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Principle, Practical, and Practice
Principle, Practical, and Practice
by Lynn Seiser
08-18-2010
Principle, Practical, and Practice

Breathe in, integrate the principles
Breathe out, apply the practical
Practice

I come from a long bashing background. I studied most martial arts for their practical application. From a blue-collar background my criteria was relatively simple: is it useful, meaning does in work in real life? Aikido confused me.

Okay, Aikido still confuses me. (Yet, it also intrigues me and keeps me interesting in its complexities, simplicities, and mysteries.) I have found an acceptance in my confusion. Confusion sometimes just means that things are not well organized. So it hit me while training one day that many of our practice techniques are to teach us the principles of Aikido and are not necessarily meant (in my state of understanding at the time) to be practical in the street. Others have a more direct application and their relevance is more obvious.

Someone told me that "Wisdom is knowing the difference" (Serenity). So how do I know the difference?

In shooting we often suggest that it's slow and smooth, and then (eventually) smooth and fast. Which by the way has nothing to do with effective or efficient unless you decide that is an outcome you want as an end result. In that case you find the principles that make you effective and efficient and incorporate that into your slow and smooth practice.

Without going into detail, let me suggest some principles that everyone talks about and acknowledges, but seldom do we see them actually incorporated and integrated into the slow and smooth, conscious and mindful, voluntary and deliberate practice of a technique. Please remember that this type of practice has been proven to change both the muscular and brain neuro-pathways (through neuro-plasticity) so that it is eventually just the way you move and think. It gives credibility to the idea that how you train is how you will fight.

Sensei Tohei offered us four important principles. He directed us to let the body completely relax, keep our weight on the underside, move from our center, and extend our Ki. These are easy to repeat and very hard to practice. They are more than an abstract principle, they are a physical directive between your mind and your body.

Get off the line. In Judo is someone pushes then you pull, and if someone pulls you push. But this still keeps you the on the line of attack. Get of the line of attack. Rather than reinforce the attack with an alignment to their supporting structure, maintain your own structural alignment while getting off their line of attack. Move.

Breathe. This is an important survival principle and necessity. Under stress (like training in a new technique while some one is attacking) most people hold their breath. Holding the breath under-oxygenates the blood and makes the body feel like it's suffocating because it is. Your body panics appropriately. Other people may hyper-ventilate under stress, over oxygenating the blood, causing the body to tingle, and panic. One principle to practice is consciously inhaling while blending with an attack and exhaling as executing a technique.

Distance and timing are principles that lead into very effective and efficient practical applications. It's what I call a "Goldilocks" thing. Too far or too close and a technique doesn't work. Too quickly we collide with the attacker and too slowly they collide with us.

Connect and blend. To get someone to move when you move you must be connected. First that connection is visual and mental. Look at your training partner and make eye contact. Align your shoulders, hips, and feet in the same direction and approximately the same distance from your training. You mirror their positioning and movements. Once contact is made, tighten your structural alignment into their structural alignments, center to center. Blend with their movements by moving with them as if in a well choreographed dance.

Balance. I try to extend (not a muscular push) into their center with alignment and intent, towards their balance point to take balance. A slight upward lift places your training partner's center of gravity moving upwards while yours lowers. Now a slight turn of your hips will take balance. Most people do not know how to attack when they are off balance even slightly.

What is the sign of a good lumberjack? They constantly stay out of the way of the falling trees. Many people connect with their training partner, establish their position so that their training partner's balance depends on them, and then maintains that support while throwing them. If after the connection and support is established, you simply take it away (move your supporting leg) you don't actually throw your training partner, but allow them to fall.

So after we practice principles, how do we make them practical?

Practical has to do with the external execution of the attack as well as what you do. The attack becomes faster, more powerful, and in closer quarters. The attack becomes an ambush of surprise including in combinations and groups. Hopefully through mindful practice of the principle you have become more observant of the surroundings, more oriented to threat assessment, and more decisive to act in a direct immediate fashion. Training at this level can actually re-pattern the startle/flinch response from the usual freeze, to fight or flight (or fight then flight) to a more Aiki flowing response.

To be effective and efficient, the principles become practical through mindful practice.

Breathe in, integrate the principles
Breathe out, apply the practical
Practice

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), Advanced Aikido (2006), and Aikido Weapons Techniques (2006) for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains at Roswell Budokan.
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:42 AM   #2
crbateman
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Good stuff, Lynn-san! You understand these concepts so much better than I do. Please continue...
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:48 AM   #3
SeiserL
 
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
You understand these concepts so much better than I do.
Osu,
Thanks for reading and the kind words.
As authors we often wonder.
Just because I can write about them doesn't mean I understand or can apply them. But I am making progress.
Looking forward to sharing space and time later this year.
Rei, Domo.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:27 AM   #4
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

This is great - thanks so much for posting. As someone who, like you, has been involved in other martial arts, it is enlightening - particularly as I am really just starting Aikido.
Thanks.
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Old 08-27-2010, 01:17 PM   #5
Garth Jones
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Elegant, thanks!

Too many beginning students, and quite a few of the rest of us (!!!) could stand to think more about principle and less about the practical. It's natural, I think, to want to rush through and throw uke and hear them hit the mat with a satisfying thunk. But too much of that too early leads to 'muscle-do' and not aikido.

Cheers,
Garth
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Old 08-28-2010, 05:12 PM   #6
SeiserL
 
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Quote:
Eric Whipple wrote: View Post
This is great - thanks so much for posting. As someone who, like you, has been involved in other martial arts, it is enlightening - particularly as I am really just starting Aikido. Thanks.
Eric,
Thanks for your kind words.
I am in Marietta too.
Where are you training?
Until again,
Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-28-2010, 05:15 PM   #7
SeiserL
 
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Quote:
Garth Jones wrote: View Post
It's natural, I think, to want to rush through and throw uke and hear them hit the mat with a satisfying thunk. But too much of that too early leads to 'muscle-do' and not aikido.
Thanks for reading and responding.
I know my Aikido was rather physical, especially at first.
It looked like Aikido but felt like wrestling.
Trying to get more principle-based now.
Until again,
Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-28-2010, 06:25 PM   #8
stratlanta
 
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Eric,
Thanks for your kind words.
I am in Marietta too.
Where are you training?
Until again,
Lynn
Hi. Lots of great Aikido dojos in town. I've narrowed it down to Peachtree Aikikai and Roswell Budokan (I know you are familiar with them!!). P.A. is closer to my work, so it would be easier for me to get there during the week, but R.B. is closer to my home making weekends easier. Tough decision right now. I really liked both facilities and the people in them. There are some really good smaller schools in town too, but some only have classes twice per week and that makes it tougher with my schedule. I need flexibility.
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:14 AM   #9
Anita Dacanay
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Wonderful article! I love the point you make about how training slowly with these principles in mind changes the muscle and brain neuro-pathways. This perspective reveals that training with these principles in mind is, in the end, practical!
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:33 AM   #10
SeiserL
 
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Re: Principle, Practical, and Practice

Quote:
Anita Dacanay wrote: View Post
This perspective reveals that training with these principles in mind is, in the end, practical!
Thanks for reading and responding.
Yes, IMHO, the principles become practical is you practice them. Most people don't.
Slow, smooth, and mindful.
Thanks again.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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