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Old 10-01-2003, 11:47 AM   #1
thisisnotreal
 
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Power and 'Softness'

Greetings!

My question is related to a point someone made about the most painful nikkyo they felt.

It was stated that the reason the 'true power' was generated was because of softness.

My only idea about this was that because of softness (which i am interpreting as sensitivity) the Sensei could sense the exact angles of the bones in uke (and his wrist) and able to align the technique for maximum efficiency.

Do you have any thoughts on why power is generated maximally by being soft?

thank you.

Josh
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Old 10-01-2003, 12:08 PM   #2
Jeff Tibbetts
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I've heard the same thing before, and I asked my instructor about it. The way that he explained his understanding was that if you are tense or strong you are doing a technique to someone else. When your own muscles are tense, they are not a good conductor for feeling the other person's input. If you can be soft, or not use your own muscles, the technique will be something that comes from them more than you. You let them use their own energy, and you guide it into the desired outcome for both people. You can throw people if you're stronger, but it may be better to let them throw themselves. You can't do that if you are being hard, and imposing it on them... So yeah, pretty much what you said, right?

If the Nightingale doesn't sing-
wait
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Old 10-01-2003, 01:22 PM   #3
MikeE
 
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I like to look at it as a feedback mechanism.

If I'm tense or using strength I am telling uke what I am doing to them...or giving them feedback or a reference point.

If I am soft and relaxed when I move, I don't give them feedback and the technique comes on as a surprise, illiciting a reflex response to protect themselves (i.e. plant themselves into the ground).

Kind of like touching a hot stove.

Mike Ellefson
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Old 10-01-2003, 02:16 PM   #4
paw
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*gets on soapbox for rant*
Quote:
If I'm tense or using strength I am telling uke what I am doing to them...or giving them feedback or a reference point.
Muscles either contract or don't. Strength is used in all aikido techniques, even if it's the minimal amount of strength necessary to move around on the mat, raise a limb, etc.... It might be better to use a different term... like "muscling" which would suggest using strength in an inefficient or inappropriate manner.
Quote:
Do you have any thoughts on why power is generated maximally by being soft?
It isn't. Power is work over time --- generated in this case by muscular contractions. It's possible to "force" a technique on someone smaller by using brute force with little thought to efficency, or appropriateness of technique .... which would be a coaching issue. It's possible to use relatively little strength by using the appropriate technique, at the appropriate time to get the desired result. Take the appropriate technique, executed at the appropriate time with great force (muscular effort) and you will generate maximum power.

Alternatively, you could ask a nationally or internationally ranked judo player to throw you as hard as possible, and then repeat the process with a larger, similarly ranked judo player.

*leaves soapbox and dons flame suit*

Regards,

Paul
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Old 10-01-2003, 02:24 PM   #5
kironin
 
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Re: Power and 'Softness'

Josh,

just replace the word "soft" with the word "relax".

Your skeletal muscles fall basically in to two categories - flexors (eg. bicep) and extensors (eg. tricep) that oppose each other. Generalized tension causes these muscles to work against each other creating inefficient movements and weaker forces in the particualr directions that may be highly desirable to make a technique come together. By being relaxed, you can sense the tension in uke and at the same time be better able to apply effective force at the right time in the right direction without countering yourself from inappropriate tension in opposing muscles.

You therefore maximize your effective strength through being relaxed and this allows you to use less force overall and thus have softer technique.

Nikkyo is a good example of this because so often what makes students nikkyo ineffective is their own tension. Sometimes telling a tense student to "soften up" or "be softer" immediately gets them to relax and then uke drops like a rock because nage was actually fighting their own tension.

basically this is the whole point of Kokyu Dosa (kneeling Kokyu Ho exercise for some), IMO.

Softness comes from relaxation.

Craig
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Old 10-01-2003, 02:48 PM   #6
MikeE
 
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Mike Ellefson
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Old 10-01-2003, 02:48 PM   #7
MikeE
 
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Quote:
Michael Ellefson (MikeE) wrote:
Jeez Paul,

Just trying the KISS approach.

Just getting across the idea of not conflicting by tension.

All semantics equal: If I said you are being too strong with your technique...would you go shower?

Mike Ellefson
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Old 10-01-2003, 04:35 PM   #8
paw
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Mike,
Quote:
All semantics equal: If I said you are being too strong with your technique...would you go shower?
I'd ask you what you meant. I haven't a clue what "too strong with your technique" means.

Does it mean that I had poor mechanics in performing the technique? Was my timing off? Did I make a tactical error and try to force an undesirable or inappropriate technique? Was I unnecessarily brutal to uke (tried to "bury" them with the throw)?

*rant mode*

From personal experience, I've never encountered an activity that so actively discourages athleticism in general and strength in particular as aikido. Never. Much of this is exacerbated by the semantics that are being used in aikido. "Strength is not necessary" and the like.....

As Kevin has noted repeatedly, many aikidoists lack a base of fitness, including strength, that contributes to many injuries. Even outside of aikido, this is relevant. A number of elderly people suffer extremely traumatic injuries from falls. A problem that could be resolved by: instruction in how to fall and a modest strength training routine (which has been shown over time to improve bone density).

Add to this a number of aikidoists that denegrate athleticism when they would get thrashed by an untrained, more athletic individual --- on the mat or off of it --- and this really gets my goat.

Every law enforcement agency, army and fire department on the planet have minimum fitness requirements. A good part of which are generally carrying objects, push ups and pull ups --- measures of strength/strength endurance. So I give little credibility to the argument that budo doesn't require a baseline level of fitness.

*rant off*

Regards,

Paul
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Old 10-01-2003, 05:23 PM   #9
kironin
 
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Just thought I would point out the relevant one of Tohei Sensei's Ki principles. There is also a great emphasis on breathing practice in Tohei's aikido. I might add that Vladimir Vasilev was a great example of the importance of both breathing and relaxation in his Systema seminars at the recent Aiki Expo.

//////////

Relax Completely

This is probably the most misunderstood of the four principles of mind and body unification. Complete relaxation in the sense in which it is applied in aikido is not the relaxation of a lump of jello, that of the "dead" relaxation or being limp. It is instead the sense of a body full of energy without tension.

Complete relaxation goes beyond simple muscular relaxation into mind/body relaxation. A calm mind naturally produces a calm body. Removing stress from the body greatly enhances freedom of movement, which is so necessary in aikido.

//////////
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Old 10-01-2003, 06:09 PM   #10
Largo
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Speed generates a lot of power. Think about a bullet. What makes it so destructive? The speed that it travels at.

We can move faster and in a greater range of motion when we're relaxed as opposed to when we're tense. (I learned this doing full-tension forms in Goju-ryu).
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Old 10-01-2003, 11:02 PM   #11
bcole23
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The whole thing about having a base level of fitness is such a crock of truth. You can't just go around spouting truths and expect people to believe you. My TV tells me that fried salads are good for me and that women love beer bellies. I KNOW what the right track is and your obvious common sense approach to life is so demeaning to us guru's that it just makes me sic. </end pure sarcasm>

That being said, I believe that these two things, being fit and relaxed are complementary. Plus the more fit you are, the more relaxed you generally are also.

Ki wo tsukette kudasai!!

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Old 10-01-2003, 11:25 PM   #12
PhilJ
 
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Good quote Craig. I see a lot of limp extremeties as I work with folks and I think they're missing something.

Aikido technique is not limpness, nor strength, but rather energetic. Someone once told me when you are grabbed katatedori (f'rinstance) and you go limp, you have no abilities.

Rather, s/he told me to use 'just enough' energy so that if uke let go, your arm still hovers -- it doesn't fall to your side nor does it bounce up. That way, when you move, you don't have to either relax or 'power up' first, you're ready to go.

For whatever reason, that advice stuck. When I'm encouraged to 'relax' and go limp, I just smile and ignore the advice.

FWIW, I agree that a certain level of fitness is a good thing -- but I refuse to push it until I practice what I preach.

*Phil

Last edited by PhilJ : 10-01-2003 at 11:33 PM.

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Old 10-01-2003, 11:32 PM   #13
PhilJ
 
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I wanted to address the topic more relevantly with my incredibly valuable POS opinion.

From where I stand, application of technique is where the power begins (shodo-o-seisu is a good start). To get to your final destination in aikido, it seems to be a good idea to relax, let your ki flow, and find the resolution.

If you find a technique, but you blast someone, you've lost control temporarily. That may be why nikkyo was so painful -- applied effectively, but the defender could not feel (or care to feel) where uke was, so pain was administered.

Finally Josh, we get more 'powerful' when we relax because we're not fighting ourselves or the situation. Nothing is in the way to impede so things generally tend to go more smoothly.

*Phil

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Old 10-02-2003, 12:37 AM   #14
Ari Bolden
 
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Just got me thinking...

KISS (keep it simple stupid)..Words are powerfuls things. I like to use KYSS (keep your system simple).

Just a thought...

cheers

Ari

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Old 10-02-2003, 08:47 AM   #15
Chuck Clark
 
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Try this one...

KISS = "Keep it short and simple."

I like this one much better.

Chuck Clark
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Old 10-02-2003, 10:15 AM   #16
thisisnotreal
 
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Greetings! Thanks!

These responses are very, very interesting.

I have a comment and question. I am a bit worried I'll come across as an ignoramus or doubting-thomas but maybe I am...

I have seen a relatively small (<~20) number of real conflicts (i.e. fights).

They were all over very fast. Usually the one who was 'crazier' (i.e. the one who wanted to win the most, and was willing to take the abuse while not stopping the barrage) won.

My question is: Do you think you could maintain the softness (read: relaxed) in the face of a real battle? Are you supposed to?

Me..I cannot. Not yet.

But for some reason I do believe that it is possible and it is the way to go.

My teacher has said before (paraphrased) that it is the one who maintains control of his mind (and breathing) who will win. And it is up to you to give away as much of your mind (will) as you are willing.

I don't know how to master this other than keeping on practicing. In randori I get so flustered, so easily. I will keep training so don't tell me that !

Thanks Peeple.

Sincerely,

Josh
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Old 10-02-2003, 11:54 AM   #17
kensparrow
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Muscles either contract or don't. Strength is used in all aikido techniques, even if it's the minimal amount of strength necessary to move around on the mat, raise a limb, etc.... It might be better to use a different term... like "muscling" which would suggest using strength in an inefficient or inappropriate manner.
This is true, muscle fibers have a chemically energized state and an expended state. What most people don't realize is that RELAXED is the energized state. That energy is released in the form of work when the muscle contracts. This is why dead bodies exhibit rigor mortis, the muscles are no longer being recharged and therefore return to the contracted state. What this means to the living is that if you are tense, your muscles have already done their work and have to recharge before you can use them again. Think about a muscle cramp, a large group of muscles is overworked causing them to contract, the contraction constricts blood flow into the muscle which inhibits the arrival of the chemicals required to relax the muscle and a viscious cycle begins.

The botton line is that staying relaxed means you are ready to respond much more quickly (and powerfully) when the time comes.
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Old 10-17-2003, 10:36 PM   #18
gi_grrl
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Quote:
Ken Sparrow (kensparrow) wrote:
The botton line is that staying relaxed means you are ready to respond much more quickly (and powerfully) when the time comes.
Last week, my Sensei asked the class to sit in a circle around him. Then he asked "what single word would you use to describe aikido?". Power, center, ki, dynamics, movement, technique...came the replies. "No", said Sensei, "Flow".

For me, power comes from my legs and my hips. So how can I transfer this power into my hands when I'm performing tenshenage? My arms aren't strong and my hands are very weak. It seems to me that the power flows from where it is generated, through my body and into my hands. But for it to flow, I must be relaxed. As electrical power flows through water but not the earth, my power flows through relaxed muscles but not through tension or stress.

And yes, I do mean relaxed not limp ;-)
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