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Old 02-08-2005, 01:05 PM   #26
rob_liberti
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Connecticut
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Re: Where's the hara?

I agree with your line of thinking almost entirely. I admit that the majority of my class is kihon waza - but what I'm researching is certainly not basics for the sake of basics. I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I have it well understood. My assumption is that the shu level is like the shoden level, the ha level is like the chuden level, and the ri level is like the okuden level, but that's just my guess from trying to figure it out from context. I keep hoping someone will write a shu-ha-ri for dummies book.

I love the idea of ego-centric being an anti-center to the way we are thinking about center. My thoughts are that ego is what separates you from your true self (the true self you are supposed to be working on manifesting by means of aikido practice). I suppose I consider my true self to be the center of how my mind and hara form an inderdependent relationship and therefore my ego can never truly be "centric". The term "ego-centric" seems to consists of antipodes.

about:
"because of the law of interdependency, we have to acknowledge that these things do not exist until they all exist."

My thoughts to add about this are:
1) I think I call this the principle of corespondance. (As above, so below, as it is below, so it is above). Basically, all principles are meta-principles of that one.
2) I guess I feel that my center, and the center of the Universe exist, and the center of the technique, and the center of the uke all exist even if the uke is unaware that any of these centers exist.

So, while I see no disagreement here. I not convinced about "understanding center not as some thing or some things we should gain but as some thing or some things we should lose." Maybe - again I'm a bit dense. But I see it as you probably have to gain a few things - as well as - lose a few things for center. It's not very easy to give some things up. Some parts of my ego are really fun at parties.

(As an aside, there are very few books written in English about yin and yang. I'm looking for a good picture where there is a white circle in black side, and a black circle in the white side for an illustration of "anything to its extreme becomes its opposite" - as in iriminage).

Rob
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Old 02-08-2005, 01:44 PM   #27
rob_liberti
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Re: Where's the hara?

Sorry about the bad typo:

"I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I have it well understood."

was supposed to be:

"I've read several papers on shu-ha-ri but I think I DON'T have it well understood."

Sorry for my carelessness. - Rob
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:32 AM   #28
senshincenter
 
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Re: Where's the hara?

Hi Rob,

Thanks for reply. Very nice points. Thanks for sharing.

Here's what you got me thinking...

First, please let me outright say that this is by no means the only way that one can think of center. It is just a tool -- one of many I imagine. One may find it useful, one may not. Moreover, I think the utility of one's concept of center will always have a lot to do with what wants center to be, etc. So, for me, there's a lot of room for variation on this type of stuff. I am just trying to take advantage of some of that room. I do not think I would want to ever make more of it than that.

That said… I guess it is like this for me…

All of this stems from the direct experience of witnessing aikidoka who appear to be quite skilled while performing kihon waza and/or institutionally approved types of jiyu waza or randori, completely fall apart under what in comparison has to be called truer spontaneous conditions. Basic things go right out the window -- things as basic as the capacity to clear the line of the attack, or enter into shikaku (especially when it is at the back of the attacker); even things as elementary as tenkan-ashi seem to be beyond the practitioner's access. Undoubtedly then, something as essential and as sophisticated as "center" is also most often absent. Under such conditions, the problem does not seem to be one of "Where is my center?" as much as it is "How do I gain or maintain access to center?" The former question is going to have us looking for places on the body. The latter question is going to have us concerned with those things that prevent us from maintaining and/or gaining access to center. Thus, more than physical location is going to become significant. Naturally, then, we are going to have to simultaneously look for mental, emotional, and spiritual components since these things very often make us lose or have no access to our center.

In my opinion, this is a problem for both the instructor attempting to lead others to true spontaneity with the art, and this is a problem for any student of the art attempting such an accomplishment. I would not say that this problem is universal or even that we should make it universal -- not everyone will or will want to train toward such aims. However, for those that do, the absence of center within spontaneous training environments and the reasons why it becomes absent are significant issues. With these concerns comes dissatisfaction with the usual discourse (e.g. "Put your mind in your center." "Use your center." Etc.). This is because under such training conditions, putting your mind somewhere is not the problem, is not something you are not doing. The problem is that you are putting your mind too many places, that too many things are fettering it. To put your mind in any place, it is quickly realized under such training conditions, is to lose center. We lose center when we put our mind in any place because our mind (and thus our body) becomes captured by the place where we allow our mind to rest. This is basic Takuan stuff but I feel it is still applicable and thus definitely remains insightful. Moreover, within intense spontaneous training conditions, the mind being captured by various places, things, feelings, etc., is readily visible. That is to say, this is a real problem. So maybe there is indeed something to Takuan's caveat when he says, "You should not place your mind within yourself. Bracing the mind in the body is something done only at the inception of training, when one is a beginner."

If we look at the example of desire (i.e. too close) and aversion (i.e. too far away), and note how these things may very well be related to the egocentric or the anti-center of having to address our own fears and insecurities and thus being reduced to acting or reacting in a habitual manner, we can see that it is our mind (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, etc.) that is being captured by our fears or our insecurities. The thing with spontaneous training environments, in contrast to Kihon Waza training environments, is that they have a way of reducing us very quickly to our most habitual selves. When that happens we lose "center" because we are allowing our mind to "rest" in our emotions or in our subjective and habitual experience of reality (i.e. "I'm afraid, must smother" or "I'm afraid, must retreat or keep at bay"). When our mind (and thus our body) rests in the anti-center, for whatever reason, we lose touch with our uke, with the engagement, and even with ourselves. But what does it mean to be in touch with ourselves, with the engagement, and with uke? What does that mean in terms of center? Answering this, I feel, will bring us to this notion of interdependency and why we might gain more by understanding center as more akin to emptiness than to an anatomical position on or in the body.

When we ourselves are centered, it is assumed that we are centered in relation to our own body AND in relation to what action we are performing or attempting. This is what makes our sense of center practical (i.e. able to be employed under spontaneous conditions). When we understand "center" in this way, we understand that a center-to-center connection with another person warrants that any sense of center must include a notion of being multi-relational and/or harmonious with multiple centers. That is to say, if I am moving in a "centered" fashion in regards to my own body mechanics but my own body mechanics is not in harmony with what my opponent is doing, then my sense of center will quickly falter and become extinct or false the second I engage my attacker. This is a way that we can understand being too close or being too far -- too stuck in desire or too stuck in aversion: our center is out of synch with uke's and the center of the engagement.

However, in relating the center of our being to the center of someone else, because we are addressing the issue of possessing a practical sense of center, we are also relating these centers to the center of a tactical architecture. In the same way as before, when I am not connecting to the center of the tactical architecture, or when I am not using the properly "centered" architecture for how I am opting to relate my center to the center of uke, my center again falters and becomes extinct or false. For example, when I am too close, my center becomes too stressed and my posture may break; when I am too far, I may have to overextend in order to reach my attacker, etc. In the same way, this architectural center relates to the center of the engagement, since the center of the engagement determines the "rightness" of the tactical architecture. Continuing onward, the center of the engagement is itself determined by the center of the universe and/or what we might want to consider the natural laws of the universe. Thus, as an extension of the same reasoning, if I lose one center, I lose them all. If I have only one center, I have none. I must have them all in order to have any of them.

When I do not have my center, when I am not moving in a bio-mechanically efficient manner, I am weak and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I am moving in a bio-mechanically correct manner but doing so irrelevant to what my attacker is doing, my movement becomes awkward and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating that center to the center of my attacker, but I am not relating these things to the center of tactical architecture I am opting to employ, my technique becomes forced and inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating it to the center of my attacker and to the center of the tactical architecture I am opting to use, but I am not relating it to the center of the total engagement, my awareness becomes staccato or too narrow and my movement become inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. When I have my center, and I am relating it to the center of my attacker and to the center of the tactical architecture I am using, and when all of these things are being properly related to the center of the total engagement, but I am out of synch with the center of the Universe, Nature's laws regarding movement, energy, the transference of energy, and even Chance work against me and my movement becomes inefficient and my attacker easily dominates me. In short, I can fall from center nearly anywhere, and when I do, I fall from every center. Moreover, if it the case that my emotional experiences can pull me off center and toward the anti-center of egocentricism, then it is obvious that I will have to drop a great many things like insecurity, fear, anxiousness, etc., in order to remain centered.

In the end, I am suggesting, it is the dropping off of things that will probably lend itself more to having a practical sense of center within spontaneous environments than anything else. If the problem is the abiding mind or the fettered mind, giving such a mind one more thing to locate and/or to think about might be doing the very opposite of what we wish. Alternatively, having fewer things to be fettered with, or more accurately, having more capacity to be unattached to such places, things, emotions, etc., might be the answer. It may be that by losing more we may gain everything.

Just an idea,
dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 02-09-2005, 01:22 PM   #29
rob_liberti
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Re: Where's the hara?

Thanks for further explaining your perspective. I'll add some context to aikido given the 'spontaneous condition' that O-sensei supposedly said something to the effect of 'I lose my center all of the time; I just get it back faster than most of the people I am working with'. That's not an exact quote (as it is in English and all) but it makes sense to me and helped me with the way I think about these things. I think it is the same kind of 'balance - unbalance - balance again' pattern we have in walking where you have to break your 100% balance if you are going to move.

I've also read other discussions where they stopped talking about moving from center and started talking about grounding to the floor (which you reminded me of when you discussed the interdependant relationship between the feet and the head). Their reasons were that if you removed the floor, that the person wouldn't have much ability to do what we generally refer to as move from center. I think that has some validity as well except I can make the counter arguement that plenty of people stand on the floor and I can knock them over with a feather - so it is probably both (as you suggested).

Good discussion. If you have the time and the inclantation to PM me about the actual definitions of shu-ha-ri I would appreciate it.

Thanks - Rob
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Old 02-09-2005, 03:01 PM   #30
senshincenter
 
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Re: Where's the hara?

Hi Rob,

That's a great line. I've never heard it - where is it from?

I have some stuff on Shu-Ha-Ri. Here is some of what's on our web site on this topic:

These are writings:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/w...azaofwaza.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/w...ontaniety.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/w...nghatoshu.html

This is a video with a paragraph of explanation:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/shuofri.html


I guess you can find the literal translations for the words Shu, Ha, and Ri just about anywhere on the Net nowadays. But I like to define them as "Construction," "Deconstruction," and "Spontaneity."

Sorry about posting again - not sure how PM works, but if you would like to contact me privately then please feel free to write me any time. Our email address is on our web site.

Thanks for the discussion, take care,
dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 02-09-2005, 03:40 PM   #31
rob_liberti
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Re: Where's the hara?

Pete Trimmer sensei says it often. My assumption is that Saotome sensei heard it from O-sensei. I don't know this for sure, but since I'll be seeing Pete this weekend for a seminar I'll ask him. If it turns out my guess was wrong, I'll correct it here on Monday.

I get the impression that Shu is the bulding of forms, Ha is the practice of multiple variations, and Ri is being able to spontaneously handle things in an aiki way. Ha is were I'm the most weak in my understanding. It seems like there are several levels of this. Like aren't nikyo and sankyo just variations of ikyo? Anyway, the most helpful think I have learned about spontaneously moving from variation to variation is that I have to move such that my attacker is not 100% in my center vision. When I have that little angle, I manage to avoid that "deer in the headlights" problem. I got the idea from what Henry Kono sensei seemed to be showing us about randori at a seminar. (He was able to speak to O-sensei a lot more than most because he spoke the language but was considered to be from Canada - so he had foreigner-status enough to be allowed to ask questions the rest just couldn't get away with asking.) It's been working pretty well for me.

Thanks again - great discussion! - Rob

Rob
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Old 02-09-2005, 04:51 PM   #32
senshincenter
 
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Re: Where's the hara?

Yes, I've heard of that understanding of "Ha." I think my take has somewhat departed from that viewpoint - however. But that is what is great about these forums. Different folks with different views coming together.

Again, thanks,
d

David M. Valadez
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Old 02-10-2005, 03:28 AM   #33
Mat Hill
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Re: Where's the hara?

Interesting conversation.

In answer to the question rather prosaically, in Japanese the hara is the abdomen, stomach, guts, belly. The tanden is by no means a well-known concept over here. People sometimes know where it is, but there are no vernacular expressions, and outside of the healing arts, some Chinese and Indian arts it's not bandied about much. According to varoous sources it's about two or three fingers' width below and behind the navel.

The Japanese have a few expressions regarding the hara that may be useful.

腹が立ってる hara ga tatteru: get angry, exasperated
腹が減って軍ができぬ hara ga hette ikusa ga dekinu: you can't do anything on an empty stomach (lit: an army can't do anything on an empty stomach... don't know if this comes from the western expression or not, but I suspect something way older, maybe Sun Tzu but I haven't checked).
腹は決った hara ha(wa) kimetta: made your mind up.

This post's getting too long, so I'll leave you with 小説は腹の足しにはならない。。。 shousetsu ha hara no tashi ni ha naranai: you can't eat a novel!
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Old 02-10-2005, 06:51 AM   #34
Peter Seth
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Smile Re: Where's the hara?

Simplistically your hara is your centre (of gravity). The point from which you can most effectively physically affect your environment. Of course, to be effective it must be in the correct position and alignment in time and space, in relation to what you are trying to influence .
But! it goes deeper than that and its other meaning and properties is unique to each of us, something we have to discover for ourselves?
Pete
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Old 02-14-2005, 08:11 AM   #35
rob_liberti
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Re: Where's the hara?

Here's to things that came to my mind abotu this subject:

1) What happens if someone cuts you in half from head to tailbone? Where's your hara now? You'd have 2 new ones. Which means to me, it cannot be an actual point in and of itself, but rather a center point which is only defined by the balancing of its periphery. I don't bring this up to be difficult, but because the point is important to the context of aikido.

2) There is also term hara-raki (which I may not have romanized correctly) - which was used in the context of describing how the smallest cog in a big clock turns and everything else turns as a result of it.

-Rob
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Old 02-14-2005, 10:55 AM   #36
Mike Sigman
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Re: Where's the hara?

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
I'll add some context to aikido given the 'spontaneous condition' that O-sensei supposedly said something to the effect of 'I lose my center all of the time; I just get it back faster than most of the people I am working with'. That's not an exact quote (as it is in English and all) but it makes sense to me and helped me with the way I think about these things. I think it is the same kind of 'balance - unbalance - balance again' pattern we have in walking where you have to break your 100% balance if you are going to move.
Hi Rob:
I think you're talking about 2 different concepts of center. The physical "center" is really a ball bounded by the abdomen, pelvic floor, lower lumbar region, and diaphragm. The "one point" is the center of that ball.

The other "center" is of course tied to that physical one, but the idea is that every movement you do contains the "center" as the impetus for that movement. For instance, if you do "sayu undo", every millimeter of movement contains the force of the center moving the body and the force of the center in your arms and hands. That's why the Aiki-Taiso and the Taisabaki are practiced. If you "lose your center", you momentarily lose the center's equilibrium and power behind every movement.
Quote:
I've also read other discussions where they stopped talking about moving from center and started talking about grounding to the floor (which you reminded me of when you discussed the interdependant relationship between the feet and the head). Their reasons were that if you removed the floor, that the person wouldn't have much ability to do what we generally refer to as move from center. I think that has some validity as well except I can make the counter arguement that plenty of people stand on the floor and I can knock them over with a feather - so it is probably both (as you suggested).
Yeah, but the people you can knock over with a feather don't know how to bring the power from the ground through their center.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 02-14-2005, 02:12 PM   #37
rob_liberti
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Re: Where's the hara?

Well, the physical center is not interesting to me. When people say move from center, they mean the second definition you were refering to. If anything, on the physical side, the center of your movement would be where your legs attach to the trunk of your body.

Can you elaborate on "sayu undo" and "Aiki-taiso"? I am not overly familiar to those terms and I suspect I have alternative terms for their concepts. Thanks!

Rob
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Old 02-14-2005, 03:12 PM   #38
Mike Sigman
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Re: Where's the hara?

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
Well, the physical center is not interesting to me. When people say move from center, they mean the second definition you were refering to. If anything, on the physical side, the center of your movement would be where your legs attach to the trunk of your body.
Well, the body's fascial sheets are considered the connection that holds the body together and they meet, according to the Ki/Qi paradigm, in the middle of the body... that's where you want to control from. Some extended theories of these controls put the actual joining-together of these control sheets at the perineum or even the anus, in some schools of thought. But we're beginning to get into some areas of movement that are too complex for the written word.
Quote:
About Taiso, i.e., Exercises, Rob wrote:
Can you elaborate on "sayu undo" and "Aiki-taiso"? I am not overly familiar to those terms and I suspect I have alternative terms for their concepts.
Taiso are the various exercises people do, usually for warmup. Mostly I see people do these exercises wrong, too fast, and superficially. They're very important. They're how you practice moving with Kokyu. "Sayu undo" is the one where you sort of swing your arms in a circle so that both hands wind up pointing toward one side, elbows down, and you pretend you're dropping someone down with the elbow/arm off to your side. The whole circle and down drop should be connected to your center and your weight... it's more subtle than it appears, bringing your weight to your hands and arms.

FWIW

Mike
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