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Chronoscopic Perception
Chronoscopic Perception
by Ross Robertson
Chronoscopic Perception

Nude #1 2012 by Shinichi Maruyama

The above image is a time-lapse capture of a dancer's gesture. The photographer is Shinichi Maruyama, and I invite you peruse his web site before continuing with the rest of this article.

The "Nude" series (entirely safe-for-work, I promise) is of particular interest. Rather than depicting a moment frozen in time, these images capture time frozen in a moment. Duration is persistent, all moments coexist simultaneously, movement is compressed into sculptural form. The motion of the dance is temporal, transitory. But you can look at it as long as you want.

This is how I see human beings when I do aikido.

There is a difference, though. Maruyama's images are acquired by accumulating elapsed time, making a segment of the past into a durable record for the present. When I look at someone, I see a slice of accumulated future.

We all are accustomed to seeing potentialities. Although it's a rather miraculous feature of neurobiology, and quite essential for survival, it's nothing special. Any higher organism can do it. If you successfully catch something I've thrown you, it's because you reached for where the object was going, not by reaching for where it was when I threw it. The same is true of predators intercepting prey on the wing or on the run. Our minds draw trajectories on the canvas of the future. It's automatic, and necessary. As Gretzky famously said, go where it will be, not where it is.

It's innate, but it's also learned. We have the basic apparatus in place, but we must exercise it in the various domains of our activities in order to become good at it. I'm good at aikido, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically good at video games. I have to spend time in a given arena to be able to better perceive the morphologic potentials. The aikido helps, and the more we do in different endeavors, the more each augments the other.

Accordingly, the acquisition and refinement of this kind of seeing becomes generalized. When you get good at it in one arena, it comes more quickly in others. It's as if in looking at a magnet, you see also the magnetic field that surrounds it, and how it interacts with it's environment. The field's shape changes as the orientation and polarity changes, but the field is nonetheless a constant presence.

When someone stands in front of you, a field surrounds them. This field is the area of space that can be reached by any part of their body in the near future. The density of the field is uneven. Some areas can be reached more easily, more quickly. Other areas show possibility but with lower probabilities. Together, these reveal the shape of the future.

Look again at the photo sculptures of Maruyama. There is a silky sensuality to them. At the same time, there are sharp edges that are perhaps prohibitive to touch. If you, with your own morphologic field were to enter in and interact with these forms, you could see clearly where you'd like to go, where you could go, and where you should not. Parts of the shapes are solid, and you're free to move along their surfaces, but not press too hard against. Other areas are openings or full of concavities. Here you can go at will, but notice how your own shape may need to change in order to do so.

The images that Maruyama has shared with us are just a small sampling of what could be an infinitely variable series. The same is true of your partner, and of you. Shift the stance only a little bit, and the overall shape may be completely transformed. Nevertheless, all these shapes are extruded by a single familiar form -- the basic shape of human anatomy. Through long study of dancers, athletes, circus performers, and martial artists, I believe we would observe that the infinite variety would condense around a limited set of repeating shapes.

Becoming familiar with these is the root of true kata training. Kata is form, but we cannot truly perceive form, let alone understand it deeply, if we cannot see form as mutable. We need the perception of matter and energy as one, and space and time as one.

Shinichi Maruyama's nudes could just as well have been clothed. The real significance of the work is in the unveiling of the static to reveal the naked dynamism in every moment.

Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

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Old 01-28-2014, 03:52 PM   #2
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,266
United Kingdom
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

Dear Ross,
Maybe I am a Philistine or a gent lacking artistic appreciation.The stuff on the webpage of the artist is for me a bit like the Emperors New clothes.I see little of what I would term art in this stuff. As far as the movie of the water is concerned one does not need to be artistic to video someone tipping out a jug /or whatever of water.Maybe I could photograph my bathwater going down the drain and submit this as a piece of art??Cheers, Joe.
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Old 01-31-2014, 05:44 PM   #3
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

Those who study art appreciation may have a deeper understanding than the rest of us. But on matters of taste, there are no Philistines. We all are final authorities on how something strikes, us, on whether or not it is meaningful to us.

The example that I chose speaks to me in a direct way pertaining to my understanding of aikido. That's really all I wanted to share. The merits of the art piece itself, not unlike the various styles of aikido, are a matter of individual perspective.
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Old 02-08-2014, 05:14 PM   #4
Cady Goldfield
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,035
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

I like his work very much, and I'm about as strict a "it's gotta be representational art, dammit!" type as it gets. I have zero, zippo interest in or tolerance for stuff that requires no talent and gives no aesthetic value to the senses. So...for example, those "art" installations consisting of, say, videotapes of goldfish gaping at the camera while an hourglass trickles sand, and an operatic tenor wails (with pretentious titles, of course) are anathema.

By contrast, Maruyama's work, to my perception, shows an excellent - perhaps brilliant - eye toward using a camera, time and plastic/fluid substances or beings in motion as his chosen media. His work is both evocative and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, I would call it painterly (and I'm really trying not to sound pretentious here... I'm a former professional illustrator -- and I did take an art appreciation course as an undergrad. ).

Nice find.
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Old 02-14-2014, 02:49 PM   #5
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

I think that ultimately we find art that in some way speaks to us. I think that's really the finality of art criticism, though a really good critic can illuminate and help us hear works that would speak to us if we knew how better to listen. We may take some abstract interest in art that attracts others, but that we don't get, but at the end of the day, it's all about what connects with us as individuals.
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Old 02-23-2014, 05:34 AM   #6
bret9665's Avatar
Dojo: Shobu Aikido
Location: Houston Texas
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 3
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

Hi Ross,
Thank you for the article. My sensei has been speaking of some of this in class, the fields of energy and the sensing of and response to movement. As a new student, having begun June 2013, and beginning my Aikido training relatively late in life, I usually feel that I am moving like a toddler just beginning to walk. I find in these photos, in contrast, evidence of a beautiful precision and grace of movement that I wish I could obtain.

My previous martial arts training, in Taekwondo, which albeit was over 20 years ago, does not seem to have helped me much in Aikido. The philosophy of defense seems to me to be an almost polar opposite, and my reflexive movements lack the sensitivity and intention of blending that Aikido requires. So, I'm finding that my previous training in how to respond to potentialities may be more of a hindrance than a benefit, but maybe that will change.

Thank you again,
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Old 02-24-2014, 10:26 AM   #7
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: Chronoscopic Perception

Hi Bret,
I see we're nearly neighbors. Hope we'll get to train together sometime.

Welcome to aikido, and congratulations on bringing your level of maturity to it. I was fortunate enough to start when I was 19. While I was never athletic in the usual sense, I could climb any tree, was a mad Frisbee fiend, a tennis player, and a dedicated skate punk. I was also dabbling in gymnastics when I started aikido, but nothing had prepared me for the level of foolishness and clumsiness I felt in myself when I got on the mat.

Yes, if you understand that you're learning to walk, to sit, to lie down, to roll over, you're on to something. Moreover, you're learning to see. If you understand that at this stage, you've either found a very good instructor, or you're very acute, or both. The seeing will only deepen over time.

I don't recommend throwing out any of your earlier training, though it may take a while to bring everything into alignment. I'm not a big fan of the "empty cup" school of thought. Of course we must make room within ourselves to receive what others are offering. But we bring a unique lifetime of perspective to the mat as our offering to our teachers and dojo mates.

You will find, as will they, that there is no one else but you who can offer what you have in training with them. Thanks for sharing that with me and the rest of us here on this forum.
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