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Old 11-12-2013, 04:49 PM   #1
PaulF
Join Date: May 2012
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Smile DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

I don't suppose this will be especially illuminating for anyone who has already trained with Dan Harden or has set ideas about what they think about IP/Aiki, Dan or his methods, but I guess there's a possibility that it might be useful to someone coming at this subject as a newbie without many preconceptions (as I was).

So my wife and I were at the seminar in Bristol last weekend and I thought I'd share my thoughts about it on here. Prior to the seminar this was my take http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...84&postcount=2 - I'll revisit my evaluation criteria to see where I'm at now...

efficacy - check, in cart loads, I felt tiny amounts of change and improvement in myself pretty quickly thanks to some great help from experienced guys

what I can see - check, doesn't tell you everything but seeing it in person is a whole lot different from seeing it on youtube

what I can feel - check, an early request was to "get in my face if I haven't got sufficiently hands on with you and you feel you're not getting value" which I did on the second afternoon. Suffice to say I experienced some very weird shit at an extremely high level of skill.

whether it can be articulated by its chief practitioners in terms that make sense to me (without lots of metaphysical hyperbole) - yep, western rationalist/empirical/scientific model from the outset, lots of use of CMA/JMA terms but whenever a definition and explanation was requested (lots of Q&A throughout, very helpful) a cogent one was given. I don't pretend to understand it all nor to be sufficiently well versed in anatomy, physiology, sports science, etc. to have an expert opinion but there's clearly a really solid model and a lot of profound skills that go with it. If anything the testimony and skills of the longer term students is the most convincing evidence since this suggests the stuff can be taught and lead to improvements in one's chosen art(s) in time-scales measured in months/years rather than decades.

but [in terms] that aren't exclusive (my way is the only way that works) - we were actively encouraged to go out and find other people doing this stuff and make up our own minds, some suggestions as to who we could check out were freely offered. There were lots of references to where the principles come from and how old and cross-cultural a lot of the stuff is.

or proprietorial (my way requires at least minimum attendance at x seminars at y cost) - no hard sell, and a strong emphasis on taking the cult of personality out of things, it's about the material not about creating guru figures. Sure, the material is guarded, and that's fair enough, people are entitled to earn money for their time and skill. Actually it's not so much the material since it's all out there if you have the time and understanding to know where to look and how to put it all together, just as you could teach yourself to play the guitar from youtube and books rather than go to a good teacher. I guess the point is a teacher brings a method, curriculum, insight based on experience, etc. and therefore gets you progressing more rapidly without developing bad habits, etc.

I feel I should mention that Dan clearly has a deep love of budo first and foremost as well as a lot of knowledge of Chinese arts and teachings. His respect for aikido, its founder and his methods comes across very strongly throughout. He exhorted everyone "not to be a dick" as uke by using IP to lock people up and block them but to practice with a sound and proper attitude. I didn't come away feeling that my aikido or taiji practice were in anyway invalidated, more that they could both be enhanced through application of drills and further study.

The style of delivery is informal but intense, sometimes irreverent, always interesting and fortunately I like it when people take the piss out of me.

From everything we saw during the sessions and subsequent socialising Dan has very sound values and we liked him a lot in spite of our British reserve (I tend not to make a habit of liking people) and his American gregariousness. Whether we go back and train with him again depends on a lot of things, whether we can fit it in with family commitments, our other practice, our finances, etc. but I hope we get the chance as we both really enjoyed the weekend and met a lot of nice people.
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:41 AM   #2
Alex Megann
Dojo: Southampton Aikikai
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Paul Funnell wrote: View Post
whether it can be articulated by its chief practitioners in terms that make sense to me (without lots of metaphysical hyperbole) - yep, western rationalist/empirical/scientific model from the outset, lots of use of CMA/JMA terms but whenever a definition and explanation was requested (lots of Q&A throughout, very helpful) a cogent one was given. I don't pretend to understand it all nor to be sufficiently well versed in anatomy, physiology, sports science, etc. to have an expert opinion but there's clearly a really solid model and a lot of profound skills that go with it. If anything the testimony and skills of the longer term students is the most convincing evidence since this suggests the stuff can be taught and lead to improvements in one's chosen art(s) in time-scales measured in months/years rather than decades.
That's what appealed to me about Dan's teaching when I saw him earlier this year. Not much mystical stuff (in my opinion there is a place for that, but this isn't really it), just a set of exercise drills and a clear, progressive rationale underlying them. You basically start with a repeated sequence opening the body in the six directions, then when you have enough sensitivity and body connection you can start working on developing yin-yang and spirals.

Some of the more advanced concepts still escape me, but I have been practising this stuff daily for six months and can feel big changes already in how my body moves.

Alex
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:57 AM   #3
Dazzler
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Ha! you've been brainwashed for sure.
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:19 AM   #4
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Alex Megann wrote: View Post
That's what appealed to me about Dan's teaching when I saw him earlier this year. Not much mystical stuff (in my opinion there is a place for that, but this isn't really it), just a set of exercise drills and a clear, progressive rationale underlying them. You basically start with a repeated sequence opening the body in the six directions, then when you have enough sensitivity and body connection you can start working on developing yin-yang and spirals.

Some of the more advanced concepts still escape me, but I have been practising this stuff daily for six months and can feel big changes already in how my body moves.

Alex
Alex,
Please expand for this moron what you mean by opening the body in six directions .How do you develop yin yang [this is a concept ] ?As for spirals, aikido hand movements for example utilise spiral movement . By the way, is Daren in his blog referring to you or the originator of this article when he says you/other guy may have been brainwashed??What changes have you felt?I description would be welcome.Is there tangible evidence that changes have occurred or is it a bit of a placebo effect,where someone goes to the quack , get a bottle of sugary water, and the persons own imagination takes over? Cheers, Joe
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:49 AM   #5
Gary David
 
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Folks
I just wanted to add my 2 cents in here.....what Dan is providing is pure Gold. Dan presents it in a learnable method set and in an open setting that is fun and entertaining. Dan has never said he is the only source, that we have to take what he is presenting and make it our own.

Everyday I find ways to include the practice in my daily life.......going up & down stairs, through doors, walking and even just opening the refrigerator door at times.

As Dan has said......he is not the only source.... I think he is a darn good one. Feeling it is the best teacher...hands on. Don't miss out here if you can help it. If the door seems closed to you ask yourself why, maybe you are the one in the way......

Once the train has left the station you may have to wait a long time for the next one.....

Think about it...

Gary
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Old 11-13-2013, 10:25 AM   #6
Alex Megann
Dojo: Southampton Aikikai
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Alex,
Please expand for this moron what you mean by opening the body in six directions .How do you develop yin yang [this is a concept ] ?As for spirals, aikido hand movements for example utilise spiral movement . By the way, is Daren in his blog referring to you or the originator of this article when he says you/other guy may have been brainwashed??What changes have you felt?I description would be welcome.Is there tangible evidence that changes have occurred or is it a bit of a placebo effect,where someone goes to the quack , get a bottle of sugary water, and the persons own imagination takes over? Cheers, Joe
Hi Joe,

I'm sure there are much better explanations out there, but, as far as I understand it right now, opening six directions involves lengthening the tissues and removing excess tension in the natural directions of bending of the torso: to each side, to the front and back, and opening across the front and back of the body.This practice strengthens the core muscle system around the spine, and builds neuromuscular connections directly and diagonally across the body.

How does this make me feel? I have much more of an awareness of what is happening inside my hara and how it is connected to my legs and my upper body, and I'm starting to feel a kind of "springy" strength coming from my belly.

Spiralling and yin-yang are, at a basic level, about a balance of forces around the point of contact/connection with your partner - you don't push or pull or twist, but your body rearranges itself around this point to transmit a spiral or spherical movement to your uke. You are right, of course, about the hand movements in aikido being spiral in nature, but you will agree, I hope, that it's more than just twisting your arm and expecting your uke to fall over. Where does the twist/spiral start, and where in your partner's body does it end?

I think Daren is being ironic about the brainwashing thing. You are, aren't you, Daren?

Alex
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:03 PM   #7
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

I did not attend the Bristol seminar unfortunately, but I've attended a previous seminar in Atlanta so maybe I can address some of the points. Joe, you are correct, there are many spiraling movements in aikido -- which is why I strongly feel that the techniques emphasized by Dan are 100% consistent with Aikido. I would say that Dan adds in a second spiral that goes in the opposite direction. This adds a qualitatively different feel to what the majority of us feel like when we spiral. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if this thread could somehow not turn into a "this isn't aikido" or "modern aikido sucks" argument (as I suspect others do as well). Dan has written quite a bit about his methodology on aikiweb, and after a single seminar, I am not an expert in Dan's particular flavor of aikido, so I'm not going to go into all the details. Rather, I will describe what I felt physically from Dan's aikido waza.

Here would be an example of how the in/yo felt to me as Dan was applying ikkyo to me off a shomen attack:
As I came in, there was very little external evidence of spiraling prior to contact with my attack. However, on contact I inexplicably started drifting off, kazushi taken. The odd part was the feeling of simultaneously having my attack get sucked in, while the space was being invaded. This was the in/yo dual-opposing spiral aspect of Dan's technique. I've commonly felt mainly in or mainly yo, but I haven't felt waza that was this balanced before (especially not with so little external movement). Thus, it does not feel overbearing (prickly spidey-sense going off as you attack), and it doesn't feel evasive (like the person isn't there anymore). I really just can't explain what it feels like! You just have to feel it for yourself. In any case, the dual-opposing spirals seem to happen in almost a fractal-like sense (i.e. at the point of contact, and on the whole of his body, and in you as you connect to "it").

Here is an example from a sankyo kaishiwaza:
Dan allowed me to get as full a sankyo as I possibly could and to let him know when I thought that it was sufficiently applied. I cranked it… said, "OK"… I hit the floor. Lots of things probably happened in-between, but the feeling was basically that I had applied a sankyo to a vitamix blender that was angled partially into the ground and someone punched it to 11. Again, it was not a prickly sensation of being attacked, it was just a balanced feeling where I just couldn't do anything about it. Now, some caveats -- He let me put him into an illusion of kazushi, but I'm not convinced that I actually had it as I was never really able to lock up his center. In fact, I'd say that I never really got to connect to his center, you just felt like you were connecting to the whole of him. This is different than the feeling you get when you apply technique to someone like Dan Messisco. Messisco feels like he is continually ahead of your technique, so the reversal is just him getting further ahead of you. He feels a bit more in than yo from my perspective. This isn't to say that Messisco cannot hit like a ton of bricks when he wants, but it feels different.

One thing that I appreciated about Dan Harden's demos was that he would turn the internal stuff on and off throughout. So, sometimes you would blow right through him, and other times you would get the "blender". This was important because as uke, you began to second guess whether or not you were really attacking or just drinking koolaid. Because it was internal, there were very few external cues to tell which you were going to get on contact. Anyways, those are my perspectives from an aikidoka who was skeptical and is now a card-carrying sycophant.

Aikido South
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The basic fundamentals, refined to perfection, are your most advanced techniques.
-Bill Koll (1923-2003)
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:55 PM   #8
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Alex Megann wrote: View Post
Hi Joe,

I'm sure there are much better explanations out there, but, as far as I understand it right now, opening six directions involves lengthening the tissues and removing excess tension in the natural directions of bending of the torso: to each side, to the front and back, and opening across the front and back of the body.This practice strengthens the core muscle system around the spine, and builds neuromuscular connections directly and diagonally across the body.

How does this make me feel? I have much more of an awareness of what is happening inside my hara and how it is connected to my legs and my upper body, and I'm starting to feel a kind of "springy" strength coming from my belly.

Spiralling and yin-yang are, at a basic level, about a balance of forces around the point of contact/connection with your partner - you don't push or pull or twist, but your body rearranges itself around this point to transmit a spiral or spherical movement to your uke. You are right, of course, about the hand movements in aikido being spiral in nature, but you will agree, I hope, that it's more than just twisting your arm and expecting your uke to fall over. Where does the twist/spiral start, and where in your partner's body does it end?

I think Daren is being ironic about the brainwashing thing. You are, aren't you, Daren?

Alex
It was another amazing weekend, and a great endorsement that someone previously a little unsure it now able to add their name to the list of people that have had their eyes widened by Dan.

Its just a shame that newbies such as us are here describing the work that Dan continues rather than the man himself.

Hopefully it won't spiral downhill (see what I did there ) as per usual.....

Andy mentions dual opposing spirals....I'll just add that we try and create these throughout the body, so I see it as pairs of spirals rather than a single pair up and down the torso, so for example whereever force is placed on the body...or the arms...or the legs...it meets a spiralling body body part connected to the centre (dantien) by the 6 directional forces so never gains a direct access to centre.

Sure it sounds a lot like 'regular Aikido'.....because it is the engine of regular Aikido.

There...said too much already and exposed my extreme beginner status in the world of IP/Aiki so forgive me all you seniors who I know are reading but don't post due to the normal shellacking that such posts receive.

Hi Joe - hopefully the guys are giving you some thoughts, I believe your questions are more sincere than many others I read.

Best wishes all....

D
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Old 11-13-2013, 03:29 PM   #9
Belt_Up
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

I shall be going to one of these ASAP. Very, very interested.
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Old 11-13-2013, 07:54 PM   #10
Keith Larman
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Paul Funnell wrote: View Post
I didn't come away feeling that my aikido or taiji practice were in anyway invalidated, more that they could both be enhanced through application of drills and further study.
FWIW this one line is one that I think needs to be repeated and affirmed.

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Old 11-13-2013, 08:16 PM   #11
Keith Larman
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

FWIW one time Dan was out my way I took two friends with me. One yudansha, one a relatively experienced mudansha. Both left blown away but both made the same sort of comment that it didn't in any way invalidate what they'd already learned, it just gave them a whole heck of a lot more to work on to refine and improve.

I am not saying those who are doubtful *should* go. I am not saying those who are perfectly happy with what they're doing *should* go. I will, however, say that I got a lot from every visit I've had with the man. And always walked away with more to work on. And I feel I the better for it.

Just my experience.

All the other issues that tend to swirl around this topic? Not my paygrade as they say. I just know that *I* benefit.

YMMV.

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Old 11-14-2013, 08:59 PM   #12
hughrbeyer
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Yes, indeed. In fact, I just had a few very enjoyable practices with Jon Reading's Aikido group*, who are also working Dan's stuff--we spent an hour or so on his exercises, then another hour putting his principles into Aikido practice. The only startling thing is how easy it is--once you have the key, the IP/aiki engine slides into Aikido waza almost as though it was designed to be there.

And we had almost as much fun on the mat without Dan as we do with him

* Hi, Andy! And thanks to Demetrio for the push to get us to meet up.

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:45 AM   #13
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
YThe only startling thing is how easy it is--once you have the key, the IP/aiki engine slides into Aikido waza almost as though it was designed to be there.

The waza were designed for the "IP/aiki engine" to be there ...
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:30 AM   #14
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
And thanks to Demetrio for the push to get us to meet up.
You're welcome.

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Old 11-15-2013, 10:55 AM   #15
hughrbeyer
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Re: DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

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Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post

The waza were designed for the "IP/aiki engine" to be there ...
Thank you, Captain Obvious.

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