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Old 11-21-2006, 09:18 AM   #1
Mike Sigman
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"Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

I was re-reading my old and yellowed copy of Koichi Tohei's "Aikido in Daily Life"... I haven't read it in many years (it was first published in 1966), but it's an interesting read from Tohei's earlier publications in relation to how he approaches learning "ki".

There are a great number of perspectives on ki/qi and that's what gets so confusing to a beginner trying to find information. There's an ultra-practical, overly-simplistic one that I read in Robert Smith's old book, "Chinese Boxing: Methods and Masters" (I'll edit for space):
There were, he said, four kinds of ch'i used by him.

The ch'i of inahalation ("swallow")
The ch'i of exhalation ("spit")
Holding ch'i up ("to float")
Holding ch'i down ("to sink")

The mind is paramount. The fingers (hand) are geared to the breath, and the eyes look steadily ahead. Lin held that the ch'i is not stored in the navel but comes from the sole of the foot through the navel to the head, where it is used as the occasion demands"


There is what appears to be a totally different view of qi/ki in Mantak Chia's book "Iron Shirt Chi Kung" that has a lot to do with the breath and fascia.

Then there are Tohei's "feel the Ki" sorts of things. There are more disparate examples, but just using those 3 examples, it's like we're talking different languages.

In reality, the ch'i in Smith's excerpt is more referring to the "jin"... but since jin is considered just a facet of qi, then the major conversation is still qi. The glossed-over comments about "inhalation" and "exhalation" are references to breath and fascia that establish the commonality to other talk of qi.

Mantak Chia doesn't really understand what qi is, nor does he really understand the functional use of the hara/dantien area. So he focuses on breath and fascia and how it connects the body and improves health. I.e., he is the blind man describing the same elephant that the blind man Smith described in his book, but they're simply focusing on different parts of the same elephant.

Tohei's descriptions about how to develop Ki are, in my opinion, deliberately incomplete. He goes by "feelings" and vague descriptions. Yet, I've seen an interview of him in which he casually mentions being "unliftable" by sinking his middle... instead of "imagine heavy side down". I.e., he can be more explicit when he wants to be. I've also noticed that his close students can do ki demonstrations that involve some knowledge of the body mechanics that Mantak Chia is more explicit about in his book.

The thrust of my comment is that while I like a few parts of the perspective that Tohei gives for developing Ki, the whole of his instruction is needlessly vague, given the clues that he indeed knows how to be clearer. Just relaxing and "breathing in the ki of the universe" won't magically develop any skills. I think that many of the Ki Society upper dans know this by now... they should speak up, perhaps. Ki skills are a part of all Aikido, not just Tohei's branch.

Just my 2 cents.

Mike Sigman
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Old 11-21-2006, 02:36 PM   #2
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
Just relaxing and "breathing in the ki of the universe" won't magically develop any skills. I think that many of the Ki Society upper dans know this by now... they should speak up, perhaps. Ki skills are a part of all Aikido, not just Tohei's branch.

Just my 2 cents.

Mike Sigman
you know i keep saying that if i wanted a purely martial combat art, i wouldn't study Aikido. i study aikido to try and see the invisible; and i agree that there needs to be more instruction on developing one's ki; otherwise, what's the point? study something else...

but then again; how many martial arts incorporate "ki" or ch'i? you know the answer better than i do, but i'm confused as to whether they're talking about the same thing, or if they're interpretting the same concept differently.
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Old 11-21-2006, 02:57 PM   #3
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Luc Saroufim wrote:
but then again; how many martial arts incorporate "ki" or ch'i?
Every Asian art I've encountered uses some variation/approach to ki/qi. In the last 2 years, I thought I'd take a look at the "behind the times Japanese martial arts" (remember, I did Judo, Okinawan karate, and Aikido), and voila', I found out that higher level Judo, Karate, the Koryu, Aikido, Sword arts, etc., etc., ALL have pronounced Ki components. Just as you see in most western versions of most Asian arts... it's missing, though. Who knew???
Quote:
you know the answer better than i do, but i'm confused as to whether they're talking about the same thing, or if they're interpretting the same concept differently.
It's the same thing. There the mind/force- skill that is called "jin", "neijin", "pengjin", "kei", etc., that is also the basis of "kokyu power"... and there is the Ki proper that is developed with breathing exercises, stretching, pressure, etc. Those 2 basic components are in all the Asian martial arts, although the terms and the way they do them (everybody has got their own "best, secret way" to do them) will differ from art to art.

In other words, the special "Ki" that Tohei espouses is nice, but the actual methods of doing the body demo's etc., the power used in Aikido, etc., is the same as is used in other arts at the higher levels. The only problem is that the operative phrase is "higher levels".... these are the hidden skills in a lot of arts.

Best.

Mike
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Old 11-21-2006, 03:10 PM   #4
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Incidentally, as an example of "it's used in other martial arts", take a look at the ki demos at the end of this video clip:

http://www.youtube.com:80/watch?v=InlQtTMK5Ys

That's not basic-level, crude jin. He's pretty good. Made me go back and watch his sword techniques again because I now know that he's using unusually powerful strength, even though it's very difficult to spot that strength in his movements.

Regards,

Mike
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Old 11-21-2006, 04:06 PM   #5
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
The thrust of my comment is that while I like a few parts of the perspective that Tohei gives for developing Ki, the whole of his instruction is needlessly vague, given the clues that he indeed knows how to be clearer.

Maybe he's just one of those guys who expects us to "steal" technique. The japanese language often has implied meaning.

Perhaps he's changed; Have his metaphores gotten any clearer since the sixties?

"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 11-21-2006, 04:28 PM   #6
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Well, that first form he demos:
IANAJSAP (I am not a Japanese Sword Art Practitioner):
To me it looks like he baits the opponent into striking by showing an opening. But it's not really an opening b/c he's not really off balance-- he can control his weight shift. Once the opponent attacks, he attacks, and closes the distance without telegraphing, then reverses his opponent's technique and strikes.

That is fairly sophisticated strategy to say the least. Without the weight/balance control it won't work either. To my eyes anyway...

The hopping thing is interesting too. He's creating the power for block/strike by his body shifting, but never changes his range. Nifty.
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Old 11-21-2006, 04:45 PM   #7
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

This book changed my insight on life, no joke.

To speak ill of anything is against the nature of Aikido
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Old 11-21-2006, 04:56 PM   #8
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Tim Fong wrote:
To me it looks like he baits the opponent into striking by showing an opening.
Hi Tim:

I'm not sure if you caught the part about the 2 demo's at the end of the video: the ones about the little-finger arm-wrestling and the nose-jerk. Those are the ki tricks. All I was saying was that the sword arts and many other Japanese arts, at higher-levels, all have these "ki skills". They actually seem to try to out-do each other on how cool their displays of ki-skills are. O-Sensei's "jo trick" was really a take-off on a basic principle, but it was a "hey, look at this one" demo anyway.

The "little-finger arm-wrestling" trick on the sword video is really an example of the "rooting/neutralizing" discussion we had on the other thread. Watch the sword guy set up his jin path.

Best.

Mike
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Old 11-21-2006, 11:56 PM   #9
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Mike,
I watched it again. It looks like Kuroda rotates his right "axis" against the ground as he does the pinky move.

Watching the hands on thing he does with Crudelli, my only thought is that he must be reinforcing Crudelli's structure? And disspating the force from the student through himself, and then giving it back...which is why his hips drive forward.

Just a guess. I can't replicate it.
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Old 11-22-2006, 12:10 AM   #10
Aran Bright
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
Tohei's descriptions about how to develop Ki are, in my opinion, deliberately incomplete. He goes by "feelings" and vague descriptions. Yet, I've seen an interview of him in which he casually mentions being "unliftable" by sinking his middle... instead of "imagine heavy side down". I.e., he can be more explicit when he wants to be. I've also noticed that his close students can do ki demonstrations that involve some knowledge of the body mechanics that Mantak Chia is more explicit about in his book.

The thrust of my comment is that while I like a few parts of the perspective that Tohei gives for developing Ki, the whole of his instruction is needlessly vague, given the clues that he indeed knows how to be clearer. Just relaxing and "breathing in the ki of the universe" won't magically develop any skills. I think that many of the Ki Society upper dans know this by now... they should speak up, perhaps. Ki skills are a part of all Aikido, not just Tohei's branch.

Just my 2 cents.

Mike Sigman
I agree with you.

I beleive the reason for this lack of explanation is we need to maintain the basics, ie relax completely, and then the higher levels of understanding become obvious. One of his no 1 students teaches the concept of focusing on the triceps and extending or stretching them to help develop the feeling of 'ki' or using ki.

I take the vagueness as a method to stop people analysing too much...but I can't help myself.

2c + 2c = 4c


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Old 11-22-2006, 04:46 AM   #11
Mark Freeman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Tim Fong wrote:
Watching the hands on thing he does with Crudelli, my only thought is that he must be reinforcing Crudelli's structure? And disspating the force from the student through himself, and then giving it back...which is why his hips drive forward.

Just a guess. I can't replicate it.
Hi Tim,

I can, it's really easy if you start from a stable base, ( by that I mean posture, relaxation, mental extension etc )

I learned a similar exercise, which was a more simple form of what is seen on the clip. I guess my teacher got it from Tohei along with many other similar 'ki developement' exercises. After I had seen the Crudelli programme on the tv. I tried out the 'extensions' I had seen on a willing uke at my dojo, voila, success. I was able to recreate almost exactly the resposes you see on the film, much to my uke's surprise he had no idea what I was trying to do, so could not have been 'helping out'.

Analysis of what is happening is ok, but it is no substitute for hands on practice. If I were to describe what it is I do, I would probably use language that some would make sense of and others wouldn't.

All of the ki skills/tricks/'how the hell is that done" moves are learnable by anyone. Some people describe them in a purely mechanical way, some in an esoteric fashion, and most use varying degrees of the two. The best way to progress is to find someone who can both 'do' and 'teach', then practice what they show you, how they show you, until it becomes yours.

I like Kuroda's sword work, precise, clean and effective.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 11-22-2006, 06:30 AM   #12
Alex Megann
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

I found the Kuroda clip very impressive.

The little finger trick reminds me of something that Kanetsuka Sensei often shows at weekend courses. He lies on his back (sometimes on his front) and gets four people to try to hold him: one on each wrist, and one on each ankle. He then topples all of them at once with an almost imperceptible movement.

On a good day I can manage two at once, but usually I can expect a shout from the other end of the crowded dojo "No Alex - all at same time!".

Alex
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Old 11-22-2006, 06:58 AM   #13
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Tim Fong wrote:
I watched it again. It looks like Kuroda rotates his right "axis" against the ground as he does the pinky move.
Well, he just uses the jin from the ground as opposed to local strength. In the secondary effort where he "helps" the other guy, watch his body as he helps. You can extend a jin path through another person if the connection is good.
Quote:
Watching the hands on thing he does with Crudelli, my only thought is that he must be reinforcing Crudelli's structure? And disspating the force from the student through himself, and then giving it back...which is why his hips drive forward. Just a guess. I can't replicate it.
He "acquires" the part he wants in Crudelli. Like "acquiring uke's dantien through the wire-cage structure" sort of thing.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 11-22-2006, 07:17 AM   #14
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Aran Bright wrote:
I agree with you.

I beleive the reason for this lack of explanation is we need to maintain the basics, ie relax completely, and then the higher levels of understanding become obvious. One of his no 1 students teaches the concept of focusing on the triceps and extending or stretching them to help develop the feeling of 'ki' or using ki.

I take the vagueness as a method to stop people analysing too much...but I can't help myself.
Hi Aran: But I think there are definite instances, as I pointed out in the first post, where Tohei has definitely been more explicative to *some* students and not others. Gernot cites an anecdote where the same conclusion is mentioned by one of Tohei's students. Tohei had to go out and lood for it because Ueshiba wouldn't tell him.

I found an interesting passage in "The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts", an 18th-Century writing by Issai Chozanshi (translated by William Scott Wilson), which says (speaking of the way students were taught in the "old days"):

At first their instructors would teach them techniques, but say nothing of the principles that were hidden within them. They only waited for their students to uncover those principles by themselves. This is called "drawing [the bow], but not releasing [the arrow].' It's not that they spoke grudgingly. They simply wanted the students to use their minds, and to master what they were studying in the interval.

Disciples would thoroughly exert their mind and make great efforts. If there was something they understood on their own, they would still go and confront the teacher; and he would acknowledge their understanding when their minds were in accord. If the teacher released [the arrow], nothing could be learned. And this was not just in the martial arts. Confucius said, 'I am not going to go on with the fellow who does not respond by lifting up three corners when I have already lifted up one.' This was the teaching methof of the men of old. In this way, the students were sure to be serious whether in scholarship or in the martial arts.


Regards,

Mike
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Old 11-22-2006, 07:56 AM   #15
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Mike, that's obviously a teaching paradigm for creating elites rather than masses of useful though not as expert fighters. It's also rather hit-and-miss and arts don't really develop: unless one postulates that development is practical only, i.e. winning the next battle. At least that's my view. Nowadays it's hard to both a) figure out if a teacher has something, and b) to be surrounded by hard-working students, say in an aikido dojo. Without some direction people will wander all over the place. I would say the old teaching only works with direct transmission, not with large organizations with an extended hierarchy spanning continents. To keep the old methods means effectively assuming that in such large organizations, a small elite is continuing the tradition. Which is good. But if you have to ask you don't deserve to know and all that... There's also the issue of personal connections over merit.
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Old 11-22-2006, 08:16 AM   #16
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Hi Gernot:

It's a complex issue. What I would mention, though, is this..... many of today's teachers had clues that there was something missing, the general idea where it would be if they looked, etc. They're desultory and status-satisfied. And time continues to go by. The older I get, the more I understand why many of the accomplished traditional teachers didn't teach everyone all the good stuff.... they weren't really worth it. Besides, if you show someone whatever you reasonably can, you can never show anyone everything... there's always a certain amount that they have to figure out for themselves, because the subject is just too complex.

Maybe the old guys knew what they were doing?

Mike
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Old 11-22-2006, 09:11 AM   #17
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

No argument there, the old guys clearly knew what they were doing, I believe they weren't inventing teaching styles any more than they were inventing the principles they had internalized. What is important as far as individual progress goes, as you've discussed so many times, is finding out where to go and get snippets so that one can grow. Sitting meditating alone can only take one eventually to, say, a nap. If everyone could figure this out alone there'd be no secrets. So we have tradition, kept secret, and to get initiated individuals have to demonstrate some particular skill set which they need to get hints about wherever they can, so that the teacher decides they are worth it. He might not, in which case one needs to have an alternative teacher lined up if one is motivated enough to actually study this stuff seriously. And those two items are ones which the internet can really help with.
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Old 11-22-2006, 11:13 AM   #18
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Gernot,
That's a sucinct description of the process that I am using as well.

There's a really long rant that I have about the hierarchy of knowledge in East Asia, but I'll save it for another time. Suffice to say, I don't think it's an accident that Western Europe refined calculus and kinematics first.
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Old 11-23-2006, 06:51 AM   #19
Aran Bright
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

I have to say, when I first started on my still fairly brief martial journey I was taught the importance of sticking with one teacher and staying dedicated to that school.

Nice idea, but there seems to be more practicioners out there who have respect that have left, split, formed there own school/style or just done their own thing than there are who follow the traditional line.

It makes me wonder, is it only those, for example Tohei or Shioda, that are truly motivated, not for selfish reasons, to break with there teacher in search of some 'higher good' that really create anything new?

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Old 11-23-2006, 07:24 AM   #20
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
I have to say, when I first started on my still fairly brief martial journey I was taught the importance of sticking with one teacher and staying dedicated to that school.

Nice idea, but there seems to be more practicioners out there who have respect that have left, split, formed there own school/style or just done their own thing than there are who follow the traditional line.

It makes me wonder, is it only those, for example Tohei or Shioda, that are truly motivated, not for selfish reasons, to break with there teacher in search of some 'higher good' that really create anything new?end quote


There are many reasons for breaking away. Some are different goals, some are demands that cannot be met at the time. Sometimes the break can be very painful. Most guys won't talk about and just accept it, and any critisism that may come their way.
I believe that men in the past who trained in a system with deeper teachings "got it" and started seeing things on their own in their personal training. As well they may have seen truths beyond a static training regimen that they might have struggled to cope with to an eventual breaking point. It has long been my view that you can't create talent in a person You "find" the talented and groom them. It is those men that some teachers focused on. Even then obssesive focus and a willingness to fail and experiment and fail yet again and keep researching has to be a trademark of that same student. It is a prerequisit to advancing. In the end, what system or method has it all? I doubt there is one.
In any event perhaps the paths to power in bujutsu is really more of a personal journey and a mind game of personal discipline anyway. Sweating alone, trying to make things work is not very glamorous, nor is it flashy. Its not something the kiddies are going to enjoy any time soon.

Cheers
Dan

Last edited by DH : 11-23-2006 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 11-23-2006, 09:25 AM   #21
crbateman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

I think it's definitely about personal thought. In a culture or time where a group mentality or deep respect for tradition exists, change occurs slowly. But in a time or culture where people do not feel obligated to suppress individual thinking, excursions "outside the box" are much more frequent. Unless there is only one truth that all must accept, then there are bound to be many different paths up the mountain.
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Old 11-23-2006, 09:39 AM   #22
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
Unless there is only one truth that all must accept, then there are bound to be many different paths up the mountain.
Ouch, Clark! I hate that old saw about all paths lead to the top of the mountain. They don't. If you study piano-playing, you will NOT wind up being a mathematician!

Surely on a basic level we all know through practical experience that Joe Blow who studied with an ill-prepared teacher can often be far off the mark from Aikido's higher-sophistications, right? Different paths often lead to the top of different mountains, or hills, or swamps.

Working things out for yourself can have some limitations, too. Many of these skills were developed by successive generations of martial artists, priests, whatever.... in the tradition-focused Asian cultures, it was destiny that many skills were added to by the discoveries of many people over a long period of time. A single person cannot sit down and re-discover the work of generations... he'll have to be taught.

There was a purported comment from Yang Cheng Fu (who wasn't so hot, himself) to Cheng Man Ching to the effect: "The things I have shown you are simple, once they have been explained; but it would take you several life-times to discover them on your own."

Ellis' idea for everyone to start asking questions is a good one. Flog the bushes, boys and girls. Lest you wind up on some podunk hill far away from the mountain.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 11-23-2006, 01:17 PM   #23
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Mike, I didn't say anything about getting to the top... There are cliffs, and bears, etc. But every path leads up, and not all are the same. That is the metaphor I was reaching for. Those people who have broken away from the Aikido "mainstream" will not all arrive at the same destination, but it is the notion that creative individual thought is part of the equation now, rather than a stigma to be avoided, as it once was in most places. Personal initiative is now the norm, rather than the exception. The trick is knowing when and how to implement it.

I am totally in agreement with Ellis that questioning everything is good, internally at least, and outwardly as well, if done in a constructive and humble way. Too confrontational, and the answers may not come freely. But all learning begins with the realization that "I don't know...".
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Old 11-23-2006, 09:25 PM   #24
Mike Sigman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
I am totally in agreement with Ellis that questioning everything is good, internally at least, and outwardly as well, if done in a constructive and humble way. Too confrontational, and the answers may not come freely. But all learning begins with the realization that "I don't know...".
I dunno, Clark. Although I understand your opinion about "confrontational" (I'm not sure that's the correct term, but I won't quibble), my own opinion is that sometimes you have to be quiet and sometimes you have to be confrontational. Depends on where you're trying to go. As a good example, the "don't make waves, blend with the universe in the "Aiki Way" and use "Aiki Speak" stuff would always be my preference, even though I may come from a harsher background than you do. But if you look at the recent and VERY belated consensus beginning to form that something critical is missing from a lot of western Aikido, wouldn't you at least consider the idea that "maybe if we'd been more inquisitive and more 'confrontational' within our Aikido hierarchies, maybe we'd be a lot further ahead"???

I admire Jim Sorrentino's approach with Dan... "OK, so come here and teach it". That's the way it should be done. Look at the "confrontational" aspect of what Ikeda Sensei has done by openly importing a karateka in order to get information on kokyu and ki mechanics.... in Japan, such a "confrontational" thing would be a complete no-no, but hey, we're talking about results. And so on... you get my drift.

Personally, within the Taiji, Xingyi, CMA communities, I am now watching a number of "teachers" who are getting well into their 50's and some in their 60's and they missed out. Some of them realize it and are angry at everyone but themselves. The same thing is happening to the same-aged generation in karate (although most of them are oblivious), Aikido, and many other arts. You suggest "humble" (yin)... I suggest "balanced"; some humble, some 'confrontational' (direct).

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 11-24-2006, 02:51 AM   #25
crbateman
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Re: "Aikido in Daily Life" & Ki

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
But if you look at the recent and VERY belated consensus beginning to form that something critical is missing from a lot of western Aikido, wouldn't you at least consider the idea that "maybe if we'd been more inquisitive and more 'confrontational' within our Aikido hierarchies, maybe we'd be a lot further ahead"???
I definitely agree that something is missing, but I don't think it's because students don't get in their teachers faces enough. If there's something you feel is lacking from your training, you ask politely (you do not demand) if your teacher could expand your training in that direction. If he/she will not, then you must pursue it on your own. "Inquisitive" is not the same, at least to me, as "confrontational". One implies the proper level of respect, while the other doesn't necessarily do so. But you are right, in my opinion, that something is missing out there. Some would say the growing notion that Aikido is not martial is the big problem. Others would hold that vacating the more benign spiritual/philosophical components of the art is the biggest "hole" in the program. I'm not sure which is the bigger problem, perhaps both. But it does worry me. I'm not sure how to fix it. I do know that, as the surviving deshi of O'Sensei leave this plane, it will become harder and harder to know what his notion of Aikido was. Soon there will be only those who never knew, professing only their own opinions about it. Sad.
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