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Old 07-17-2006, 06:12 PM   #1
Neil Mick
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"Energy"

OK, time to air out a pet peeve of mine. But first, a little bit of semantics.

literal

Quote:
adj 1: being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something; "her actual motive"; "a literal solitude like a desert"- G.K.Chesterton; "a genuine dilemma" [syn: actual, genuine, real] 2: without interpretation or embellishment; "a literal translation of the scene before him" 3: limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text; "a literal translation" [ant: figurative]
figurative

Quote:
Based on or making use of figures of speech; metaphorical: figurative language.
Containing many figures of speech; ornate.
Represented by a figure or resemblance; symbolic or emblematic.
OK, now that that's clear...

I have this pet peeve about the usage of the word "energy." Aikido Sensei's and many others in the holistic health field talk about "energy" in the "figurative" sense, yet they use it literally. One recent case was a movie-night where we were watching a film with O Sensei, and one viewer commented that O Sensei's "energy" "leapt" off the screen.

I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that if I had a geiger counter or other energy recording device there: I'd have gotten the same reading from that film than if I showed a film of a potted plant (but in all fairness to the speaker: perhaps he WAS speaking figuratively).

I've heard even sillier examples in non-Aikido contexts. Perhaps the grand prize of silliness was in a work context. One co-worker complained how all Managers at the Front Desk seemed to "absorb" this "negative energy," because they all, in time, became irrational and short-tempered, no matter how good-natured they were, when they took the job.

This pasty-brained idea ignored the fact that the owner was a verbally abusive pill who often filled these poor Managers' days with earfuls of stress and headache courtesy of long-distance, several times a week. Little wonder that they all cracked, in the end: "energy" had little to do with it.

And so, I once tried an experiment: during one basics class I went on and on about how there IS no mysterious "energy" that I "absorb" from uke, etc: it was all physics and perfectly explainable. I then went on to demonstrate the technique, and left them to it. But, in attempting to practice, my students struggled harder; they seemed less joyous in what they were doing, and all in all they weren't getting the principles of what I wanted to convey.

After that, I said "OK, forget what I just said: imagine that you ARE absorbing energy from uke and transforming it into something else." My students' faces were more relaxed and generally seemed to enjoy the practice, more.

So, were my students ACTUALLY doing "energy-work?" Personally, I don't think so. But what was going on?

IMO, the use of "energy" is a "frame:" an aspect of the precognitive. That is: it evokes a picture in the mind, to help the body more effectively practice Aikido. George Lakoff talks about the use of words and framing very well, in a political context.

Simple Framing

Quote:
An introduction to framing and its uses in politics.

Carry out the following directive:

Don't think of an elephant!

It is, of course, a directive that cannot be carried out and that is the point. In order to purposefully not think of an elephant, you have to think of an elephant. There are four morals.

Moral 1. Every word evokes a frame.

A frame is a conceptual structure used in thinking. The word elephant evokes a frame with an image of an elephant and certain knowledge: an elephant is a large animal (a mammal) with large floppy ears, a trunk that functions like both a nose and a hand, large stump-like legs, and so on.

Moral 2: Words defined within a frame evoke the frame.

The word trunk, as in the sentence "Sam picked up the peanut with his trunk," evokes the Elephant frame and suggests that "Sam" is the name of an elephant.

Moral 3: Negating a frame evokes the frame.

Moral 4: Evoking a frame reinforces that frame.

Every frame is realized in the brain by neural circuitry. Every time a neural circuit is activated, it is strengthened.
And so, by exhorting my students to "ignore the 'energy' idea; I was telling them to work at cross-purposes...I was conjuring it in their minds, and telling them to work against it.

So, what do you think? I am still exploring this idea of framing, both in political dialogue, and when I teach Aikido. IS the use of "energy" ultimately positive, or detrimental, especially when it is meant literally?
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Old 07-17-2006, 09:03 PM   #2
dps
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
So, what do you think? I am still exploring this idea of framing, both in political dialogue, and when I teach Aikido. IS the use of "energy" ultimately positive, or detrimental, especially when it is meant literally?
Hey man, I think energy is like right up there with negative and positive vibes man from the sixties. So keep the vibes positive, OK.
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Old 07-17-2006, 09:25 PM   #3
aikidoc
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Re: "Energy"

There is a whole society involved in the study of subtle energies. Perhaps energy terminology helps people focus their minds in a fashion that impoves the practice. Just a thought.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:57 PM   #4
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
Hey man, I think energy is like right up there with negative and positive vibes man from the sixties. So keep the vibes positive, OK.
And, just like many other overrused words that try to mean much, yet say little: "vibe" doesn't describe anything, at all, IMHO.

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
There is a whole society involved in the study of subtle energies. Perhaps energy terminology helps people focus their minds in a fashion that impoves the practice. Just a thought.
With respect, you could file this one under the "Flat Earther's," or the wives of Pentagon officials who used to meet on the Capital steps every Wednesday during the '80s', to meditate on peace.

Did it do any good...? Well, aside from assuaging a few guilty consciences, I seriously doubt it.

Right thinking is useless, without right action, IMO.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:13 PM   #5
dps
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
And, just like many other overrused words that try to mean much, yet say little: "vibe" doesn't describe anything, at all, IMHO.
. My opinion, when "energy" gets to be overused there will be a new word or phrase to describe the same old, same old.
.
Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Right thinking is useless, without right action, IMO.
My experience, right action first, right thinking follows.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:15 PM   #6
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
My experience, right action first, right thinking follows.
Not exactly sure how that works; but OK...I won't quibble.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:17 PM   #7
dps
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Not exactly sure how that works; but OK...I won't quibble.
Someone (parent, teacher, sensei) teaches you right action that influences your mind to right thinking.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:33 PM   #8
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
Someone (parent, teacher, sensei) teaches you right action that influences your mind to right thinking.
Well, that certainly is one path to right action. But, to get taught, you need to have a mind open to their teaching: and so, I contend that right action begins with a mind receptive to it, in the first place.

But this is getting a bit off the track. So, let me loop back a bit...

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
My opinion, when "energy" gets to be overused there will be a new word or phrase to describe the same old, same old.
Sorry, but I feel that this is a cop-out. Lanaguage is supposed to define, not blur. An overused word means nothing, and conveys less.

If a teacher exhorts his students to "extend positive energy:" what is s/he telling you to do? Raise your arms higher? Breathe more deeply? Focus on the infinite?

As an Aikido instructor: I am trying to achieve realizable goals. "Fuzzy" terminology, IMO, only works to confuse and muddy the concepts.

I also noticed this when a teacher once suggested a student "move his hips" more. Now, what did that mean? What she really wanted him to do was to shift his center of gravity from one leg to the other, in the midst of a movement. But, the teacher relied upon shopworn terms that were vague.

IMO, vague terms more often hurt, than help.
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Old 07-17-2006, 11:59 PM   #9
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Well, that certainly is one path to right action. But, to get taught, you need to have a mind open to their teaching: and so, I contend that right action begins with a mind receptive to it, in the first place..
Like a newborns mind is receptive to learning from its parents, so should a student's mind be receptive to learning from a teacher or sensei.


Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Sorry, but I feel that this is a cop-out. Lanaguage is supposed to define, not blur. An overused word means nothing, and conveys less.
Cool, more sixties terminology, I dig what you are saying.

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
If a teacher exhorts his students to "extend positive energy:" what is s/he telling you to do? Raise your arms higher? Breathe more deeply? Focus on the infinite?
Or the teacher does not understand what s/he is teaching or does not know how to communicate ideas well.

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
As an Aikido instructor: I am trying to achieve realizable goals. "Fuzzy" terminology, IMO, only works to confuse and muddy the concepts.
Or hides ignorance.
Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
IMO, vague terms more often hurt, than help.
I'm with you dude. ( seventies and eighties terminology)
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Old 07-18-2006, 01:19 AM   #10
Mike Hamer
 
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Re: "Energy"

I find it shocking that a Sensei refuses to acknowledge the power of Ki.

ai KI do man


Im only 1 and 3/4 a month in, but I stand my ground when I voice my opinion that Ki is a very real thing.

To speak ill of anything is against the nature of Aikido
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Old 07-18-2006, 01:44 AM   #11
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
Like a newborns mind is receptive to learning from its parents, so should a student's mind be receptive to learning from a teacher or sensei.
How very glib. But, yet again, you miss the ball, in attempting to be stylish. Again, this statement neither adds, nor counters, my previous statement. Thought can preceed action; and so can the converse, be true.

So what's the point, David?

Quote:
Cool, more sixties terminology, I dig what you are saying.
Glibness, thy name is Dave.

Quote:
Or the teacher does not understand what s/he is teaching or does not know how to communicate ideas well.
I have no idea of your level of Aikido, so I have no clue as to whether or not you've taught, before. So, I'll go on the assumption that you have not.

But, in case this is true: there is not a teacher alive who completely understands Aikido. Nor have I yet to meet one who claims that they do. Even O Sensei stated as much ("Aikido is infinite"). Any teacher who claims total understanding is, IMO, a charlatan.

So, of course teachers will often fall back on vague terms used by their Sensei's before them.

Quote:
Or hides ignorance.
Yes, this is also possible.

Quote:
I'm with you dude. ( seventies and eighties terminology)
Look, David: it's all very well to be "cute;" but I am trying for a certain level of discourse, above and beyond the "cuteness." Do you have a point here, or are you just trying to be glib? Because from where I sit, you've so far failed to address the point of the thread.

Save the glib asides for the humor section, OK? Or, at least use it sparingly. It's OK to crack wise, but this is something I have been considering for awhile.

It took me about six months of thought to even post this thread; so I'd appreciate a little thought, in your responses, if you'd be so kind.

Last edited by Neil Mick : 07-18-2006 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 07-18-2006, 01:48 AM   #12
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Mikel Hamer wrote:
I find it shocking that a Sensei refuses to acknowledge the power of Ki.

ai KI do man

Im only 1 and 3/4 a month in, but I stand my ground when I voice my opinion that Ki is a very real thing.
Good for you. But, you might notice, from the title of the thread, that I am not talking about "ki." I'm talking about the usage of a vague, overrused term that is ill-defined.

But I encourage you to continue "standing your ground," while challenging you to find a definition of ki that suits you.

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Old 07-18-2006, 01:51 AM   #13
James Kelly
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Mikel Hamer wrote:
I find it shocking that a Sensei refuses to acknowledge the power of Ki.

ai KI do man


Im only 1 and 3/4 a month in, but I stand my ground when I voice my opinion that Ki is a very real thing.
and awwaaayyyy we go....
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Old 07-18-2006, 01:55 AM   #14
Neil Mick
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
and awwaaayyyy we go....
No we don't. I, for one, refuse to divert this thread into a discussion on the reality/unreality of ki. That's not what this is about...it's why I posted it in the Language section.

If others want to try to hijack the thread into that 50-page debate, that's their business. But, that is not the point of this thread.
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Old 07-18-2006, 02:28 AM   #15
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: "Energy"

Hello Neil,

I think you need something a bit more more substantial than Lakoff. Frames are very important in negotiation theory, as in Roy Lewicki Negotiation 5th edition. Try also: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/mmet...es_primer.html - 17k -

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 07-18-2006, 06:04 AM   #16
Mark Freeman
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
One recent case was a movie-night where we were watching a film with O Sensei,
Hi Neil,

I'm not trying to be glib (honest) but the language used above leads me to think that O Sensei was with you at the movie, I hope you gave him the best seat in the house!

Our language is full of generalisations, deletions and distortions, it's a wonder that we can make any sense at all of much of what is said.

however,
Quote:
IMO, the use of "energy" is a "frame:" an aspect of the precognitive. That is: it evokes a picture in the mind, to help the body more effectively practice Aikido.
Any language used that helps the body move more effectively in aikido is well, helpfull I'll try to use any weird and wonderfull mental image I can to help people internalise the concept that is being practiced. If I were to rely some of them here some would think I am nuts!

I spent a fair bit of time in the 90's studying NLP, a great deal of the body of knowlege is concerned with language patterns and how we use and process them.

As you have already pointed out, the brain cannot process something 'not' happening. This can be used both positively as well as negatively, great when it is conscious and positive, not so good when it is unconscious and negative.

Hypnotherapists, refer to this as an embedded command, example; " Don't go tense when try that" If you are going to use negatives, it would be better said " Don't completely relax when you try that, you don't want to make it easy for yourself " ( this needs to be delivered with the right amount of irony in the voice )

So if you were to say " Don't think that I am the font of all wisdom, I'm only a humble aikido instructor ", you may be sowing seeds...

It's a very interesting and wide enquiry Neil, one that I'm sure you are aware has massive political ramifications. Note most of the great historical leaders tend to use 'big chunk' artfully vauge generalisations, which get large numbers of people nodding in agreement without really understanding exactly what is being meant by what is being said.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 07-18-2006, 07:08 AM   #17
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Good for you. But, you might notice, from the title of the thread, that I am not talking about "ki." I'm talking about the usage of a vague, overrused term that is ill-defined.
The core of the kokyu-strength that Tohei sometimes demonstrates as "Ki" (it's a legitimate generalization) is called "jin" by the Chinese and "pengjin" specifically in Taijiquan. There's an interesting interview here where somebody runs by Jumin Chen the idea that it's an "energy":

http://www.taiji-qigong.de/info/arti...ansljin_en.php


FWIW

Mike
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Old 07-18-2006, 07:32 AM   #18
Basia Halliop
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Re: "Energy"

Maybe it's just me because I'm an engineer, but when I hear the word 'energy' I tend to interpret it most naturally in a literal physical way. E.g., the two most immediately obvious forms of energy in aikido being kinetic energy = 1/2*mass*(velocity squared), and gravitational potential energy = mass*height*(gravitational acceleration constant), and of course since energy is always conserved each can be transformed into the other or transferred to another mass (or ultimately dissipated into frictional heating at the end of a technique...).

Both of these seem perfectly applicable to a lot of aikido contexts, since we are after all talking about the rapid movement of large masses. As far as I can see (I'm a beginner in aikido) you do in fact 'literally' deflect uke's energy and do interesting things with it. For example you might move out of the way in such a way that their kinetic energy they intended for use in a collision with some vulnerable part of your anatomy is still there, and add a very small amount of your own energy to slightly deflect the trajectory of their mass in such a way that they didn't intend (without usually trying to actually stop them, which would require a much larger force than just deflecting them slightly off their original path), or you might do a 'throw' that isn't literally a 'throw' but rather you somehow getting uke off balance -- ie, their centre of gravity not being supported -- so that their own gravitational potential energy brings them down.

You actually are 'literally' using their own energy to bring them down, as far as I can see.

I wouldn't really say you 'absorb' their energy though unless you let them hit you really hard or something...

But then other times, in many of the quotes you guys are giving it's obviously not meant in this literal classical physics sense. But if you find using a metaphor helps you do it better, is that bad...?
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Old 07-18-2006, 08:50 AM   #19
dps
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
So, what do you think? I am still exploring this idea of framing, both in political dialogue, and when I teach Aikido. IS the use of "energy" ultimately positive, or detrimental, especially when it is meant literally?
Do you believe ": it was all physics and perfectly explainable".
If you believe ": it was all physics and perfectly explainable", then to teach them "you ARE absorbing energy from uke and transforming it into something else" is being dishonest with your students and detrimental to them.
Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
I have this pet peeve about the usage of the word "energy."
Do you want to be surrounded by students that you taught your pet peeve to
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Old 07-18-2006, 09:48 AM   #20
Mike Hamer
 
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
Good for you. But, you might notice, from the title of the thread, that I am not talking about "ki." I'm talking about the usage of a vague, overused term that is ill-defined.

But I encourage you to continue "standing your ground," while challenging you to find a definition of ki that suits you.


Alright, alright, sorry, but you've gotta understand where I was coming from.

As far as "energy" go's I believe that Ki can be used to be in harmony with the forces of natures energy, aka gravity, kinetic energy, you know the works. But I do not believe in a measurable "energy" that can be used in a martial art against an opponent. Sounds like Dragon Ball Z to me..........(a Japanese anime involving spikey haired energy warriors)

To speak ill of anything is against the nature of Aikido
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:36 AM   #21
Trish Greene
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote:
Maybe it's just me because I'm an engineer, but when I hear the word 'energy' I tend to interpret....
Basia brings up a very valid point here. Much of our language, or any language is open to interpretation depending on that persons experience with the term being used.

You ask three artists to paint a picture of an apple and you will come up with three different apples. You ask 10 people in martial arts to define "energy" and you will get 20 different answers. Some people work better in figurative language concepts while others work better in literal language concepts. Its up to you to determine the context in how they are using the term.

Yes, energy is not literally leaping off the screen, but the experience that the person had while watching the movie of O'sensei gave him a feeling of energy leaping off the screen and that was the only word that the person could come up with to describe to you his experiences. Have patience with us figurative people.

Just my thoughts.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:38 AM   #22
James Davis
 
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
I have this pet peeve about the usage of the word "energy."

And so, I once tried an experiment: during one basics class I went on and on about how there IS no mysterious "energy" that I "absorb" from uke, etc: it was all physics and perfectly explainable. I then went on to demonstrate the technique, and left them to it. But, in attempting to practice, my students struggled harder; they seemed less joyous in what they were doing, and all in all they weren't getting the principles of what I wanted to convey.

After that, I said "OK, forget what I just said: imagine that you ARE absorbing energy from uke and transforming it into something else." My students' faces were more relaxed and generally seemed to enjoy the practice, more.
If my uke is moving toward me, and goes "smack" into my huge, huge belly, I've just absorbed his kinetic energy.

Scientists say that the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly...

...but it does.

Just be happy that your students are able to get the technique right, regardless of the teacher's method. Do what works. I agree that ki can be explained with physics, but "energy" is easier for someone to visualize than mathematical equations when someone's about to whack 'em on their cabeza.

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:45 AM   #23
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
Neil Mick wrote:
IS the use of "energy" ultimately positive, or detrimental, especially when it is meant literally?
Hey Neil,
I am anything but a New Age guy but I use the term all the time.
We use "energy" largely to describe the intuitive aspect of of the human interaction. There are all sorts of areas in which we sense what are probably a whole host of complex signals, many of which we couldn't concsiously describe. "Energy" is an easy way to talk about it.

Gaven DeBaeker talks about this whole area in The Gift of Fear. He describes the messages we take in from our subliminal mind that we routinely tend to ignore because we are now modern and rational and are embarrassed to pay to much attention to feeling. Except that it's there and it's a part of our survival mechanism which we ignore at our own peril.

If you and I stood across from one another with swords, the most important elements of the fight would take place before I ever moved to cut you. I would dominate you with my spirit before anything else happened. By the time I attacked, you would not be able to effectively counter the attack. That's all done on the "energetic" level. You may not be able to measure it on some machine but it's there. And you can't do Aikido at a really high level without understanding it. The trick is to make your students aware of it and train it.

"Energy" is essentially the way O-Sensei looked at everything he did. Kototama is the study of the power of sound. It describes the various building blocks of the Universe in terms of vibration. All of the input you get from your sensory system is in terms of energy. You take in light through the eyes, sound through the ears, etc. It is a fact that the quality of what you take in effects your mindset. That's "energetic".

Our art is about Mind Body Spirit unification. Actually, our art is really about realizing that the unification is a fact already. In reality one can't separate the Mind-Body-Spirit aspects of ourselves. Our fundamental mistake is to act as if we could. Trying to remove the concept of "energy" (or whatever substitute term you wish to use) from the art would reduce the art to mere mechanics. That would take all the Aiki out of the Aikido.

I understand the reaction against the New Age types who talk about "energy" all the time and don't understand it at all in it's Aikido context. But that's just bad Budo, not a reason to ignore elements that are there in all human interactions and which are crucial to understand and utilize in the martial interaction.

Just as an aside, it's funny that all of the things which are most important to human beings are not material, measurable concepts: Love, honor, friendship, fulfillment, etc can't be touched or measured but they are some of the strongest motivating factors in human existence.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 07-18-2006 at 10:54 AM.

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Old 07-18-2006, 10:54 AM   #24
Nick Pagnucco
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Re: "Energy"

The more I read threads like this, the more I want to re-read Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature ....

ok, sorry; i'm done with the random academic babbling.

For me, this thread is about 2 things. How good a vocabulary one has to describe phenomenon (an analytical issue), and how effective one is at using that vocabular for instruction (a pedagogical issue).

People often use a platitude to short circuit giving a good explanation. "extend ki," and "Its just physics," and "its just human anatomy" are by themselves not descriptive, but rather generic catchwords that are almost as bad as "its smurf". It pretends to be an explanation, but it leaves the student to guess the 'real' meaning based on the context (including watching/feeling how the instructor does things).

Now, sometimes, context is enough to make a meaning clear, so its always good to have a few terms with flexible meanings (like energy)... but if one only has those, and no specific terms for fundamental basics, then there's gonna be a problem.
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Old 07-18-2006, 10:56 AM   #25
Basia Halliop
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 711
Canada
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Re: "Energy"

Quote:
James Davis, Jr. wrote:
Scientists say that the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly...

...but it does.
Just an aside, but GOOD scientists don't say that . The joke was that the scientists in question assumed a bumblebee flew like an airplane, gliding along using lift and aerodynamics. It doesn't, of course, it flies like a helicopter, using the rapid movement of its wings to raise it up.

If you try to understand something starting from a basic assumption, and your basic assumption is wrong, all that follows will be wrong no matter how good your math is.

I don't know whether that's relevent to the discussion at hand or not, but I just had to stand up for all the poor abused physicists and mathematicians out there .

I fully agree that there are different learning styles, based on personality and experience. For me bringing a little bit of very simple physics into an explanation is sometimes very clarifying.
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