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Old 06-05-2010, 12:40 PM   #1
Thomas Osborn
Dojo: Aikido of Northampton
Location: Holyoke, MA
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 108
From Smooth, Comes Fast

6/5/10 NOTE: Back on 5/27, I paraphrased a quote from Kanai Shihan, "Do not try to move fast, practice moving smoothly. Fast will come from smooth". I got a fair number of comments on the AikiWeb blog posts forum, [www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=79 ] So I thought I might go into the concept a bit more. I do this for selfish reasons as your comments cause me to look at an issue from a different perspective, and writing my thoughts down helps me organize and firm up those ideas. [I am not very good at self discipline!]

If you notice, the phrase does not say don't go fast, or don't aspire to fast technique. It says "don't try to go fast". This is very much in keeping with the Zen and Taoist concept that only when one stops trying, can success be achieved. The harder you try to understand a kaon, the less you can, the more confusing and absurd it becomes. Only when you stop exerting the effort to understand, when you relax and stop trying to find THE ANSWER. do you have any chance of arriving at the truth. I can only go to what I have observed in the Aikido of sensei I admire, my own experience, and what I have seen my students go through, to explain why I feel this concept is so critical, and how it affects my Aikido.

Watching those aikidoka who execute Aikido which can only be called beautiful, I observed that there is no point at which technique begins, there is no point at which it is, and there is no point at which it stops, it only ends because it is not occurring anymore. There is a smooth, rhythmic flow. Like ocean waves, they do not attack, but their continuous, effortless, rhythm has extreme power. And their speed is certainly beyond fast.

With my students; When I have them slow down and focus on a smooth flow of their own movement, they execute much better technique and frequently self-correct.

With my own Aikido; Any time we change technique in class, I always start off trying slow, smooth movement. This allows me to focus "in the moment", on what my technique should be at the time I am doing it. I try not to think about where I am going, just the here-and-now. If I do this properly, I will be able to increase my tempo, without losing that focus.

After I had been practicing with Kanai Shihan for about a year, I frequently paired up with another guy who also liked the smooth is better approach. In one class, I don't remember what technique we were doing, We both focused on slow, smooth accurate movement. When Sensei clapped, and we stopped, we were both laughing and not the slightest bit out of breath. We looked up, and the rest of the class was standing around us looking a bit amazed. After class, a couple of people said they had never seen anyone move so fast, we were almost a blur. Neither one of us remembered moving at anything but that slow, smooth pace. I often strive for that same effect. I've come close I think, but have never had that same experience. Maybe if I am able to stop trying, it will come.

So I will repeat, with a slight editorial change;

Do not try to move fast,
practice moving smoothly.

From smooth, will come fast.
I believe this is what Stefan Stenudd Sensei was describing in his book Aikido Principles in the chapter on "Ki Nagare -- flowing training" [http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/books/...inciples-2.pdf ]

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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