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Old 08-10-2007, 10:22 AM   #1
MM
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Are you pushing?

It seems that if one looks hard enough, one can find quite a bit of historical reading regarding Ueshiba and some of his students being pushed.

Tenry pushed Ueshiba (don't have link handy)

Ueshiba's students pushing on him (multiple links, but I really like this one: http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=1145 It's in the comment from Ellis about Terry Dobson.)

Tohei being pushed.

Shioda being pushed. (Can find only one link right now. http://www.budovideos.com/shop/custo....php?pageid=10 )

Tomiki is pushed. (Ellis has posts on this here at AikiWeb.)

There really isn't any doubt that Ueshiba and some of his early students used pushing as a way of determining a level of skill.

But, wait, it seems that the Chinese do the very same thing. What, you say? Why, yes, the use nearly the very same tests.

http://www.plumblossom.net/Grandmaster/realdeal.html

http://www.plumblossom.net/Grandmast...ndstaiwan.html

There are many, many examples of Chinese martial artists using a push to determine skill level.

What, then, are the differences? We know there are (Even the Chinese have a variety of ways of doing push hands.) Is it just a matter of individual application of Internal Skill? Or is there really a completely different internal skill in Ueshiba's aikido? One that requires a different training regimen to build? (Some of the basics have to be the same, though.)
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Old 08-17-2007, 12:46 AM   #2
Thomas Campbell
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Re: Are you pushing?

hi Mark:

I think it's an interesting question (or really, set of questions) that you pose . . . difficult to answer in many respects, but I'll at least try to begin, based on my own limited experience (aikido many years ago, Chinese martial arts more recently with a focus on taiji training methods). I was trying to get at the same kind of comparison and contrast in this thread:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12917
"Different training methods . . . same skills?"

looking at the examples and respective arts of Liu Chengde (Chen taijiquan) and Akuzawa Minoru (Aunkai). I think one of the problems with that thread, though, is it's attempting to compare/contrast the broad range of training practices that make up the two systems.

It's good to focus on one specific practice--like pushing--when comparing and contrasting. In looking at the aikido exemplars you list, I'm wondering if yiquan more than taijiquan might be a better comparison (from among the Chinese arts I'm familiar with). I think Yiquan would have been more fruitful to compare with Aunkai than Chen taijiquan in my earlier thread, in the sense that Yiquan has more core practices aimed directly at developing basic attributes than taijiquan's emphasis on solo form sequences.

In my experience, taijiquan skill is difficult to pursue because its training is hit-or-miss. The chansi (silk-reeling) drills are a modern development (post-WW2) intended to more systematically train a key movement and coordination attribute (silk-reeling) to weave back into the solo forms. Even highly-skilled teachers trained in the traditional way (heavy emphasis on solo form sequences) acknowledge the value of chansi drills.

Wang Xiangzhai, yiquan's developer, explored a wide range of Chinese martial arts and fighters in trying to distill essential attributes and develop focused practices (analogous to chansi exercises) to train them. The attitude expressed in his writings and training philosophy strongly reminds me of Akuzawa Minoru's outlook.

And, curious as it may sound, I think Ueshiba Morihei was also trying, in his own inimitable way, to develop training practices that worked to develop core attributes of internal strength skill that he'd felt in his own primary teacher, Takeda Sokaku. Ueshiba also continued to develop and distill what he'd felt in engaging with Takeda as well as what he'd been overtly taught. Some of those specific practices must certainly continue in today's various lines of aikido, but with the practical context missing or never learned--"hidden in plain sight," like Ellis Amdur writes--or in related practices developed by Ueshiba's leading students--like certain facets of Tohei's teaching that Mike Sigman has posted about.

So, with respect to pushing practice and its context in yiquan, it can be regarded as part of "shi li" or strength testing, and also involved in yiquan's practice of pushing hands. For static pushing (one person being pushed on) it is definitely a test of alignment, balance and frame contraction/expansion for the pushee, but--in my experience, anyways--can also reveal things for the pusher. The purpose of moving push-hands in yiquan is similar in some respects to taiji push-hands, but "yielding" is not emphasized so much as sensing then moving right into application (which can be explosive).

Yiquan isn't my main practice, though. For a better idea of the progressive yiquan curriculum, look at

http://www.yiquan.org.uk/practice.html

Yiquan push-hands practice is described here:

http://neigong.net/2007/07/29/finer-...an-push-hands/

Wang Binkui demonstrates a variety of yiquan's solo practices, followed by brief push-hands in the last five seconds of this clip:

http://neigong.net/2007/07/29/finer-...an-push-hands/

There is a lot of material out there on Yiquan which provides context for specific pushing practice. I'd also like to point people to a training blog being written this summer by a fellow who flew to Beijing specifically to learn and train Yiquan working directly with one of the best teachers of the art in the world today. It's definitely worth following his insights, frustrations, and experience of Beijing today: http://cattanga.typepad.com/see_otter_yiquan/

So is pushing in yiquan indicative of the kind of internal skill(s) shown by Ueshiba or some of his leading disciples? Frankly I don't know. For me, this kind of discussion is most fruitful when focusing on a specific training practice or set of practices . . . things we can practice and feel and play with directly . . . not so much with ambiguous and largely untestable (on this forum, anyways) hypothesizing about biophysical mechanisms underlying various displays of internal strength skill.

For a persevering and open-minded aikido practitioner, the training practices and training results of yiquan may suggest modifications or improvements in his/her aikido training practices that could recharge their aikido training. I really believe that is what Dan Harden is trying to do in sharing some of his insights in individual and small-group meetings with aikidoka. Similarly, workshops with Rob John (and, this November, with Rob's teacher Akuzawa) or Mike Sigman, if people really do the work following the seminars, could really be eye-opening.
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Old 08-17-2007, 08:17 AM   #3
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Are you pushing?

Lately I have been really appreciating working first control very slowly, focusing on entering with the body, unbalancing uke slowly, receiving their strike in my body, not my arms, etc. It becomes a pushing exercise of sorts on both sides. Uke receives the waza as a slow push, nage does the same from the attack, then assumes control, and continues.

I try to embody the things I learned from Dan, how to place my hips, use of the spine, use of breath, etc. I also try to embody the "body suit" feeling Mike speaks of. By doing these things (and again, slowly!) I have found ways to when uke, reverse the ikkajo/ikkyo from positions where I *should* be greatly unbalanced and disconnected (in terms of my own frame), even when working with larger and stronger partners.

I feel like there is very little martial about this practice in terms of how a person might practice 1st control for getting an arm bar in a fight. Anyone watching would almost for sure wonder what the heck we were doing, and what the purpose was.

The purpose for me is what I feel in my body and my partner's body, the sense of connection it builds in and between both bodies, the improvement of balance from odd positions, etc.

Frankly, I don't think there is enough of this sort of practice in normal keiko. I am coming to believe we spend way too much time making waza designed for a particular type of strength work in other ways.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 08-17-2007, 08:34 AM   #4
MM
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Thomas Campbell wrote: View Post
hi Mark:

I think it's an interesting question (or really, set of questions) that you pose . . . difficult to answer in many respects, but I'll at least try to begin, based on my own limited experience (aikido many years ago, Chinese martial arts more recently with a focus on taiji training methods). I was trying to get at the same kind of comparison and contrast in this thread:
Hello,
There are lots of new, interesting questions that have surfaced for me lately. Nice to see I'm not alone.

Quote:
Thomas Campbell wrote: View Post
I'd also like to point people to a training blog being written this summer by a fellow who flew to Beijing specifically to learn and train Yiquan working directly with one of the best teachers of the art in the world today. It's definitely worth following his insights, frustrations, and experience of Beijing today: http://cattanga.typepad.com/see_otter_yiquan/
I got caught up in this blog, so I didn't have time to reply to your post. But I did want to emphasize this blog. Wow, a lot, and I mean a lot of what he's talking about has been posted here on AikiWeb.

The blog is a very good read for theory and background on internal aspects. Of course, you can't get practical out of it as that requires hands on training. But, quite a bit of commonalities in there.

I'm still reading ...

Mark
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Old 08-17-2007, 12:24 PM   #5
Thomas Campbell
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
[snip]
I feel like there is very little martial about this practice in terms of how a person might practice 1st control for getting an arm bar in a fight. Anyone watching would almost for sure wonder what the heck we were doing, and what the purpose was.

The purpose for me is what I feel in my body and my partner's body, the sense of connection it builds in and between both bodies, the improvement of balance from odd positions, etc.

[snip]
Best,
Ron
Ron,

In the Ikkajo exercise you describe, do you think there might be martial training value in gradually increasing the speed of movement (and force) provided by your training partner while you test your sense of internal connection? In the context of yiquan, I got the impression from the two teachers I worked with that the solo practices work in tandem with their shili (strength testing) and then push-hands to provide a training gradient with increasing force and speed where the practitioner learns to maintain internal connection and balance under progressively more difficult circumstances. One teacher mentioned something along the lines of training the body to the point of responding almost "automatically".

There are tales of masters in taijiquan and xingyiquan relating to spontaneous, seemingly unconscious demonstrations of internal strength skill. In one such story, Yang Chengfu (Yangshi taijiquan) was walking across a bridge in Shanghai ca. 1930 when a rickshaw runner accidentally ran into him. Rickshaw and runner bounced off and went sprawling, while YCF continued on walking and maintaining his conversation. Chengfu's relative size (6', 300 lbs.) may have something to do with the outcome of this encounter, but the story is told in Yang taiji as an indication of YCF's level of internal skill. The point of this kind of story is less the precise factualness and more the type of skill illustrated/underscored by the story.

It's also interesting that some stories of Chinese IMA masters in their prime suggest that they maintain a narrower scope of practice in terms of numbers of different exercises and forms, and a focus on cultivating basic attributes continuously, rather than putting lots of times into lots of different forms (though they maintain a knowledge of those forms).

To use Yang Chengfu as an example again, apparently it was rare to see him actually do any part of the solo form sequence(s) that were taught publicly and earned him his bread and butter. YCF would practice four or five individual postures from the solo form and the transitions into and from them. He would also do quite a bit of tuishou in training. In his younger years, basic training (aside from the long solo sequences) would involve zhan zhuang, a neigong set coordinating movement, breathing and fajin (see http://youtube.com/watch?v=P0DLuiBBkNs), and solo thrusts and circles with a long pole or spear (see, for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsWUe3PfY_o&eurl= ).

In Chen taijiquan, Chen Fake, the pre-eminent teacher of the style in the twentieth century, would move his arms in small chansi patterns while sitting in conversation, in a sense never stopping practice of basic attributes, according to his last surviving disciple, Feng Zhiqiang. Feng himself, despite continually creating new solo form sequences, spends the vast majority of his personal practice time engaged with the chansi, hunyuan neigong and standing exercises rather than elaborate solo forms.

I don't know whether the basic practices of yiquan or taijiquan are cultivating the same precise internal connections and skills that Ueshiba shows. But the general idea of high-level martial practitioners refining their practice to the essence by focusing on basics seems similar. What basic practices Ueshiba probably focused on is of course discussed by Ellis Amdur and others in some depth.

What we've got now is an interested group of aikidoka and practitioners of other arts discussing, demonstrating, sharing and cross-training on internal basics. With skill developed over time through persevering, focused effort (the definition of gongfu), people will--already are, considering the efforts of Aunkai practitioners--improve, and test, and share. It will only be a small percentage who realize and can readily demonstrate real breakthroughs, perhaps, but these are very interesting times and discussions to be a part of.
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Old 08-17-2007, 12:35 PM   #6
Budd
 
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Re: Are you pushing?

What's particularly interesting to me about these discussions is how much personal responsibility it puts back onto the individual practitioner to do the work, level set with his/her teacher, get out and meet other people (another form of level setting), then get back to doing the work. To me, anyway, this doesn't violate anything that I consider to be BUDO, in that it's still a matter of martial-based movement/training utilized for personal development, but it does give me more of a stake and ownership in the matter, rather than assuming that twenty years down the line somewhere, I just "may" get it . . .
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Old 08-17-2007, 01:25 PM   #7
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Ron,

In the Ikkajo exercise you describe, do you think there might be martial training value in gradually increasing the speed of movement (and force) provided by your training partner while you test your sense of internal connection?
Yes, but not yet (in terms of speed). The force area I don't mind going up and down on, as it shows me my limits of how to ground out and source power. I am still to new to the specifics of consistently utilizing this type of movement and power sourcing in my aikido. While in the past there were moments when "everything clicked" and I saw dramatic power usage with little effort, I do not believe I understand this area well enough to be consistent in it's usage.

One thing Mike S. kept saying to me was how much you need to **slow down** when trying to repattern. I now believe he is right, even more so than what I was already doing.

Dan talks about the solo work, and then using the partner practice to build on that. I think he is correct as well.

Doing all of this is the hard part. Personally, I am ok with the fact that many will look at this type of training and go "huh??" I'm not looking for a quick fix, just a slow, steady way to gain understanding and some control over what has been til now just fleeting glimpses of something special.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-17-2007, 05:21 PM   #8
Mike Sigman
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
There are many, many examples of Chinese martial artists using a push to determine skill level.

What, then, are the differences? We know there are (Even the Chinese have a variety of ways of doing push hands.) Is it just a matter of individual application of Internal Skill? Or is there really a completely different internal skill in Ueshiba's aikido? One that requires a different training regimen to build? (Some of the basics have to be the same, though.)
If a bunch of guys get together that are interested in ki/kokyu/qi/jin skills, everyone will be at different levels, will know some variations that perhaps others in the group don't know, will have different "favorite training methods to develop this stuff best", and so on. That's only natural, right? But the basics will be the same because they must be. Same thing with all these martial arts: Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Malay, etc...... everyone will have different takes on a lot of things, but the basics are going to be the same; as all those similar demo's should indicate immediately.

Donn Draeger wrote a monograph on "Kiai" in which he mentions how the Chinese are the ones who know the intricacies of Qi so much better than the Japanese. Frankly, I'm not sure that's true anymore.... it's quite possible that Draeger, like so many of us others, simply wasn't shown everything that various teachers knew or could do. One thing for sure, the Japanese didn't treat the Chinese qi demonstrations as "something other than what we do".

Best.

Mike
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Old 08-18-2007, 09:21 PM   #9
Mike Sigman
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
If a bunch of guys get together that are interested in ki/kokyu/qi/jin skills, everyone will be at different levels, will know some variations that perhaps others in the group don't know, will have different "favorite training methods to develop this stuff best", and so on. That's only natural, right? But the basics will be the same because they must be. Same thing with all these martial arts: Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Malay, etc...... everyone will have different takes on a lot of things, but the basics are going to be the same; as all those similar demo's should indicate immediately.
Incidentally, despite the different appearances in different arts, different breathing methods, etc., the basics are the same everywhere.... AND it should be noted that even the oldest examples we have definite records of (like the paintings from the tomb Mawandui: http://www.showchina.org/en/olympics...08/t121902.htm ) are the same basic stuff. The knowledge is widespread AND it is pretty ancient. The practices within Aikido reflect a continuation of a knowledge/skill set that is literally thousands of years old. Hence O-Sensei's references to ancient theory in his douka, etc. Is the essence of something simple like pushing the same? Sure.

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-18-2007, 09:48 PM   #10
Thomas Campbell
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Daoyin exercises have proved very effective in prolonging life. Dougong, a blind musician during the reign of Emperor Wendi of the Western Han Dynasty, kept practising daoyin until he died at the ripe old age of over 100. Sun Simiao, a noted medical expert of the Tang Dynasty (618- 907), performed doayin three times a day and lived to an age of 110. Lu You, a celebrated scholar of the Song Dynasty, was still going strong when he was well over 80. No wonder daoyin was called an art for achieving longevity in ancient times.

http://www.lastingtribute.co.uk/famo...alment/2603938
Jeanne Calment, who died on 4 August, 1997, at the age of 122 years and 164 days, reached the longest confirmed lifespan of any person in history.
............................

Calment led an extraordinary life and can be regarded as a phenomenon. In addition to her lifespan, other impressive feats included taking up fencing at the age of 85, continuing to ride her bike at the age of 100 and living by herself until the age of 110.
She attributed her long life to chocolate, olive oil and port wine, as well as what some referred to as an immunity to stress, having once stated: "If you can't do anything about it, don't worry about it."
.......................................................
A smoker until the age of 117, Calment quit not on health grounds, but because her eyesight was so poor that she could not light her cigarettes herself, and was too embarrassed to ask others to light them for her.


Dao-yin of another sort, perhaps.
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Old 08-19-2007, 02:21 PM   #11
Mike Sigman
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Thomas Campbell wrote: View Post
[i] Lu You, a celebrated scholar of the Song Dynasty, was still going strong when he was well over 80.

[[snipsky]]

[i]Jeanne Calment, who died on 4 August, 1997, at the age of 122 years and 164 days, reached the longest confirmed lifespan of any person in history.
Well, if it was just the occasional person "living longer", Daoyin wouldn't be worth mentioning. In fact, if it daoyin only helped someone live longer, it still wouldn't be worth mentioning. There's a lot more to it than that, but to discuss it would probably be one of those long monologues with the usual witlings baying out questions simply to make negative implications. So I'll leave it at "there's more to it than that by a long shot".

Regards,

Mike
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Old 08-19-2007, 05:05 PM   #12
Thomas Campbell
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Re: Are you pushing?

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
[snip] In fact, if it daoyin only helped someone live longer, it still wouldn't be worth mentioning. [snip]
Regards,

Mike
Agreed. I only mentioned Jeanne Calment to cast an ironic glance at the popular obsession with qigong and neigong work in connection with longevity--when the potential benefits of such practices for health today--and in this discussion, the tie-in with martial training--go overlooked or misunderstood.

Fundamental ideas and variants of fundamental physical practices and mind/body integration are shared across cultures and centuries in east and south Asia. There is ample anecdotal and circumstantial evidence to build a strong case for this. You only need to listen in on a discussion between a yoga practitioner and Ayurvedic physician and a TCM doctor and taiji practitioner, talking about their current work and ancient roots for their respective practices, to realize the commonalities. Historical documentation of religious and economic exchanges show the possibilities for exchange and cross-pollination in the area of internal martial skills and training.

I've been looking over threads on this (and other) forums in the past couple of days as I wait to take off, and considering the large amount of historical exchange that is known. The idea you stated before, in various forms:

The knowledge is widespread AND it is pretty ancient. The practices within Aikido reflect a continuation of a knowledge/skill set that is literally thousands of years old.

is really not that radical. In fact, it makes more sense than asserting that Ueshiba created his ideas and training routines entirely on his own. The insights and evolutions of practice are Ueshiba's own--as they will be for any serious, open-minded practitioner authentically seeking to understand and progress in this area. But they are drawn from a larger cultural transmission, as you've pointed out with different examples, and perhaps to some extent from lineage-based teachings, unique and highly skilled individual teachers, and--to no small degree--by exchanges with other practitioners and "seekers of the Way(s)."
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