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Old 10-17-2005, 10:16 PM   #1
John Matsushima
 
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Question Kokyu explanation

I personally have found that kokyu is one of the most important principles in the practical application of the art, yet there seems to be much misunderstanding and confusion as to what it really means. Part of the problem I see in western aikido is the explanation of Japanese concepts in English. Many people use terminology such as "extend your ki", and "feel your energy" when describing kokyu. These are good efforts I believe, but sound mysterious, and doubtful as these are terms not common in explaining physical movement. As a result, I often see beginners with a big question mark above their head (Extend my what???, oh, OK, I saw this on Dragonball Z!) Kokyu "power" ends up sounding a lot like using the "force".
Another approach is to use physical demonstrations such as the "unbendable arm". However, this raises questions such as, is the person really applying the same pressure in both circumstances (when the arm is held using physical strength vs. kokyu power), and is the other person allowing their arm to bend, perhaps, even subconsciously?
I would like to ask if anyone has for the first approach, a more grounded and understandable explanation for kokyu, or for the second approach, other physical exercises which might help more to convey the feeling of kokyu.
Thank you in advance for any input.

-John Matsushima

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Old 10-18-2005, 04:17 AM   #2
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
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Re: Kokyu explanation

For our westeners the main problem with the concepts of kokyu and ki is that it is very difficult indeed to explain them verbally. The only way of understanding them is experiencing them with one's body. For our western minds it is very uncomfortable, or at least alienating, to be supposed to feel something which we cannot put into words.

When I was a beginner even more than I am now, I found it very helpful to think of the concept of ki in terms of energy of intention, the energy of wanting to go somewhere. There are many simple exercises to demonstrate this. It is also visible all the time in daily life. When people walk on a crowded sidewalk, trying not to bump into one another, there is a lot of projection of ki: people have a certain energy that originates from their intention to pass another person either at the left or at the right hand side and the other person easily percieves this as such from a distance. It is this kind of energy one feels even more when one is touching the other person while he is moving or even wanting to move. The advantage, I found, of this kind of definition of ki is that energy of movement and intention is something that can be understood to a certain extent in terms of western physics. Later I realized that this idea of ki is too limited, but I still believe it is part of it.

As a beginner I found kokyu (defined in its limited sense of "breath power") less problematic to feel and understand. Once one masters the very basics of, say, irimi nage, it is very clear that the technique works better when one exhales on entering: try to inhale once and you understand immediately that it does not work. Of course, kokyu ho demonstrates (apart from many other things) exactly the same thing: the movements go with a rythm of inhaling and exhaling which cannot be reversed without seriously impeding the effectiveness of the technique. Later, of course, I realized that kokyu is much more than these simple mechanics, but the beginning was there.

I hope this helps.
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Old 10-18-2005, 07:40 AM   #3
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Re: Kokyu explanation

kokyu literally means breath. To me most of the techniques are achieved by controlling breath, breath in as you come in contact, and breath out with ki-ai and you throw. In addition to that your body position has to bring uke to a point that they are off balance, same as most techniques, but there is no kansetsu waza (like nikyo, sankyo, kotegaeshi). It doesn't hurt, uke is just off balance and must fall. Many people say that when a technique doesn't have a name, it's just kokyu waza.
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Old 10-18-2005, 09:16 AM   #4
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Due in some part to Mike Sigman's probing questions, I have been investigating this area for some time. I'll try to list some of the things I've found that seem to be making a difference in physical technique. Please understand that nothing I write here is being presented as final answers in any way. This is simply my attempt at answering your question by presenting my own investigations on kokyu / ki / aiki in three traditions I have had some access to: Yoshinkan Aikido / Abe Sensei / Daito ryu. I am still continuing to research this, and coincidentally, Inoue Sensei of the Yoshinkan will be here this weekend in Phila. I believe a major topic in the private sessions will be kokyu. An important part of this is that he has written a book in Japanese about kokyu, and he has spoken in the past about the specific differences in Aikido and Daito ryu in relation to kokyu, ki, and aiki.

Yoshinkan Aikido

The books of Gozo Shioda talk about the different powers that make up aikido, and Kokyu and Ki are dealt with specifically. The power of the centerline, the power of breath, the power of focus are all spoken of as combining to be the power of ki, a mastery of balance (or as Mike says, balancing all of these powers). I'm not going to go into much depth on this now...your best option is to read his books (esp. his autobiography, Mastering Aikido, the basic course, and the third one whose title I forget just now). One of the key features of reading Shioda Kancho's works has been his statement that the basic training in aikido yoshinkan is meant to develop this kokyu power. You also get clues from statements like the power comes from the big toe.

Combined with this are statements from Chida Sensei, one of the top shihan in Yoshinkan, who has made statements about 'taking the slack out of' the relationship between shite and uke. In other words, there needs to be a certain amount of relaxed (?) tension between shite and uke so that their centers are connected so that when you move, uke must move if the connection is maintained.

I have also had input from other practitioners in the yoshinkan, specifically Tom Yawata. Tom's experience with a Daito ryu group has been beneficial as well. You can see his contributions for yourself at http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=1045.

Daito ryu

In the thread mentioned above and other sources, Daito ryu does not seem to use the phrase 'kokyu'. That seems to be unique to Aikido. The focus in Daito ryu is on 'aiki' more so than ki. This is an interesting area for investigation, as in viewing films of Daito ryu adepts, Ueshiba, and Gozo Shioda, there seems to be some strong commonalities. If you look at a technique such as shihonage and the use of 'aiki' in locking uke's elbows and raising them, you also see similarities to what I saw with Abe Sensei's use of kokyu / ki.

Abe Sensei

Due to the kindness of Shaun Ravens, I was able to spend 3 days training in Iowa with Abe Sensei, who focused on using ki in technique during his time there. Most of the techniques we studied involved focusing on bringing the power from the ground using the big toe, 'clamping down' on the 'one point' with the breath, keeping our arms straight and uke's arms straight. Abe Sensei's methods seemed to me to work best with absolutely no slack in the relationship between shite and uke, at least while learning his methods. Perhaps the need for this is greatly reduced as you advance.

Some of My Own Observations

From all of the above.

Relax the shoulders as much as possible. The kokyu / ki / Aiki power seems to get stopped in shoulders if there is any tension there at all.

Close the spine. There was a marked difference in my sucsess at Abe Sensei's technique when I relaxed the shoulders in combination with closing the gap between the shoulder blades. This helped not only with Abe Sensei's technique, but with Yoshinkan waza as well.

Focus on the big toe...that's where the power seems to come from. Keep your weight centered on the ball of the foot beneath the big toe, and try to structurally align everything between there and your contact with uke.

Don't worry about 'setting up uke' at first by having them attack in a specific way. It seems that at first this gets you feeling what it takes to move in the correct direction. Applying these (and other) methods in more adverse circumstances seems to come much later.

Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 10-18-2005 at 09:21 AM.

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Old 10-18-2005, 10:08 AM   #5
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Oh, another physical thing I forgot to mention...close your 'waki'...in english, the best way I can describe it is to keep your armpits closed. Perhaps Peter Goldsbury or Jun can give a good description of this. You also seem to need to be mindfull of where your elbows are in relation to your body.

Another factor I didn't speak about is the need to develop the ability to absorb or neutralize your partner's energy. There is a thread that speaks about this a bit here:

http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/...801&highlight=

Best,
Ron

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Old 10-18-2005, 10:19 AM   #6
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Can you elaborate on closing the spine a bit more. I agree with expanding the shoulders back a bit. But I have to admit I haven't considered how that does have the effect of closing the spine a bit between your should blades. -Rob
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Old 10-18-2005, 10:19 AM   #7
Eric Webber
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Re: Kokyu explanation

I believe I have heard kokyu explained as breath, as timing, and as spiraling. I generally explain to newer students who ask that kokyu (in the context of technique) is ultimately comprised of all of these things and works best when they are fully integrated. Not sure if that helps with the conceptualization part, hopefully it does. Good luck in your investigation and journey.
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Old 10-18-2005, 10:41 AM   #8
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Hi Rob,

Because so much of this is still in investigation phase, I don't know how much my elaboration will help. But let's give it a try.

In the Yoshinkan, we focus on a very square (hips facing forward) kamae, as opposed to the hamni you see in many styles of aikido. The idea is supposed to help to learn centerline, focus, to build kokyu etc., but all of those things also require that you be relaxed (one particular sore spot in my technique and personal bearing). So I've been experimenting on just how and what you 'relax' in what seems like such a powerfull yet not really natural (for me) stance.

Dropping the shoulders at the same time you bring them back and 'close the spine' seems to take the power out of the shoulders and allow me to relax my arms as well. I seem to have an easier time absorbing my partner's power, and transmitting the power of the ground through my structure when I do this. Closing the waki seems to add to this...if the elbows come out away from my body it changes the amount of tension they carry.

Fred Little was working with me at Abe Sensei's seminar, and as I was struggling with some of the technique, he suggested that I bring my shoulder blades together, and it seemed to make a huge difference right then. Then he reminded me about 'closing your waki'...kind of like trying to hold a couple of small nuts in my armpit without dropping them. Peter Goldsbury has also mentioned the waki, as have some others. Ellis Amdur has added the eight brocade exercises/warmups to some of his teaching I believe, and has spoken of chinese arts that focus on the power and use of the spine in different ways. These are some of the things that brought this to my attention.

Often lately, in katate mochi / katate dori technqiues, instead of immediately flowing with my partner's incomming power, I will try to simply maintain my kamae using these additions, and absorb their power without moving. I try to use this body alignment to allow my focus to channel the incoming power to my hip, or my back foot, or my front foot...depending on what I need to do. In some nikkajo waza, the hip focus works best. In some pivoting on the front foot waza, the front foot is best since the wieght must be forward to pivot, so I channel their power to that foot. In other cases (kaiten nage) I'm pivoting on the back foot, so it helps to put thier power there.

I hope this helps somewhat...again, I'm not very good at this yet...very much a work in progress.

Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 10-18-2005 at 10:44 AM.

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Old 10-18-2005, 11:20 AM   #9
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Oh another important point that I forgot...Daito ryu, Yoshinkan and Abe Sensei all stress opening the fingers widely. Very important to each style of aiki / kokyu / ki...very important.

Best,
Ron

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Old 10-18-2005, 01:06 PM   #10
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Oh another important point that I forgot...Daito ryu, Yoshinkan and Abe Sensei all stress opening the fingers widely. Very important to each style of aiki / kokyu / ki...very important.

Best,
Ron
Thank you Ron for sharing your toughts about kokyu.

The wide opening of the fingers is also a feature of Iwama-style aikido. In fact many Iwama-style students would probably extend their arm/hand/fingers as an answer if you would ask them what kokyu is.
Also the closing of the armpits (elbows pointing down) has been stressed during my training.

//Peter
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Old 10-18-2005, 01:13 PM   #11
akiy
 
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Since this is in the language section, I'll just write:

呼 (ko) =~ To call out, invite.
吸 (kyuu) =~ To suck (in), inhale.

-- Jun

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Old 10-18-2005, 01:23 PM   #12
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

I hope it was helpfull. I'm sure all the different styles and teachers each have their own ways of bringing out this kind of power. One of the problems of looking for clues from different places is that good teachers have an entire system where everything (ukemi, waza, breathing, methods of kokyu) *everything* dovetails very specifically. I already know some styles will find some of the things I said above anathama...because they don't fit in their paradigm. That's ok too...I just probably won't spend much time there, is all. To each their own. The tricky part for me is looking at some of these differences, and finding where they fit in what I'm learning (they often have a place, even if not the same place).

Best,
Ron

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Old 10-18-2005, 04:22 PM   #13
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Great posts Ron - if you don't mind me saying so. Much appreciation.

d

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Old 10-18-2005, 07:23 PM   #14
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quick sidenote,

I've found from my own personal training, that while you "close" the waki you still keep it "open". There's always a "contradictory" nature of power going on in each joint. Absorption of energy also happens not because you want to absorb it so much, but as a side effect of maintaining this contradictory power (closed but open, open but closed, extended but contracted, contracted but extended) in each joint.

When you drop the shoulders, it might be interesting to play with the feeling of droping the shoulders "into" the elbows.
There's still a sliiiight feeling of tension in them as you try and maintain this feeling It's the difference between being relaxed & just "slack"
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Old 10-18-2005, 09:28 PM   #15
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Very interesting, Ron, thank you.

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Old 10-18-2005, 09:36 PM   #16
rob_liberti
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Robert John wrote:
When you drop the shoulders, it might be interesting to play with the feeling of dropping the shoulders "into" the elbows.
Awesome. (whole post awesome, but I wanted to comment on this part). I find I'd have to drop the shoulders into the back of my elbows to keep everything open. I think it's important to "drop" as opposed to "push down".

Rob
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Old 10-18-2005, 11:56 PM   #17
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
I think it's important to "drop" as opposed to "push down".

Rob
Same here!
If you "push" down you activate the lats...something you don't want to do Still it's not neccessarily a comfortable feeling
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Old 10-19-2005, 04:10 AM   #18
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Combined with this are statements from Chida Sensei, one of the top shihan in Yoshinkan, who has made statements about 'taking the slack out of' the relationship between shite and uke. In other words, there needs to be a certain amount of relaxed (?) tension between shite and uke so that their centers are connected so that when you move, uke must move if the connection is maintained.
A good friend of mine who has studied predominantly with Ikeda Sensei has told me that "Keep tension!" was a common admonition of Ikeda's for a long time." If there is not a good, slightly stretched, connection from your center to your hand, you cannot move your hand with your center; if there is not a good connection to your opponent's center, you cannot control his center with your center. The connection will either be yang (kokyu path through the bones) or yin (connection through the slight tension along the outside of the body). This same idea is why the fingers are held open and extended, BTW.
Quote:
Relax the shoulders as much as possible. The kokyu / ki / Aiki power seems to get stopped in shoulders if there is any tension there at all.
I don't know if it gets "stopped", i.e., if that's the best terminology. If you push a wall with relaxed kokyu, you can track the path of power from the ground to midsection and then straight out to the hand on the wall from the midsection. I.e., it is the shortest path from the ground and the "controlling" area is the mid-section/hara. If somehow the shoulder became involved in the actualy initiation of power, the "shortest path from the ground" is no longer valid, so you have diluted or ruined your path of "pure" power.
Quote:
Close the spine. There was a marked difference in my sucsess at Abe Sensei's technique when I relaxed the shoulders in combination with closing the gap between the shoulder blades. This helped not only with Abe Sensei's technique, but with Yoshinkan waza as well.
If you think about it, this "close this, close that" approach is radically different from the "relax" approach of for instance Tohei. In other words, I think people are beginning to highlight the different approaches to ki/kokyu now that is within the higher ranks.
Quote:
Focus on the big toe...that's where the power seems to come from. Keep your weight centered on the ball of the foot beneath the big toe, and try to structurally align everything between there and your contact with uke.
I just mentioned this on another list. My only comment here is that there is both a yin and yang connection to the toe.

Very good post, Ron. Thanks.

Mike
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Old 10-19-2005, 07:10 AM   #19
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Mike, and all the others...you have all contributed to these posts, some of the pointers you've given me over the years, some of the harrassment (), some of the encouragement...this is all from the different things each of us has been struggling with (and will continue to struggle with). My thanks and appreciation for your support.

Next installment...as much as I can learn from Inoue Sensei in 3 days (ouch).

Best,
Ron

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Old 10-19-2005, 07:11 AM   #20
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
I don't know if it gets "stopped", i.e., if that's the best terminology. If you push a wall with relaxed kokyu, you can track the path of power from the ground to midsection and then straight out to the hand on the wall from the midsection. I.e., it is the shortest path from the ground and the "controlling" area is the mid-section/hara. If somehow the shoulder became involved in the actualy initiation of power, the "shortest path from the ground" is no longer valid, so you have diluted or ruined your path of "pure" power.
I have the feeling that this is an important piece of what I'm missing...I'll proceed to struggle with it promptly...

Best,
Ron

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Old 10-19-2005, 07:15 AM   #21
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
When you drop the shoulders, it might be interesting to play with the feeling of droping the shoulders "into" the elbows.
There's still a sliiiight feeling of tension in them as you try and maintain this feeling It's the difference between being relaxed & just "slack"
This is one of the points that always confuses me! Everyone says relax..relax..relax..but it seems to be so much more than that. There has to be the right kind of tension in the right places...and very relaxed in other places...and how the heck you maintain that under pressure I haven't a clue.
Best,
Ron

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Old 10-19-2005, 08:10 AM   #22
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
This is one of the points that always confuses me! Everyone says relax..relax..relax..but it seems to be so much more than that. There has to be the right kind of tension in the right places...and very relaxed in other places...and how the heck you maintain that under pressure I haven't a clue.
This falls into the category of the "levels" and "gradations" of power that I've referred to before. Some types of tension are used in *training*, but when it gets to using held tension-areas in actual application, I think a mistake is being made. Ueshiba and Tohei weren't talking about the type of ki/kokyu usage that has inherent tensions. It is possible that Daito Ryu, at least some proponents of it, use some of the tension methods derived from old Shaolin training. That's part of what the discussion on Aikido Journal is about.

The tensions that are used in training can run the gamut from coarse/obvious to very subtle indeed. But those tension devices are training mechanisms which can be thought of as supplements to the use of kokyu/jin which is the real "ki" that Tohei talks about in "ki flow", etc.

Personally, I would suggest that anyone advocating held tensions during the practice and application of Aikido, etc., may be going a bit off the mark.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 10-19-2005, 09:12 AM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kokyu explanation

How does your use of 'held tensions' corroespond with the statement from Ikeda Sensei you mentioned earlier?

Quote:
"Keep tension!" was a common admonition of Ikeda's for a long time." If there is not a good, slightly stretched, connection from your center to your hand, you cannot move your hand with your center; if there is not a good connection to your opponent's center, you cannot control his center with your center.
Best,
Ron

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Old 10-19-2005, 09:20 AM   #24
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
How does your use of 'held tensions' corroespond with the statement from Ikeda Sensei you mentioned earlier?
There's a difference between maintaining a tension in your body and maintaining a slight tension between you and uke. E.g., you can relaxedly pull on uke's arm so there is a "tension" between you and him, but you need not have any unnecessary tension in your body while doing so.

Regards,

Mike
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Old 10-19-2005, 09:30 AM   #25
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Re: Kokyu explanation

Got it! Thanks!

Best,
Ron

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