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Old 12-21-2010, 04:11 PM   #1
Lee Salzman
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Lightbulb Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

So lately I have been struggling to integrate a couple of mind-'sploding (non-aikido) and possibly conflicting influences on my training. Struggling in the sense that the result is going to define the entire character of my training for the foreseeable future. In the attempt to fit square-peg and round-hole together, a long and rambling train of thought crossed my mind that I am curious if it makes sense, doesn't, or lines up with other peoples' training experience. If you can stomach reading the whole thing, please feel free to shoot down any of it.

It's easiest to show the idea through a few very badly drawn stick figures. Heavy use of your imagination is required to compensate for my lack of artistic talent. Ideally it represents an alternate 2D universe version of me. There is absolutely no engineering or physics rigor in what follows, just bad subjective argument, so please forgive me in advance.

Attachment 821
This distinguished stick figure has only one arm and one leg (shown in black) which can only bend in any way at the points they attached to the spine (shown in green). The spine, however, is allowed to flex. Now imagine that I am actually facing to the left side of the image (towards the blue arrow), so my arm is extended out in front, and my leg slightly extended behind me. This is in no way meant to reflect all the degrees of freedom of my body (hopefully) and is very very simplified... Remember: imagination.

The blue arrow shows some force pushing forward against the arm. The red arrows show where I actually feel stress/struggle trying to resist and would ultimately deform me in vaguely those directions.

This stick figure also coincidentally shows how, in all my aikido career, I might have grossly organized myself to ground an incoming force: the spine (what I thought was) straight and vertical as possible.

I would feel my shoulders collapse backwards, my lower back cave in, and my butt push back out. It was later shown to me that even if my spine was actually straight and up, rather than a tense S-curve, it would have been the same. I was just making my spine a giant lever to easily attack my shoulder/hips at those convenient sharp angles.

This only started to make sense to me when I was asked to consider the range of motion of the spine to round out. If the spine is exaggeratedly caved in I feel something like:
Attachment 822
Same rough patterns of stress I felt when I tried to keep myself "upright" in aikido. I would usually end up forcing myself into something like that anyway the harder I struggled to keep myself with "good posture".

Or in the opposite direction you end up with:
Attachment 823
I'd feel stress bowing me back from below my rib cage while my arm was forced down and hips exaggeratedly tucked in. Also coincidentally, this is where I would end up a lot in aikido trying to compensate for the tendency to cave in.

So what's exaggerated rounding of my spine got to do with trying to keep straight up under that horizontal force? I was always thinking that this motion of the spine was somehow the enemy, only as those extremes to be avoided. The spine was the "central axis", right? That meant something like some infallible pathway between high and low that you could pivot around and was a magical source of power, I guess?

Going back to those nice sharp angles at the shoulder/hip in the first bad stick figure, the structure of the spine was never running into them, just across them, so they have no choice but to give in under heavy load. And once they give in, either the spine was going to go with them eventually if I would struggle to prevent that, or, I thought, to avoid struggling with the incoming force, I'd have to "get off the line" before that happened.

Then I was asked to consider something else:
Attachment 824
Pure juice from foot to hand felt as the uniform act of extending throughout, but no stresses going across. Just extending through in a clean arc along the entire body without sharp angles. Extension, I think the word did not mean what I thought it meant.

Rounding could, in actuality, be used not only for evil, but also for good. So the spine has way more mobility to round out than the arm or leg, and here I was all this time trying to pretend it didn't. The entire body was grounding as a continuous unit, in which it didn't really make sense to peg something as an axis, or distinguish it as central for that matter - that didn't really express what was going on. But, okay, this was an idea from an outside source having nothing at all to do with aikido or Japanese MA...

But then it kinda dawned on me: I am not a 2D stick figure and not only can my spine curl and extend, it can torque and other manner of interesting ways at interesting places. So if the spine is being kept nicely vertical, the force applied is horizontal, and it is somehow being grounded... Then either the person has some monstrously strong abs, lower back, shoulder girdle, and hip muscles... Or if they don't, then force is not ideally going through in a line at the shoulder and hips, but is instead being carried a gentler path around, spirally-like, that... axis.

So if there was to be extension, it wasn't to be straight. If there was an axis and it was to be central, it's main job was never to act or ground out along that axis.

The Earth is not flat, it is round. Dots connected. Square peg meet round hole. Check and mate. Put a fork in it. QED. Somehow that made some sense to me, I think. If you have made it this far in my post, your mind is made of stronger stuff than mine.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 12-21-2010 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 12-21-2010, 05:15 PM   #2
Amassus
 
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Interesting thoughts. Yes, I did read it all. My question would be, how to you get your spine to create the pattern you show in the last diagram. Is it actually doing that? Or are you utilizing other muscles/soft tissue to get the effect?

Dean.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 12-21-2010, 05:34 PM   #3
Lee Salzman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

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Dean Suter wrote: View Post
Interesting thoughts. Yes, I did read it all. My question would be, how to you get your spine to create the pattern you show in the last diagram. Is it actually doing that? Or are you utilizing other muscles/soft tissue to get the effect?

Dean.
2D stick man is inherently more gifted at achieving that pattern of extension than I am, since he does not have to worry about two sides of his body or which way it is angled, and also because I can correct his position to taste.

It involved consideration of how the shoulder area and hips can extend into their respective limbs and spine, and how the spine can extend along various degrees of freedom, that I could barely manage to get approximately right when someone was guiding me into it in person over a couple of weeks. But it at least felt like there was a pattern of extension through the entire body in that shape, though it does not feel or immediately look like it extends through the way one would imagine it to go through based on the bad stick figure.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 12-21-2010 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 12-21-2010, 07:33 PM   #4
Lee Salzman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Hilarious, I looked through google image search and could not find a single image of martial arts stuff that approximated the articulation through the shoulder. But on a lucky guess I thought of the follow through on a baseball pitch:




Their back legs are floating instead of grounded, though, and only the first image coordinates both sides of the torso and extends them enough, but the second at least shows some of the rounding in the final step not hidden by clothing.
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:20 AM   #5
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

My thought is that, per your first examples, the cause of your shoulders being pushed back and your body collapsing backwards at the lower back is the result of tension/muscles firing in those areas and not the overall posture of your body. The same should hold true for the other postures, as you're depending on muscles to hold those postures for you.

If you completely relax the body, shoulders down, core relaxed, chest relaxed and lower back relaxed, you'll feel the front of the body kind of collapse down on itself and in, this naturally brings the spine into a position more like your final example, but again, natural and relaxed vs. being held in that position by muscles. Doing so should result in the forces in your diagrams pushing or compressing the entire body down, rather than breaking it the points indicated.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:01 AM   #6
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
It's easiest to show the idea through a few very badly drawn stick figures. ... There is absolutely no engineering or physics rigor in what follows, just bad subjective argument, so please forgive me in advance.

Then I was asked to consider something else:
Attachment 824

Pure juice from foot to hand felt as the uniform act of extending throughout, but no stresses going across. Just extending through in a clean arc along the entire body without sharp angles. Extension, I think the word did not mean what I thought it meant.
You do not give yourself enough credit.... While you may not have the circles/arrows just right -- you adequately described a structure undergoing spontaneous shear displacements resulting from eccentric load paths -- and then you showed the correct solution which is a funicular (cable-shaped) curve -- which by definition is a structural loading with zero shear and zero bending forces...

The fun part is extending the implications of that observation to configurations (and dynamics) that look almost nothing like that simple curve (e.g.-- looping spiral action, whether absorptive or intensively expressive (think whip-cracking)) and actuating that structural principle in the body of another to exploit any discontinuity within it. But they are all precisely the same in terms of loading principles and spontaneous displacements.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:10 AM   #7
Lee Salzman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

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Jason Casteel wrote: View Post
My thought is that, per your first examples, the cause of your shoulders being pushed back and your body collapsing backwards at the lower back is the result of tension/muscles firing in those areas and not the overall posture of your body. The same should hold true for the other postures, as you're depending on muscles to hold those postures for you.

If you completely relax the body, shoulders down, core relaxed, chest relaxed and lower back relaxed, you'll feel the front of the body kind of collapse down on itself and in, this naturally brings the spine into a position more like your final example, but again, natural and relaxed vs. being held in that position by muscles. Doing so should result in the forces in your diagrams pushing or compressing the entire body down, rather than breaking it the points indicated.
Legitimate concerns and something for me to think about... But if I am truly relaxed in all those areas, and not just squishing into a bag of bones of the floor, then something is holding me up.

So the movement organization of holding me up could be done in such a way as to deform me into those two middle diagrams I have above if I was holding the "wrong" way... Or it could, as you indicate, collapse me into a more ideal structure, but only if I have degrees of freedom in the right places and to the right extents by organizing structure in other places.

So still you get, where is that structure and what's it doing that allows those places to be relaxed and not actually need to carry the stress in the first place? I guess what I showed was an example of what I think is one such pathway, though here it is active rather than passive.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:52 AM   #8
Mike Sigman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

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Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
But if I am truly relaxed in all those areas, and not just squishing into a bag of bones of the floor, then something is holding me up.
Exactly. If you are going to push something, it requires strength, so the question is whether you use muscular strength or 'internal strength' (whatever that is). If you are going to use strength, you must have structure of some kind; the question how that structure is formed and what it's composed of: normal body mechanics or the body mechanics of 'internal strength' (whatever that is).

Your diagrams appear to be roughly about structure rather than how the strength is generated, but the question is about what and how that structure is being held together and how it functions.

For all practical purposes your diagrams could be considered oddly-shaped brackets (like the bracket that holds up a bookshelf on the wall). The question is about getting the force from the bottom of the right-side black line to the tip of the left-side black line. The ideal force would go straight from one to the other, so the body, regardless of its shape should act mainly as a frame that conveys the shortest, strongest practicable force from foot to hand.

How to hold the frame together so that it is strong but flexible? That's what breathing exercises are for.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 12-22-2010, 12:31 PM   #9
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
Legitimate concerns and something for me to think about... But if I am truly relaxed in all those areas, and not just squishing into a bag of bones of the floor, then something is holding me up.

So the movement organization of holding me up could be done in such a way as to deform me into those two middle diagrams I have above if I was holding the "wrong" way... Or it could, as you indicate, collapse me into a more ideal structure, but only if I have degrees of freedom in the right places and to the right extents by organizing structure in other places.

So still you get, where is that structure and what's it doing that allows those places to be relaxed and not actually need to carry the stress in the first place? I guess what I showed was an example of what I think is one such pathway, though here it is active rather than passive.
Well you always have to have structure. Without structure we can't get much of anything done, but you can have structure and be relaxed. That's the problem with a lot of aikido, people think getting relaxed means losing structure, so they end up feeling like cold fish, which requires the other person to also feel like a cold fish so that you can do techniques. Anyway, if you also tuck in your chin a little and really relax the hips/buttocks so that you can feel gravity pulling down on your lower spine, you help elongate the spine and naturally round it out, kind of like your last drawing though without it really appearing that wa, which only increases your structure's ability to send energy down rather than having it break your structure. It ain't easy and it takes a lot of practice and conditioning, and that's just the basic static version. The rabbit hole is horribly deep.
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:02 PM   #10
Lee Salzman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Exactly. If you are going to push something, it requires strength, so the question is whether you use muscular strength or 'internal strength' (whatever that is). If you are going to use strength, you must have structure of some kind; the question how that structure is formed and what it's composed of: normal body mechanics or the body mechanics of 'internal strength' (whatever that is).

Your diagrams appear to be roughly about structure rather than how the strength is generated, but the question is about what and how that structure is being held together and how it functions.

For all practical purposes your diagrams could be considered oddly-shaped brackets (like the bracket that holds up a bookshelf on the wall). The question is about getting the force from the bottom of the right-side black line to the tip of the left-side black line. The ideal force would go straight from one to the other, so the body, regardless of its shape should act mainly as a frame that conveys the shortest, strongest practicable force from foot to hand.

How to hold the frame together so that it is strong but flexible? That's what breathing exercises are for.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
The diagram, in a roundabout way, was sort of asking about both the structure and how the strength is generated.

Perhaps to ask the problem a bit more explicitly, I give you some random woman in yoga warrior pose:


If she wants to get the force out the front arm, and she is sourcing the back leg, and she is keeping her spine nice and straight by sinking the tailbone and raising the neck and all that stuff... if she were to push straight along that back leg into the spine, there'd be a lot of stress on the lower spine no matter what that had to be diffused somehow. How would you overcome that?

In this position the only thing it seems her back leg can effectively do, without leading to that stress, to get force out to that front arm is push asymmetrically on her torso to rotate it around that central axis of her spine, but the spine can not actually extend along that axis in that position. Whereas in the pictures of the baseball pitchers, the structure of their torsos are actually more directly behind the extension of the arm, so the torso can actually extend along into the arm.

Either way, the force seems like it has to travel roundabout, never straight. Is that not the case? Or would those breathing exercises enable the force to actually push straight zig-zags from foot to hip, from bottom of spine to top of spine, from shoulder to hand, without worrying about such stresses?
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:36 PM   #11
Mike Sigman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

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Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
Perhaps to ask the problem a bit more explicitly, I give you some random woman in yoga warrior pose:
Random women have always been a favorite part of my life, so I thank you.
Quote:
If she wants to get the force out the front arm, and she is sourcing the back leg, and she is keeping her spine nice and straight by sinking the tailbone and raising the neck and all that stuff... if she were to push straight along that back leg into the spine, there'd be a lot of stress on the lower spine no matter what that had to be diffused somehow. How would you overcome that?

In this position the only thing it seems her back leg can effectively do, without leading to that stress, to get force out to that front arm is push asymmetrically on her torso to rotate it around that central axis of her spine, but the spine can not actually extend along that axis in that position. Whereas in the pictures of the baseball pitchers, the structure of their torsos are actually more directly behind the extension of the arm, so the torso can actually extend along into the arm.

Either way, the force seems like it has to travel roundabout, never straight. Is that not the case? Or would those breathing exercises enable the force to actually push straight zig-zags from foot to hip, from bottom of spine to top of spine, from shoulder to hand, without worrying about such stresses?
Well, here's several thoughts. First of all, many people are going to push from an extended back leg; if you look at the picture of the woman, for all practical purposes she has a "brace" effect, the same sort of effect that you could get by nailing a board in place of her back leg. If you go to a lot of Aikido dojo's, watch and see how many people actually work with their power coming from this straightened back-leg gimmick.

Secondly, some arts use an inclined torso to take effect of the back-leg in much the way you described (the Wu-style Taijiquan comes readily to mind as utilizing a lean for that purpose), so the idea of lining up the torso (as much as convenient) in order to maximize a back-leg push is already out there.

The point I'd make is that while mechanically a straightened back-leg brace is effective, it doesn't give you the options to respond in all directions instantaneously, so using the "Divine Intent", as Ueshiba termed it, to rig up force paths is more the way you'd want to do it in Aikido. Tohei emphasized the non-dependence on the back leg also by having push tests from all directions and by showing ki/kokyu demonstrations like this one:



Notice how the lined up back-leg is not a factor like it is with the yoga woman.

The breathing exercises allow for developing a structure that is not so dependent on local joint strength. I.e., it develops a strength where you need a strength, but it does *not* get rid of the need for some sort of strength to make the body a good framework through which forces can be conveyed... it's just a different kind of strength.

I'd note that in the picture above, while I'm sure the guy on one leg has some degree of the strength I'm talking about, he could also do the same trick utilizing various degrees of muscle, so I'm not saying that the above trick can only be done by a purist expert in the breath-developed skills.

And also... anyway you cut it, the ideal force is going to come from the ground to the hand so that the ground does most of the work, rather than the tightened joints and the stresses on the torso. In short, I agree that there are stresses, as you pointed out, but with good training you can dissipate those stresses over a larger area, thus lessening the stress at the joints.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Last edited by Mike Sigman : 12-22-2010 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:53 PM   #12
asiawide
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Rob(from Aunkai) had a seminar in Korea two weeks ago. He said 'Frame is not Structure' I didn't know what it means first time...... One example was 'Kaeshiwaza' in aikido. For ikkyo kaeshiwaza your arm is twisted and spine is not straight upward. So there's no structure, but Rob could generate power with no structure. Maybe it could be a timing or blending.. but there were no timing or blending things. He said that's the power of frame.

The structure is useful and helpful to generate power or stand against other people but really hard to maintain while moving. I still don't know how to build and use frame power but it gives me a direction to pursue.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:23 AM   #13
Mike Sigman
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Re: Does Extension Mean Straight? or Central Axis Neither Central Nor Axis?

Quote:
Jaemin Yu wrote: View Post
Rob(from Aunkai) had a seminar in Korea two weeks ago. He said 'Frame is not Structure' I didn't know what it means first time...... One example was 'Kaeshiwaza' in aikido. For ikkyo kaeshiwaza your arm is twisted and spine is not straight upward. So there's no structure, but Rob could generate power with no structure. Maybe it could be a timing or blending.. but there were no timing or blending things. He said that's the power of frame.

The structure is useful and helpful to generate power or stand against other people but really hard to maintain while moving. I still don't know how to build and use frame power but it gives me a direction to pursue.
When you use the mind-intent to form jin/kokyu it develops a form/frame that can be separate from the body frame (although for optimum power it will work in conjunction with the body frame).

Jin can go at odd angles through the body, depending upon the intent, and the body can regulate and hold an intent/jin/kokyu force while moving. When I say moving, I don't mean just bulling through somebody or something using basic jin, but I mean that it can be used to power all the sophisticated arm movements, leg movements, But the point is that this mind-direct frame of jin is a core concept of so-called "internal strength". By the way, this form directed by the mind can be called "Xing" (form) "Yi" (intent)... or Xingyi.

FWIW

Mike
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