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Old 03-31-2010, 04:29 PM   #1
Conrad Gus
 
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Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

I find it so interesting that a lot of the threads on aikiweb seem to be going in two different directions.

1. People who are asserting that the study of "internal power" has gone missing or become inauthentic in aikido in general. Much discussion of what it is, why nobody really has it, how to get it back, etc. (Ellis Amdur's "Hidden in Plain Sight" et al)

See thread: http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17673

2. People who feel that aikido in general has lost its focus on martial effectiveness and devolved into something close to spiritual/mystical game-playing.

See thread: http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=254762

I've spent most of my aikido life doing pretty main-line aikikai aikido, which in my opinion is usually a pretty good halfway between the two extremes of super-hard and super-soft. I have also trained with really rough-and-tumble and all the way on the other side with people who do ki-waza. While I have my own opinions on things, I have to say that I've learned valuable things from people on both ends of the spectrum.

Could it be that it is not so black or white? Perhaps the hardest-core aikido brutes are still using internal power, and the flakiest aikido wizards are actually practicing martial techniques, just in a really far-out way?

Conrad
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:24 PM   #2
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
I find it so interesting that a lot of the threads on aikiweb seem to be going in two different directions.

1. People who are asserting that the study of "internal power" has gone missing or become inauthentic in aikido in general. Much discussion of what it is, why nobody really has it, how to get it back, etc. (Ellis Amdur's "Hidden in Plain Sight" et al)
...
2. People who feel that aikido in general has lost its focus on martial effectiveness and devolved into something close to spiritual/mystical game-playing.
My sense of things is that these two lines of thinking are often used to support each other against the idea that what many folks in Aikido are practicing is a of . The premise, again as I've perceived it, being that having a strong physical ability in using aiki is having martially effective waza and is even required to even call it "aikido".

Quote:
I have to say that I've learned valuable things from people on both ends of the spectrum.
Conrad
I don't have much experience to draw from yet, but every time I've interacted with a different approach, I've learned something. The body reflects the training, so paying attention to the different methods expressed in different systems, styles, schools, and individuals should at least make for a well-rounded body of our own...my theory at least.
One of these days (famous last words ) I intend to get some hands on with some of those folks who have been repeatedly noted for their internal ability. That way I'll be able to at least compare approach if I'm not exactly able to percieve what it is that's going on. I'm pretty sure I've been taught some aspects of aiki, both with Sensei Barrish and with the Himeji Shodokan school I attended even more briefly...and I repeatedly wish I had stuck with my training in some kind of consistent manner so I had more to offer than I do. That said:
Yet one more reiteration from this peanut gallery.
Take care,
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 03-31-2010 at 05:26 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:27 PM   #3
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Are you saying Aikido and Duality should not mix? LOL

William Hazen
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:28 PM   #4
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Hi Conrad, I'm not sure what you mean, regarding the relationship between the internal power folks' posts and hardness/toughness points of view. To me kokyuu is both hard and soft (soft in how you do it, powerful in effect on others).

I certainly agree that you can find people who mix bits of internal power and woo-woo stuff. And I agree that spirituality and martial effectiveness and internal power can all be found to co-occur or not-- there is no reason to think that such things will always go in a certain way hand-in-hand. I think there is a relationship between these 3 things, but it doesn't mean that the people out there are predictable with regard to what ratios they employ.

One of my favorite examples of respectable internal training combined with woo-woo attitude are the videos of Okamoto from Daito-ryu-- his teaching is clearly valuable, but the ukes in those videos.... sometimes they make me wonder.
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Old 03-31-2010, 07:02 PM   #5
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post

Could it be that it is not so black or white? Perhaps the hardest-core aikido brutes are still using internal power, and the flakiest aikido wizards are actually practicing martial techniques, just in a really far-out way?

Conrad
There's a really great explanation for why it isn't black and white.

1. If you haven't ever gotten hands on with someone who has aiki to a decent level and can use it proficiently, then there will always be debates online and offline about what aiki is or isn't.

2. If you actually have gotten hands on with someone who has aiki to a decent level and can use it proficiently, then all debate is over. Period.

Which means, bluntly, that if you're still debating what aiki is or isn't, then you're in category 1. And if you have an open mind, you can track down the people in category 2 and ask them about their experiences because so far it's pretty much 100% consensus on what aiki is.

And, to me, neither "the hardest-core aikido brutes" or "the flakiest aikido wizards" are doing aiki. Hence, all the debate about what aiki is because they're still in category 1.

There is a very good reason why every jujutsu man, every judo man, every kendo man, every boxer, every sumo man who ever tested Ueshiba came away, 1) bested and 2) with the knowledge that what they had just encountered was entirely and completely different. These men had "been around the block a time or two", had worked with many other high level martial artists, and had some high level skills themselves. If they had encountered yet another high level jujutsu person, it would have been, same ole, same ole. It wasn't.

Now you have boxers, MMA people, judo people, aikido people, Daito ryu people, taiji people, etc testing someone with decent aiki skills and coming away 1) bested and 2) with the knowledge that what they had just encountered was entirely and completely different -- it was aiki.

Nothing new under the sun ... just history reasserting itself.
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Old 03-31-2010, 10:35 PM   #6
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Mike Sigman, Dan Harden, and Akuzawa Minoru are quite well known in aikiweb. If you have some money and time, why don't you visit one of them? I choosed Akuzawa sensei and got very much satisfied like many(or some?) others. Just visit him(Sigman or DH too..) Or start saving money and time for visit them right now.
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:16 AM   #7
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

HI Mark -

I know of two times when Ueshiba was at his peak that he was defeated - there may be others. The one I am not at liberty to say - but there is no doubt. (And no, I won't write it to anyone in a PM either )

The other is kind of funny. Doc Warner - the famous one-legged kendo man. He and Donn Draeger visited Ueshiba, who grandiosely proclaimed that he could disarm even a trained military man who drew a gun on him - and furthermore, he could do this when menaced from behind. Warner said that he doubted that. (I do not recall if this was still GHQ days, when he was armed with a real gun, or they had a replica).
Anyway, Ueshiba turned his back and Warner, as requested, pointed his gun in Ueshiba's back. Quick as thought, Ueshiba whirled and took the pipe out of Warner's left hand, while he continued to point his gun, held close to his hip with his right.

I am not disputing your basic premise, Mark, just not as an absolute.

Best
Ellis Amdur

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Old 04-01-2010, 04:30 AM   #8
Michael Varin
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote:
Anyway, Ueshiba turned his back and Warner, as requested, pointed his gun in Ueshiba's back. Quick as thought, Ueshiba whirled and took the pipe out of Warner's left hand, while he continued to point his gun, held close to his hip with his right.

I am not disputing your basic premise, Mark, just not as an absolute.
Not so fast, Ellis.

Even if the gun was loaded, Ueshiba would have just dodged the bullet. You know, he could do that too.

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:26 AM   #9
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
HI Mark -

I know of two times when Ueshiba was at his peak that he was defeated - there may be others. The one I am not at liberty to say - but there is no doubt. (And no, I won't write it to anyone in a PM either )

The other is kind of funny. Doc Warner - the famous one-legged kendo man. He and Donn Draeger visited Ueshiba, who grandiosely proclaimed that he could disarm even a trained military man who drew a gun on him - and furthermore, he could do this when menaced from behind. Warner said that he doubted that. (I do not recall if this was still GHQ days, when he was armed with a real gun, or they had a replica).
Anyway, Ueshiba turned his back and Warner, as requested, pointed his gun in Ueshiba's back. Quick as thought, Ueshiba whirled and took the pipe out of Warner's left hand, while he continued to point his gun, held close to his hip with his right.

I am not disputing your basic premise, Mark, just not as an absolute.

Best
Ellis Amdur
Hi Ellis,

Thanks for the post! The second story is great. Never heard that one before.

You'd think I'd learn to stay away from absolutes.

Mark
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Old 04-01-2010, 10:43 AM   #10
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post

2. If you actually have gotten hands on with someone who has aiki to a decent level and can use it proficiently, then all debate is over. Period.
This one is interesting to me. So NO ONE who has met any of these people has disputed what they are saying? Who gets to be in this club, and how much is membership? Because it sounds like a pretty done deal the way you are describing it here.

What is the control? How can one with what you call "Aiki" show that they have it, other then through opinion? I guess what I'm asking here is, how can one "prove" they have this ability you're calling "Aiki", other then your peers simply saying that you do?

What is a sound way to test for what you call "Aiki"?

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Old 04-01-2010, 11:06 AM   #11
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
I know of two times when Ueshiba was at his peak that he was defeated - there may be others. The one I am not at liberty to say - but there is no doubt.
Also the time when faced by the professional hunter .. not actually defeated but backed down as it was obvious the shot would hit home. Dodging not an option or there would be no need to back down.

Inspirational, yes, but deification is not required. Self delusion even gets the best of them. We are our own worst enemy-sometimes.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:49 PM   #12
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
This one is interesting to me. So NO ONE who has met any of these people has disputed what they are saying? Who gets to be in this club, and how much is membership? Because it sounds like a pretty done deal the way you are describing it here.

What is the control? How can one with what you call "Aiki" show that they have it, other then through opinion? I guess what I'm asking here is, how can one "prove" they have this ability you're calling "Aiki", other then your peers simply saying that you do?

What is a sound way to test for what you call "Aiki"?
What is there to dispute? Once you feel it it's hard to be skeptical. I haven't had the pleasure of working with any of the big dogs yet. The people who will let you come at them with everything you've got. I would love to get that opportunity, but that's just because I want to feel it at that level, body be damned. I certainly don't need to in order to be convinced though. What was demonstrated from the people I have felt, who have worked with those guys, was more than enough to convince me that this is something I want to be doing.
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Old 04-01-2010, 01:15 PM   #13
Conrad Gus
 
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
There's a really great explanation for why it isn't black and white.

1. If you haven't ever gotten hands on with someone who has aiki to a decent level and can use it proficiently, then there will always be debates online and offline about what aiki is or isn't.

2. If you actually have gotten hands on with someone who has aiki to a decent level and can use it proficiently, then all debate is over. Period.

Which means, bluntly, that if you're still debating what aiki is or isn't, then you're in category 1. And if you have an open mind, you can track down the people in category 2 and ask them about their experiences because so far it's pretty much 100% consensus on what aiki is.
I consider myself in category 2. I just don't think it is as difficult to find as some people are making it out to be. I also reject the "100% consensus" claim.

There are lots of really great senseis and they all have this skill. I just don't believe that training with Akuzawa Minoru or one of the other members of the alleged modern "aiki pantheon" would be that different.

My point is that I think some people are drawing the line WAY too finely. It's the same old "my dad is tougher than your dad" debate, which tends to blind us to the joy of diversity and the unique perspective of people from different walks or traditions.

Having said that, everyone has the right to call BS on something if they want to. (I suppose that's what I just did).

Are there any other moderates on this forum?
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:13 PM   #14
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
Are there any other moderates on this forum?
Maybe... Maybe not...
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:39 PM   #15
Brian Griffith
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
Having said that, everyone has the right to call BS on something if they want to. (I suppose that's what I just did).
Would you mind clarifing that....do you mean you have hands-on experience w/one of these men (or an equal in skill perhaps) and still call it BS....I am very curious as to why you think that. I have always wondered if there was someone out there who had felt it and wasn't impressed.

Brian
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:00 PM   #16
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Some thoughts:

1) I'm surprised this hasn't been moved to the Non-Aikido forum

2) For most people, if you haven't gotten hands on with people that do "this stuff" (and are actually vetted as doing this stuff by others that have a clue about this stuff), then you should because you most likely aren't speaking from an educated perspective. That's just the way it is, sorry.

3) Usually even after you've gotten hands on people that do "this stuff" then you're often (due to the newness threshold) restricted to parroting what youv'e been told, until you've spent the time actually wiring "this stuff" into your body so that it's the default way in which you move.

4) Not all people that do "this stuff" are doing the same things even if they're working within the confines of the basic principles that "this stuff" must follow. Most don't disagree with this . . however, where the disconnect happens (typically) is when one person that does "this stuff" then talks about the stuff that another person that does . . "this stuff" is doing . . filter it because they may not know or have as complete a picture of "this stuff" as they indicate even if they know more about "this stuff" than you -- see Number 2.

5) If Number 4 seems confusing the simple version is go see each person for yourself and form your own opinion (while understanding that the value of the opinion you form may be limited by how little you know . .see how confusing and viscious a circle this becomes even via the "simple version").

6) A caution about Number 5 - if you do a little bit of "this stuff" from Person A . .then a little of "this stuff" from Person B . . then a little of "this stuff" from Person C . . the likelihood of you getting anywhere is not very high. The self-service approach is defeated by the initial assumption that you have enough of a clue to decide "what's important to practice" before you have any real and/or demonstrable abilities.

7) It takes a lot of lonely time training individually to condition "this stuff" because a) it's such a different way of moving b) it's not intuitive c) it's not something you automatically get from repeating techniques over and over . .

8) There is no shortcut to getting a) a foot in the door with the basics b) spending the time conditioning your body to burn in the basics c) doing the mental work to figure out how to improve and continue making progress while developing/adhering to the basics

9) Having a black belt in X . . being a shihan in Y . . being able to beat up Z . . means nothing in terms of whether or not you can do "this stuff" . . it's not a knock in terms of the dedication you've shown your training or how tough you are . . it just means you didn't learn/weren't taught the basics of internal strength correctly and therefore didn't put the time in to build on the basics (see Number 8)

10) As you practice "this stuff" your body changes and the same things don't work on you the same way as they used to . . this does not mean you don't help a partner practice or learn by proving your invincibility to any technique they throw at you

11) There is a possibility that improving your abilities with IS will create a perceived threat within a traditional organization that does not openly address this skillset . . or your abilities will be ignored, or written off . . or . .(spin the wheel and pick one - bottom line, it's not necessarily going to make you a hero at the place you train) (see Number 10)

12) I have limited practice applying this in more freestyle environments as I've been spending a lot of time just building the requisite conditioning . . after my next child is born I hope to change that this fall by starting with the local BJJ and MMA places to visit and make new friends But the experimentations within live grappling environments showed me that even basic-level "foot in the door" abilities yielded a pretty significant return

13) Nobody is invincible - no matter what they or their publicists tell you (see Number 10)

14) Yes, I've gotten hands on more than one person acknowledged as doing "this stuff"

15) A lot of people believe they are "already doing that". Incorrectly so, in my opinion (which is only worth exactly that), but there you go.

16) If you aren't interested or don't care about Internal Strength, cool, but that doesn't diminish from it's connections to the development and history of many Asian martial traditions.

17) Just because you have skills in IS, it doesn't mean you can fight with it (nor does it mean you necessarily need to be able to . . just helps to understand rather than assume what you're training towards and have an empirical way of benchmarking if you're meeting those goals or not - if it's just training for the sake of training without measurable goals, cool, so long as that's understood up front)

18) Hmm I think I've yammered more than enough . .

19) Brain dump terminating for now . .

20) Are you really still reading this?
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:02 PM   #17
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

I tend to agree with you Conrad. I think it comes down to access and experience. I've never felt any of the people on this forum who profess to have ‘something' that according to them is missing in aikido (btw- I disagree). I have trained with people (in various martial arts) who can do some amazing ‘aiki' stuff but I've never felt so overwhelmed by their ‘ki' that I was unable or unwilling to strike them. I have felt people who claim to have some level of contact with this "alleged modern aiki pantheon", so maybe at some point I'll be able to feel their progress. I also plan on visiting one of these instructors at some point but I honestly doubt that they'll do something that causes me to rethink my current path…but I'm open to the possibility.
I've come to believe that people can manifest ‘ki' in many different ways depending on what you have to work with and how you go about developing it further. So yes, I definitely consider myself a moderate and I've learned not to drink the Kool-aid.

A'
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:02 PM   #18
Conrad Gus
 
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Brian Griffith wrote: View Post
Would you mind clarifing that....do you mean you have hands-on experience w/one of these men (or an equal in skill perhaps) and still call it BS....I am very curious as to why you think that. I have always wondered if there was someone out there who had felt it and wasn't impressed.
Sorry, that was unclear. I didn't mean that I don't believe these teachers have internal skills. I totally believe the glowing testimonials here and elsewhere about these specific teachers. I would love to try training with them. What I am not buying is the assertion that everyone else is just doing either physical-based technique or mind games pretending to be aiki.

I'm also willing to admit that there are probably teachers that do one or both of these two things (technique-only training or mind games training). Contact with such teachers is probably what has led some people to argue through induction that it's true of most people other than the ones they know for sure are "for real".

As I said before, I'm a moderate. ;-)
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:18 PM   #19
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Quote:
Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
Sorry, that was unclear. I didn't mean that I don't believe these teachers have internal skills. I totally believe the glowing testimonials here and elsewhere about these specific teachers. I would love to try training with them. What I am not buying is the assertion that everyone else is just doing either physical-based technique or mind games pretending to be aiki.

I'm also willing to admit that there are probably teachers that do one or both of these two things (technique-only training or mind games training). Contact with such teachers is probably what has led some people to argue through induction that it's true of most people other than the ones they know for sure are "for real".

As I said before, I'm a moderate. ;-)
You just don't know what you don't know. You have an idea of body mechanics, extension, timing, relaxation, etc, and you think that this is just that, but more/better. While there may be some conceptual similarities, it is significantly different in both practice and application.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:22 PM   #20
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Great post Budd

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Old 04-01-2010, 06:24 PM   #21
Conrad Gus
 
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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Jason Casteel wrote: View Post
You just don't know what you don't know. You have an idea of body mechanics, extension, timing, relaxation, etc, and you think that this is just that, but more/better. While there may be some conceptual similarities, it is significantly different in both practice and application.
Absolutely correct; I don't know what I don't know. Also true: you don't know what I don't know (or, for that matter, what I do know).

I think we've reached the outer limits of the usefulness of internet discussion.
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:02 PM   #22
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

The problem I have with the "you have to feel a guy who has it" thing is: A if they are not near you, why would you spend the time and money to track down something that is likely not worth it? And B there is not control with this, what is happening could be some kind of placebo effect.

There must be some tangible proof. Something outside of, this and that guy say, or "I felt it, it is amazing", or 5 years ago so-and-so beat up a professional fighter. Something other then, you just have to feel someone who has it. If nothing else you should be able to film someone "feeling it", and we could see what happened to them when they "felt it".

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Old 04-01-2010, 08:21 PM   #23
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

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The problem I have with the "you have to feel a guy who has it" thing is: A if they are not near you, why would you spend the time and money to track down something that is likely not worth it? And B there is not control with this, what is happening could be some kind of placebo effect.

There must be some tangible proof. Something outside of, this and that guy say, or "I felt it, it is amazing", or 5 years ago so-and-so beat up a professional fighter. Something other then, you just have to feel someone who has it. If nothing else you should be able to film someone "feeling it", and we could see what happened to them when they "felt it".
Chris, I don't really have any answers that I think will satisfy you - I think if there's any opportunity to get to the Mike Sigman seminar in San Fran coming up, you absolutely should go - it's an excellent foot in the door to "this stuff".

On the other hand, I would still stick by the story that "it has to be felt" and "it's different". Because that's been my experience. I grew up playing judo and wrestling, competed in contact karate, did some boxing and have mixed it up with enough people that like to hit/submit that I'm not going to just blow smoke or be hypnotized.

Having said that, there's people that are convinced they are "already doing that" after a seminar on internal strength as well. So, I think people "do" have different experiences. I think between Mike Sigman and Akuzawa getting out in the west coast, those would be the best bets if you didn't want to do a Chen style seminar with one of the bigger names (depending on what's being taught, you might not get to really feel the goods anyways).

YMMV
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Old 04-01-2010, 09:07 PM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Chris, for me it the experience was worth it in all cases...having spent weekends with Mike, Ark, Toby, and Ushiro. All different in their own ways, however, all are able to replicate over and over what they are doing.

Application and use are an entirely different subject. What they all showed was principle based and fundamental in nature, and rightfully so.

How can you move on to the real thing if you can't even replicate the basics.

It was not hard for me to see points where what they were doing would be very useful or applicable in various martial situations, and I have been trying to integrate what I learned in my practices with varying degrees of success.

If nothing else, I have watched others folks that I study with and I can now tell when they are doing things correctly and when they are not, and I can tell when I am and when I am not.

I tend to be pragmatic...so I have not jumped off the deep end and bought the farm on abandoning all I am doing and become a aiki zealot or thrown out my other practices.

Now it may slow me down or even prevent me from gaining any real aiki ability...but even if that is the case...that is okay with me.

One thing is for certain, I now can talk clearly about what it is that they are talking about, how it feels, and how to train it...and I do agree that I really did not understand it until I got with them.

Did that mean that my other teachers were void of aiki? no...not at all...infact alot of them do alot of things that are inclusive of aiki.

However, I do know now when they are not using aiki and are doing something else. It has giving me skill sets and concepts that allow me to better assess my training and translate what I am being taught.

For that reason, it has been most useful training this way.

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Old 04-01-2010, 09:27 PM   #25
Budd
 
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Re: Internal Power (AIKI?)-- Players and Haters

Well, Kevin, with your experiences - it may be helpful to share how you are defining aiki and when someone is or isn't using it . . since I'm curious as to how other teachers were inclusive of it . . which periphery were they at versus missing the meat . . might help define it out better for those that are wondering if they have done it already prior to working with someone that is focusing on that topic.
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