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Old 08-17-2015, 02:56 PM   #1
Chris Li
 
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Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 2

New blog post - Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 2:

Quote:
'For the most part, it is only those that give up on becoming strong at some point that try to rationalize the matter by saying “trying to become strong is superficial”.'
Enjoy!

Chris

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Old 08-21-2015, 02:37 PM   #2
Michael Douglas
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Big grey bar obscures the left third of my screen.
(Using Opera v.9-ish )
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Old 08-21-2015, 02:44 PM   #3
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

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Michael Douglas wrote: View Post
Big grey bar obscures the left third of my screen.
(Using Opera v.9-ish )
Maybe get a newer browser? Opera is up to v. 31 on Mac/Windows/Linux.

I did check with Firefox, Chrome and Edge, and they all work for me...

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-29-2015, 02:46 PM   #4
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Now available in Romanian, courtesy of Aikido Jurnal. The original English version is available on the Aikido Sangenkai blog.

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-30-2015, 11:52 AM   #5
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Finally got around to reading this, which is another very interesting translation. Thanks Mr. Li!

This part struck me:

Quote:
A: That's right. At least, of those who were actually able to use Aiki, there were only Takeda Sensei and Sagawa Sensei. If it's just form then there are many people who are doing it, but there were only two who were able to apply it when an opponent came to attack in earnest.
With respect to "opponents" "attacking in earnest," I wonder which of these he means:

1) an open, unrehearsed, free attack of any kind, or
2) the uke in a paired kata performing the pre-arranged attack with all of his might.

I figure it probably means 1), though it COULD conceivably mean 2) as you have translated it into English (perhaps in original Japanese as well, I don't know and might not ever).

To me, it sounds as though Kimura is saying that the application of aiki in the context of a kata is not that difficult, and not a particularly uncommon ability.

But then the transition to an ability to apply aiki freely, in an unrehearsed situation - is not itself aiki. Rather, its a different skill, or set of skills.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:15 AM   #6
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Cliff,
Internal strength/aiki training is a specific set of core practices and tanren. As you perceived, it is separate from application- and fighting skills. In order to use aiki "in a fight," you have to train and condition yourself that way. By itself, aiki is a powerful engine sitting up on blocks, with no vehicle to drive with it. The fighting and combative skills are the chassis and vehicle you install that engine into. Both (the aiki/internal strength and the fighting skills) are built separately, then combined and integrated as one.

I suspect that Kimura Sensei was speaking from personal observation when he stated that his teacher, and his teacher's teacher were the only people who could use aiki combatively. In his social and cultural sphere, that is likely quite true. But there are people outside of Japan who do train that way, and who have both excellent aiki and excellent application/combative skills, and can apply them. Many here know at least some of these individuals and have trained with them, observed them in action, and can verify the efficacy of their skills.

Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 08-31-2015 at 08:19 AM.
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Old 09-02-2015, 12:40 PM   #7
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

What is interesting to me is that, after 13+ years of observing and being lectured by Saotome Sensei, I am vastly more comfortable with the "free application in a combat context" part being the actual realization of aiki. I.e. if its a kata its not really aiki.

It wasn't until I started doing Daito ryu that the "a lot of people can do it in kata but only X and Y can do it in a free application" idea even occured to me as aiki.
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:13 PM   #8
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

It seems to me there are (at least) three levels:

1. Ability to manifest aiki in exercises designed for that purpose.

2. Ability to manifest aiki in kata based on the techniques of aikido. (Actually a spectrum, from static technique to dynamic attacks.)

3. Ability to manifest aiki freely in an open, unrehearsed situation. (Under increasing levels of objective stress, such as more and/or meaner attackers.)

1 can be learned, to some degree, in a weekend. 3 is the study of a lifetime.

Katherine
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:39 PM   #9
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

(See also kotai, jutai, ryutai...)

Katherine
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:44 AM   #10
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
It seems to me there are (at least) three levels:

1. Ability to manifest aiki in exercises designed for that purpose.

2. Ability to manifest aiki in kata based on the techniques of aikido. (Actually a spectrum, from static technique to dynamic attacks.)

3. Ability to manifest aiki freely in an open, unrehearsed situation. (Under increasing levels of objective stress, such as more and/or meaner attackers.)

1 can be learned, to some degree, in a weekend. 3 is the study of a lifetime.

Katherine
In my experience, 1 and 2 are the same, because the techniques of Aikido are abstractions of the kata of Daito ryu, of which some were designed to teach you how to create aiki. (YMMV).

But 3 is the only situation where aiki is "true" aiki - and it probably still isn't quite unless you are one with the universe and all that.

This is because Saotome Sensei's inspiration comes from Osensei's later years when he was, apparently, doing little but walking into the dojo and manifesting aiki in a free-flowing, dynamic way.

I think the 3-level Saito Sensei paradigm was an attempt to realize some way to bridge the gap between lower-level practical learning and the more lofty, metaphysical applications Ueshiba had gotten into while living in Iwama.
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Old 09-03-2015, 10:56 AM   #11
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

IME, "aiki" has a very specific definition in aikijujutsu. But, because transmission has been spotty, incomplete, and, in some cases, cross-pollinated with practices from other arts, it's pretty hard to nail down a universal definition that permits everyone to speak from the same perspective.

That said, aiki as I know it (from two separate lines of aikijujutsu and from one Chinese internal martial art) is the intent-driven manipulation of a body state that we create and manage. Therefore, when you move with an "aiki body," it will manifest itself in everything you do, whether kata, applied technique, or free-form "street" combat. It remains, then, for the individual to develop the skills -- formal/kata, waza, combat -- so that that they will be able to serve as sound vehicles for the aiki engine that will drive them.

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
In my experience, 1 and 2 are the same, because the techniques of Aikido are abstractions of the kata of Daito ryu, of which some were designed to teach you how to create aiki. (YMMV).

But 3 is the only situation where aiki is "true" aiki - and it probably still isn't quite unless you are one with the universe and all that.

This is because Saotome Sensei's inspiration comes from Osensei's later years when he was, apparently, doing little but walking into the dojo and manifesting aiki in a free-flowing, dynamic way.

I think the 3-level Saito Sensei paradigm was an attempt to realize some way to bridge the gap between lower-level practical learning and the more lofty, metaphysical applications Ueshiba had gotten into while living in Iwama.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:06 PM   #12
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
In my experience, 1 and 2 are the same, because the techniques of Aikido are abstractions of the kata of Daito ryu, of which some were designed to teach you how to create aiki. (YMMV).
I think your experience is limited. I chose my terminology very carefully.

The exercises I'm referring to in 1 are *not* techniques, in either aikido or Daito Ryu. They are exercises. They build the foundation on which techniques rest.

Katherine
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:44 PM   #13
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

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Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
I think your experience is limited. I chose my terminology very carefully.

The exercises I'm referring to in 1 are *not* techniques, in either aikido or Daito Ryu. They are exercises. They build the foundation on which techniques rest.

Katherine
Katherine,

I apologize if you thought I was trying to tell you what you were referring to. I had hoped it would be clear I was referring to my own experience.

The article we are discussing sets up a dichotomy between creating aiki in kata (which is not uncommon) and creating aiki in a free application (which, Kimura asserts, has only truly been done by Sagawa and Takeda). I'm not attempting to invalidate your three levels, just pointing out that (in my opinion) a good kata-based system can serve the purpose of both your aiki-focused exercise and your Aikido waza-based kata.

Its interesting that you bring in the notion of aiki exercise since Kimura didn't mention that kind of experience in this article. Sounds more like people just trained kata at Sagawa's dojo, with Sagawa, perhaps, demonstrating free application from time to time.

P.S. Obviously my experience is limited. I started Aikido in like 1992, hardly trained after the first year, and didn't get serious about it until about 14 years ago. I've practiced Yagyu Shinkage ryu for not quite six years, and Daito ryu a meager four.
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Old 09-03-2015, 07:36 PM   #14
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Ever done suburi? Being able to cut decently is a pre-requisite for doing meaningful sword kata, wouldn't you think?

Same thing with empty hand work. Being able to structure your body decently is a prerequisite for any kind of empty hand technique.

I've never visited Sagawa Sensei's dojo, but every aikido dojo I have visited does a variety of basic footwork and stability exercises. (Though not all of them recognize the aiki-relevance of such exercises.) And there's video of Ueshiba Sensei engaging in that sort of practice, too.

Katherine
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Old 09-03-2015, 07:42 PM   #15
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
That said, aiki as I know it (from two separate lines of aikijujutsu and from one Chinese internal martial art) is the intent-driven manipulation of a body state that we create and manage. Therefore, when you move with an "aiki body," it will manifest itself in everything you do, whether kata, applied technique, or free-form "street" combat. It remains, then, for the individual to develop the skills -- formal/kata, waza, combat -- so that that they will be able to serve as sound vehicles for the aiki engine that will drive them.
Cady,

What, in your opinion, accounts for the lack of practitioners who can truly create free flowing aiki, then? Why should there be such a plateau?

If one must develop "application skills" as a separate study, then doesn't that mean those skills are attainable by themselves, with no prior requirement of internal power? If so, could there not be some value in pursuing them directly, and forgoing the internal skills altogether?

Last edited by akiy : 09-04-2015 at 08:46 PM. Reason: Fixed quote tag
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:18 PM   #16
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
Ever done suburi? Being able to cut decently is a pre-requisite for doing meaningful sword kata, wouldn't you think?

Same thing with empty hand work. Being able to structure your body decently is a prerequisite for any kind of empty hand technique.

I've never visited Sagawa Sensei's dojo, but every aikido dojo I have visited does a variety of basic footwork and stability exercises. (Though not all of them recognize the aiki-relevance of such exercises.) And there's video of Ueshiba Sensei engaging in that sort of practice, too.

Katherine
Thanks for asking about suburi!

There is no formalized suburi in Yagyu Shinkage ryu. We have paired kata. In the process of working to get better at our paired kata, we learn to cut decently...in my extremely humble opinion we learn to cut more decently than if we had spent the time doing suburi.

But we've also got some guys who practice another line of Shinkage ryu - the true transmission from Kashima - and they do in fact have formalized suburi. But there aren't many sword schools that do it.

In my opinion, it's not at all a prerequisite to perform abstract exercises *before* learning technique. A good kata is structured to give you these fundamentals *at the same time as* teaching technique, and laying the foundation for the spontaneous generation of technique that meet the needs of a combat situation.

I'm not saying an approach where you abstract fundamental into an exercise is bad, it's just not my thing. And in terms of classical Japanese martial arts, its not the norm, particularly solo exercises.
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Old 09-04-2015, 07:21 PM   #17
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Cady,

What, in your opinion, accounts for the lack of practitioners who can truly create free flowing aiki, then? Why should there be such a plateau?

If one must develop "application skills" as a separate study, then doesn't that mean those skills are attainable by themselves, with no prior requirement of internal power? If so, could there not be some value in pursuing them directly, and forgoing the internal skills altogether?
Cliff,
In my opinion, and experience, "internal strength" (the precursor to creating aiki) requires a very specific and directed kind of practice -- a method -- in its own right, and is separate from martial technique and combat/fighting skills. That's what aiki tanren (forging drills) are for. This is a difficult concept to visualize if one has come up in a conventional martial art or form of athleticism (such as golf, football, swimming, gymnastics, etc.) because in such disciplines the technique for powering a movement is inherent in the movement itself. For example, in, say, Shotokan karate, a the technique and form for a straight punch involves the overt twisting of the waist/hip and pushing with the feet against the ground... it's a part of making the punch and is inherent in the form, part of a sequential chain of events.

But in internal method, the thing that is driving the punch is separate from the form of the punch itself, and is something trained separately, then is applied to power and move a punch. It's a different set of body movements -- cyclical rather than sequential -- utilizing different mechanisms than the karate punch above. These cyclical movements can be applied to virtually every other kind of technique, not just a punch or strike.

So, aiki is taught as a separate component in traditional aikijujutsu. Students learn jujutsu first ... the straightforward "external" mechanics based on leverage and vectors. Then, they are taught discrete "bits" of aiki (think "unbendable arm" and similar things that aikido has, but which remain as individual pieces of material rather than understood as a small part of a greater whole of internal structure and aiki) and how to apply them in specific places in waza ("insert aiki here"...). Finally, students would be taught aiki-no-jutsu... the "pure aiki" in and of itself -- that's where you see guys bouncing someone off their arm, or shoulder or whatever, or seeming to slam them down to the ground with "just a touch"... those are not techniques, they are expressions of aiki/internal power combined with a knowledge of how to manipulate that power. Though they may seem to be techniques because you see the person moving his wrists or arms in a certain way, those are just directional guides, and not the source of power in themselves. There is no visible form the way a stylistic punch, strike, kick or recognizable throw would have in various arts such as karate, or judo, or aikido. They are expressions of power and manipulation that are techniqueless.

If you look at the videos of Okamoto Sensei, of the Roppokai, you will see a lot of aiki-no-jutsu with minimal technique. Look at Kondo Sensei, of mainline Daito-ryu, and you will see a lot of the jujutsu waza. Look at the few available clips of Horikawa Sensei of the Kodokai, and you will see some of each, but a lot of aiki-no-jutsu. Then, check out some of the clips of Gozo Shioda (Yoshinkan aikido), and you will see aikijujutsu.

Often, traditional practice seems to be very ritualized and kata-based. Street application does not appear to be a part of the curriculum. If you don't train under physical and mental duress, in incremental escalation, you never inculcate the free-flowing capabilities.

At some point, you have to come out of ritualized step-by-step kata and get exposure to the kinds of pressures that come from varied attacks, at varied angles and speeds, without predictable rhythms.

I don't know whether I have articulated my thoughts well enough here to provide clarity, but I hope this was helpful.
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Old 09-05-2015, 11:14 AM   #18
Cliff Judge
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Cliff,
In my opinion, and experience, "internal strength" (the precursor to creating aiki) requires a very specific and directed kind of practice -- a method -- in its own right, and is separate from martial technique and combat/fighting skills. That's what aiki tanren (forging drills) are for. This is a difficult concept to visualize if one has come up in a conventional martial art or form of athleticism (such as golf, football, swimming, gymnastics, etc.) because in such disciplines the technique for powering a movement is inherent in the movement itself. For example, in, say, Shotokan karate, a the technique and form for a straight punch involves the overt twisting of the waist/hip and pushing with the feet against the ground... it's a part of making the punch and is inherent in the form, part of a sequential chain of events.

But in internal method, the thing that is driving the punch is separate from the form of the punch itself, and is something trained separately, then is applied to power and move a punch. It's a different set of body movements -- cyclical rather than sequential -- utilizing different mechanisms than the karate punch above. These cyclical movements can be applied to virtually every other kind of technique, not just a punch or strike.

So, aiki is taught as a separate component in traditional aikijujutsu. Students learn jujutsu first ... the straightforward "external" mechanics based on leverage and vectors. Then, they are taught discrete "bits" of aiki (think "unbendable arm" and similar things that aikido has, but which remain as individual pieces of material rather than understood as a small part of a greater whole of internal structure and aiki) and how to apply them in specific places in waza ("insert aiki here"...). Finally, students would be taught aiki-no-jutsu... the "pure aiki" in and of itself -- that's where you see guys bouncing someone off their arm, or shoulder or whatever, or seeming to slam them down to the ground with "just a touch"... those are not techniques, they are expressions of aiki/internal power combined with a knowledge of how to manipulate that power. Though they may seem to be techniques because you see the person moving his wrists or arms in a certain way, those are just directional guides, and not the source of power in themselves. There is no visible form the way a stylistic punch, strike, kick or recognizable throw would have in various arts such as karate, or judo, or aikido. They are expressions of power and manipulation that are techniqueless.

If you look at the videos of Okamoto Sensei, of the Roppokai, you will see a lot of aiki-no-jutsu with minimal technique. Look at Kondo Sensei, of mainline Daito-ryu, and you will see a lot of the jujutsu waza. Look at the few available clips of Horikawa Sensei of the Kodokai, and you will see some of each, but a lot of aiki-no-jutsu. Then, check out some of the clips of Gozo Shioda (Yoshinkan aikido), and you will see aikijujutsu.

Often, traditional practice seems to be very ritualized and kata-based. Street application does not appear to be a part of the curriculum. If you don't train under physical and mental duress, in incremental escalation, you never inculcate the free-flowing capabilities.

At some point, you have to come out of ritualized step-by-step kata and get exposure to the kinds of pressures that come from varied attacks, at varied angles and speeds, without predictable rhythms.

I don't know whether I have articulated my thoughts well enough here to provide clarity, but I hope this was helpful.
Thanks Cady!

I have become decently familiar with your take on this "skills pyramid" from our discussions over the past few years. But for people who haven't been with us for the whole thing (and I myself am a relative newcomer who does not approach your depth of experience) this is a useful synopsis.

I don't think you quite answered my question, and I also have another question or two plus a clarification to make, so let me just list them:

1) You mention that aiki is taught as a separate component in "traditional aikijujutsu." Are you referring to the line of aikijujutsu that traces down from Kodo Horikawa? It doesn't seem to me that Kimura is describing such a training sequence, at least not in this article. He's just talking about practicing kata, and also mentions that Sagawa and Takeda could manifest aiki outside of kata as well, but only them.

2) With apologies, I must correct you with regard to videos of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei. In almost all videos one can find of him on youtube or in other places, he is demonstrating aikijujutsu. The "cyclical" movement you mention is inherent in these kata.

3) Here's my original question again: you say that there is a separation of internal strength training, aiki training, and technical training, and then you essentially say that free application is not even part of this ladder, that one must step out of the kata mold and experience different types of stress to develop those ability.

So, what I understand from you is that aiki is this set of body skills, but the "free application" part is a completely separate set of skills.That's what Kimura's article seems to indicate as well.

Then, wouldn't these skills that allow for free application be useful and desirable to attain *in and of themselves*, i.e. setting aside any aiki or internal strength skills?

This is the very edge of my speculation at the moment, but my experiences in Aikido with Saotome Sensei lead me to believe that the free application part is what Osensei considered to be "true" aiki. This makes me feel that if we've got a separation between the "body skills" and the free application of any such skill, the body skills part isn't really where the aiki is - perhaps that's the core of Osensei's innovation.

Thanks again,
Cliff
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Old 09-05-2015, 12:48 PM   #19
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power - Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Par

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Thanks Cady!

I have become decently familiar with your take on this "skills pyramid" from our discussions over the past few years. But for people who haven't been with us for the whole thing (and I myself am a relative newcomer who does not approach your depth of experience) this is a useful synopsis.

I don't think you quite answered my question, and I also have another question or two plus a clarification to make, so let me just list them:

1) You mention that aiki is taught as a separate component in "traditional aikijujutsu." Are you referring to the line of aikijujutsu that traces down from Kodo Horikawa? It doesn't seem to me that Kimura is describing such a training sequence, at least not in this article. He's just talking about practicing kata, and also mentions that Sagawa and Takeda could manifest aiki outside of kata as well, but only them.

2) With apologies, I must correct you with regard to videos of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei. In almost all videos one can find of him on youtube or in other places, he is demonstrating aikijujutsu. The "cyclical" movement you mention is inherent in these kata.

3) Here's my original question again: you say that there is a separation of internal strength training, aiki training, and technical training, and then you essentially say that free application is not even part of this ladder, that one must step out of the kata mold and experience different types of stress to develop those ability.

So, what I understand from you is that aiki is this set of body skills, but the "free application" part is a completely separate set of skills.That's what Kimura's article seems to indicate as well.

Then, wouldn't these skills that allow for free application be useful and desirable to attain *in and of themselves*, i.e. setting aside any aiki or internal strength skills?

This is the very edge of my speculation at the moment, but my experiences in Aikido with Saotome Sensei lead me to believe that the free application part is what Osensei considered to be "true" aiki. This makes me feel that if we've got a separation between the "body skills" and the free application of any such skill, the body skills part isn't really where the aiki is - perhaps that's the core of Osensei's innovation.

Thanks again,
Cliff
Hi Cliff,
Hmm. How did I manage to not answer your question? I must have gotten swept off on a tangent.
Okay, I'll try to address things point by point in hopes of not getting off track again.

1. The jujutsu-aikijujutsu-aiki no jutsu formula seems to be the "norm" in the AJJ systems I've observed, that were, or were derived from, Kodokai. I didn't mean to insinuate that this is done in all of the DR scions, and also was not relating this observation to anything in the article; rather, I pointed it out because I was attempting to explain the differentiation between technique/waza (which is the mechanical workings of the jujutsu) and the power-generating and connective processes and method that are internal strength and aiki... which powers and drives the jujutsu when doing aikijujutsu.

In other words, aiki is something you "exude" from your body, even when you're just "standing there," because it involves actual manipulation of your muscles, tendons and other soft/connective tissues, including the diaphragm. When you are standing in a neutral posture, there is no overt sign that you are making these manipulations, but if someone were to place his hands on your belly and your lower back, or on your hip where the femur meets the pelvis, or any of several other points, while you were doing these internal movements, he would be able to feel that movement. This is part of the way in which aiki is taught, hands-on, and transmitted teacher-to-student. There is a short video of Horikawa Kodo Sensei doing exactly that, with his student feeling those movements and then attempting to replicate them as Horikawa Sensei serves as uke.

Kata, in turn, provide an overt, visible framework in which you are using IS and/or aiki to move your external body (i.e. arms, legs, hips, etc.) in a way that people can see. They are a way to practice the expression of aiki and internal strength. But aiki exists separately from these kata, will as anyone will know after they touch someone using aiki. If you use even a little force and resistance on someone producing aiki, your body will be instantly affected and you will feel it and be moved by it, even though the aiki person is "not doing anything" (that is, not doing any kind of overt technique).

2. By "cyclical," I mean the internal mechanisms of aiki, not the continuous flowing movement of going from one technique to another when freestyling (Kondo Sensei most certainly does flow from one technique to the next, with great ease). I'm talking about the power source of what drives aikijujutsu waza. Aiki is a constant loop of manipulating the tissues of the body; ratios of suction vs. expansion, contracting vs. stretching, etc. You change the ratio with the conditions in the moment. This allows a person to "invisibly" create and vary the kind and direction of force, with no starting or ending point of its generation.

3. "Here's my original question again: you say that there is a separation of internal strength training, aiki training, and technical training, and then you essentially say that free application is not even part of this ladder, that one must step out of the kata mold and experience different types of stress to develop those ability."

Yes. Aiki is one way of manifesting internal strength (another would be hakkei... "fajing" expression of internal force in punching and striking). Before you can train aiki, you must first develop and train its component parts. So, there are separate trainings for these. The Chinese internal martial arts are famous for their shenfa (tanren) for these foundational conditions and skills. Sagawa Sensei was also famous for his "secret" tanren for internal strength development, which he did not share with anyone until he was almost at the end of his life.

Free application is the use of aiki and internal strength in freestyle practice, outside of pre-set kata and also of dojo aiki randori, which is not combative skill but a demonstration of responding with aiki to ritualized "attacks" (e.g. yokomenuchi, shomenuchi, tsuki, etc.).

To my observation, very few schools (a relative handful of teachers) step outside of ritual kata or ritual randori, and train for practical application in the contemporary world. Fighting skills are a separate discipline that many are not willing to undertake, for whatever reason.

"So, what I understand from you is that aiki is this set of body skills, but the "free application" part is a completely separate set of skills.That's what Kimura's article seems to indicate as well.

Yes.

"Then, wouldn't these skills that allow for free application be useful and desirable to attain *in and of themselves*, i.e. setting aside any aiki or internal strength skills?"

Well, sure. I'm talking "fighting skills." People do that every day in thousands of dojo, MMA gyms, boxing gyms, muay Thai schools, etc., etc. But, fighting skills that are fueled and driven by internal power and aiki, confer an advantage over the so-called "externally" driven (conventional) modes of movement, IMO and IME. That's why there has always been so much mystique around it.
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