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Old 07-28-2013, 07:25 PM   #1
Chris Li
 
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What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

New blog post!

"What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)"

Enjoy!

Chris

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Old 07-28-2013, 11:11 PM   #2
Michael Varin
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

If one is objective, one must consider the possibility that Takahashi had no understanding of aiki whatsoever... After reading the trilogy that is certainly the impression that I am left with.

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 07-29-2013, 02:07 AM   #3
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Michael Varin wrote: View Post
If one is objective, one must consider the possibility that Takahashi had no understanding of aiki whatsoever... After reading the trilogy that is certainly the impression that I am left with.
At best he's extremely vague (perhaps purposely), but I thought that there were a few interesting things in there.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-29-2013, 04:17 AM   #4
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Can't really see much in there but I like the fact he sees it as the - “Way of Aiki” (合気の道)" aiki no michi - as that is the way I see it and is what I pursue.

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Old 07-29-2013, 10:14 AM   #5
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

I don't think his vagueness is intentional, as some of the things he states are absolutely misleading. Unless, of course, he is being misleading intentionally...

Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 07-29-2013 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:44 AM   #6
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I don't think his vagueness is intentional, as some of the things he states are absolutely misleading. Unless, of course, he is being misleading intentionally...
Yes, and well, thats what they suspected of Shirata of aikido, too.

Given that Takahashi trained with Kimura in all of the gen it's hard to believe, that he shouldn't have a clue, but there you have it.
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Old 07-29-2013, 12:04 PM   #7
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I don't think his vagueness is intentional, as some of the things he states are absolutely misleading.
What would they be?

Last edited by akiy : 07-29-2013 at 03:27 PM. Reason: Fixed quote tag
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Old 07-29-2013, 02:53 PM   #8
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Quote:
Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I don't think his vagueness is intentional, as some of the things he states are absolutely misleading.
What would they be?
For one thing, and most glaring - the focus on the hands, without any mention of the rest of the body's role in aiki. The hands do have a role, but they are not the root of aiki. You can select other body extremities -- hip, shoulder, even the head -- as a point of contact; the hands are not the source. He makes a verrrry vague allusion that aiki actually comes from elsewhere, but he's like a prestidigitator distracting the audience from what he is really doing, by drawing their attention elsewhere.
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Old 07-29-2013, 09:33 PM   #9
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
For one thing, and most glaring - the focus on the hands, without any mention of the rest of the body's role in aiki. The hands do have a role, but they are not the root of aiki. You can select other body extremities -- hip, shoulder, even the head -- as a point of contact; the hands are not the source. He makes a verrrry vague allusion that aiki actually comes from elsewhere, but he's like a prestidigitator distracting the audience from what he is really doing, by drawing their attention elsewhere.
well, he wrote this:

"For example, even in seated techniques, one cannot apply Aiki only through the movement of the hands. The hands are supported by the trunk and the lower body. There are also such teachings as "keep your body straight", "don't move your hips" and "put power into your lower abdomen".

So he's not focussing on the hands. In fact, if you read carefully, he doesn't even talk about the hands being important, he talks about the wrists. Yes he's vague, but at least he does allude to specific points, unlike, for example, Kimura. .

BTW, I've never even seen Takahashi, so I have no opinions on his abilities/knowledge of "Aiki" one way or the other, but, I'm a little surprised that people have been so dismissive.
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:12 PM   #10
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
well, he wrote this:

"For example, even in seated techniques, one cannot apply Aiki only through the movement of the hands. The hands are supported by the trunk and the lower body. There are also such teachings as "keep your body straight", "don't move your hips" and "put power into your lower abdomen".
That's the very vague allusion I was referring to. Those teachings tell us, precisely, nothing about what aiki is, where it comes from, how it is created, maintained, and expressed. Whether it's because he did not have the words with which to describe these, or whether he was intentionally misleading, we'll never know. Going by the general lack of descriptive terminology in DR teaching, though, I more and more suspect that none of these people had the words, and that whatever skills they had were learned and passed on through physical, intuitive transmission.

Quote:
So he's not focussing on the hands. In fact, if you read carefully, he doesn't even talk about the hands being important, he talks about the wrists. Yes he's vague, but at least he does allude to specific points, unlike, for example, Kimura. .

BTW, I've never even seen Takahashi, so I have no opinions on his abilities/knowledge of "Aiki" one way or the other, but, I'm a little surprised that people have been so dismissive.
Yeah, Kimura's even better at being obscure. I do feel that Takahashi spent too much time and attention on the hands, to the point that it seems to be a genuine distraction to avoid talking about more relevant things such as the tandan, meimon, femoral region, legs, and feet, etc.

As for being dismissive, there's a growing body of individuals who are training in aiki and learning very specific body methods. There is a vocabulary and a physical, technical curriculum that is quite focused. For those of us who have been practicing aiki for 15 years or longer, and have some skills and understanding, it's frustrating to read descriptions of aiki that only tangentially touch on it and lead the would-be student in the wrong direction, away from any glimmer of understanding.

That said, I will say, as I always do, that it's great to have English-language access to these essays, if only for historic perspective and confirmation of our suspicions about the secrecy and restriction in transmission that has enshrouded both the heritage and legacy of Daito-ryu.
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:05 AM   #11
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Quote:
That's the very vague allusion I was referring to. Those teachings tell us, precisely, nothing about what aiki is, where it comes from, how it is created, maintained, and expressed. Whether it's because he did not have the words with which to describe these, or whether he was intentionally misleading, we'll never know. Going by the general lack of descriptive terminology in DR teaching, though, I more and more suspect that none of these people had the words, and that whatever skills they had were learned and passed on through physical, intuitive transmission.
I don't think I've read anything that has specifically stated what aiki is, where it comes from, how it is created, maintained, and expressed. If you have come across a text that does please give me link!

I agree with the lack of descriptive terminology, but to be honest, I can't see how "Aiki" can be passed on OTHER than through physical, intuitive transmission. It's a physical art. At best, you can glean hints and key points from other sources, especially if you have a base of reference established from training.

Anyway, you stated that The author is misleading people, but I still can't see how. What exactly did he write that is completely off the mark? As far as I can see, at worst he is being vague.

Quote:
Yeah, Kimura's even better at being obscure. I do feel that Takahashi spent too much time and attention on the hands, to the point that it seems to be a genuine distraction to avoid talking about more relevant things such as the tandan, meimon, femoral region, legs, and feet, etc.
He mentioned the legs feet and tai sabaki a lot towards the end of the article. He also stated that this is only scratching the surface. The other terms you mentioned, they're fairly vague

Do you see my point? can't see exactly what Takahashi would have to have written in a fairly short article to have escaped the charge of vagueness. FWIW, that's the first time I have ever come across a specific piece referring to training the wrists at a "deeper" level. I think that would be of interest to people who spend so much time in training grabbing wrists (like people reading this forum).

Quote:
As for being dismissive, there's a growing body of individuals who are training in aiki and learning very specific body methods. There is a vocabulary and a physical, technical curriculum that is quite focused. For those of us who have been practicing aiki for 15 years or longer, and have some skills and understanding, it's frustrating to read descriptions of aiki that only tangentially touch on it and lead the would-be student in the wrong direction, away from any glimmer of understanding
.
Well, you're free to adopt that attitude, of course. I've seen that on this thread. Personally, I think that "XXX doesn't know what he's talking about" often leads to missing important points.
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Old 07-30-2013, 05:07 AM   #12
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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. Personally, I think that "XXX doesn't know what he's talking about" often leads to missing important points.
Apologies, I should have written: "Based on my training, XXX doesn't know what he is talking about" often leads to missing important points."

This is an attitude that most have us have to be aware of, not least me!
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Old 07-30-2013, 07:40 AM   #13
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Apologies, I should have written: "Based on my training, XXX doesn't know what he is talking about" often leads to missing important points."

This is an attitude that most have us have to be aware of, not least me!
Oisin,

to my mind "Aiki" is a very personal skill and so how you describe it may vary to your point of view, which will develop according to your ability.

The point is, that you have to start somewhere. You have to surpass the threshold of not being able to do anything without resorting to usual power and physical technique to a state of being able to do something for the first time.

You have to precondition your body for that a bit. The best thing I have seen so far on the internet to lead you there in a fairly rational way is what Sam Chin is doing in his videos. His is a very modern approach. You may not agree.

Kimura is not intentionally vague, to my mind, because he has tried to give a clear as possible to him definition of "Aiki" as he saw it in 2005 via the french edition of his "My 20 years with..", but the translators, clearly, indicate that his view has already changed ever since.

You might ask Stan Pranin about how Kimura felt to him, because he is supposed to have felt him on more than one occasion in the past.

We may disagree about Kimura, but, as far as I can follow her, Cady as usually knows exactly what she is talking about.

Best,

Bernd
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:53 AM   #14
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Apologies, I should have written: "Based on my training, XXX doesn't know what he is talking about" often leads to missing important points."

This is an attitude that most have us have to be aware of, not least me!
Why is it somehow wrong and suspect for a contemporary person who isn't a Big Name to have a valid opinion based on actual experience and skills? I don't mean to sound like I have an "attitude," but aiki really is a definable thing and there is a methodology that people do train in. I can demonstrate what I know and I can describe and teach it. But what Takahashi has written can in no way be said to be instructive or useful in any way, when it comes to understanding what aiki is.

To accept that or not, is everyone's privilege. But it is what it is.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:31 AM   #15
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Why is it somehow wrong and suspect for a contemporary person who isn't a Big Name to have a valid opinion based on actual experience and skills? I don't mean to sound like I have an "attitude," but aiki really is a definable thing and there is a methodology that people do train in. I can demonstrate what I know and I can describe and teach it. But what Takahashi has written can in no way be said to be instructive or useful in any way, when it comes to understanding what aiki is.

To accept that or not, is everyone's privilege. But it is what it is.
Well, you missed his point about the hands. But if you feel that's in no way instructive or useful, fair enough.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:54 AM   #16
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

I dunno, it could be just as likely the speaker is trying to get at the point of saying "disregard the hands, connect the insides and put power here (the middle)". Translations and intentions get tricky, so I don't see the value in speculating too much whether he was intentionally obscuring things versus not having the vocabulary to articulate what's going on. I think there's more value in offering some input into what's missing (as opposed to proclaiming one's bonafides).

To use my own example, I'd say an important starting point is learning to connect one's body - HOW you do it may depend on your style and or desirable end result (wielding weapons, holding postures, etc.) but the general theme is that the body is connected together (bones, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments) in such a way that when one part moves, all parts move (that movement may be big and visible or hidden). Certain postures, breathing, movements and light pressure practices can aid in learning to connect one's body (which is why many styles have practices that are common, with understandable twists [hehe pun], across systems - while also having their own proprietary methods).

Putting power in the middle - if your body is connected in the way I start to describe, you can then draw upon more of the body's whole power to achieve things that seem either really strong, unusually strong, explosively strong, etc (depending on ability, conditioning, skill, etc.) and you can access that strength from seemingly strange positions, partly because you generate and source that strength (legs, middle, back) in a way that might seem counterintuitive e.g. move the middle down the leg to move the hand (it's CONNECTED you see??), but wait, you said HAND!! Darn, I meant . . yeah, language can sometimes get difficult, even when we're both speaking English.

But then I think that's where some of the disconnects still reside in describing this stuff, internal strength, aiki, training practices of them versus applications of them.
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Old 07-30-2013, 01:32 PM   #17
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Good point, Budd. I do tend to think it is a language issue more than anything else. I keep looking for a very direct, to-the-point description, and much of what Sagawa's students write really are pretty abstract and roundabout in a way that you have to already be indoctrinated in the body method (as you are) to see the apparent allusions and connections.
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Old 07-30-2013, 02:03 PM   #18
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Yeah, I wonder if the combination of cultural and proprietary norms would allow for such a thing (direct, to-the-point descriptions) - even at the bottom of the linked article, he mentions that he's only describing a small portion of the secrets. I sway back and forth between folks leaving nuggets like that to encourage people to get out there and learn more for themselves, or it was a kind of code that people liked to drop to say "Look here, we're doing the real stuff, too" as they understood it.
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Old 07-30-2013, 02:48 PM   #19
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
to my mind "Aiki" is a very personal skill and so how you describe it may vary to your point of view
I disagree. To me, aiki is a specific skill. It does not vary. Does the law of gravity vary according to your understanding? I say the law is what it is despite what you think it to be.
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:20 PM   #20
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
To use my own example, I'd say an important starting point is learning to connect one's body - HOW you do it may depend on your style and or desirable end result (wielding weapons, holding postures, etc.) but the general theme is that the body is connected together (bones, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments) in such a way that when one part moves, all parts move (that movement may be big and visible or hidden). Certain postures, breathing, movements and light pressure practices can aid in learning to connect one's body (which is why many styles have practices that are common, with understandable twists [hehe pun], across systems - while also having their own proprietary methods).

Putting power in the middle - if your body is connected in the way I start to describe, you can then draw upon more of the body's whole power to achieve things that seem either really strong, unusually strong, explosively strong, etc (depending on ability, conditioning, skill, etc.) and you can access that strength from seemingly strange positions, partly because you generate and source that strength (legs, middle, back) in a way that might seem counterintuitive e.g. move the middle down the leg to move the hand (it's CONNECTED you see??), but wait, you said HAND!! Darn, I meant . . yeah, language can sometimes get difficult, even when we're both speaking English.

.
Thanks for that.

IMO

Takahashi seems to emphasise the retraining of one's body/reflexes/nervous system so that you don't give the grasping opponent anything to work with. So you have this paradox, of keeping your intent throughout the body while not issuing any aggression (ie tension that the other can work with). He calls this "the containment of power" and explains that one should start exploring this paradox through "the internal senses contained within the wrist". So you need to "send intent" to the hands while at the same time neutralising the grab. To me, this seems to be an exercise for training the nervous system.
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Old 07-31-2013, 08:47 AM   #21
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Thanks for that.

IMO

Takahashi seems to emphasise the retraining of one's body/reflexes/nervous system so that you don't give the grasping opponent anything to work with. So you have this paradox, of keeping your intent throughout the body while not issuing any aggression (ie tension that the other can work with). He calls this "the containment of power" and explains that one should start exploring this paradox through "the internal senses contained within the wrist". So you need to "send intent" to the hands while at the same time neutralising the grab. To me, this seems to be an exercise for training the nervous system.
So that can align sorta with the classics notion of balancing the powers of Heaven/Man/Earth (in/yo/ho, balancing the qi/ki, etc.) - initially with regard to managing the ground pushing you up and gravity pulling you down into a neutral state where an opponent cannot feel your intention yet you can make their power/intent part of the overall chain you manage (again, I'm keeping it simplified and generalizing, but then in fairness, the article was only mentioning a little bit, too).

The nervous system training is an interesting vocabulary for what's going on - training the nervous system how? To relax completely, keep weight underside and focus on one point a la Tohei (though neither one completely gets at the heart with generalities, if you can bridge what Takahashi is hinting at in the articles with Tohei's more famous three maxims, the noose starts to tighten further around a better definition of how jin works, as opposed to what it is IMO)? As I mentioned before, I see a progression that often gets left out of 1) How to train the skill 2) How to condition the skill 3) How to apply the skill (assuming there are set desirable parameters for the skill). There may very well be some sophisticated and organized methods for this that are preserved explicitly, but mostly I see some vague hints by historical and modern parties proclaiming that they or their teachers have/had the keys to the kingdom and the rest of us can guess at what they meant vs. what they knew.

So that being said, I don't disagree with the nervous system description (as a piece of the puzzle) - but how would you say it's being trained and towards what desirable outcome (to specifically enable the abilities of neutralizing external force while being able to send intent as tangible activity)?
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Old 07-31-2013, 02:15 PM   #22
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

I personally would not to draw any conclusions from isolated models of aiki as presented in these articles and in many posts here in Aikiweb (they can be useful if you have the required background) -- physics diagrams, "lever" actions, any focus on a particular body part (toes, wrists, etc.) -- because unless you've been educated in the whole-body model they're meaningless as learning tools (and can mislead others into "oh I already do that" type responses). Take for example the Sagawa-related diagram showing the forces balancing on a "support". Looks easy, but without a background discussion of dantian/hara and connection, any mention of "support" is meaningless. The way I see it any illustration of say an arm interacting with a force should be accompanied with a whole-body model explanation of how aiki is enabled and can be expressed via the arm: what the other arm is doing, what the legs, dantian, spine, etc., are doing. Yeah, it's a lot of academic work and perhaps unfeasible to go into that level of detail, but that's why it has to be learned in person (IHTBF ).
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Old 07-31-2013, 04:13 PM   #23
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Oh I dunno, I think it would be fun to go into that level of detail - partially why I started with the connecting the body bits and then using whole power to move them together. Please feel free to elaborate on the legs, spine and dantian

And for the record I do agree that it has to both be felt and learned in person. That doesn't mean you can't casually talk shop and speculate what nuggets or bread crumbs might be left on the trail for others to follow
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Old 08-02-2013, 06:12 AM   #24
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
... I keep looking for a very direct, to-the-point description, and much of what Sagawa's students write really are pretty abstract and roundabout in a way that you have to already be indoctrinated in the body method (as you are) to see the apparent allusions and connections.
Hello Cady,

So do I.
In fact, worse still, I like double blind tests.

@all:
Here's the attempt of a straightforward explanation and sober analysis written by a woman who had apparently dedicated a good part of her entire life to the study of Tai Chi as a martial art. None of the usual unintelligible sometimes rather uninformed stuff, which is not logically deductible and has never been concretely verified. What do you think of it, in comparison to Takahashis approach?

http://www.martialtaichi.co.uk/artic...uide_to_qi.php

Best,

Bernd

Last edited by Bernd Lehnen : 08-02-2013 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 08-02-2013, 09:30 AM   #25
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Re: What is Aiki? Introduction to a method of analyzing Aiki. (Part 3)

Bernd, thanks for linking the article. I think it goes a way towards touching on the classic notions of the qi of man and earth (using gravity/ground in the Jin sense for applications). The two biggest gaps I saw were around the descriptions how to connect the body together in such a way that when one part moves, all parts move -- and of breath and how it works within a connected body also using jin strength.

So again, it's impossible to know for sure if this represents the sum total of the writer's knowledge or if they're only choosing to reveal certain things. The other thing (and this is true of any of us writing here), is that even if we can speak or articulate, it should not be taken as an indicator of how well we DO it (totally owning up to that on my end at least).

But overall I think this is more in the right direction of a how's it work from a beginning Jin perspective, even if the descriptions might be confusing if you're not already familiar with some of the cosmological references as they pertain to applied movement in the body.
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