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Old 03-26-2009, 06:00 PM   #1
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
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Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

This is a tangent to another thread. Rather than dilute the original thread, I've brought Dan's comment here:

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Well I agree with that.
What makes you think any of it applies?
Is there an expert here?
Is there someone or some teacher claiming to even teach something as an authority? Even the little thay know they are only practicing.
Where do those cautions apply to anything or anyone I have written about?
Cheers
Dan
Good question. Historically, both Chinese and Japanese "expert" martial-artists proved their relevance by claiming relationship to the classical admonitions to their own "internal" martila art. For instance, the Douka of Ueshiba Morihei often parroted the well-known sayings, etc., of the classical references. It's possible that such a discussion could be held here, also. If you are offering to train "teachers" in the basic body skills of the so-called "internal trainings", this would be a good thread in which to mention the relevance of what you are teaching to the classical sayings.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-27-2009, 10:54 AM   #2
jxa127
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Mike,

Instead of having an answer to your question, I'm asking another question. This is a serious question and not a rhetorical one: Is there any substitute for experience when evaluating an internal arts instructor? Are there any common "things to look out for" regarding an instructor's authority?

As a little bit of background: shortly after I first started aikido, I went to a seminar where Yasuo Kobayashi was instructing. (He's a really cool instructor -- always eager to take ukemi to help make his point.) During an evening beer drinking/question and answer session, somebody asked him why he started taking aikido.

His answer was that he had been studying judo and was pretty good. He saw O'Sensei doing aikido and said "that old man will never be able to throw me." O'Sensei threw him with ease and Kobayashi became an uchideshi. His story is pretty common among O'Sensei's students. A lot of them had previous martial arts experience and could aikido from a know reference point.

The impression I get is that O'Sensei's skill did much more to impress his students than his doka.

So, is there some sort of accepted standard or practical test, or even some things to watch for, that indicate an instructor's authority in the area of internal arts (along the lines of the koryu lineage questions as in this link: http://www.koryu.com/library/kfriday1.html) ?

Thank you,

Drew Ames

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-Drew Ames
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Old 03-27-2009, 11:37 AM   #3
Mike Sigman
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Quote:
Drew Ames wrote: View Post
Mike,

Instead of having an answer to your question, I'm asking another question. This is a serious question and not a rhetorical one: Is there any substitute for experience when evaluating an internal arts instructor? Are there any common "things to look out for" regarding an instructor's authority?

As a little bit of background: shortly after I first started aikido, I went to a seminar where Yasuo Kobayashi was instructing. (He's a really cool instructor -- always eager to take ukemi to help make his point.) During an evening beer drinking/question and answer session, somebody asked him why he started taking aikido.

His answer was that he had been studying judo and was pretty good. He saw O'Sensei doing aikido and said "that old man will never be able to throw me." O'Sensei threw him with ease and Kobayashi became an uchideshi. His story is pretty common among O'Sensei's students. A lot of them had previous martial arts experience and could aikido from a know reference point.

The impression I get is that O'Sensei's skill did much more to impress his students than his doka.

So, is there some sort of accepted standard or practical test, or even some things to watch for, that indicate an instructor's authority in the area of internal arts (along the lines of the koryu lineage questions as in this link: http://www.koryu.com/library/kfriday1.html) ?
Hi Drew:

It's a tricky question, particularly when it comes to a beginner trying to evaluate someone's skills in the ki/qi/jin/kokyu areas. To be practical, I think that the best step for a beginner is to ask around and get as many expert or near-expert opinions as he can. And then be cautious.

I remember long ago meeting up with a semi-"name" guy who wanted to show me his "root", as had been taught to him by his well-known teacher. So I pushed against his forearm (same demo you see Tohei, Ueshiba, Shioda, Cheng Man Ching, CXW, and many others do all over Asia) and lo and behold the guy was "immoveable" (within practical definition, of course). The problem was that his whole body was stiff as a board and his "root" could have been broken easily if I'd wanted to be an ass about it. But what would a beginner have felt in the same situation? He'd have felt a strong "root" that the beginner himself could not duplicate, so he'd assume the "name" guy was indeed an expert and might have studied with him. How would a beginner ever be expected to spot the major flaws in the qi/jin skills? It's harder for a beginner in these skills to know who a real expert is and who is simply "better than me". Caveat emptor.

The real problem with these skills, as you get into them, is that there are many levels of ability, many abilities that are actually a mix of muscle and skill, and so on. A lot of what a person should look for in terms of skill-level is going to be in relation to what they're trying to accomplish. Me personally, I happen to have a fixed interest in finding out what the very-refined "pure" level is about. Someone else may be more concerned with functional self-defense and is willing to just use limited aspects of the skills. And so forth. Every person has to choose for themselves and try to judge a prospective teacher accordingly.

One thing I'd suggest for Aikido people is that they judge a teacher's abilities by a least a few obvious criteria based upon what Ueshiba, Shioda, Tohei, and others have shown as viable aspects of good Aikido. Being able to stand relaxedly against a moderate test-push (from different directions) should be something anyone who is teaching Aikido should be able to do, right? Ueshiba, Tohei, Shioda, etc., all showed this skill, so it's a bona fide one to look for. Besides, the "ki strength" used in that skill is the basis for the Aikido art.

On the other hand, I've seen a lot of demonstrations that are more martial skill than ki/kokyu skills, so I think it's helpful to be able to separate the two ideas. Not that martial skill shouldn't be looked for, BTW.... but if the martial arts supposedly is based on ki/kokyu skills then those skills should be the first thing looked for.

Another thing to look for is the often-seen demonstration where someone moves their *mass* in a situation and claims that it is "moving from the middle".

There are other demonstrations of basic ki skills by Shioda, Tohei, Ueshiba, and others that I think would be useful in evaluating an instructor. When you really understand the basic skills you also begin to understand that almost all of these demonstration, "ki tests", etc., are done with the same principle(s). The better a person's physical acquisition of the basic principles, the more easily and readily they can demonstrate the same exhibits. Standing firmly and relaxedly against a push from any angle involves the same skill as used in "unbendable arm" (it's just an angle variation of the same trick), as used in bouncing a pusher off your chest or thigh, as used in a kokyunage, as used basic "aiki", and so forth. So someone good in, say, "Aiki"-do should be able to demonstrate these basic "immoveable", and etc. abilities to a class. That would help greatly in being able to evaluate, I would think. Come to think of it, wouldn't someone interested in the furtherance of Aikido be willing to demonstrate these basic skills in order to help beginners separate the wheat from the chaff? Hard to say, I guess.

Best.

Mike
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Old 03-27-2009, 12:43 PM   #4
jxa127
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Thanks Mike.

I'm a relatively new member at Itten Dojo. You and I met briefly at the dinner last weekend, but I was at the other end of the table keeping my 3-year-old from getting too rambunctious. :-D Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the seminar.

Prior to studying at Itten Dojo I trained at another dojo for nine years. I can definitely feel the differences at Itten due to they way they've incorporated things you've shown them -- but I don't think I would have felt those as a beginner.

I appreciate your comment about moving mass rather than center -- that's something I'm particularly guilty of doing.

Regards,

-Drew

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Old 03-31-2009, 10:59 AM   #5
Mike Sigman
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Quote:
Drew Ames wrote: View Post
Thanks Mike.

I'm a relatively new member at Itten Dojo. You and I met briefly at the dinner last weekend, but I was at the other end of the table keeping my 3-year-old from getting too rambunctious. :-D Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the seminar.

Prior to studying at Itten Dojo I trained at another dojo for nine years. I can definitely feel the differences at Itten due to they way they've incorporated things you've shown them -- but I don't think I would have felt those as a beginner.

I appreciate your comment about moving mass rather than center -- that's something I'm particularly guilty of doing.

Regards,

-Drew
Hi Drew:

Yes, I remember meeting you at the dinner. A pleasure.

I just saw your blogpost about words, Tohei, etc., so let me answer here (since I'd be limited to 500 words on a blog response).

The "words" can be very misleading. For instance, think about how many people doing all sorts of martial-arts, how many Pilates places, how many physio-therapists, etc., etc., all say "come with us and learn how to 'move from the center'" or 'use your core strength' or 'learn to be centered', and so on. So basically, most people who show up at any dojo, workout center, etc., are already familiar with the terms and they feel like they have some grasp of what the terms mean, based on their own experiences and perspective. It's a confusing but common occurrence.

In terms of Tohei's words and what he did/does, yes, I'd agree that we're talking about the same things, but I don't think that's fully clear until someone can actual do a reasonable portion of the basic skills.

One interesting thing I'd point out is that in my experience any good Asian expert already understands that all of these takes on "ki", "kokyu", "reiki", etc., are part of an important basic skillset that is Asia-wide through many/most arts. It's only people who are new to the arts or who have had a very limited view of martial-arts who are surprised about the similarities and samenesses.

The fact that this is considered a revelation to many people (or something that they argue against publicly) is only a sign the breadth of their understanding of full-blown Asian martial-arts. I.e., at present our collective understanding of Asian martial-arts is probably a lot lower than we've been giving ourselves credit for.

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-31-2009, 12:48 PM   #6
jxa127
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Hi Mike. Thanks for the response.

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post

In terms of Tohei's words and what he did/does, yes, I'd agree that we're talking about the same things, but I don't think that's fully clear until someone can actual do a reasonable portion of the basic skills.
Yeah. That's what I was trying to say in my blog post. What really seems to be missing is the transmission of those skills. "Keeping one point" just doesn't make sense from a western perspective.

Quote:
One interesting thing I'd point out is that in my experience any good Asian expert already understands that all of these takes on "ki", "kokyu", "reiki", etc., are part of an important basic skillset that is Asia-wide through many/most arts. It's only people who are new to the arts or who have had a very limited view of martial-arts who are surprised about the similarities and samenesses.
That would be me -- at least to a certain extent. I think I could have trained for a very long time without grasping the internal arts/ki principles. For instance I am relatively good at the ki tests (receiving pushes that are trying to break my posture), but I am just now learning how that relates to moving from my center and generating power. My concept of moving from my center involved a lot of rotation and moving my mass -- often by leaning during waza.

Quote:
...at present our collective understanding of Asian martial-arts is probably a lot lower than we've been giving ourselves credit for.
So, what's the problem with the transmittance of the commonly understood concepts in Asian martial arts once they leave Asia?

Maybe it's like the American "gun culture": for a certain segment of our population, the heroes include Davy Crockett, most characters played by John Wayne, and Carlos Hathcock. That same population tends to produce some truly fantastic marksmen. I'm not sure that the American gun martial arts would translate well to other cultures.

Regards,

-Drew

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-Drew Ames
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Old 04-02-2009, 12:05 PM   #7
Mike Sigman
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Re: Who's an expert in "Internal Training"?

Quote:
Drew Ames wrote: View Post
So, what's the problem with the transmittance of the commonly understood concepts in Asian martial arts once they leave Asia?
Well, there are some interesting stories about how Tohei attempted to show some things to his fellow uchi-deshi's because it was obvious Ueshiba had never shown even some his own uchi-deshi's how to do these things. Ueshiba and a lot of old-timey Asians (Japan, China, Thailand, etc.) simply considered these things to merit secrecy. I think that had a lot to do with it.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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