westbrook & Ratti book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere

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Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
Hi Mark,
This book was written by two shodans if I remember well.There is really something to discuss about it?????? I will never recommend this book to any aikidoka.
What book(s) would you recommend?

Gambarimashyo!
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