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Old 09-28-2011, 08:55 AM   #26
graham christian
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

I don't agree with the view of any Ken work is not real. If done to a high standard then it would be a match for any other sword art. It all depends on the person doing it.

Regards.G.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:07 AM   #27
lbb
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
Oh yeah, just a thought . . .
You've had several.

The line about how weapons training is supposed to inform your empty-hand practice is, unfortunately, a bit of a platitude much of the time. That is, it's true, but it's also something that people repeat without really thinking about, much less seeing the connection to what they're doing. It's like an old Bill Cosby joke in which kids in kindergarten are taught that one and one is two. Kid's reaction: "One and one is two! Great, that's amazing, yes sirree...what's a two?"

So, it seems to me that weapons training can only inform your empty-hand training by starting with martially effective/valid weapons techniques, and then going from there. If instead you have a situation where people are told to pick up this wooden thing, and then they're told the line about how it's supposed to inform their body art, most likely they'll try to make motions that mimic what they think they're supposed to be doing in body art, only now they're holding this stick. IMO, this is exactly backwards.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:17 AM   #28
grondahl
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Regarding the shared principles between taijutsu and bukiwaza (aikiken/aikijo). I train in Iwama-style aikido and more or less all movements in our taijutsu is in the bukiwaza-curriculum.

Some aspects of "aikido as I know it" (lots of stuff missing there) is easier to train with aikiken (hanmi, breathing, power generation, posture, maai, awase, keeping centerline). That said, Iwama aikiken is rather clumsy, I see it as "bukiwaza done as taijutsu" where as for ex Nishio-stylists feels like "taijutsu done as bukiwaza".
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:17 AM   #29
Keith Larman
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Allen, I'll be the sacrificial lamb and get the ball rolling...

I was taught that aikiken and aikijogi should be seen along the same lines as the aiki taiso. The aiki taiso is intended to be a solo exercise to help one develop "aiki". Of course we hear phrases like "to get our ki flowing" and stuff like that which is not necessarily all that descriptive in any sort of scientific fashion. However, what was impressed upon me was that the aiki taiso are not to be done as warm ups, not as just movements, but as discrete methods of developing both the body to do "aiki" as well as developing better awareness of what is going on in your body. As we are a Ki Society offshoot, these things are assessed via tests to see if we are exhibiting our four principles to unify mind and body. So the taiso are to help us develop our abilities. And I was told that the aiki jogi and aiki kengi were intended for the same purpose -- additional "exercises" if you will to develop the same things. So we test for unification of mind and body thoughout these "kata" of sorts. We strive to keep one-point, etc. as we do the movements. Our stated goal is to better develop our understanding of "aiki" within our own bodies.

So, as with the aiki taiso add a stick with it's associated movements and style and you have new movements, new things to learn. Same with adding in a wooden sword with it's own associated movements and requirements simply gives another means to test ourselves, to develop, to improve.

So FWIW I view them not as kenjutsu or sojutsu or whatever. They are solo exercises to allow us to better develop that elusive feeling of aiki. So we focus on balance, relaxation and control while trying to develop the ability to strike/cut/thrust with power. For me it is being able to deliver a powerful strike with the jo, for example, while maintaining good form. That means the strike is using the as much of the body structure as possible to deliver that strike. Not swinging with the arms, but learning to connect throughout the body and use the ground, your legs, core, and arms with each strike. And then this is done from a variety of directions, angles, and styles that forces you to learn more ways of being powerful while maintaining the principles. Currently I'm still working on loosening up those tight hips. It's like a point of power constipation for me -- everything gets clogged up in the tightness there. But that's getting better slowly...

So, for me it is about learning how to generate powerful movements.

And it is not redundant between ken and jo as each weapon is used differently. Hence different movements. Hence different ways of using the body. Hence different types of "tanren" in each case.

But I'm also the obsessive guy who beats the daylights out of a sawhorse and a large persimmon tree in my backyard daily with both ken and jo. I've busted a number of the weapons over the years.

Speaking only for myself and my understanding.

Okay... Fire away...

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Old 09-28-2011, 09:21 AM   #30
Keith Larman
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

And I left out one thing... The way I think about aiki in terms of jo and ken is developing "oneness" internally to allow me to perform all those movements.

How all that "informs" my Aikido in general is I think rather obvious. How can I possibly attain "oneness" with the big, bad, hairy attacker if I'm not "one" internally before they attack... So removing all that slack from my body before before contact. Can't get out their slack if I've got it in me. So we go back to those four principles things...

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Old 09-28-2011, 09:23 AM   #31
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
How all that "informs" my Aikido in general is I think rather obvious. How can I possibly attain "oneness" with the big, bad, hairy attacker if I'm not "one" internally before they attack... So removing all that slack from my body before before contact. Can't get out their slack if I've got it in me. So we go back to those four principles things...
Yep

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:34 AM   #32
DH
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Seen on the whole as opposed to individual anecdotes of select teachers:

The principles of aiki- as discussed by Ueshiba-and their relevance to the generation of aiki by sustaining in/yo is immediate, practical, mechanical and almost mundane.

The so called "principles of Aiki" by those that re-invented Aikido, seem to have no relevance within the framework of the traditional martial arts. Their weapons use is as divorced from the traditional model as their empty hand arts. From a classical perspective of in yo, and moving from center; Aikido and aiki-weapons seem distinctly modern and more akin to the understanding seen in sports.
I suspect that just as his own students did not understand his discussions and mistranslated them, they did not understand how he generated aiki his movement either, and mistranslated that as well.
Kono: Sensei why is it we cannot do what you do?
Ueshiba: Because you do not understand In yo ho.

I would say that power in and of itself is no evidence of anything meaningful. Killing with classical weapons requires little power. It is far more important to understand how to wield them powerfully...with as little power as needed. over a prolonged period of time, under stress. This is best done internally and externally by developing a bujutsu body through in yo ho.
Dan

Last edited by DH : 09-28-2011 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:37 AM   #33
phitruong
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Currently I'm still working on loosening up those tight hips. It's like a point of power constipation for me -- everything gets clogged up in the tightness there. But that's getting better slowly...
...
i heard that fiber will help with the constipation, but using a long piece of wood is a bit extreme.

oh ya, agree with the rest of your posts.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:38 AM   #34
Cliff Judge
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

I have had a couple of thoughts about why aikiken exists in the brief time I have been studying koryu swordwork and I thought I might throw them out there.

First, i think the cultural significance of the sword to Ueshiba and his early students cannot be overstated. Handling bokken and treating them as though they were live blades lent a seriousness and weight to the training, it emphasized it as a matter of life or death.

Many people say that "Aikido is based on the sword" or "Aikido is based on the movements of the sword" or something like that, as though this is literally true, that all of our techniques were at one time techniques of some sword school. Well we have established that Ueshiba had broad sword knowledge but the depth of that knowledge is questionable. I think the deal is that Aikido is based on the spirit of the sword. It is not pugilism, it is not wrestling. In a sword fight, you don't allow yourself to get cut so you can get into a more advantageous position, and you don't plan a long string of feints and blocks angling towards a "checkmate" win. I don't think that's what O Sensei wanted us to be doing.

I am not sure how correct I am, but I have this belief that swordwork was sort of ambient culturally among the early Aikido community and so it was a visual / somatic "language" that could be used to demonstrate concepts easily, and that's why O Sensei would pick up a bokken to show something. Stuff on the order of "he attacks, but you are already over here doing this" or "this spacing leaves you in danger, but over here you are safe" or "you can control your partner's balance even if you are only touching swords."

And from there we have shihan stringing together kata out of things like this. Or pulling them directly from existing ryu as some of Saito's kata are.

But along the way, some kenjutsu is dropped or emphasized differently. For example, in my experience getting people to move their bodies through the kata is first, and good, powerful cutting is somewhere down the line. You need to view the bokken as a live blade, of course, but at the end of the day you don't need to know how to cut through armor or bone.

Again, speaking from relatively brief experience here but in aikiken, it is pretty neat when you and your partner are connected and flow through the kata as one, but my koryu training at the moment places a premium on not connecting with the opponent, not giving them your rhythm or timing, because they could trap you.

I have problems with Aikido taisabaki asserting itself in sword training, because it tends to put me way too deep. The aikiken I practice calls for entering and cutting the head or neck; the kenjutsu I practice calls for keeping range and cutting wrists.

And physically connecting through the sword? My school at my level tells you that you are dead.

A lot of this may be simply due to the way I train Aikido and the way I train sword and may be different for others. My koryu is very specific about foot position, maai, and timing; my Aikido training has required me to figure out more of this myself to see what works in different situations.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:49 AM   #35
Cliff Judge
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
So, it seems to me that weapons training can only inform your empty-hand training by starting with martially effective/valid weapons techniques,
The thing about this is, koryu training tends to involve years of practicing techniques before you learn how or why they are martially effective or valid. Or there is a story about their martial validity at the outset, and then later on you are shown that you have actually been practicing something completely different.

I agree that within the context of any system of aikiken, you need to be able to pressure-test the kata and figure out how they would work in a more fighty situation. Shinai are really fun for this.
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Old 09-28-2011, 10:11 AM   #36
kewms
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
So, it seems to me that weapons training can only inform your empty-hand training by starting with martially effective/valid weapons techniques, and then going from there.
Yes, absolutely. I've been fortunate enough to have teachers who do exactly that, and it makes a world of difference.

Katherine
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Old 09-28-2011, 10:21 AM   #37
kewms
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Many people say that "Aikido is based on the sword" or "Aikido is based on the movements of the sword" or something like that, as though this is literally true, that all of our techniques were at one time techniques of some sword school. Well we have established that Ueshiba had broad sword knowledge but the depth of that knowledge is questionable. I think the deal is that Aikido is based on the spirit of the sword. It is not pugilism, it is not wrestling. In a sword fight, you don't allow yourself to get cut so you can get into a more advantageous position, and you don't plan a long string of feints and blocks angling towards a "checkmate" win. I don't think that's what O Sensei wanted us to be doing.
Thinking of it in these terms also puts the whole "non-resistance" thing in a totally different light. No one "resists" a live blade. And if you have a live blade in your hands, the idea that you can respond to strength and pushing by going somewhere else becomes a lot easier to understand.

The Japanese sword is a very elegant weapon. I think O Sensei wanted to bring that feeling to his art as well.

Katherine
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Old 09-28-2011, 10:59 AM   #38
lbb
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
The thing about this is, koryu training tends to involve years of practicing techniques before you learn how or why they are martially effective or valid.
Yep. No easy or simple answers there.
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Old 09-28-2011, 04:56 PM   #39
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Allen,

Have you ever come across the phrase 論議の花を咲かせる: rongi no hana wo sakaseru: to let the flowers of argument bloom? It is a very important part of Japanese meetings and of AikiWeb discussions. This thread is a good example.

Best,

PAG
Hi Peter,

Sorry, no time to write now. I have a favorite column to read!!

Best,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:25 PM   #40
Gerardo Torres
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
I have read many times that Aiki Ken's purpose is to illustrate the "the Principles of Aiki." Some questions immediately come to mind for me.

Is Aiki Jo's purpose to illustrate "the Principles of Aiki?" If so, are the principles illustrated different from the Ken? If not, why the redundancy? If not, what is the difference?

Is Aikido's waza's purpose to illustrate "the Principles of Aiki?" If so, are the principles illustrated by waza different from the Ken and Jo? If not, why the redundancy? If not, what is the difference?

O-sensei practiced with other weapons and weapon (like) objects, do these illustrate "the Principles of Aiki" as well? If so, are the principles illustrated different from all others. If so how are they different. If not, why the redundancy?

If so many people agree that Aiki Ken "illustrates the principles of Aiki" or "Aikido," than it occurs to me that many (most?) people pointing to this fact must be able to share the universally agreed upon "Principles of Aiki or Aikido" that they so often refer to.

Would someone care to list the principles that are referred to by both those inside and outside the art? They seem to be commonly known. For communication's sake and for a common understanding of the core of the art it would be very helpful to have a list of these principles posted.

Thanks in advance!

Allen
Hi Allen,

Those are some good questions some of which I ask myself. To this day I don't understand the point of some of the "aiki weapons" training I see being done around, with a few notable exceptions: Some teachers like to demonstrate a technique, say katatedori ikkyo or shihonage, while holding a bokken to illustrate the clean "cutting" lines of a technique. I think this is a nice visual teaching aid that helps "clean up" techniques. I've also seen shinai drills and such used to train mental aspects (sanshin, musubi, etc.). Then again I don't know if these are examples of "aiki weapons" or whether there are underlying aiki principles across these practices. Various shihan complemented their aikido training with various iai and ken training. Their philosophies and technique vary a lot, so perhaps it's my limited exposure but I honestly don't know of a common thread that links these practices to "aiki", i.e. what makes them "aiki".

Ueshiba purportedly trained in some classical forms and made things his own, "in aiki we do it this way…" So he infused some actual weapon techniques with aiki (that he already had?). Unless this was a practice for him alone, I would expect any weapons practice in aikido to actually help me train and develop aiki (among other martial aspects, if possible). Even though the applied principles might be the same I would expect aiki weapons training not to be redundant efforts of empty-hand training (weapons should pose an extra challenge, after all weapons are dangerous / great equalizers; and manifesting power through elbow, hand, ken, jo, spear… imo should start to get increasingly more challenging, not to mention weapon movements can get more complicated than empty-handed ones).

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
So, it seems to me that weapons training can only inform your empty-hand training by starting with martially effective/valid weapons techniques, and then going from there. If instead you have a situation where people are told to pick up this wooden thing, and then they're told the line about how it's supposed to inform their body art, most likely they'll try to make motions that mimic what they think they're supposed to be doing in body art, only now they're holding this stick. IMO, this is exactly backwards.
The thing about this is, koryu training tends to involve years of practicing techniques before you learn how or why they are martially effective or valid. Or there is a story about their martial validity at the outset, and then later on you are shown that you have actually been practicing something completely different.
I agree that within the context of any system of aikiken, you need to be able to pressure-test the kata and figure out how they would work in a more fighty situation. Shinai are really fun for this.
I tend to agree with Mary's and Cliff's view that the aiki ken/jo kata should be martially sound in order to adequately inform the taijutsu efforts. I would not limit martial efficacy to partner interaction (ma-ai, metsuke, etc.) but extend it to how the weapon is wielded (transfer power to the hands and out to the contact area), the role of waist vs. hips, weighting, etc., as all this translates to body arts. That said, my main issue with some of the aiki weapons I see is that the way they wield the weapons, move, cut, etc., is in direct opposition to how I understand aiki should be manifested or trained, not to mention being martially unsound (based on my experience). I can entertain the idea that "this [aiki ken/jo] is not supposed to be sword fighting", OK, but then I wonder, how is doing weapons like that going to help me get aiki?

Interestingly enough, in my brief experience with classical weapons, I find that the performance requirements of these "fighting arts" are a lot more congruent with the idea of moving from the center, balance / in-yo, and efficiency associated with aiki (I'm not saying there's "aiki" inherent in any school I'm familiar with, only that its teachings on weapons handling and movement are not in direct opposition with aiki as I understand it, in fact they bond and aiki complements it quite nicely).
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:31 PM   #41
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Hi Cliff,

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Allen, with all due respect, you've just asked a number of rhetorical questions that you don't believe anyone can provide adequate answers for.
But I could be wrong, so better to ask than not to. If I'm not wrong, maybe my query will prompt those that with formulaic answers to reflect whether they understand their own responses with any depth. I'm quite pleased with the majority of responses most seem seem sincere and thoughtful.

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
In some circles this is called trolling. It obscures what your actual thoughts are on the matter, which would probably greatly benefit this thread if you offered them more gently.
If you knew that I wrote my post with my lap top on my lap while performing my "morning constitutional" you'd probably be convinced that I was trolling. I find that when I am "gentle" most folks don't understand my meaning. I tend to favor blunt and true over gentle and false or obscure. I am also aware that these are not mutually exclusive. As an aside I find our society in general confusing these things with one side adopting the philosophy of "Don't tell me the truth if it hurts my sensibilities." and the other philosophy being "I'm going to hurt your sensibilities and that PROVES what I'm saying is true." I figure the truth is the truth, it has little to do with being offensive or being offended. Thanks for calling my attention to your concern though. It is duly noted!

As for what I have to share . . . I think I've done about as much as I can on a forum. I think there is no one unified thing called Aiki Ken that we can coherently talk about. Therefore, it seems to me, to be silly to make value judgements and general statements about something that cannot be coherently talked about. What I would guess can be done is now being done. That is, some folks are talking about what THEY do and CALL Aiki Ken. Not surprisingly there is a broad continuum from "an extension or elaboration of what I consider to be the core of Aikido" to "Koryu Kata as taught to me by teacher X, who was qualified to teach that Koryu Kata."

I still think that if Aiki Ken is illustrative of Aiki Principles those principles should be able to be enumerated. Wouldn't that be an interesting and edifying conversation?

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Are you suggesting that aikiken and aikijo systems are meant to actually be effective in actual combat? Or are you lamenting the fact that you constantly hear the refrain "these sytems are meant to illustrate / explain / demonstrate principals of aikido," but you do not hear adequate explanations of what these principals are and how they are demonstrated? Or something else?
As I wrote above, I am suggesting that SOME Aikiken and Aiki jo systems are meant to (or at least conceived as being) actually be effective in actual combat, and SOME Aikiken and Aiki jo systems are not. There is evidence enough of that on this thread. (BTW, I believe that just because most individuals conceive of Koryu Ken Jutsu as being conceived of as being effective in actual combat doesn't mean that they ARE in FACT actually what they are conceived to be . . . today or in the past. There are a LOT of Koryu do we know for a fact that they all were "super cool" in combat? How should we know any better for Koryu today, than we do for any other system? And of course there are other factors that just a "system" alone.)

And, yes, if the principles were common place (for example I am aware of the Ki Principles) they should be easily pointed to I should think. Let's start pointing. Maybe (probably) there are diverse lists. Still, a comparison would be interesting.

I would think that these would be Aiki principles. So that should be interesting and informative as well.

Thanks,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:40 PM   #42
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Allen, I'll be the sacrificial lamb and get the ball rolling...

I was taught that aikiken and aikijogi should be seen along the same lines as the aiki taiso. The aiki taiso is intended to be a solo exercise to help one develop "aiki". Of course we hear phrases like "to get our ki flowing" and stuff like that which is not necessarily all that descriptive in any sort of scientific fashion. However, what was impressed upon me was that the aiki taiso are not to be done as warm ups, not as just movements, but as discrete methods of developing both the body to do "aiki" as well as developing better awareness of what is going on in your body. As we are a Ki Society offshoot, these things are assessed via tests to see if we are exhibiting our four principles to unify mind and body. So the taiso are to help us develop our abilities. And I was told that the aiki jogi and aiki kengi were intended for the same purpose -- additional "exercises" if you will to develop the same things. So we test for unification of mind and body thoughout these "kata" of sorts. We strive to keep one-point, etc. as we do the movements. Our stated goal is to better develop our understanding of "aiki" within our own bodies.

So, as with the aiki taiso add a stick with it's associated movements and style and you have new movements, new things to learn. Same with adding in a wooden sword with it's own associated movements and requirements simply gives another means to test ourselves, to develop, to improve.

So FWIW I view them not as kenjutsu or sojutsu or whatever. They are solo exercises to allow us to better develop that elusive feeling of aiki. So we focus on balance, relaxation and control while trying to develop the ability to strike/cut/thrust with power. For me it is being able to deliver a powerful strike with the jo, for example, while maintaining good form. That means the strike is using the as much of the body structure as possible to deliver that strike. Not swinging with the arms, but learning to connect throughout the body and use the ground, your legs, core, and arms with each strike. And then this is done from a variety of directions, angles, and styles that forces you to learn more ways of being powerful while maintaining the principles. Currently I'm still working on loosening up those tight hips. It's like a point of power constipation for me -- everything gets clogged up in the tightness there. But that's getting better slowly...

So, for me it is about learning how to generate powerful movements.

And it is not redundant between ken and jo as each weapon is used differently. Hence different movements. Hence different ways of using the body. Hence different types of "tanren" in each case.

But I'm also the obsessive guy who beats the daylights out of a sawhorse and a large persimmon tree in my backyard daily with both ken and jo. I've busted a number of the weapons over the years.

Speaking only for myself and my understanding.

Okay... Fire away...
Tohei's system is the one system that came to mind immediately that has a core, commonly referred to and held, set of "Ki principles" if not "Aiki Principles" that could be pointed to as the "Ki Principles" being demonstrated with their "Ki Ken and Jo."

I had that in mind when asking for the rest of Aikido's Aiki Principles. If Aiki Ken is illustrating Aiki Principles those principles must be known and can be communicated easily.

I doubt the question would have been considered offensive if the answer were immediately obvious (as it is in Tohei's system) and as alluded to by those indicating that Aiki Ken points to a known set of Aiki Principles.

BTW, I won't be firing at you since you will see my Ki bullet of intent and run behind me!! Ha! Ha! Can't fool me with your waskally Aikido bunny tricks!!!

Take care,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:46 PM   #43
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Seen on the whole as opposed to individual anecdotes of select teachers:

The principles of aiki- as discussed by Ueshiba-and their relevance to the generation of aiki by sustaining in/yo is immediate, practical, mechanical and almost mundane.

The so called "principles of Aiki" by those that re-invented Aikido, seem to have no relevance within the framework of the traditional martial arts. Their weapons use is as divorced from the traditional model as their empty hand arts. From a classical perspective of in yo, and moving from center; Aikido and aiki-weapons seem distinctly modern and more akin to the understanding seen in sports.
I suspect that just as his own students did not understand his discussions and mistranslated them, they did not understand how he generated aiki his movement either, and mistranslated that as well.
Kono: Sensei why is it we cannot do what you do?
Ueshiba: Because you do not understand In yo ho.

I would say that power in and of itself is no evidence of anything meaningful. Killing with classical weapons requires little power. It is far more important to understand how to wield them powerfully...with as little power as needed. over a prolonged period of time, under stress. This is best done internally and externally by developing a bujutsu body through in yo ho.
Dan
Okay. So you know a few things about Aiki and Koryu, and you keep bringing up that Ueshiba guy . . .but can you e-mail a schedule????? THAT would really impress me!

Sincerely,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:51 PM   #44
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
I have had a couple of thoughts about why aikiken exists in the brief time I have been studying koryu swordwork and I thought I might throw them out there.

First, i think the cultural significance of the sword to Ueshiba and his early students cannot be overstated. Handling bokken and treating them as though they were live blades lent a seriousness and weight to the training, it emphasized it as a matter of life or death.

Many people say that "Aikido is based on the sword" or "Aikido is based on the movements of the sword" or something like that, as though this is literally true, that all of our techniques were at one time techniques of some sword school. Well we have established that Ueshiba had broad sword knowledge but the depth of that knowledge is questionable. I think the deal is that Aikido is based on the spirit of the sword. It is not pugilism, it is not wrestling. In a sword fight, you don't allow yourself to get cut so you can get into a more advantageous position, and you don't plan a long string of feints and blocks angling towards a "checkmate" win. I don't think that's what O Sensei wanted us to be doing.

I am not sure how correct I am, but I have this belief that swordwork was sort of ambient culturally among the early Aikido community and so it was a visual / somatic "language" that could be used to demonstrate concepts easily, and that's why O Sensei would pick up a bokken to show something. Stuff on the order of "he attacks, but you are already over here doing this" or "this spacing leaves you in danger, but over here you are safe" or "you can control your partner's balance even if you are only touching swords."

And from there we have shihan stringing together kata out of things like this. Or pulling them directly from existing ryu as some of Saito's kata are.

But along the way, some kenjutsu is dropped or emphasized differently. For example, in my experience getting people to move their bodies through the kata is first, and good, powerful cutting is somewhere down the line. You need to view the bokken as a live blade, of course, but at the end of the day you don't need to know how to cut through armor or bone.

Again, speaking from relatively brief experience here but in aikiken, it is pretty neat when you and your partner are connected and flow through the kata as one, but my koryu training at the moment places a premium on not connecting with the opponent, not giving them your rhythm or timing, because they could trap you.

I have problems with Aikido taisabaki asserting itself in sword training, because it tends to put me way too deep. The aikiken I practice calls for entering and cutting the head or neck; the kenjutsu I practice calls for keeping range and cutting wrists.

And physically connecting through the sword? My school at my level tells you that you are dead.

A lot of this may be simply due to the way I train Aikido and the way I train sword and may be different for others. My koryu is very specific about foot position, maai, and timing; my Aikido training has required me to figure out more of this myself to see what works in different situations.
Nice post. So doesn't it make sense that studying a Koryu will teach you a specific Koryu, and something about Koryu in general and, of course, that will influence one's view of . . . everything, including Aikido, to some extent. But all Koryu are NOT the same and therefore a Koryu's given influence (positive, negative, neutral) on one's Aikido will depend a whole long on whether or not a given koryu is amenable to Aiki which is what the Do is supposed to be about?

Thanks,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:07 PM   #45
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

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Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post
Hi Allen,

Those are some good questions some of which I ask myself. To this day I don't understand the point of some of the "aiki weapons" training I see being done around, with a few notable exceptions: Some teachers like to demonstrate a technique, say katatedori ikkyo or shihonage, while holding a bokken to illustrate the clean "cutting" lines of a technique. I think this is a nice visual teaching aid that helps "clean up" techniques. I've also seen shinai drills and such used to train mental aspects (sanshin, musubi, etc.). Then again I don't know if these are examples of "aiki weapons" or whether there are underlying aiki principles across these practices. Various shihan complemented their aikido training with various iai and ken training. Their philosophies and technique vary a lot, so perhaps it's my limited exposure but I honestly don't know of a common thread that links these practices to "aiki", i.e. what makes them "aiki".

Ueshiba purportedly trained in some classical forms and made things his own, "in aiki we do it this way…" So he infused some actual weapon techniques with aiki (that he already had?). Unless this was a practice for him alone, I would expect any weapons practice in aikido to actually help me train and develop aiki (among other martial aspects, if possible). Even though the applied principles might be the same I would expect aiki weapons training not to be redundant efforts of empty-hand training (weapons should pose an extra challenge, after all weapons are dangerous / great equalizers; and manifesting power through elbow, hand, ken, jo, spear… imo should start to get increasingly more challenging, not to mention weapon movements can get more complicated than empty-handed ones).

I tend to agree with Mary's and Cliff's view that the aiki ken/jo kata should be martially sound in order to adequately inform the taijutsu efforts. I would not limit martial efficacy to partner interaction (ma-ai, metsuke, etc.) but extend it to how the weapon is wielded (transfer power to the hands and out to the contact area), the role of waist vs. hips, weighting, etc., as all this translates to body arts. That said, my main issue with some of the aiki weapons I see is that the way they wield the weapons, move, cut, etc., is in direct opposition to how I understand aiki should be manifested or trained, not to mention being martially unsound (based on my experience). I can entertain the idea that "this [aiki ken/jo] is not supposed to be sword fighting", OK, but then I wonder, how is doing weapons like that going to help me get aiki?

Interestingly enough, in my brief experience with classical weapons, I find that the performance requirements of these "fighting arts" are a lot more congruent with the idea of moving from the center, balance / in-yo, and efficiency associated with aiki (I'm not saying there's "aiki" inherent in any school I'm familiar with, only that its teachings on weapons handling and movement are not in direct opposition with aiki as I understand it, in fact they bond and aiki complements it quite nicely).
Dear Gerardo,

Thank you for your sincere post. Yes I agree there is great diversity. In fact I find no universally defined definition of "Aiki" among "Aikido" Shihan. How can be begin to talk about Aiki Ken and Jo and/or other weapons and how they illustrate Aiki Principles when we can't even seem to settle on a definition and understanding of what "Aiki" is precisely? I further agree that, failing in that, how can we possibly know that we are training Aiki or its principles in our weapons work without a working definition? In fact, we might BE training Aiki and not recognize it because we don't know what Aiki is! This being the case, it isn't surprising to find individuals, some Shihan, some not, training in this or that (Koryu Weaposn, Western Weapons, etc.) and thinking, "Well this works really well, it must be Aiki." But is this true? One can't say definitely whether "what works really well" in a Koryu, for example, is in fact the Aiki that we are supposed to be developing and the principles that apply, without a well understood meaning of what Aiki is in the first place.

Or

In another teaching model one might have one do any number of things not really knowing what one is doing and then hopefully on some lucky day one might just happen to manifest Aiki while their teacher is in view and in the mood to point out that, "That right then and there, was Aiki." Of course that wouldn't help for group discussion much.

Thanks again. Hang in there and keep thinking, and training,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:36 AM   #46
Cliff Judge
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

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Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
Nice post. So doesn't it make sense that studying a Koryu will teach you a specific Koryu, and something about Koryu in general and, of course, that will influence one's view of . . . everything, including Aikido, to some extent. But all Koryu are NOT the same and therefore a Koryu's given influence (positive, negative, neutral) on one's Aikido will depend a whole long on whether or not a given koryu is amenable to Aiki which is what the Do is supposed to be about?

Thanks,
Allen
So true! Very good point.

I haven't been training in koryu for long enough to understand how it interacts with my Aikido training. I may be remiss in generalizing to all koryu training the things i experience at the beginner level in mine.

However, there is something really fascinating about how you start training koryu and its like "today's topic: how to cut a man open and watch him die."

None of this "we're going to become one with our partner and end the conflict without fighting," or "let's develop martially effective technique that aligns the heavens and the earth." These are the kind of ideas that attracted me to Aikido in the first place, and I am committed to them, but the thing is, they are daunting. I am not sure i am going to ever really know how to do these things, see the forest for the trees, recognize that I am touching an elephant, etc.

But with koryu, you find a good teacher and trust the process. You don't start out picking up a piece of wood, being told that you are supposed to consider it to be a live blade, and now you are going to work out how to win without fighting. it starts with learning how to walk up to somebody and end his life. After awhile you learn how to end conflicts before they start etc but that's where they all seem to begin.

Should we approach aikiken training with this spirit at the beginning? I think the answer should be yes, but some people can't handle it. Their eyes get real big and you can see them going "perhaps I should change my schedule so I can stay late at the dojo on open mat night instead of weapons night."
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:59 PM   #47
lbb
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Quote:
Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post

I tend to agree with Mary's and Cliff's view that the aiki ken/jo kata should be martially sound in order to adequately inform the taijutsu efforts. I would not limit martial efficacy to partner interaction (ma-ai, metsuke, etc.) but extend it to how the weapon is wielded (transfer power to the hands and out to the contact area), the role of waist vs. hips, weighting, etc., as all this translates to body arts. That said, my main issue with some of the aiki weapons I see is that the way they wield the weapons, move, cut, etc., is in direct opposition to how I understand aiki should be manifested or trained, not to mention being martially unsound (based on my experience). I can entertain the idea that "this [aiki ken/jo] is not supposed to be sword fighting", OK, but then I wonder, how is doing weapons like that going to help me get aiki?
I have no idea. I came to aikido from other martial arts, including shindo muso ryu jodo, so I will never have the "pure" aikido perspective. I think I do a pretty good day-to-day job of emptying my cup, but it's true, there are certain aikido concepts that I can only understand from my experience with weapons. Kokyu is one of these. We never used the word when I was training in shindo muso, but it seems to me that when people talk about "kokyu", they're talking about the...what to call it? tension? mutual presence? I hate to say "connection", because that gets people thinking right away about a physical connection, and in jodo, the moments of actual physical connection were mostly fleeting -- yet for the entirety of the kata, there was this thing between you and your opponent, and God help you if you screwed it up.

And "blending", that's another. We never talked about "blending". We talked about taking openings, responding to techniques, etc. I think the martial roots of aikido must have had this in mind when talking about "blending", rather than some ethereal let's-all-dance-together-in-harmony becoming one with the universe. But I don't have any idea if any of that is true.
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Old 09-29-2011, 01:21 PM   #48
grondahl
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Kokyu is one of these. We never used the word when I was training in shindo muso, but it seems to me that when people talk about "kokyu", they're talking about the...what to call it? tension? mutual presence? I hate to say "connection", because that gets people thinking right away about a physical connection, and in jodo, the moments of actual physical connection were mostly fleeting -- yet for the entirety of the kata, there was this thing between you and your opponent, and God help you if you screwed it up.
I think that would be musubi, (like in Ki musubi no tachi).

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
And "blending", that's another. We never talked about "blending". We talked about taking openings, responding to techniques, etc. I think the martial roots of aikido must have had this in mind when talking about "blending", rather than some ethereal let's-all-dance-together-in-harmony becoming one with the universe. But I don't have any idea if any of that is true.
The aikiken/aikijo I´ve learned talks about openings, responding to techniques and rather use awase as method to exploit openings.

I actually think that the version of aikiken/aikijo I learned is logically sound in it´s own universe, it just halters when compared to better stuff. But I would say more or less the same thing regarding the taijutsu.
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:45 PM   #49
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

Well now, Aiki Principles aside, this brings up a very good point. When I was taught Ken by my Aikido teacher there was no mincing about. It was clear what was going down. The Ken cut down a man . . . period. As we trained and got better it was clear what was going on as well, a man got better at enabling the Ken to cut down a man . . . period. It was technically true, pure, efficient and beautiful. At the same time it was cold, heartless, merciless and raw. The human implication was clear. And with this sincere practice one realized the very real implications for all involved, the likelihood of death for either parties and the reality of psychological trauma for both parties and their survivors. One was not excused to create some romantic fantasy about what was happening. What was happening was ugly and would have lasting implications far beyond the comprehension of participants. Here, paradoxically, is the redemptive value of such practice. At some point one must either, a) realistically face the consequences of one's decisions and actions and accept them as unavoidably necessary to achieve some purpose deemed higher or more important than the consequences of what would inevitably take place, or to avoid an even greater disaster (this requires courage to do in actuality, not a gung-ho "they told me to" attitude or blissful ignorance) or, b) work tirelessly to "win without fighting" by creating the circumstances such that such an eventuality is avoided in the first place without compromising the "greater good," or c) face the fact that one is a coward and chooses to bury their head in fantasy, ignorance and/or delusion and simply choose to pretend to be ignorant of the consequences of such a choice.

How delusional is it to swing a stick pretending it is a sword, bringing it into "play" against another human, and pretend in doing so one is practicing the "Art of Peace?" Following that logic it seems reasonable to give our children nuclear detonator keys, have them practice releasing warheads to incinerate millions, and call THAT the Art of Peace, thinking that the "blending of the key with the lock" would somehow instill in them a sense of harmony.

No! I think it is important to bravely face the consequences of our individual and collective decisions. Preferably it would be important to do this BEFORE actions are taken so that actions are taken in a thoughtful manner, but certainly it is important to do so after they are . . . or we are destined to plow into the now ignorantly and irresponsibly.

O sensei called for courage and valor along with truth, goodness and beauty. I believe he knew that courage and valor are essential qualities necessary for those that pursue the truth, goodness and beauty that are the qualities of peace.

Allen

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
So true! Very good point.

I haven't been training in koryu for long enough to understand how it interacts with my Aikido training. I may be remiss in generalizing to all koryu training the things i experience at the beginner level in mine.

However, there is something really fascinating about how you start training koryu and its like "today's topic: how to cut a man open and watch him die."

None of this "we're going to become one with our partner and end the conflict without fighting," or "let's develop martially effective technique that aligns the heavens and the earth." These are the kind of ideas that attracted me to Aikido in the first place, and I am committed to them, but the thing is, they are daunting. I am not sure i am going to ever really know how to do these things, see the forest for the trees, recognize that I am touching an elephant, etc.

But with koryu, you find a good teacher and trust the process. You don't start out picking up a piece of wood, being told that you are supposed to consider it to be a live blade, and now you are going to work out how to win without fighting. it starts with learning how to walk up to somebody and end his life. After awhile you learn how to end conflicts before they start etc but that's where they all seem to begin.

Should we approach aikiken training with this spirit at the beginning? I think the answer should be yes, but some people can't handle it. Their eyes get real big and you can see them going "perhaps I should change my schedule so I can stay late at the dojo on open mat night instead of weapons night."

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:36 PM   #50
JO
Dojo: Aikikai de l'Université Laval
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Re: Aiki Ken and Ken justu

As a member of Mitsunari Kanai's lineage, I have asked myself many of the questions covered in this thread, but with regards to iaido rather than kenjutsu. My main teachers were all students of Kanai Sensei and he is the source of most of the aikiken forms I learned. My teachers all trained in iaido with Kanai, though I have never taken it up. He touches on many of the topics touched on in this thread in this interview:

http://www.peachtreeaikikai.com/Expl...1/Default.aspx

On the uniqueness of O-sensei's sword practice:
" Haga Sensei told us that O-Sensei's sword technique was something "different", and he did not understand it well. He seemed to feel that O-sensei had something special but he didn't know what it was. "

On weapons training in aikido and training with a real sword:
" In Aikido, when you advance to higher grades, i.e. second-kyu and above, you learn Buki Tori (techniques to take away weapons). However, generally speaking, students do not actually learn how to handle weapons. Students are not taught how to attack correctly with a weapon or how to cut with a sword. So in that sense, it is good for students to experience using a real sword. If you actually practice with a real sword, and understand how to cut with a sword, you know how to attack with a sword. Unless you know how to attack with a weapon you cannot, in a real sense, do Buki Dori, especially Tachi Dori. In this context, I think there is a relationship between Iaido and Aikido."

and " It is easier to concentrate your mind when doing suburi with a real sword. In this sense, Iaido is really good. To do suburi with a real sword is very healthy for the mind. I really like it. Similarly, it is easier to concentrate your mind, or unify your body and mind, when you are holding a real sword. You concentrate your mind in the tip of the sword.

There is a difference between doing suburi with a real sword and with a bokken. When doing suburi with a real sword you become aware of the cutting line of the sword edge. This sharpness makes your concentration much more sharp."

And on the principles of aikido and how they transend specific forms:
"In the past, I viewed other Budo such as Judo, Karate or Kendo as entirely different from Aikido. And I used to feel that it was odd or not proper to do them together in the context of Aikido. That was how I used to look at them. But once I better understood the theory of Aikido, I did not feel so reluctant. For example, if I apply a Judo technique, I apply it based on the theory of Aikido. To me, it is an Aikido technique. And when I use a sword, I do not feel I am doing Kendo. Rather, I feel it is a part of Aikido and, moreover, that it is already contained in Aikido. Recently, I increasingly have felt that kind of freedom and flexibility about Aikido. So in this sense, I think you can say Aikido is the total Budo.

I hesitate to say this because I mean it in a very specific way, and this idea can be easily misunderstood. Before one really understands what Aikido is, one should never mix it together with other Budo such as Kendo or Judo. This idea has nothing to do with mixing different martial arts together.

A correct understanding of Aikido's fundamental principle, how it includes everything and transforms everything, requires great subtlety to appreciate and long and hard work to achieve."

My conclusion. Maybe I should consider doing some iaido to better understand the sword. Especially since I now have the responsibility of teaching the weapons class at my dojo. Don't know where I'd find the time though. Maybe it doesn't matter as long as I try to embody the aikido's fundamental principle. Too bad he didn't go into what he felt that was in this context.

Jonathan Olson
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