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Old 09-04-2013, 07:10 AM   #1
Peter Boylan
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The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Most dojo spend a lot of time on techniques, but I find that without a lot of practice in the real fundamentals of how to breath and how to walk, no one can learn solid technique. I try to spend time in my dojo working on these. Do you think it's important or do you just dive into technique and assume students will learn breathing and walking from practicing techniques? My most recent blog post is about this at http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/09/...h-are-how.html

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Old 09-04-2013, 08:38 AM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

In my class, which is mostly principle-based anyhow, we spend a lot of time on partner practice exercises for natural movement, structure and connection. But they mostly derive from or involve aikido basic technique.
I think you have to dive into practice or new students will not feel they are learning what they as beginners feel they are there to learn. I have always favored an integrated approach.
In aiki-weapons, many instructors dive right into teaching the kata. Because I am myself not a kinesthetic learner, I tend to like to start by teaching holding the jo or bokken, then drilling on the basic movements - footwork, thrusts, shomen cuts, etc - doing repetitions moving across the dojo using the mirror - before starting to teach the kata. Unlike many who teach the kata as a whole, I like to only teach newbies a few steps at a time.

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Old 09-04-2013, 08:50 AM   #3
Cliff Judge
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Just to throw an idea out there, which certainly applies to weapons kata, and applies to empty-hand kata as well but only if you use empty-hand kata which most Aikido systems do not...

A well-constructed kata will supply all kinds of feedback to the mechanical fundamentals such as how to hold the sword, cut, move, breathe, transfer weight, etc. Ideally the kata will simply not work if these things are not attended to. At the least, a teacher with a good eye should be able to catch students doing something that seems a little off and correct them to give them a sense of what should feel right.

Then, while their brains are focused on the kata at a certain level, their bodies should be developing the correct habits. That's how it is supposed to work, anyway!
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:10 AM   #4
ChrisMikk
 
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

That's pretty good. A couple points:

(1) Your description of breathing is not complete. The body has two mechanisms for breathing--the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles. Both work involuntarily, so the notion of "incorrect learned breathing" is quite dubious. I think it is more the case that people start to breath incorrectly when they think about it and start overriding their involuntary system. It's true that many people breath with their shoulders when they get exhausted, but often I think this is less "incorrect" breathing, than "breathing hard plus trying to maintain X," where X is a posture or something else that makes clamp down in their core. So, taking the deepest or biggest breaths is not a matter of choosing between the diaphragm and the shoulders, since the most expansion involves lowering the diaphragm and expanding the chest.

I was both a swimmer and a singer before martial arts, and I think I have a pretty good intuitive understanding of breathing and kiai compared with (a) other students and (b) my own understanding of other aspects of training. I.e., it is my comparative advantage, to put it in econ terms.

I think swimming, when done over a period of time and at a pace that keeps up the rate of breathing, is a very good tool for training breath control since the bouyancy of the water helps the body expand completely.

Swimming is difficult to do in the dojo, however. I would recommend people research exercises done by classical singers. Singing is not magic, and operatic singers do exercises to improve their control and the openness of their airways, which is another important issue that isn't addressed here, although I think it doesn't impact balance that much.

Another important point is that the diaphragm is not down around the belly button...



...and it moves basically down, not outward, so concentrating on pushing your belly out is not learning to breath with your diaphragm. Until you can coordinate all the muscles down to your anus, concentrating on feeling the area that we think of as "the stomach"--especially trying to feel inside the body, not the outer abdominal muscles--is more important than manipulating the bellybutton.

A note on kiai--kiai is the opposite of deep breathing. It reverses all the muscles and goes fast instead of slow. When Payet-sensei demonstrates kiai in the kenshusei course, you can actually see his entire body contract and sometimes he moves off the ground. It's not just that you can see abdominal core squeeze under his gi (although you can see that, too) but even his arms and legs contract.

I have found for myself that on the days when I am lucky enough to be able to get into seiza properly, a good kiai in seiza feels like it almost lifts me off the ground. That is very difficult to do, however, unless you are relaxed. One way of relaxing is to get totally exhausted, and I have found that often my best vocal projection comes at the end of hajime geiko training.

This is not surprising to me since I used to do swim practice for a couple hours and then really belt it out in choral practice. Not always the right notes, but big volume!!

One training technique that seems to me to work well is to do bokken suburi and concentrate on doing kiai while making the cut with your back and the muscles between the bellybutton and the inguinal area. This might be totally wrong, but it seems to automatically pull together your posture, projection of center, and exhalation.

(2) I understand walking a lot less, maybe even not at all. But I think your description of pushing off the back foot is wrong. I thought this was the key to suriashi, but when I started do it in kihon dosa, I was immediately told, "no, move with your hips." I haven't figured out yet how to walk using my hips first, but I think it has something to do with projecting your centre of gravity forward while coordinating the front foot at the same time so you don't get off balance.

(3) You've missed the thing that ties it all together, which is that learning breathing and walking are both fundamentally about learning to feel and manipulate your core/tanden/center-of-gravity, or whatever you like to call it. The other day we did an exercise in the kenshusei course where two partners stand facing each other and hands palm to palm at the sides of the body. You push on each other's hands and slowly go down into a squatting position while keeping the back straight, kind of like a deep front squat. At the bottom of the squat, you push on each other's chest to try to push the partner over backwards. At one point, I started to getting a little bit stable. It felt like somehow I was redirecting the energy going into my chest down into my perineum. I don't believe in ki, so there is a physiological/mechanical explanation for this, but I don't know what it is. Anyhow, the ability to use this part of the body is what I think breath and walking training are all about.

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Old 09-04-2013, 10:05 AM   #5
Janet Rosen
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

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Christian Mikkelson wrote: View Post
, "no, move with your hips." I haven't figured out yet how to walk using my hips first, but I think it has something to do with projecting your centre of gravity forward while coordinating the front foot at the same time so you don't get off balance.
Well, here's what I do. I'm sure others will jump in with both critiques of what I say - which is fine, I'm not saying this is all correct, just my best effort to articulate what it feels like I'm doing - and also with alternate explanations or methods. So take with grains of salt as one person's exploration.
Don't think of "hips" in this context as the big lateral joint on the far outside of your body where the top of the femur meets your pelvis, but as the whole belly/pelvis complex.
It should only take a couple of moments experimenting standing to figure this out.
Going to start without walking, just weight shifting. Stand in neutral posture, feet apart evenly weighted. Let your entire center (NOT just the little point two inches below belly button) slightly lift and settle down to the left. You'll feel corresponding movement in the left and right hips (groin, actually) as one opens and one closes and your weight shifts to your left foot without you moving a leg or foot. Repeat on the other side.
Now go into hamni and do is moving forward and back, again without stepping (basically, doing rowing exercise w/o the arms), having your entire center lift and shift forward, lift and shift back. You'll feel it in tummy and pelvis. Don't put any focus on feet or legs.
Once you can feel that...then try using this center-based weight shift to unweight your back leg so you can move it forward. Then smooth it out so your center can do less of the rise and just move forward, just a little ahead of your legs. Makes for fairly small steps that stay under your center.

ADDING TO THIS: actually for full integration, I DO engage the leg but I feel it as "pushing off" so much as maintaining a connection with the ground and running energy up from the ground TO the center.

Last edited by Janet Rosen : 09-04-2013 at 10:15 AM. Reason: refining and adding another thought.

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Old 09-04-2013, 06:44 PM   #6
Rob Watson
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
In my class, which is mostly principle-based anyhow, we spend a lot of time on partner practice exercises for natural movement, structure and connection. But they mostly derive from or involve aikido basic technique.
I think you have to dive into practice or new students will not feel they are learning what they as beginners feel they are there to learn. I have always favored an integrated approach.
In aiki-weapons, many instructors dive right into teaching the kata. Because I am myself not a kinesthetic learner, I tend to like to start by teaching holding the jo or bokken, then drilling on the basic movements - footwork, thrusts, shomen cuts, etc - doing repetitions moving across the dojo using the mirror - before starting to teach the kata. Unlike many who teach the kata as a whole, I like to only teach newbies a few steps at a time.
No suburi? I suppose it is expected that the student practice suburi on their own at home. The results of which become instantly apparent when attempting kata. Actually, here, suburi is on the test requirements for the first few kyu grades.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 09-04-2013, 08:13 PM   #7
Peter Boylan
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Chris, I'm trying to figure out a clear way to describe what I do when I walk. It is really difficult. We do move from the hips but we have to push with that back foot. Janet is on the right track. When I talk about hips I'm really talking about "koshi" 腰、which is a whole region, and it all has to be tied together and working for you. When you push with that back foot it is driving the koshi and the koshi is what moves. Which, as an explanation, is clear as mud. I'll keep working on it.

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Old 09-04-2013, 11:05 PM   #8
Janet Rosen
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

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No suburi? I suppose it is expected that the student practice suburi on their own at home. The results of which become instantly apparent when attempting kata. Actually, here, suburi is on the test requirements for the first few kyu grades.
My Low Impact students come to class once a week and rarely practice at home. They are not grading for rank. I don't emphasize the kind of ongoing repetitive movement typically associated with suburi training because it isn't compatible with physical issues people in the class may have. Given the once a week nature of the class, it takes ages to learn a kata. The weapons training is a part of every class but the focus is on principles we are working on in movement exercises and partner practice empty handl, like forward energy, extension, control of center line.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-05-2013, 03:59 AM   #9
IvLabush
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Mr Boylan, does your walking exercises close to nanba aruki that mentioned in other topic?

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Old 09-05-2013, 08:14 AM   #10
Peter Boylan
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

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Mr Boylan, does your walking exercises close to nanba aruki that mentioned in other topic?
The suriashi is more like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK4m1Bjeess

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Old 09-05-2013, 08:22 AM   #11
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Yes it's suriashi. Also you mentioned ayumiashi and my question is rather about it.

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Old 09-05-2013, 11:24 AM   #12
Peter Boylan
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

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Ivan Labushevskiy wrote: View Post
Yes it's suriashi. Also you mentioned ayumiashi and my question is rather about it.
Ah, sorry. Ayumiashi is simply normal walking. Nanba walking was a method of coordinating the arms and legs differently. I believe the Yagyu Shingan Ryu guys still teach it, but it was a specialized method for walking in armor (if my pathetic excuse for a memory serves me correctly).

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Old 09-05-2013, 11:35 AM   #13
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

Thank you for the answer. I ask about it a bit scrupulously 'cause I work on it. I had been taught that nanba aruki was about symmetrically body using.

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Old 09-05-2013, 03:01 PM   #14
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

When I began studying Jikishinkage-ryu I learned exactly that; how to breath and how to walk. In the ryu it is called umpo- walking methods. You can see the late Mr. Terayama demonstrating it here at the 6:30 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gwvSgFXuUY My training partner and I spent about 2 months only doing umpo for about 2-2.5 hours per class. It made us very sore but it also gave us a great foundation. We eventually learned suburi and then kata! lol

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Old 09-05-2013, 08:16 PM   #15
Peter Boylan
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Re: The Only Things I Really Teach Are How to Breath And How To Walk

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Chris Covington wrote: View Post
When I began studying Jikishinkage-ryu I learned exactly that; how to breath and how to walk. In the ryu it is called umpo- walking methods. You can see the late Mr. Terayama demonstrating it here at the 6:30 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gwvSgFXuUY My training partner and I spent about 2 months only doing umpo for about 2-2.5 hours per class. It made us very sore but it also gave us a great foundation. We eventually learned suburi and then kata! lol
Chris, that sounds like an excellent way to start. Learn the absolute basics first, and then everything else will be solid and powerful. If you don't have a foundation you can't build anything sturdy.

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