Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beginner's Mind

What follows is an example of the release motions. In some systems it is called the Hanasu no kata, in another it is the Musubi Renshu.

What I find interesting about it, is that it is done by beginners. It is not the top teacher of a system performing them. It is not even a Yudansha. They are mere beginners, practicing and relishing in their art form. This is what practice looks like. This is what it is to walk the path. They are filmed here proud of their accomplishment, probably not even yet aware of how much further the art goes.

For too long the ART of the martial arts has been controlled by too few. I think, if you drop your own ego and judgements, that a film like this is what Budo is all about. It goes beyond the illusion of invincible warriors. It is the simple act of practice. It is play with a friend.

I will be taking the next few days off. I am sick and am hosting a seminar this weekend at the KyuRyu AikiBudo Dojo. See you on the other side!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Aikido hard or soft?


Are you a hard or soft person? What do you want the expression of your art to be? There is no one way. Even in the world of Tomiki Aikido you can see a HUGE difference between the soft and harder schools. I like that both exist under the one blanket name.

The way I see when judging Softness versus Hard several factors should be weighed.

1. Energy in the technique

Is the technique using uke's energy and is tori being sensitive to his movements? Or is Tori generating the energy themselves and applying it into your opponent?

2. Balance breaking versus pain compliance. Balance breaking leads to softer techniques.

3. What is the effect on Uke? Even if technique is soft, the effect it has on Uke needs to be weighed. Is uke taking repeated painful crashes and having technique cranked on? Tips the scale towards the hard side. Are his wrists throbbing after you lay on a kote gaeshi? Would you throw your mother with your technique?

I myself see the soft arts as a higher level of the martial arts. I personally want to look like this. Subtle balance breaking is the game I want to play.

On the middle ground there is Nariyama Sensei. He attacks angles mostly softly. I will not call his style soft though, because of the violence it causes to Uke. While this kind of training is fine - the teacher better be ready to take these kind of falls too, or I think it could lead to a abusive relationship.

An Aikikai version of this medium hardness is Christian Tissier. I like his balance breaking, but check out the executions of his throws. He takes people to a point of weakness, then blows them away with energy. He is actively putting energy in to cause movement Then his executions are like a tidal wave. While this seems to be an effective strategy for him, this is a good example of what I am not trying to achieve.

Now to the hard stuff. Sport Judo offers the most examples of hardness in throwing. This guy punishes people. He grabs them, uses extreme force to launch them in the air, then his opponents land on their heads. Scary stuff. While impressive and effective, I do not want to play with this guy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who Owns Your Art?

Who owns your art?

I went to a seminar last summer. I mentioned to a teacher that you a fellow student posted the names for koryu daisan kata online.

The teacher seemed annoyed. "Who said he could do that?"

The questioned implied that there is some ownership of the art in his mind.

Personally I disagree. That would be like saying only certain people could write about painting. We simply practice an art. I am strongly against the feudal veil of secrecy and ownership ideas that the martial arts came from. Some teachers are even attempting trademarking methods. That is fine for them, but I find it silly.

My personal decision - I give the art I choose to study to everyone freely. I say take ownership of it...take personal responsibility for it and you might take better care of it. I want to teach you, so you can teach me. I want to learn from you, so I can eventually teach you something.

Who owns your art?...own it yourself, and refer to those people and seniors you respect, they own it too.

Walk In Peace

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Metsuke part 1

Metsuke is basically what you are doing with your eyes...the gaze. It is sometimes defined as Eye-to-eye contact without focusing on a single point which permits awareness of the total field of vision.

What the famed duelist and swordsman Miyamoto Musashi had to say in the Book
of Five Rings.....

The Gaze in Strategy

"You eye things in a sweeping, broad fashion. As for the two manners of
seeing things, kan [observing[ and ken [seeing], the eye for kan is strong,
the eye for ken weak; seeing distant things as if they are close at hand and
seeing close things as if they are distant is special to the art of
fighting. Knowing your opponent’s sword and yet not in the least seeing it
[not being distracted by insignificant movements] is important in the art of
fighting. You must study this. The gaze is the same for single combat and
for large-scale strategy.

It is necessary in strategy to be able to look to both sides without moving
the eyeballs. You cannot master this ability quickly. Learn what is written
here; use this gaze in everyday life and do not vary it whatever happens."

The meaning of Metsuke is the attachment of the eyes. Continuing the
direction of the glance in a certain direction results in governing one's
energy. Since the glance is not focussed, peripheral perception remains an
available input channel.

Continuation of the glance's direction or visual concentration on a certain
object (eg. the flame of a candle) is utilized in several forms of

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mushin Mugamae

I copied this from somewhere long ago...closest I get to a citation.

Professor Tomiki also expressed the ideal state of mind and body in aikido as: "Mushin Mugamae".

According to Professor Tomiki, "mushin" is a state of mind that is free -- that does not dwell in any particular place and is thus everywhere. He once likened it to water; water can follow natural terrains and go everywhere but can at the same time be overwhelming. It is the state of mind that can perceive everything around you; you are ready for anything and everything. [Sometimes, "mushin" is narrowly translated as "no mind" but that does not convey its meaning well.]

The term "mugamae" literary means "no posture" or "no stance". It is to be understood that it will take years of dedicated practice before one can hope to attain this enlightened state. It is proper to enter the practice of aikido through "jigotai" (defensive posture). From that modest beginning, one endeavors to graduate -- through years of training -- to "shizentai" (natural posture), or "mugamae".

It is perhaps easier to grasp the meaning of "mushin mugamae", if one thinks of it as a state of mind and body that one pursues throughout one's life.