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Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts
Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts
by Niall Matthews
01-15-2013
Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

photo: Shodo by F. Yamada
Train sincerely in aikido and evil thoughts and deeds will naturally disappear. Daily training in aikido allows your inner divinity to shine brighter and brighter. Do not concern yourself with the right and wrong of others. Do not be calculating or act unnaturally. Keep your heart set on aikido, and do not criticize other teachers or traditions. Aikido embraces all and purifies everything.
Morihei Ueshiba, The Essence of Aikido

Rule 6. Please refrain from making negative comments in reference to other forms or styles of budo.
Shinbukan Kuroda Dojo Rules of Conduct

Every magical operation requires an inner force, achieved by a painful effort at purification.
Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre

Each new generation starts from scratch.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

On the one hand, everything is connected, on the other hand, it is not.
Henning Mankell, Before the Frost
Someone asked me recently about cross-training. If aikido is enough on its own or if you need to do something to complement it.

We all make our own decisions about how to train and of course you don't need to do cross-training. But once you've reached about shodan and your body probably won't try to go in two directions at once cross-training becomes very interesting. At the simplest levels judo or jujutsu helps you to understand ne waza - groundwork, koshiwaza - hip throws and shimewaza - chokes. And randori and shiai let you train against full resistance. Kenjutsu or kendo or iaido helps you to understand weapons. And how to keep your centre and to do techniques when you are holding something. Karate helps you to understand atemi strikes and kicks and how to react to a different kind of pressure. Spear and naginata and Japanese archery teach extending your centre even wider. I like the cultural cohesion of combining different Japanese martial arts but I have met people who combined aikido with Chinese or Korean or Filipino or Brazilian martial arts.

You can look outside martial arts too for cross-training. For example you can work on breathing with yoga. You can work on balance and body work with dance or skating. You can work on fitness or stamina. You can work on the spiritual side of martial arts with zazen or meditation. You can work on strategy with go or chess. You can work on aesthetics - and different meanings of balance - with Japanese calligraphy or the tea ceremony or flower arrangement. Or you can write or paint or play music. I know many martial artists who do one or two or more of these. Morihei Ueshiba the founder of aikido trained in several martial arts. He also played go and wrote poetry and did Japanese calligraphy. Bun bu ryou dou. The pen and the sword - follow both paths.

One last option. I have also been asked if it is worth cross-training separately in internal power. I see from discussions on aikiweb that some people are trying to develop this power outside the teaching model of aikido. Sometimes it's called aiki. Sometimes it's called something else. Morihei Ueshiba called the internal power in aikido kokyu ryoku - breath power. I know that because that's what he told both the teachers I trained closely with. They were his direct students. Anything that improves your budo is a good thing. And I can't judge the technical ability of people who are teaching this. But I'm not interested in negative opinions about aikido from people who don't do aikido. This concept of training separately in internal power is not really known in Japan. If you train sincerely in any martial art eventually you will develop inner power. I have met aikidoka, karateka, judoka and people who practice kobudo who have breathtaking inner power. And I have seen many more examples.

So there are lots of cross-training choices. You can tailor it to match your personality and your interests. And at different times in your life you might be ready for different choices.

You can do cross-training. Or not. It's completely a personal decision. If you want to get good at aikido there is a simple way. Do aikido. It's simple. But it's not easy.

Niall

photo: Shodo by F. Yamada

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niall matthews 2012

Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.
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Old 01-16-2013, 01:11 PM   #2
Chris Li
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Quote:
One last option. I have also been asked if it is worth cross-training separately in internal power. I see from discussions on aikiweb that some people are trying to develop this power outside the teaching model of aikido. Sometimes it's called aiki. Sometimes it's called something else. Morihei Ueshiba called the internal power in aikido kokyu ryoku - breath power. I know that because that's what he told both the teachers I trained closely with. They were his direct students. Anything that improves your budo is a good thing. And I can't judge the technical ability of people who are teaching this. But I'm not interested in negative opinions about aikido from people who don't do aikido. This concept of training separately in internal power is not really known in Japan. If you train sincerely in any martial art eventually you will develop inner power. I have met aikidoka, karateka, judoka and people who practice kobudo who have breathtaking inner power. And I have seen many more examples.
I can't speak for everybody who talks about this stuff, but Dan (for example) makes a very clear distinction between Aiki and Internal Power.

Morihei Ueshiba, of course, used both terms, and also appears to have made a distinction between the two.

Kokyu-ryoku as a term iteself has a long history in the martial arts, and the same term is used in Chinese internal martial arts, with the same meanings as Ueshiba, the connections to Internal Power. I touched on that slightly in this post.

In the diagram in this article you can see that the Sagawa line of Daito-ryu also uses the same term "kokyu-ryoku", which suggests strongly that Ueshiba's source for that term is Sokaku Takeda. Yoshimaru Keisetsu, at least, equates it directly to Chinese Internal Power,

If Kokyu-ryoku is Internal Power, and Ueshiba trained in Kokyu-ryoku, then I'm not sure how training in Internal Power qualifies as cross training, or in training something "outside" of Aikido.

As to negative comments - well, I can't count the number of times that I've heard direct students of O-Sensei make negative comments about other direct students of O-Sensei in open rooms, so those kind of things certainly aren't limited to those "outside" the Aikido community. IMO, in any case, deciding who, exactly, is "outside" the Aikido community can be kind of problematic.

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-16-2013, 04:12 PM   #3
Brett Charvat
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

"This concept of training separately in internal power is not really known in Japan."

--Really? When I lived there I trained at two separate and unrelated aikidojo, and both consisted of a majority of students who were chiefly interested in waza training and a small but dedicated minority who were aware of and actively seeking the "stuff" (kokyu ryoku, IP, inner muscle, whatever you want to call it) through extracurricular training methods. Kind of like.....how it seems to be here in the states.

"If you train sincerely in any martial art eventually you will develop inner power."

--I disagree with this, too. If it were true, why do I keep hearing so many high level practicioners from aikido (and other arts, to be sure) claim that it can't be developed just by doing the typical training regimen? It's not largely new folks who are seeking out these training opportunities and methods; it's typically people with decades of experience in their chosen art. They can't all be deluded fools, can they?
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:32 PM   #4
Chris Li
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Quote:
Brett Charvat wrote: View Post
"This concept of training separately in internal power is not really known in Japan."

--Really? When I lived there I trained at two separate and unrelated aikidojo, and both consisted of a majority of students who were chiefly interested in waza training and a small but dedicated minority who were aware of and actively seeking the "stuff" (kokyu ryoku, IP, inner muscle, whatever you want to call it) through extracurricular training methods. Kind of like.....how it seems to be here in the states.
True - Minoru Akuzawa is based out of Japan and has whole set of exercises for training the body independent of the waza.

Going back further, Tohei has a whole system for it in the Ki Society, complete with a separate ranking structure.

Of course there are a number of Daito-ryu and Aikido instructors who have had solo training regimens for building the Budo body seperate from waza, and that goes back quite a long time, although it wasn't always public.

Sagawa talks a little about it in this article.

Quote:
Brett Charvat wrote: View Post
"If you train sincerely in any martial art eventually you will develop inner power."

--I disagree with this, too. If it were true, why do I keep hearing so many high level practicioners from aikido (and other arts, to be sure) claim that it can't be developed just by doing the typical training regimen? It's not largely new folks who are seeking out these training opportunities and methods; it's typically people with decades of experience in their chosen art. They can't all be deluded fools, can they?
Yes, that's right, we're deluded fools. Nothing more to see here, please move along...

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-16-2013, 06:48 PM   #5
Walker
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
True - Minoru Akuzawa is based out of Japan and has whole set of exercises for training the body independent of the waza.

Going back further, Tohei has a whole system for it in the Ki Society, complete with a separate ranking structure.

Of course there are a number of Daito-ryu and Aikido instructors who have had solo training regimens for building the Budo body seperate from waza, and that goes back quite a long time, although it wasn't always public.

Sagawa talks a little about it in this article.
And don't forget all of the post war deshi tramping over to Tempu Nakamura's Tempukai.

-Doug Walker
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Old 01-16-2013, 06:53 PM   #6
Chris Li
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

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Doug Walker wrote: View Post
And don't forget all of the post war deshi tramping over to Tempu Nakamura's Tempukai.
Forgot that one - also, the Ichikukai...

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-22-2013, 09:33 AM   #7
niall
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Thanks for the comments.

Chris, I have a few questions if that's OK.

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Morihei Ueshiba, of course, used both terms [aiki and internal power], and also appears to have made a distinction between the two.
1. Chris, when you said Morihei Ueshiba used the term internal power what phrase did you mean?

2. Do you have any examples of Morihei Ueshiba using the word aiki when it can unequivocally mean internal power and only internal power? Rather than aikido or aiki arts or something more general. Perhaps there are layers of meanings in some of Morihei Ueshiba's teachings but there are some doka that that are large in scale. Like this one from The Essence of Aikido.

Quote:
the great universal
path of aiki
illuminates
all people
opening the world (to the truth)
3. I don't know anything about the Aunkai but Minoru Akuzawa seems to have had a background in Chinese martial arts and started teaching this internal work relatively recently. The Tempukai and the Ichikukai are interesting examples of serious cross-training. But I don't know if that kind of ascetic training develops the kind of internal power you refer to.

Most aikidoka who have trained with Tada Sensei would probably consider that he shows internal power. I certainly do. What is your take on that? Do you think he does? Great interview with Tada Sensei on your blog by the way, thanks.

4. So I can see more clearly what you mean when you talk about internal power can I ask you what you think about Takeshi Yamashima? I saw that you invited him to teach a seminar in Hawaii. Do you think he has internal power? So you can see what I mean when I talk about internal power again I certainly do.

Thanks.

Niall

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


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Old 01-22-2013, 09:58 AM   #8
Chris Li
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
1. Chris, when you said Morihei Ueshiba used the term internal power what phrase did you mean?
Sorry - "kokyu-ryoku".

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
2. Do you have any examples of Morihei Ueshiba using the word aiki when it can unequivocally mean internal power and only internal power? Rather than aikido or aiki arts or something more general. Perhaps there are layers of meanings in some of Morihei Ueshiba's teachings but there are some doka that that are large in scale. Like this one from The Essence of Aikido.
I don't think that anybody's ever said that "aiki" means internal power - that is only internal power. Of course, Ueshiba often gets larger in scale when talking about "aiki" - it's kind of a natural outgrowth of the type of training, and it was quite common in many Chinese arts as well.

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
3. I don't know anything about the Aunkai but Minoru Akuzawa seems to have had a background in Chinese martial arts and started teaching this internal work relatively recently. The Tempukai and the Ichikukai are interesting examples of serious cross-training. But I don't know if that kind of ascetic training develops the kind of internal power you refer to.
I don't know either, but I think that the reason that many of the post-war students went to those things was for that reason.

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
Most aikidoka who have trained with Tada Sensei would probably consider that he shows internal power. I certainly do. What is your take on that? Do you think he does? Great interview with Tada Sensei on your blog by the way, thanks.
It's been too many years since I've seen him to say - but every major student of the Founder seemed to come away with something, so my guess would be yes - but it's not really a binary condition.

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
4. So I can see more clearly what you mean when you talk about internal power can I ask you what you think about Takeshi Yamashima? I saw that you invited him to teach a seminar in Hawaii. Do you think he has internal power? So you can see what I mean when I talk about internal power again I certainly do.
I think that he has certain very good things (again, it's not a binary condition) with some limitations. He does struggle with explaining what he did get, and I think that's symptomatic of how things came down through Ueshiba.

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-22-2013, 12:10 PM   #9
asiawide
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

I'm very sure Tada shihan's solo drills are for 'something' that can't be earned during daily waza practices. If not, there is no reason to do that, isn't it? I guess the 'something' is meant to build up 'something' then. Similary some other aikikai teachers also have it but such drills aren't in aikikai curriculum. Apparently the teachers are doing something else besides aikido and it's not like 'doing 2 separate things at the same time' However, if you ask the teachers, 'what's this?' or 'how do you do that?' Then probably 99% they will say, 'do this everyday' Please do some solo exercises before joining Yamshima shihan's seminar. You feel something different.
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Old 01-22-2013, 12:33 PM   #10
Chris Li
 
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Quote:
Jaemin Yu wrote: View Post
Please do some solo exercises before joining Yamshima shihan's seminar. You feel something different.
That's true, I've been training with Yamashima for more than 10 years, but it's the Internal work that has helped me decipher the things he does. I wish that I'd been doing these things while Yamaguchi was alive, I always found his classes kind of indecipherable.

Best,

Chris

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Old 01-22-2013, 10:44 PM   #11
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Re: Aikido, Cross-training, Aiki and the Arts

Talk to Gleason Sensei about that when you have the chance, will you? Wish I could be a fly on the wall.

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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