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Old 06-05-2005, 03:32 PM   #26
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Nathan Gidney wrote:
But in the end, after several thousand reincarnations and lifetimes we arrive at brahmin (the mountain top).
I don't believe in that reincarnation crap, Nathan. I did in a previous lifetime, but not now.

Mike
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Old 06-05-2005, 03:49 PM   #27
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
...your point is well taken though, when diverting your intentions to "other things" becomes an excuse because it is "too hard" or you are not "patient" enough to learn the internal aspects of an art (KI and Kokyu, as you define it), then you are missing the point.
Well, a lot of people are not really interested in the point. The Taiji community has even more people in it for other than serious reasons. They're looking for the "Tao" (Taiji is not Taoist or Taoist-derived), a quasi-religion, a "martial art" that is fairly safe where no one will beat them up, they're doing it as a cry for help, etc., etc. And of course you have people who are mixed into that crowd that make a living "teaching", psychotherapyzing, talking about peace and harmony, playing Taoist sage, networking the community for customers, etc., etc. It's OK that all those people are there and any "easy" martial art will have a larger percentage of these types than a "hard" martial art... but the serious people can be put off by atmosphere if the less serious begin to dominate.

Reminds me of a curious thing that happened in the Taiji community. When the really "big dogs" started coming to the U.S. after China finally opened its borders, the New Age and less serious practitioners suddenly got a whiff of what Taiji the martial art was about.... and they won't come to workshops (as a rule) of the really skilled Taiji experts. It is hard to get people to attend a Chen Xiao Wang workshop, for example, while the guys spouting "peace and harmony" and "taoism" get large crowds. In other words, it's not so much a problem with "distraction", in many cases... it's that a lot of a particular community wants to hear what they want to hear and they'll deliberately quash anything they don't want to hear. And of course many Chinese instructors simply play to what a lot of westerners want to hear.... they're here to make a living, not teach everything they know (and so many of them don't really know Taiji, but it's where the money is). Some parallels to this happen in the Aikido community, as most people know.

Regards,

Mike
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Old 06-05-2005, 06:39 PM   #28
Ketsan
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Hmm. I'm always baffled by this concept of "the highest level". I tend to take a pragmatic view, to me martial arts are largely just practical skills for solving a particular problem, yes while learning them you can gain insights into yourself and use those insights to make yourself into a better person but ultimately they're there for those occasions in life when you need to use violence, that's what makes them martial. Really the mental side should come with learning the physical or you've done something wrong. The mental is the soft back of the blade which supports the hard cutting edge of the physical in my book.
So my position is that if you learn a technique in order to throw someone and it throws them then they have been thrown and your goal has been accomplished.
In the same way that if you learn a leathal technique no matter how well you study it, once you've learned to kill you can't make your opponent any more dead than dead.
A bone broken by a imperfect technique is just as broken as one by a perfect technique.
As long as the technique can be relied upon to work when needed I consider it learned and I go on to do something else.
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Old 06-05-2005, 06:54 PM   #29
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote:
Hmm. I'm always baffled by this concept of "the highest level". I tend to take a pragmatic view, to me martial arts are largely just practical skills for solving a particular problem, yes while learning them you can gain insights into yourself and use those insights to make yourself into a better person but ultimately they're there for those occasions in life when you need to use violence, that's what makes them martial. Really the mental side should come with learning the physical or you've done something wrong. The mental is the soft back of the blade which supports the hard cutting edge of the physical in my book.
Hi Alex:

A lot of the "ki" stuff turns out to be some pretty nifty body tricks and manipulations of forces through the body (and some attendant conditioning, but enough said). As you get better and better at these skills you need less physical body movement and just do a lot of things by controlling forces within you. It looks like very small movements are making very great effect. Think of it like the stuff you see in the movies where someone rests his hand on an opponent and suddenly the opponent goes flying through the air without much initiating movement being seen (this can be done, BTW). Now take those kinds of force manipulations and engage/vector them with an incoming attack while making very little movement. What is done to the opponent is an "aiki", in that example. Do you see more clearly the picture that I'm trying to paint?

Regards,

Mike
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Old 06-05-2005, 07:18 PM   #30
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
...They're looking for the "Tao" (Taiji is not Taoist or Taoist-derived), a quasi-religion, ...
It's NOT?

Ignatius
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Old 06-05-2005, 07:35 PM   #31
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
It's NOT?
Not according to Chen Xiao Wang and other people from Chen Village. It's arguable whether some of the qi and jin training come from Taoist or Buddhist sources, but the "Taiji is Taoist" stuff doesn't withstand scrutiny. To make it short, the Yang-style (started by Yang Lu Chan who was basically an indentured servant to Chen Hu De in Chen Village) was sold to the public as a style different from Chen-style Taiji and supposedly (according to the Yang press) Taiji came via Zhang San Feng and Taoism. Unfortunately, historical records don't even come close to supporting that story and lately the Yang family has come out and publicly admitted that the Yang style is directly derived from the Chen style. It turns out that Yang Lu Chan was given permission to teach Taiji when he was set free, but he was not allowed to teach the full art. Bye-bye Taoism, I guess. It made for a good read.

What's so funny is that even with that information now available, most of the wannabelieve people continue on with the Taoist stuff because they simply refuse to believe what they don't want to believe. Sort of like the people who are determined that Aikido is not a martial art but a way of promoting universal love, etc.... the idea and feelings are more important than any facts.


Mike
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Old 06-05-2005, 07:53 PM   #32
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote:
...It's arguable whether some of the qi and jin training come from Taoist or Buddhist sources, but the "Taiji is Taoist" stuff doesn't withstand scrutiny.....Unfortunately, historical records don't even come close to supporting that story
How interesting... I'm aware of the historical facts regarding Chen-jia and Yang-jia origins, however, IIRC, the claim to the Chang San Feng lineage was the other way round (i.e. by the Chen's)

I would be appreciative if you could point me in the direction of the historical evidence (you cite) which says otherwise. I'm intrigued...

Ignatius
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:30 PM   #33
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote:
How interesting... I'm aware of the historical facts regarding Chen-jia and Yang-jia origins, however, IIRC, the claim to the Chang San Feng lineage was the other way round (i.e. by the Chen's)

I would be appreciative if you could point me in the direction of the historical evidence (you cite) which says otherwise. I'm intrigued...
Hi Ignatius:

I've never seen any Chen document indicating Zhang San Feng. Actually, a quick glance at the known records (myths, most of them) about Zhang are very vague and say nothing about Taiji. Pretty much every traditional Yang-oriented book will lay the invention at the doors of Zhang San Feng.

Even the Yang family source of "Wang Tsung Yueh" appears to be a fabrication by Wu Yu Xiang... the unfortunate fact is that at least 20 of the supposed "sayings" of Wang Tsung Yueh are known to be in the records for Zhang Nai Jou, a famous martial artist who did not do Taiji. I can send you a copy of the more or less traditional Chenjiagou history, if you'd like, so you can see what their oral tradition is.

Interestingly enough, the fact that a lot of the Taiji admonitions, qi talk, etc., is similar to what someone (Zhang Nai Jou) said, points to the fact that the qi and jin understanding is the same across multiple arts... just like what I'm saying in regard to Aikido, karate, Chinese arts, etc., all having a common basis in the ki and kokyu area.

FWIW

Mike
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Old 06-05-2005, 09:43 PM   #34
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Found it! Thanks. It's interesting what romantic legends you can get a 10 year old kid to believe, especially when this cool a$$-kickin' Taoist immortal shares the same family surname with you.

Ignatius
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Old 06-06-2005, 09:59 AM   #35
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
when diverting your intentions to "other things" becomes an excuse because it is "too hard" or you are not "patient" enough to learn the internal aspects of an art (KI and Kokyu, as you define it), then you are missing the point.
Kevin, I realize that you are not saying this, but I think it is important to note that everyone who diverts their intention is not necessarily doing so as an excuse. I have to investigate complex (multi-faceted) problems all of the time, and I find that I need to approach thongs from different directions. I find that some others who only approach discovery from a single approach get a perspective that comes from the blinders they were wearing to try to solve the problem. They basically create their own new problems that are really hard to see from within. It tends to lead to the unfortunate situation where one assumes the conclusion and then proceeds to conclude the assumption. I have to trust in the perspective of people I feel have already solved some of these problems with how to approach developing ki and kokyu. If they say there is a time to focus on other things more directly - I trust they have a good reason. If several of them say so, my trust increases.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that it would be great to get to the level Mike describes as the highest level (assuming he meant and being able to do those kinds of things under the pressure of multiple attack). I think the only question is the approach, and the value judgments made on people approaching that mountain top from a different path. Unless there is a case where everyone who is on path 1 succeeds and everyone who is on path 2 fails, who is anyone to judge?

Rob
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Old 06-06-2005, 11:43 AM   #36
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Hi Mike,

I've just read a number of replays to your post, certainly not all, and I still wonder I don't understand what the real question is.

If it is all about some martial arts better than other, then I think that it depends on what you expect of them at the end: self-defence, be a powerfull fighter, or something more "spiritual".

It requires a number of years of practice to be able to use aikido as a self defence mechanism, so if you looks for it, I would recommend you another martial art. The same applies for the powerfull fighter. I think that when you choose aikido, you are looking for something different to what you see in movies.

What is more troublesome for me is to understand the meaning of the top of the mountain. I think it is clear that there is no such top. You will always have something to learn, if you are opened to, and there will always be someone who knows more than you. Even if you think you are the best, to show it you will certainly need to fight, phisically or not, and that is against the peace-looking philosophy of aikido.

In the end, does it really matter if an art is better than other? I think it does not. Just look at the surfers, they feel waves, they reach with the sea the kind of "communion" we look for in aikido. I think it depends on yourself. The shorter, or larger, way to get the improvement you look for (your top of the mountain) may also depend heavily on your sensei, how good he is, how able he is to teach, etc.

The aikido doesn't exist by itself, but by the people who practice it, may be people who practice some "low level" martial arts are just no interested in getting "stillness on movement". I think that is key.

Best Regards,

Roque
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:01 PM   #37
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Roque Bevilacqua wrote:
I've just read a number of replays to your post, certainly not all, and I still wonder I don't understand what the real question is.

If it is all about some martial arts better than other, then I think that it depends on what you expect of them at the end: self-defence, be a powerfull fighter, or something more "spiritual".
Hi Roque:

No, the discussion was firstly about the level of "high" martial arts and what is considered "high level" in Asian circles (and O-Sensei rightfully considered Aikido to fit that description). I have no idea where the discussion gave you the impression that some martial arts are "better" than others or that we were discussing the useability of Aikido... those were not really issues.

At worst and best, I was explaining why Aikido is considered one of the better martial arts (because it contains the elements that allow it to go to those heights... not all martial arts can claim that). I used that premise to indicate that the search for and study of ki and kokyu development is a worthy pursuit, as opposed to changing the focus to other arts, looking for what is missing. What is missing is the Ki and Kokyu parts. And note that I have never even suggested that ki and kokyu things are the most important or singularly needed focus in Aikido.

Koichi Tohei was arguably the best Aikido practitioner in Aikido at one time and he also feels the ki and kokyu parts are missing in too much of Aikido. Certainly when I see some of the Japanese Aikidoists exhibiting development of some skills I don't see in westerners, I get to thinking that there are other people than just Tohei, me, and a few others who think these things are important. ;^)

Regards,

Mike

Last edited by Mike Sigman : 06-06-2005 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:16 PM   #38
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo, I still have not heard a convincing argument leading me to believe highest level training is the development of ki power rather than the development of human character. Without the morality and discipline to command one's prowess in a conscientious way, all the ki (or any other) power in the world is nothing but death magic. Many Aikidoka feel that in order to reach the highest levels of our art, one is required to be a good person. I sincerely hope that this is true, because if we choose to define the highest levels of our art in terms of the application of technique, ki, kokyu, strategy, or other combat prowess subtelty, we have certainly not learned from the story of Mr. Klickstein and similar tragedies. To paraphrase Saotome Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to build better people in order to build a better world. In my mind, that is the only worthwhile quality of the death magic each of us secretly hopes to wield.

Last edited by bkedelen : 06-06-2005 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:18 PM   #39
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Aikido has a wide range of students with different paths and reasons for training. With so many different perspectives, its hard to draw any kind of objective conclusion about what is and is not success or what is or is not the highest form of training.

I argue that many paths do have one thread of commonality - self-improvement. Since we cannot change who we are, the better solution to improving our life is to become more efficient. I can't get bigger, so I must become more efficient at using my strength. I can't get rid of conflicts in my life, but I can become better at resolving them. And so on. The highest form of training is being honest with yourself.

That is a hard charge in aikido. We don't fight, we don't criticize, and some dojo promote for, "giving it the ol' college try." There is an old saying, "When you shovel horse manure long enough, you forget that it stinks."

I'm on a journey to be better. I get to pick what I want to get better at, no one else. I don't shadow box with an alter ego, I don't wrestle with UFC grapplers, and I hold myself to the physical and spiritual benchmarks of my instructor, my association and the teachings of the founder (as I understand them). I am critical of myself and my training and I honor my instructor and my dojo and I will not let them blemish in the eyes of others. I will not let myself become something that tarnishes the history and legecy of aikido. While I'm on this journey, I go alone with my dojo, my friends, and my family behind me cheering me on. When I get to the end, I will raise my arms and spin in a circle to see those that supported me, and who I surpassed. And Survivor's, "Eye of the Tiger" will blare...

I know that during this journey:
1. My instructors will criticize me if I lose focus or begin to lie to myself.
2. My peers will encourage me to improve and challenge me to improve physically.
3. My personal study will encourage me to grow spiritually to meet the the mysteries of aikido.

Oh, John Stevens has referred to movement in stillness and stillness in movement in several of his books. I believe he even uses images sometimes.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:49 PM   #40
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo
Hi Benjamin,

I'm just playing devil's advocate here (), but I was wondering if you have a quote for someone doing that...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:55 PM   #41
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Is there any chance of not playing the quote wars? I'm sure it was post 3, and I'm sure it can be addressed in private - if the private messages aren't later posted. The question was about character development as highest level - it's worthy of focus, and quote wars really aren't.

Rob
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:12 PM   #42
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Benjamin Edelen wrote:
Aside from insulting my (and the forum administrator's) dojo,...
I haven't said a word about your dojo. If you're not aware of that old saw about Boulder, which I mentioned in friendly jest, just say so. I don't think Jun took it wrong and I don't think Jun's sempai, with whom I am close friends, would do anymore that just wink and go on with the discussion. I have a fondness for Boulder and have spent many years practicing in Boulder.
Quote:
I still have not heard a convincing argument leading me to believe highest level training is the development of ki power rather than the development of human character. Without the morality and discipline to command one's prowess in a conscientious way, all the ki (or any other) power in the world is nothing but death magic. Many Aikidoka feel that in order to reach the highest levels of our art, one is required to be a good person. I sincerely hope that this is true, because if we choose to define the highest levels of our art in terms of the application of technique, ki, kokyu, strategy, or other combat prowess subtelty, we have certainly not learned from the story of Mr. Klickstein and similar tragedies. To paraphrase Saotome Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to build better people in order to build a better world. In my mind, that is the only worthwhile quality of the death magic each of us secretly hopes to wield.
Er.... OK, Benjamin. At least you put out your views in public. I was commenting on the traditional Asian take on the "highest level", though, and it is not philosophical.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:18 PM   #43
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote:
Oh, John Stevens has referred to movement in stillness and stillness in movement in several of his books. I believe he even uses images sometimes.
Hi Jon:

Hmmm. I must have missed it. Have you got any ideas which book(s) and where to look? Thanks.

Mike
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:32 PM   #44
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Hi Rob,

I mentioned it because I had the same take on post 3 that Mike intended...it did not in any way seem to me to be a slam on any dojo. I just thought I might be able to help clear it up, seeing as I know both parties to some extent.

Ron (trying to be gentle, hope I didn't fail)

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Old 06-06-2005, 02:23 PM   #45
RebeccaM
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Post 3 confused me until I took a look at where Mike Sigman is from. Pay a visit to Nederland Mike. That place makes Boulder look positively normal. Not sure if they have a dojo though.

I also thought this thread was a little more philosophical than it was intended to be. Ah well, life goes on...
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Old 06-06-2005, 02:28 PM   #46
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Rebecca Montange wrote:
Post 3 confused me until I took a look at where Mike Sigman is from. Pay a visit to Nederland Mike. That place makes Boulder look positively normal. Not sure if they have a dojo though.
I've been to Nederland many times and I have friends there, Rebecca. Before I moved to Durango I lived in Golden. I have always had a suspicion that most of the people who live in Nederland do so because of the appearances. But they do have the best beer by a dam site.

Mike
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Old 06-06-2005, 02:39 PM   #47
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

I apologize for the incendiary response to Mike's post. It can be read that Mike was dismissing my opinion because I hail from Boulder (I am from Montana and I live in Northern Denver, but whatever). I personally have no taste for Boulder culture, but the perspective on martial arts training being used to combat the proverbial fascist within comes from Ellis Amdur's writings, not from some imaginary Boulder based imaginatism. Nevertheless, I revoke my indictment of the aforementioned post, and shall not speak of it again.
Moving on, I humbly submit that Mike's statement that the traditional Asian take on "highest level" is not philosophical will not withstand scrutiny. I offer as evidence that, to my knowledge, all of what are generally recognized as "highest level" martial arts texts are philosophical texts, not technical manuals.
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Old 06-06-2005, 03:26 PM   #48
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

..talking about Boulder, during his seminars Ikeda sensei often makes the point of smaller movement from the center. He'll show a large spiral with the arms (beginners!!) then starts making the same movement with less and less limb movement, insisting that the same movement is taking place. My first seminar with him I couldn't see what was going on at all, years later I can perceive more , and I'd say that he's not talking metaphorically his center is moving.

Rick sensei (home dojo) usually says that the only way to get there is to train with the big exaggerated movements (pedagogical device) and then try working down keeping the same intent.

Lately I've discovered that this is paying off , I've noticed that I'm developing a bit of muscle control in an area where I hadn't had one before. (kind of like learning to move your ears , if you've ever done that).

AFAIK this is is only part of what is considered Highest level aikido. Other parts are IMO , the ability to use center movement to use the ground as a wall to effect unbalancing, lifting or puttting weight on someone, using the mind as a director for the resulting force (like watering with a hose ). The sensitivity to read the opponents "energy". Not thinking about what to do, but being aware and responding in a way that allows efficient movement. This includes ukemi and henka and oyo waza..

These are aspects of Aikido , which I think are a common theme in the seminars I've attended. I know I'm only scratching the surface here and there's more I am leaving off. Why do I think this shouldn't be so strange to aikido people here in the US?

Last edited by Alfonso : 06-06-2005 at 03:29 PM.

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Old 06-06-2005, 03:34 PM   #49
Mike Sigman
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Benjamin Edelen wrote:
I offer as evidence that, to my knowledge, all of what are generally recognized as "highest level" martial arts texts are philosophical texts, not technical manuals.
Then there's not much point in doing martial practice, I guess. Tatting and basketry can be done if all you're looking for is philosophic *ideals*. Those ideals are not the same thing as the level of martial art, Benjamin.

But aside from your philosophic ideals, what texts are you talking about and that you offer for evidence? Care has to be taken when mentioning the facets of Asian philosophy in relation to Asian martial arts. It's usually a case of the tail wagging the dog. For instance, to justify the logic of a martial art various relationships to Yin-Yang, Liangyi, the Luo River Charts, the Five Elements were traditionally used and a lot of the words like "harmony", etc., are misunderstood in those contexts by westerners. It's not philosophic and ethical ideals that are being encouraged, it's more like the raison d'etre for the martial art is to be found in the cosmos, the universe, etc., and the martial art fulfills the destiny called for in the ancient beliefs. I.e., the "philosophy" justifies the martial art and at the highest level the martial art mirrors some primal constancy. It's not like "do Aikido and your personality will develop"... heck, you can already see that doesn't work too well.

Mike
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Old 06-06-2005, 03:41 PM   #50
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Re: Highest Level Martial Arts and Aikido

Quote:
Alfonso Adriasola wrote:
..talking about Boulder, during his seminars Ikeda sensei often makes the point of smaller movement from the center. He'll show a large spiral with the arms (beginners!!) then starts making the same movement with less and less limb movement, insisting that the same movement is taking place. My first seminar with him I couldn't see what was going on at all, years later I can perceive more , and I'd say that he's not talking metaphorically his center is moving.
Exactly.
Quote:
Rick sensei (home dojo) usually says that the only way to get there is to train with the big exaggerated movements (pedagogical device) and then try working down keeping the same intent.
I agree completely. However maybe it's good to look at it as a skill that just requires less movement and effort as it is practiced? The people who really "move from their center" have very well developed musculature in a focused area of the abdomen/stomach.
Quote:
AFAIK this is is only part of what is considered Highest level aikido. Other parts are IMO , the ability to use center movement to use the ground as a wall to effect unbalancing, lifting or puttting weight on someone, using the mind as a director for the resulting force (like watering with a hose ). The sensitivity to read the opponents "energy". Not thinking about what to do, but being aware and responding in a way that allows efficient movement. This includes ukemi and henka and oyo waza..

These are aspects of Aikido , which I think are a common theme in the seminars I've attended. I know I'm only scratching the surface here and there's more I am leaving off. Why do I think this shouldn't be so strange to aikido people here in the US?
Wow. Excellent comments, Alfonso. If we're ever in the same neighborhood I'd like to see what you do.

Regards,

Mike
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