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  #26  
Old 01-15-2013, 09:40 AM
Ellis Amdur
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A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

This essay was originally published, in slightly different form, on Stanley Pranin's Aikido Journal http://blog.aikidojournal.com/ website. He has kindly allowed me to republish it on the Aikiweb site.

...

Last edited by akiy : 01-22-2013 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 03-15-2013, 12:51 PM   #25
Shonin
 
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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I find your comments very interesting, even if I don't totally agree with all of them.

Just out of interest, have you taken ukemi from either Seigo Yamaguchi or Gozo Shioda? I didn't meet the latter, but I did have experience receiving Yamaguchi Sensei and what I felt from him I would classify according to my current understanding as "internal" power. One illustration of this is that when he applied nikyo to me I didn't feel at all what I expected: I felt a surge of something (let's call it "power") and lost all my strength. No-one else has given me this feeling. I have heard first-hand accounts of Shioda Sensei which suggest that his aikido too had this effect. Perhaps we simply disagree on what is "internal" and what is "external".

What I do agree with is what you say about "body organisation". No aikido teacher I have come across has ever taught this explicitly, and any skill I have in this comes from my yoga training. Many aikido teachers talk about "correct" posture, and some (including Hiroshi Ikeda and my own teacher, Minoru Kanetsuka) have certainly practised and demonstrated postural exercises that I understand to be aimed at developing internal structural organisation, but none has in my experience taught these coherently, explaining what their purposes and effects are. Nor have I seen an aikido teacher talk about the "frame" or the function of skeletal alignment.

Alex
Alex, thank you for your kind words. One of the great sorrows of my martial arts life is that I never got to train with Yamaguchi Sensei. I have only seen films of him and he looked exquisite. (Also, if I understood Gleason Sensei correctly, he studied Itto ryu)

As alays there is the epistemological problem in that there are a lot of people I've never worked with. But in fifty years there are a lot I have. I think relevant to this discussion is that my teacher for some years, Saotome Sensei first began aikido under Yamaguchi Sensie (or so I believe). I would unhesitatingly extend my comments to Saotome Sensei. He can be exquisite, but I don't think he does techniques in the internal camp. Ikeda sensei is doing some serious investigations into the internal, but, I am pretty sure thay are am import, and I'm pretty sure where they came from.

Part of the problem is that there is an andragogy for teaching the internal, and it is found in Xing Yi, Ba Gua, or Tai Chi. It is every difficult to bring in concepts that can be "spot" applied into another martial art. Perhaps not impossible, but difficult. In my opinion, many of the cannon of aikido techniques have postures that get in the way, so one would have to change kihon to a large extent. Ikeda Sensei has not done that yet, but without someone doing it I'm not sure the grafting of the internal onto aikido will be successful. Another way of stating this is to ask the question, if you want the internal so badly, why study it second hand.

Of course there are those that claim it was always there and they they are rediscovering it. Who am I do say, and I intentionally restricted my comments to an extrapolation from those people I have worked with. Again, there are a lot of people I haven't worked with, but there are a lot I have, and just because someone does something you don't understand doesn't necessary imply one technology or the other.

In any case, regardless of whether this sort of investigation is an import or a native son, it is all healthy and good and probably rises all boats. Again, thank you for your kind worlds

Bob Galeone.
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Old 03-15-2013, 02:40 PM   #26
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Robert Galeone wrote: View Post
I'm not sure the grafting of the internal onto aikido will be successful. Another way of stating this is to ask the question, if you want the internal so badly, why study it second hand.
why would internal need to be grafted onto aikido or any art for that matter? just because one studied the so-called internal arts such as hsing-i or taichi and so on, doesn't guarantee that one actually learned internal stuffs. of the internal folks that i encountered that can actually demonstrate and explain their wares, everyone of them said internal stuffs are the foundational body work that has nothing to do with any arts. once you trained your body for internal stuffs, you can express it in any art you so choose, be it karate, kungfu, judo, aikido, joe-bob-fu, whatever. grafting is for external stuffs. internal just is. on the other hand, the other one, the one that's not holding the donut and the coffee, i have not been around the blocs as many times as you folks, so i'd just go back into my corner and enjoy the aforementioned donut and coffee.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 03-15-2013, 04:16 PM   #27
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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why would internal need to be grafted onto aikido or any art for that matter? just because one studied the so-called internal arts such as hsing-i or taichi and so on, doesn't guarantee that one actually learned internal stuffs. of the internal folks that i encountered that can actually demonstrate and explain their wares, everyone of them said internal stuffs are the foundational body work that has nothing to do with any arts. once you trained your body for internal stuffs, you can express it in any art you so choose, be it karate, kungfu, judo, aikido, joe-bob-fu, whatever. grafting is for external stuffs. internal just is. on the other hand, the other one, the one that's not holding the donut and the coffee, i have not been around the blocs as many times as you folks, so i'd just go back into my corner and enjoy the aforementioned donut and coffee.
Sir, I couldn't agree more, but within the context of the conversation it is being assumed that there is a grammar to be learned, and that someone, somewhere, can both demonstrate and teach it.

And while it is true that once a skill is learned it can be applied in any context, I remain wedded to my opinion that there are some skills that are foreign to aikido, just as there are some foreign to any other art. I think there are historical reasons for this, and that this in no wise degrades aikido. However for some reason to suggest that aikido is an external art offends so many. To all those I offer my sincere apology, not my capitulation, but certainly my apology.

Bob Galeone.
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Old 03-15-2013, 05:30 PM   #28
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Robert Galeone wrote: View Post
And while it is true that once a skill is learned it can be applied in any context, I remain wedded to my opinion that there are some skills that are foreign to aikido, just as there are some foreign to any other art. I think there are historical reasons for this, and that this in no wise degrades aikido. However for some reason to suggest that aikido is an external art offends so many. To all those I offer my sincere apology, not my capitulation, but certainly my apology.
would be interested to know what those skills are. just curious.

i am not the least offended, since i tend to agree with the assessment. telling aikido folks that they aren't doing aiki is bad juju.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 03-15-2013, 07:56 PM   #29
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Good to hear, but you're having the conversation in public. I'd love to know what brings you to that opinion, and why the arguments in HIPS don't convince you. And since I know Bill Sensei doesn't think the aiki skills are "grafted on" it would be interesting to hear more background from you on that as well.

"Valediction"?

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 03-15-2013, 08:32 PM   #30
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

I used to also be resigned to the notion that aikido is, at best, sublime external stuff as well. Then a few people who live in and have visited Hawaii convinced me unequivocably to believe otherwise.

Mert
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Old 03-16-2013, 08:52 AM   #31
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Good to hear, but you're having the conversation in public. I'd love to know what brings you to that opinion, and why the arguments in HIPS don't convince you. And since I know Bill Sensei doesn't think the aiki skills are "grafted on" it would be interesting to hear more background from you on that as well.

"Valediction"?
Hugh, Every time I have this discussion there is always the implicit assumption that I am somehow trying to say something disparaging about aikido. If that were so, then I would not have spend most of my adult life in the study of it. Nor am I saying that aikido at its best is not quite adequate to whatever task it was designed for.

Rather, what I have discussed with Ellis many time is that there is a specific grammar to the internal as it is understood among Chinese martial artists. (even if, as Ellis has pointed out, many, if not most, find it elusive.) Moreover, it is a grammar which is parsed to an extraordinary degree of complexity. It is taught by means of body shape, and visualizations, and has specific markers and specific concepts. Either one understand what I am saying or they don't, and there is a limit to what can be communicated with the written word, especially in a context such as this.

Now, before I continue, Ellis is a great and good friend of mine, an extraordinary historian, and has forgotten more about koyru than I will ever know. But that having been said I think that the words "internal", and "aiki" are sometimes used equivocally, and that in common parlance they have come to be synonymous with "something which looks fantastic and which I can't readily reproduce". Even Ellis and I, both practitioners of Chinese martial arts, disagree on the use of the word. I moreover think "internal power" is a misnomer, and that "internal skill" is more to the point.

I think the sorites goes something like this:

Since we are all born with the raw material of external skills to some extent, speed, timing, and strength, and since even people who were uchi deshi after dint of long practice cannot come close to the level of Ueshiba, O' Sensei must have had internal skills, whatever they are. And so Ellis began a long journey of excellent research, which brought to light many many facts about Ueshiba's personal history, who he trained with, and how he trained. All of that was excellent. But I think that the assumption that Ueshiba had internal power is an assumption made a priori especially since none, or at least, very few of his heirs can demonstrate simlar skill. After all, it was that very anomaly that I believe was the genesis of the book.

Again, it must look like I am somehow saying that those who practice an art which is explicitly internal (like say tai chi, or ba qua or such) are on a BETTER path than those stuck with old external aikido. I am most assuredly NOT saying that. I am saying that just because Ueshiba did some phenomenal things, it is a little uncritical to start saying he had internal power until we agree on how we use the word.

Now I suspect that we would all agree that he had "aiki". My former longtime teacher claimed he had it as well. And I will argue quite ipsit dixit that, while his technique was excellent, and for a while irreproducable by many, there is nothing "internal" about his technique. As to whether or not he had "aiki", I will take him at his word. But what he has ever done has almost no overlap with what my taiji teacher is doing.

David Hall, in his excellent new book points out that "aiki" is variously defined by who you solicit a definition from. I for one, have no idea how to define it. I am rather in Kuroiwa Sensei's camp on that one. He was a realist first, and a philosopher second. Not bad company to be in.

So okay, why do I not think one should not confuse what happens in aikido, even very, very good aikido with how "internal skills are usually understood in China (and again, I agree that simply being familiar with the denotation of the word does not mean one grasps the "internal")

What the words external and internal denote, as was communicated to me:

External skills are our birthright. We are all born with them to some degree. The external uses speed, timing, and strength (the mix varies according to art and the skill of the practitioner.

The internal needs to be learned. And rather than speed, the internal uses relaxation, in place of timing, the internal uses perception, and in place of strength, the internal uses whole body movement (and what I mean by that is probably not what you mean by that, and does not involve the tanden specifically, or at least not as usually explained in aikido practice.)

Two further aspects of the internal (again as I understand it) are visualization (there's no other way to get around the inside of the body) and (this is the big one) a lack of being double weighted. The latter does not refer to how much weight in on each foot, but rather a failure to distinguish between where the intention and where the mind is when attacked (a distinction between shun and yi), and not "fighting where there is trouble."Let me state unequivocally that I have not, in 50 years met a teacher, many of whom were exquisitely skillful, who was not double weighted when doing a technique.

I correct that, there have been three, one is just beginning his investigation of the internal, one is not specifically an aikido teacher and draws explicitly from his years in Chen tai chi, and one has, in addition to being an aikido teacher long experience in both Chinese martial arts, and classical kenjutsu.

Again, that is not to say I've never met teachers who had aikido skills far superior to mine, just that in my opinion they were not doing internal martial arts. They may have been doing "aiki", I have no idea.

This is difficult to put into words, and I suspect it is equally difficult to comprehend. The issue is a very intricate and subtle one, and the level to which the connection with the attacker is parsed is complex beyond anything, I at least, have found in Aikido.

Also the two lists are not mutually exclusive and there is a lot of bleed over, again depending on the skill of the practitioner. (I think I see a lot of crossover in classical weapons), and I know readers are already saying to themselves " he full of sh!!t my teacher does that, and that. He has internal power." Well, if he or she is your teacher, then you know best. My experience is that if an art is internal by design, then it ought not to be so hard to find people who demonstrate the particular technology. Or to put that differently, while many, perhaps most of the people who practice what Ellis would call "a non watered down Chinese art" cannot demonstrate those skills, it is still not so rare to find practitioners who can. That situation does seem to obtain in the aikido world.

This is already a long reply, and it would take another very long one to pursue another idea which I mentioned in my original post. I think that what Ueshiba had, and here I think Ellis, and I know Toby Threadgill would agree, was discovered/rediscovered/cultivated by dint of classical weapons training, in particular the spear. (There are numerous reasons why the spear is called the "king of weapons"). I also think that is where the disconnect was. While Ueshiba did have classical weapon training, most of his deshi did not. Not having the classical weapon training to "self check" the shapes (and remember I said some shapes discourage double weighting, and some encourage it) practitioners used what they had -- strength, timing, and speed. Those aren't bad things, just different things.

Despite the amount of words put into this discussion, I really have no dog in this fight. As a martial arts teacher I have a vested interest using training concepts critically to better instruct. I have no interest whatsoever in proving me right and you wrong.

A further complication using two excellent teachers known to both of us. If students wish to study the excellent training concepts being propagated by your teacher and by Ikeda Sensei they should by all means do so. If it helps to call those skills "internal" then by all means do so. It has just been my own teaching experience that conflating the words internal and aiki can lead to a great deal of confusion, since the one has a very specific connotation among the Chinese martial arts, and the other a rather nebulous one in the Japanese martial arts.

Without a proper andragogy, both Bill and Hiroshi are going to find it difficult to communicate what they have learned/discovered. Lest I offend, I do NOT mean thay they are not excellent teachers. They most assuredly are, just that regardless of how prototypical of aiki what they are doing is, I feel that aikido is the wrong context in which to communcate it. I say that because in my experience as a teacher, once someone puts on a hakama, they are going to move according to old habits and according to an aesthetic which most times is going to get in the way of what is trying to be taught. This may not be your experience, but it has been mine. They are expecting to use the skills and shapes they are familiar with, to do what those teachers are demonstrating. That approach, while widespread, is pretty much doomed to failure.

One does not know latin, simply because on knows a romance language. That is not to say that there are some things you can say in latin, that you can't say in Italian, just that they are said differently, and one should not confuse the two. I have tried my best to articulate how I use the word and why I wrote what I wrote. If that has been helpful, then I am glad, if it has not been so, then I was unsuccessful and apologize for the confusion

Thank you for your interest.

bob galeone

Last edited by Shonin : 03-16-2013 at 09:03 AM.

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Old 03-16-2013, 11:28 AM   #32
Chris Li
 
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Hi Bob,

A great post - but too much for me to pick through in my tiny response. I think that most of those points have been argued about repeatedly over the last ten years here and elsewhere.

A few random thoughts...

I think that the grammar does exist, and that is beginning to come out, both through analysis of Ueshiba's writings and closer examination of Daito-ryu practices.

Many of the people coming to this conclusion are also coming out of Chinese arts.

Stan Pranin spent quite a few years amassing a body of evidence supporting the argument that most modern Aikido is not the same as what Ueshiba was doing and explaining why. His conclusions are not all the same as mine are in some particulars - but the bulk of his work supports that basic argument.

In any case, I think that the time has passed where arguing about the existance or non-existance of this stuff on the internet is fruitful, which is why I'm not really commenting on it much these days in this kind of forum. The people are out there and the work is being done for those who are interested.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-16-2013, 01:25 PM   #33
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Hi Bob,

A great post - but too much for me to pick through in my tiny response. I think that most of those points have been argued about repeatedly over the last ten years here and elsewhere.

A few random thoughts...

I think that the grammar does exist, and that is beginning to come out, both through analysis of Ueshiba's writings and closer examination of Daito-ryu practices.

Many of the people coming to this conclusion are also coming out of Chinese arts.

Stan Pranin spent quite a few years amassing a body of evidence supporting the argument that most modern Aikido is not the same as what Ueshiba was doing and explaining why. His conclusions are not all the same as mine are in some particulars - but the bulk of his work supports that basic argument.

In any case, I think that the time has passed where arguing about the existance or non-existance of this stuff on the internet is fruitful, which is why I'm not really commenting on it much these days in this kind of forum. The people are out there and the work is being done for those who are interested.

Best,

Chris
Chris, I think you're absolutely correct, and a rather inadvertant (on my part) comment to Ellis during a random log on, led to much more controversy than I am comfortable with. However, what may have been worked out online, I see somewhat more inchoate on the dojo level. Certainly within my former organization. But again, your point is well taken. I think all the research is bearing fruit and that, as I said, rises all boats.

best

Last edited by Shonin : 03-16-2013 at 01:28 PM.

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Old 03-16-2013, 02:09 PM   #34
Cliff Judge
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Bob, thanks for noting those thoughts on the permanent record. I have been trying to put 95% of that into words for some time now but have only managed a few vaguely coherent posts. So in that vein...

I keep meaning to write up a long post about the parable Neko no Myojutsu which I read a couple of times over the winter in various translations. Humor me while I attempt to share some thoughts on the striped cat.

For those of you for whom bells do not immediately go off that is "The Mysterious / Sublime / Supernatural technique of the Cat" written in the 1720s by a swordsman named Issai Chozan. Karl Friday's translation is probably the best, followed by Wilson's. A swordsman has an unusually powerful rat in his house, and he employs a succession of cats to rid himself of it. The rat defeats four of them, and then an old, frumpy-looking grey cat simply walks up to the rat and removes it. The other cats and the swordsman then ask the old cat to explain how he accomplished this feat. To each the old grey cat imparts a bit of Taoist wisdom, appropriate to their level.

What struck me when I first re-read this was how the cat that used internal power, the striped cat, was only the second of three. The first cat was technique, the second was internal power, and the third was what I would actually call aiki, though it may be better to call it kage.

The striped cat straight-up says he uses breathing exercises to fill his tanden with ki, he says he stands between heaven and earth, he can knock rats out of the rafters with ki. He says he follows whatever his opponents are doing and spontaneous technique just comes out.

The old cat's response is basically that for all of this training, the problem is basically that the striped cat views it as "power" in the first place. As long as he orients to ki as a type of power to be used, he is always in opposition with everyone else. No matter how powerful you become, eventually you will be defeated by someone who has no care for their life.

The solution is something about cultivating and moving in accordance with "true ki" and my boiled-down take on that is that it is an issue more of clarity of vision and awareness.

I apologize for rambling, but really my main point is, look, swordsmen at the turn of the 18th century regarded this stuff as only the second of the three levels of budo before you are actually good. The first level is superior technique and excellent physical prowess, the second is internal power. You've got two more leaps to make (third learning to mirror and surround the ki of your opponent, then finally learning to move with the ki of the universe) before you can defeat a strong cornered rat. Even the old cat, who moves in accord with the universal ki, admits that there is an even GREATER cat a few villages over. THAT cat just sits around and the rats evict themselves - he does everything by doing nothing.

But most humans go crazy for the striped cat stuff, it is something amazing that you can feel. You can make a spectacle out of it. I saw a clip of Ikeda Sensei - I do not have a link - taken a few years ago, apparently for a Discovery Channel show. These physicists put Sensei and an uke on scales and measured there weight. Then they took readings while Sensei had broken his uke's balance and was dynamically preventing him from regaining it. Sensei was lighter and his uke was heavier. And there was an additional 8 or so pounds that were unaccounted for!

And yet, some viewing the clip said, this really doesn't measure what is really going on here. Because looking at the event simply in terms of exchange of force obviously paints a limited picture of it.

As a closing disclaimer I do believe internal power is a thing, and I am doing my research on it. I just worry that people are going to burn down the forest for the trees by obsessing over it.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 03-16-2013 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 03-16-2013, 03:06 PM   #35
Alex Megann
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Robert Galeone wrote: View Post
Part of the problem is that there is an andragogy for teaching the internal, and it is found in Xing Yi, Ba Gua, or Tai Chi. It is every difficult to bring in concepts that can be "spot" applied into another martial art. Perhaps not impossible, but difficult. In my opinion, many of the cannon of aikido techniques have postures that get in the way, so one would have to change kihon to a large extent. Ikeda Sensei has not done that yet, but without someone doing it I'm not sure the grafting of the internal onto aikido will be successful. Another way of stating this is to ask the question, if you want the internal so badly, why study it second hand.
I agree that grafting internal training from other arts with different patterns of movement from those in aikido might be difficult. For instance the Chinese styles you mention (Bagua especially) use a lot of large-scale twisting movement which is not typically used in aikido.

I'm not convinced, though, that any reintroduction of internal training into aikido necessarily has to be to be an "import". What do you think of what Dan Harden, who I believe has a background in Daito Ryu, is teaching to (among others) senior aikido teachers?

Alex
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Old 03-16-2013, 04:43 PM   #36
Mert Gambito
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Neko no Myojutsu
For what it's worth, I just read an English translation of that story, and the cats could be metaphors for students' various approaches to, or reflections of students' respective levels of ability within the IP/IS training models, as well as within internal arts.

Conscious thought is depicted in the story as a detriment to attaining supreme skill. Yet, when students are learning IP/IS, the mind is so poor at "internally" motivating the body that, ironically, the body, e.g. the hands, is externally used as a crutch to help lead the mind (such as in forms, and to assist with opening the body in standing exercises). The ultimate goal isn't to be "centered on technique" (the black cat), "fac[ing] down opponents with overwhelming ki" (the striped cat [who states that his techniques are unconscious, but then is admonished by the Old Cat that his techniques are conscious]), or "harmonizing with everything" (the other old cat). So, the paradox is that there is much conscious training involved to reach a point that the body is sufficiently transformed for the cat/student to negate an attack or thwart a defense upon contact, while having the luxury of mushin as a de facto state.

As for the cat that sleeps all day: perhaps the cat keeps a .45 hidden under his bedding, and the local rats are smart enough to steer a wide berth.

Mert
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Old 03-16-2013, 08:53 PM   #37
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Mert Gambito wrote: View Post
For what it's worth, I just read an English translation of that story, and the cats could be metaphors for students' various approaches to, or reflections of students' respective levels of ability within the IP/IS training models, as well as within internal arts.

Conscious thought is depicted in the story as a detriment to attaining supreme skill. Yet, when students are learning IP/IS, the mind is so poor at "internally" motivating the body that, ironically, the body, e.g. the hands, is externally used as a crutch to help lead the mind (such as in forms, and to assist with opening the body in standing exercises). The ultimate goal isn't to be "centered on technique" (the black cat), "fac[ing] down opponents with overwhelming ki" (the striped cat [who states that his techniques are unconscious, but then is admonished by the Old Cat that his techniques are conscious]), or "harmonizing with everything" (the other old cat). So, the paradox is that there is much conscious training involved to reach a point that the body is sufficiently transformed for the cat/student to negate an attack or thwart a defense upon contact, while having the luxury of mushin as a de facto state.

As for the cat that sleeps all day: perhaps the cat keeps a .45 hidden under his bedding, and the local rats are smart enough to steer a wide berth.
Right, there is much conscious training involved to reach the level of the striped cat. This conscious effort is, not really a detriment, but a cul de sac on the road of attaining supreme skill.

The notions of negating an attack or thwarting a defense are representative of striped cat thinking! If that's how you view the world then everything is about attacks and defenses. Swordsmen of the early 1700's were apparently wary of thinking this was true skill.
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Old 03-16-2013, 09:09 PM   #38
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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I think the sorites goes something like this:

Since we are all born with the raw material of external skills to some extent, speed, timing, and strength, and since even people who were uchi deshi after dint of long practice cannot come close to the level of Ueshiba, O' Sensei must have had internal skills, whatever they are. And so Ellis began a long journey of excellent research, which brought to light many many facts about Ueshiba's personal history, who he trained with, and how he trained. All of that was excellent. But I think that the assumption that Ueshiba had internal power is an assumption made a priori especially since none, or at least, very few of his heirs can demonstrate simlar skill. After all, it was that very anomaly that I believe was the genesis of the book.

bob galeone
Hello Mr Galeone,

I think that even constructing the sorites, if it is indeed that kind of paradox, is a major problem.

Though I have spent many hours discussing these issues with Ellis, I do not normally participate in these AikiWeb discussions, for they remind me too much of the fruitless (and endless) theological arguments I had before I began aikido. It is like a group of true believers arguing with atheists and agnostics that Christ definitely had internal (and also external, for all we know) power, skills, whatever, based on their interpretations of the gospel texts and whatever other oral or written evidence is available. Of course, faith is required, but this needs to be supplemented by reliable' translations of the texts (definitely not made by the agnostics or atheists). His disciples could not do what Christ did, so he must have had a different order of skills etc., but it is not open to beg the question by stating that Christ was different anyway.

IHTBF is not much use either (and I think this is one major issue with HIPS) because of the paradox that experiences both are and are not self-validating in an important way. So detailed discussions about intent, and how it guides whatever it is supposed to guide, are not convincing.

Oh and I have spent time with Yamaguchi S and been uke on many occasions. I once asked him if he knew what he was doing and he said no, not entirely. I also asked Tada S whether he thought Ueshiba had 内力. He answered that he thought he did, but did not teach it. Of course, if Ueshiba had IP / IS and none of his disciples did (the qualitative difference), or if their IP / IS skills were far less than his (the quantitative difference), the answers of both Yamaguchi and Tada might well lose all or some of their validity.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-16-2013, 10:30 PM   #39
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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The old cat's response is basically that for all of this training, the problem is basically that the striped cat views it as "power" in the first place. As long as he orients to ki as a type of power to be used, he is always in opposition with everyone else. No matter how powerful you become, eventually you will be defeated by someone who has no care for their life.

(deleted middle section)

As a closing disclaimer I do believe internal power is a thing, and I am doing my research on it. I just worry that people are going to burn down the forest for the trees by obsessing over it.
I'm not sure that the story is actually about the kind of IP we're talking about. In any case, there are plenty of folks who do not see IP as "power in opposition with everything else" - I'd even go so far as to say that what we're doing specifically cautions against that attitude.

Also, nobody's burning anything down that I know of, in spite of the conspiracy scares that get brought up now and then.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-16-2013, 10:43 PM   #40
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Right, there is much conscious training involved to reach the level of the striped cat. This conscious effort is, not really a detriment, but a cul de sac on the road of attaining supreme skill.

The notions of negating an attack or thwarting a defense are representative of striped cat thinking! If that's how you view the world then everything is about attacks and defenses. Swordsmen of the early 1700's were apparently wary of thinking this was true skill.
Have to describe it so people understand what's going on, but the point is that it becomes an inherent quality and skill without the need to summon, conjur or consider in order to execute. Water flows under foot to erode another's purchase on the ground, but the water doesn't consciously make such a choice: it simply does what its nature dictates.

But heck, outside of parable, the vast majority of martial artists should consider it an uncommon triumph to do what any of those cats could do. The mice, whether a match for a given cat or not, always fought for their lives: they did not offer their paws to be grabbed in the spirit of collusive harmony.

Last edited by Mert Gambito : 03-16-2013 at 10:50 PM.

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Old 03-17-2013, 06:21 AM   #41
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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But heck, outside of parable, the vast majority of martial artists should consider it an uncommon triumph to do what any of those cats could do. The mice, whether a match for a given cat or not, always fought for their lives: they did not offer their paws to be grabbed in the spirit of collusive harmony.
That is a very good point. Thanks.
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Old 03-17-2013, 07:51 AM   #42
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Though I have spent many hours discussing these issues with Ellis, I do not normally participate in these AikiWeb discussions, for they remind me too much of the fruitless (and endless) theological arguments I had before I began aikido.
Recently a friend I train with commented to me that I don't seem to pop up anymore in these discussions. As we talked the best analogy I could come up with was remembering back to a philosophy of religion class I took years ago where we read snippets (and snippets only, thankfully) of one of T. Aquinas' works. The man obsessed over every detail of the nature of resurrection doctrine, the nature of angels, and so forth. So there I sat dumbstruck as a few of my classmates argued about these details. It just struck me that they're just going to have to wait for the resurrection (if it comes) because for the life of me I don't see how they're going to have a coherent or useful conversation on most of that until then.

For those arguing details of the IP/IS stuff, well, it seems about as fruitful of a discussion. You are convinced or you're not. So you train or you don't. It was what Ueshiba was doing or it wasn't. So then the question becomes whether I want to do whatever it is. And it comes down to whether I want to devote my time to it because it strikes me that I am in no position to argue some of those points. Too many unknowns. So I'll let those with better understandings of anatomy and movement as well as those with proper translation skills and experience (yours truly, Chris Li, etc.) feed us more first (thank you!). If they can. If it is even possible. Till then that conversation still seems as useful as two 12-year-olds boys enthusiastically discussing the finer points of driving high performance race cars -- it is very possible that many statements made by those kids are objectively true, but, really, there is something critical missing in the supporting evidence... And I don't begrudge anyone else listening their skepticism.

But I keep training in the IS/IP stuff. And I keep training in Aikido hopefully faithful to what I was taught there. I see lots of what I think is good in the intersection, but I'm not worried about convincing anyone else anymore.

Or as some rather other snarky commentator of years ago asked, "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" Seems like that sometimes.

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Old 03-17-2013, 10:11 AM   #43
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

In case someone doesn't read Japanese:
Quote:
Oh and I have spent time with Yamaguchi S and been uke on many occasions. I once asked him if he knew what he was doing and he said no, not entirely. I also asked Tada S whether he thought Ueshiba had 内力. He answered that he thought he did, but did not teach it.
内力 is "internal power" (although I might also say 内勁).

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-17-2013, 12:00 PM   #44
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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Keith Larman wrote:
I keep training in the IS/IP stuff. And I keep training in Aikido hopefully faithful to what I was taught there. I see lots of what I think is good in the intersection, but I'm not worried about convincing anyone else anymore.
Indeed. It's important to keep in mind that the majority of folks on either side of the fence in these discussions, or sitting there getting impaled on the fence, have arrived at their respective takes in good faith regarding being faithful to what and how they've been taught aikido -- even if the majority of the skeptics have, unlike Bob Galeone and the "IP/IS crowd" here, investigated the difference in earnest first hand via training.

That said . . .

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote:
For those arguing details of the IP/IS stuff, well, it seems about as fruitful of a discussion. You are convinced or you're not. So you train or you don't. It was what Ueshiba was doing or it wasn't. So then the question becomes whether I want to do whatever it is. And it comes down to whether I want to devote my time to it because it strikes me that I am in no position to argue some of those points.
Even if the following were not true --
  • Many of Morihei Ueshiba's statements link to Taoist theories and models that also underpin the internal Chinese martial (and healing) arts;
  • The aiki-taiso of Ueshiba and other prominent aikidoka (e.g. Tohei) share commonalities with forms/exercises in ICMAs (there is much that can be associated by rifling through YouTube and other sources; and based on personal experience with ICMA teachers, I've seen what's akin to, for example, Torifune); and
  • A growing number of long-time aikidoka worldwide have concluded, through first-hand training, that IP/IS, e.g. as it's taught by Dan Harden, the Aunkai and in ICMAs (notably I Liq Chuan), is akin to what they've experienced from well-regarded first-generation students of Ueshiba, and/or from Ueshiba himself
-- is "strength training" anathema to the study of aikido?
  • A number of aikidoka undertake western-style weight training and other resistance training (e.g. targeting individual or groups of muscles), for general fitness and to aid their martial skills. From the information to which I've been exposed, this was not part of Ueshiba's training paradigm. So, if IP/IS training has anecdotally produced superior martial artists through the centuries, and such training unequivocably produces such martial artists today, then how can it not be valuable "aiki-taiso", in the general sense?
  • Some folks point to Ueshiba's time farming as one source of his whole-body strength. Is someone who studies aikido in the Midwestern U.S. unfaithful to "the way" because he/she was surrounded by corn on the family farm, vs. crops native to Japan: i.e. why does solo training for developing aiki have to be limited to Ueshiba's preferred exercises?
Anyway, whether or not someone views the study of IP/IS as being under the current umbrella of aikido, there's no doubt that IP/IS is a sensible operating system for aikido. Martial arts either gradually morph to keep up with the times, and find current relevance, or they atrophy and possibly die out. Sometimes that morphing involves a natural divergence. Look no further than taiji as an example of where aikido may be going: a martial art that is thriving today, ironically because most practitioners seek out its non-martial benefits, but that retains a martial golden thread within the golden thread it represents in the greater scheme of internal Asian martial arts.

Mert
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Old 03-17-2013, 12:38 PM   #45
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

As I've posted many times I think the popularity of Aikido is simultaneously its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. I want to be able to do the stuff I've seen and felt from a variety of places. And I find that what I've learned from a couple of sources is consistent with getting what I perceive to be of value in my training in Aikido. Is it *really* what Ueshiba Morihei was doing "under the hood"? Well, from my experience and from my study I think so. But I'll leave the arguing to others as I think those others are vastly better able to engage in the discussion.

FWIW I see much of this as being like a rather (in)famous book in psychology, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by the late Julian Jaynes. Very impressive title at least. Basically Jaynes created this argument about how consciousness evolved based on evidence from differences in style of the Illiad and the Odyssey (among other things as well). It was a fantastic theory in that it explained oh-so-many things that are hard to explain. Schizophrenia for example becomes viewed as a "throwback" form of consciousness rather than a "disease" per se. And it had all sorts of implications towards social norms, control, and on and on. The only real problem was... It is probably wrong. And while it works so nicely, and it is attractive on many levels, in the end there is likely no way to ever really definitively say whether it is true or not. But on a theoretical level it can be almost irresistable. And there are still those who think it's likely correct. But most toss it out as being simply an ad hoc explanation. Much like Lorenz who tried to keep the ether wind theory alive after Einstein's special relativity. He just kept adding adjustments to make the data fit the theory. Sometimes the simple explanation is the best. But just because it is consistent and simple doesn't make it true...

Anyway, I'm really only making a point about epistemology here. Aikido has branched off in many directions and I think that where there is value, well, that branch will survive. And I think that many of those branches have become quite popular and widely practiced quite possibly with reduced levels of some things others may find critical. It's okay. It's all good.

One can try to make the case about what was *really* going on with Ueshiba Morihei. Lord knows I've read everything Dr. Goldsbury has written, I own 2 copies of Ellis's book, and I am overwhelmingly thankful that Chris Li publishes his blog for the general public to read. I hear rumors of people working on newer books based on newer translations based on different perspectives. And I'll enjoy those as well. But trying to make a logical and rigorous case for some of this stuff is simply not something I'm prepared to do. I just keep training. I just keep my eyes open. And I try to get better at what's important to me. Yeah, for me that means the IS/IP stuff. But I find that while it informs everything I do now, it doesn't have to be "in your face" and I surely don't need to convince the agnostics or the atheists. I'm not training for their benefit after all.

But I do encourage the atheists and agnostics to get out on the mat and experience it prior to making judgements or proclaiming it's all smoke and mirrors. I'm just about as patient with the armchair practitioner lobbing in grenades from far away as I am with the crazed true believer who has become a zealous evangelical. Life's too short...

Anyway, I'm rambling on. Carry on...

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Old 03-17-2013, 02:51 PM   #46
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

Bob: Thank you for your very complete and thoughtful response, and thank you for allowing me to draw you out. I understand your reluctance to get involved in endless internet discussions, but what can I say--I enjoy them, and I enjoy the occasional theological or political online slugfest too.

I also apologize for giving you the impression I was riled up about the content of your first post. In trying to figure out the relationship between aikido, daito-ryu and internal arts, however defined and between Ueshiba, Takeda, and Takeda's teachers, we are all trying to put flesh on dry bones--and the bones are very dry. We'll likely never know the truth for sure, so why get all bothered about differing opinions?

So let me respond with my own view in juxtaposition to yours, though I expect little of this is new to you.

As I understand it, the argument goes like this: Takeda learned elements of internal arts from sources that are no longer clear to us. He taught them to his students, including Ueshiba and a few others. Ueshiba took these skills and the jutsu that framed them in his own direction, eventually creating a new art. Especially post-war, as the organization teaching this art grew rapidly, the internal skills were lost and the organization focused on the external form.

Dan H enters the picture as someone who learned the skills through a daito-ryu line in which they were preserved. He bounced around the interwebs making noise until the respected Mr. Ellis told him to put up or shut up. He did, started working with people publicly, and a bunch of senior aikidoka recognized what he was doing as something missing from their own art. Howard Popkin has a similar (but independent) background and shows similar skills, indicating that this isn't just a Dan thing.

Independently, Dan also started working with senior Chinese martial artists and they also recognized what he does as variants of or important elements of their arts.

So as I see it, no one is trying to jam Chinese martial arts into a Japanese art where they don't fit. Instead, they're trying to fit skills that were naturally part of the art back into it. That the fit is natural is confirmed in several ways: by the historical connection; by O-Sensei's use of metaphors and concepts that match those found in Chinese martial arts; by the reaction of senior aikido practitioners, including a few who took ukemi from O-Sensei; and by the way that the concepts Dan teaches helps decode what senior aikido practitioners are doing.

Operating from that premise, arguments about what exactly "internal power" is or even what "aiki" is are, for me, beside the point. I would expect that the Chinese arts would have a richer vocabulary and set of concepts than either daito-ryu or aikido. We're getting them filtered through one man, after all, if they even came from China at all. The historical connection to Takeda and Ueshiba is interesting and relevant--the rest of it is speculation.

And yet, the training we're doing now with Bill Gleason and Dan seems to have some relationship to the Chinese internal arts. We are explicitly taught to use "relaxation in place of timing" rather than depending on speed, perception in place of strength, whole body movement in a way that's different from the usual aikido use of the term, lots of visualization, and we try to avoid double weighting (however unsuccessful we may be). It's intriguing to think there may be a historical connection, though I don't think we'll ever know for sure what it was.

The connection between Ueshiba's skills and weapons training is a fascinating subject. I've heard Gleason Sensei say that he feels his sword practice was most helpful at giving him a head start on the skills Dan is teaching. I myself am finding all kinds of connections, though I'm not an independent voice here--both my teachers are showing the connections explicitly.

I'd love to look more closely at how spear work fits in. Anybody know a good school in the greater new england area?

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Old 03-17-2013, 04:40 PM   #47
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

It's not the weapon itself that is inherently "internal;" it's the body that is wielding the weapon.

So, rather than looking for a school that has "spear work," I'd look for an individual teacher who has internal skills and applies them to weapons work whether sword, spear or multiple weapons. They are just the external expression of internal power. Whether or not such methodology is inherent in the weapons system he or she practices is not as important as the skills the individual him/herself has and can teach, using weapons as the vehicle through which to convey internal power methods.

In the absence of such an instructor, if one keeps doing internal solo and partner work in empty-hand mode, instilling the skills, then how it applies to spear or other weapons will be clearer to see, along with understanding the technical differences and details of ma'ai, blade applications, and other factors compared to empty hand.

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Old 03-17-2013, 08:56 PM   #48
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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In the absence of such an instructor, if one keeps doing internal solo and partner work in empty-hand mode, instilling the skills, then how it applies to spear or other weapons will be clearer to see, along with understanding the technical differences and details of ma'ai, blade applications, and other factors compared to empty hand.
FWIW I brought two friends to bodyworks seminar earlier this month. Last Friday I taught the first day of our annual bokken seminar going over what are simply the basics of what we do. Both commented to me later that after the seminar much of what I (and others) had taught them during that workshop over the years and much of what we do with how we hold, move and use the weapon made so much more sense. It tied any number of things together including "being one" with the sword, tenouchi, swinging the sword not with the arms but with the entire body, and on and on and on. The way I've put it since I started down this path is that this stuff "informs" your movement. You really don't have much question as to why you do things the way you do. It just makes more sense, fits together better, and gives better results.

FWIW.

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Old 03-18-2013, 11:56 AM   #49
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Re: A Consideration of Aikido Practice within the Context of Internal Training

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The striped cat straight-up says he uses breathing exercises to fill his tanden with ki, he says he stands between heaven and earth, he can knock rats out of the rafters with ki. He says he follows whatever his opponents are doing and spontaneous technique just comes out.
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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
I'm not sure that the story is actually about the kind of IP we're talking about.
That is surprising to hear considering the above-quoted descriptions. When Ueshiba talked about that stuff it became evidence for him following the Old Ways of Authentic 内力. When some cat says it, Chris, you don't think he is talking about the same thing?

Anyway I just find the discrepancy interesting - I'll have to reserve my opinion until I've read the parable! I'll have to go on Cliff's nice recommendations for translations.
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