Chasing the IS Rabbit with Science…thoughts from a recent seminar

Winter retreat 2014, IS and strain

Winter Retreat 2014, IS and strain in action?, photo S. Russell

I went to an interesting musculoskeletal research retreat recently (I had to give an invited talk, though – no such thing as a free lunch). As an added bonus it also informed my IS practise. So bear with me as I make a short story long.

The insights came during a talk on investigating tendon strain, which in the achilles is a significant health issue. A multi-national group had examined various protocols for healing the achilles tendon (see reference at end). The work kept tendons, sourced from rabbit cadavers, in an artificial environment for a prolonged period of time. Rabbit tendons are very similar to human ones and easier to source.  The tendons were stretched at varying levels of strain for different time periods using a set protocol and the resultant strength measured over time. The work ultimately is to assess what might be best practice in recovery protocols.
 
It turns out there is a sweet spot at 6% strain ( under 0.25 Hz – a 4 second cycle of 1s graded strain, 1s hold, 1s reduction and 1s release).  Any less strain and there is natural decay, any more strain damages the tendon – interesting news for us IS try-hards. The cycle time was chosen from previous rabbit treadmill studies that varied the step rate ( loading time) and looked at tendon strength after. In humans and possibly related (though its muscle) we know from other researchers that oxygen depletion in humans takes place in the muscles inducing the strain after 6–7 seconds (see 2nd ref below) so its all in the same ball park.
 
From science to inferences for IS training:
 
If we consider similarities between tendon and fascia, this provides good evidence (or indication at least) of how much muscle to use, how hard to try and for how long in exercises that seek to build conditioning eg winding, reeling, bowing, balloon man, skin breathing, opening and closing qua,10 of 10 and so on. Many of these traditional methods talk about not forcing, working with intention and have cyclic periods of strain and relaxing. 6% is then something of a middle ground, where there would be good reasons to go a bit higher, perhaps to weed out the connections not wanted or for elongation. Cycle time too might be something to do with the art it is embedded in, to build coordination ( eg bowing) or historical ( eg the shinto rites of spring)
 
 
So how much is 6% strain? Good question. Neglecting the complexity of dynamic and static strain, it’s possible to get into the ball park, I think, and discover how we might be trying too hard. 
 
By putting the tips of your two index fingers together and pushing so they bend back until there is the onset of pain. Let’s call this 50% strain. (It’s a stab in the dark but a reasonable assumption – choose a different number if you want.) Try again and only push half as hard for 25%. Reduce the effort by half for 12.5% and repaet and half that for 6.25%. Its not very much by the time you get to 6%, maybe this is the illusive intention for those of us struggling with whatnthat might mean. 
 
You can also try  to find 6% strain with this method on an IS exercise of your choice if you think it’s relevant.
 
Understanding 6% or intention benefits other IS exercises that aim to recruit deep rather than surface muscles. For example, opening the hips (or that component of the qua), where applying too much effort tends to recruit superficial muscles. You can explore this by placing your hands on your buttocks or glutes (or other muscle of choice) to ensure they remain relaxed as you practise. Using only 6% strain in opening the hips should ensure only deep muscles are engaged (with practise), whereas using more effort engages superficial muscles and is potentially counterproductive.
 
Anyway, the ideas above move from a reasonable scientific foundation to inference and conjecture by a relative IS neophyte. Please take what’s helpful if any and let me know about the rest. I would be grateful for your thoughts and comments to inform my personal practice.
 
Best Wishes,
Dan
 
Many thanks to Andrew, Mike and Aran for feedback in the writing
 
 
 
The papers
Find then on google scholar, you may need an .edu.x domain to download for free though
1.
Programmable mechanical stimulation influences tendon homeostasis in a bioreactor system
 
Tao Wang1, Zhen Lin1,2, Robert E. Day3,Bruce Gardiner4, Euphemie Landao-Bassonga1, Jonas Rubenson5, Thomas B. Kirk6, David W. Smith4, David G. Lloyd7,Gerard Hardisty8, Allan Wang9, Qiujian Zheng2 andMing H. Zheng1,*
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013, DOI: 10.1002/bit.24809, Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
Issue
Biotechnology and Bioengineering
Volume 110, Issue 5, pages 1495–1507, May 2013
 
Abstract
Identification of functional programmable mechanical stimulation (PMS) on tendon not only provides the insight of the tendon homeostasis under physical/pathological condition, but also guides a better engineering strategy for tendon regeneration. The aims of the study are to design a bioreactor system with PMS to mimic the in vivo loading conditions, and to define the impact of different cyclic tensile strain on tendon. Rabbit Achilles tendons were loaded in the bioreactor with/without cyclic tensile loading (0.25 Hz for 8 h/day, 0–9% for 6 days). Tendons without loading lost its structure integrity as evidenced by disorientated collagen fiber, increased type III collagen expression, and increased cell apoptosis. Tendons with 3% of cyclic tensile loading had moderate matrix deterioration and elevated expression levels of MMP-1, 3, and 12, whilst exceeded loading regime of 9% caused massive rupture of collagen bundle. However, 6% of cyclic tensile strain was able to maintain the structural integrity and cellular function. Our data indicated that an optimal PMS is required to maintain the tendon homeostasis and there is only a narrow range of tensile strain that can induce the anabolic action. The clinical impact of this study is that optimized eccentric training program is needed to achieve maximum beneficial effects on chronic tendinopathy management. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 1495–1507. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
 
2.
Lumbar erector spinae oxygenation during prolonged contractions: implications for prolonged work
SM McGill, RL Hughson, K Parks – Ergonomics, 2000 – Taylor & Francis
… HICKS, A., MCGILL, SM and HUGHSON, R. 1999, Forearm muscle blood ¯ ow and … and magnitude of blood ¯ow changes in the human quadriceps muscles following isometric …LANOCE, V. and CHANCE, B. 1989, Noninvasive detection of skeletal muscle underperfusion with …
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Bill Gleason rocks Sydney

aikido-sydneyI was down in Sydney for the long weekend visiting family and friends. It was very nice time to catchup with a few sisters and the obligatory lounge room tanninzygake err… Rumble with nieces and nephews too. Whilst out for a stroll I spied a beautiful dojo set in the rural environs of Terry Hills. Imagine my surprise to find an aikido seminar underway and none other than Bill Gleason Sensei – who I visited 2 years ago in Boston, leading the instruction. At the half time oranges err… mandarin break I had the good fortune to catch up with what is possibly the broadest cross section of the Australian Aikido community gathered in a single place, well done to Balmain dojo and Seymour Sensei!.

Gleason Sensei, of the Yamaguchi lineage was putting the Aiki back into aikido in what was less about technique and more about the feeling. That is about building Aiki from within rather than through technique. It was for me the next step in following the internal strength movement in aikido circles ( see). Bill sensei speaks highly of Dan Hardens method and brings a translation of it to the aiki arts.

He combined effortlessly the traditional terminalogies like earth, fire and water as analogues for the familiar square trianle and circle. He spoke his own work of tate and yoko combined with spiraling where one must use ‘just eough power but as much as is required’. The vertical and horizontal aspects together with entry resonated strongly with an emerging picture with toppling seen in biomechanics and then some i.e. to freeze the base and topple through up and through. Its a dangerous assumption to make to though fitting everything to an existing paradigm – every the trap of the tyro

I was also reminded of some of the teaching of my former school such as a) Kotai, Jutai and Ryutai levels of practice and the importance and b)  insights that can come from the Kashima sword school, really liked the neutral /support points being exlored through the sword.

For an in-depth review this by way of the Aikido Sydney Facebook page from Bill Sensei’s seminar in Auckland

One night I also managed to catch up with some budo buddies too for dinner…it brought out the boof in all of us 🙂

budo-buddies

Sadly there wasn’t opportunity to get onto the mat this time, maybe next time

Best,

Dan

 

Aikido and the fundamental forces of the Universe

sanningakeAikido, like many an art form has been subjected to much scrutiny through combat effectiveness, ancient writings, opinion and more recently the sciences. Using the prism of western sciences it has been both praised or reviled. Many an attempt has been made by the Aiki/scientific community to successfully explain Aiki in this manner. There are the tawdry explanations of the workings of the body through the tools of Newtonian physics, where the idea that through the falling apple’s momentum, mass and force might explain the subtlies of Kuzushi, balance and the internal working of the body. This inevitably leads to the success in explaining the lesser baser martial arts but is doomed to failure in something as highly evolved as Aikido. My own humble efforts in this regard to look at power generation and unbalancing, under the scrutiny of the international aikido community has certainly experienced this mixed response, including public castigation at seminars and in retrospect rightly so.
Thus the sages of our art (indeed my own teacher has writing on the subject) look for and demonstrate the ultimate truth and beauty that is to be found in Quantum physics (arguably the highest of the sciences through its scrutiny of the fundamentals of the universe. Here, without spin, the commonalities of the art exist within the wave-particle duality can emerge, alive, like a cat out of the box, with clear confirmation of the arts ultimate truths. Whilst for myself and many a humble tyro this sartorial truth can only likely be experienced as you approach, nay pass, the level of O’Sensei, which I am told is unlikely. Working the numbers though and given the population of the earth is now 5x that of when O’Sensei was alive there must be at least 5 people with the skills.

Aspiring to be at one with the Universe, the truth then is likely to be found in the foundations of the Universe itself revealed through the fundamental forces of the universe that exist and propagate forward and backward in time, revealed to us through Schrodinger, Maxwell and others. We see evidence of this in the creation stories of many religions, the five elements of the universe and the six harmonies. Whilst Einstein suggests our understanding is relative, still we wonder how long is a piece of string as it extends through time and the dimensions as we seek these truths.

antarctic-danIt is said that everything you need to know about an art is revealed in the very first lesson and so for me to it was revealed, had I the eyes to see, in the duality of beginning study of Aikido whilst embarking on the beginning of my scientific career culminating in the *cough* Menkyo of a physics PhD. Thus somewhat unexpectedly, and more than 20yrs on I find my self re-examining my career to discover that that my masters degree in which I studied vibrations of crystals to protect us from harm had me almost on the path. Then the the wave propagation equations, investigated through the purity of the ancient and glacial icesheets of the Antarctic, with my Hakama wearing companions of the natural world, reveal to me now the importance of the fundamental forces of the universe and their transcendence of time in the practice of Aikido. While many of these secrets are yielded only through the secret language of mathematics, which like most secrets are not secret but only accessible through many years of study I arrive at the insights below. Albeit the lab bench is bit less austere than the birch whippings of a Zen temple…
The fundamental forces of the universe, not unlike the 5 elements of the Chinese arts and the 6 harmonies reveal many teachings for those that can truly see. They reside in and are central to each part of the universe and person, whereby we are all truly standing on the floating bridge between heaven and earth able to draw and call on these forces not only at will but at all times and thus manifest them in our daily lives from the time of our very birth.

Aiki = Gamma, del F ??

Aiki = Gamma, del F ??

The ‘force of gravity’, used in many an analysis of the Aikido arts, whilst presumed to be the strongest of all forces it is in fact one of the weakest, a misdirection for the aspirant. Thus typical to such misanalysis it is often applied externally and like the weaker external martial arts it is easy to miss the ultimate teaching contained therein. You see gravity applies to each and every atom of everything so whilst the force that pulls us toward the earth is seen as the ultimately manifestation, it is actually a path to the ultimate union with Ki that Tohei successfully transmitted to the West. Here the various nuclear forces of attraction exist between all parts of the body, holding it together without the necessity of the structure of bone, muscle and that much misunderstood fascisa. It also acts as an attractant and with this this Nage may use the power of gravity to draw Uke into their centre and capture it and become one at the tanden in a very physical sense. It’s governed by the gravitational constant and the mass of bodies through an inverse square law such that the closer the dynamic the stronger the attraction. It is I suspect the reason why there is apparent collision in the practice of the art and where ignorance of how to manipulate the equation leads to the inability to turnoff the attraction and complete a successful throw as Uke and Nage become locked by the forces (often mistaken as wrestling) and thus must resort to the brutality of the physical to separate from this power.

It is well known that we are all mostly space, but our visual perception is governed by the forces of electrostatics that bend and occlude the waves of light. Some of my studies occasion me to investigate visual perception, here the physiology of the eye can be manipulated and drawn to focus on detail, rather than movement, thus allowing Nage to ‘disappear, though again it is but a surface description to hide in plain sight the true mechanism at work beneath. You see these wave equations propagate both forwards and backwards in time (the wave equations are 4 dimensional and if you can manipulate matrix you can manipulate the perception of reality) and like a tachyon it is possible to not only travel faster than light but to transcend its limitations entirely and dodge that bullet before it appears. The substantive challenge is that the electrostatic forces of the body that fill the gaps between the electrons and nucleus create our perceptive reality. However understanding that these all emit waves of their own, we arrive at the conclusion that we are no more dense than the Uke who doesn’t know when he should be falling and the masters of aikido that have gone before us. All are filled within of the same empty space that exists between Uke and Nage. Thus clearly there is truly no physical confrontation it exists not physically, nor in space nor in time, nor in the vacuum that is our minds, and so when the enemy attacks I am truly no longer before him but standing behind him.

This leads only then to the nuclear interactions, both strong and weak that exist between all things, the weak can simply be discarded, like the voices of our masters and the strong willed community do with aplomb and a focus on the strong leads us to the understanding of the Buddha to just sit and gather these these forces to our tanden, where the numerics are clear, more is the ultimate truth and so beyond abdominal fat the necessity to give up the scurrilous practice of Ukemi and the basest practices of the savages. Just leave the physical practice of the art and look beyond to thus concentrate on the concentration of growing the strong nuclear interaction through growth of the Hara itself.

 

A happy new year to all, may you find the ultimate truths in these writings or discard them as some Gregorian conspiracy.

 

Addendum: This was posted April the 1st and unfortunately was a little too convincing, please see an explanation here A fools descent into aiki-madness

Another penny drops in IS training

figure_11I admit it. I have been mystified by the IS practice methodologies for quite a while now. However, much as I did with my Ki training in Shin Shin Toitsu in the ’90s, I’ve put that aside to follow the pedagogy in the hope of finding out more through doing. It proved helpful in the Ki Society, where eventually I found enough physical basis for some of the exercises (such as unbendable arm and unraisable body) that I could resolve the internal dialogue and also practice with a purpose that resonated more strongly with me.

Following the emerging literature on the fascia and the labelled ‘anatomy trains’, it was kind of making sense, but the purpose of the winding, pulling silk etc… was a big part of the mystery (and frankly still is). It took some prodding from Aran Bright on the subject of developing tension for another little penny to drop and Steve Seymour’s insights and use of other paradigms to explore IS

As near as I can understand, we have a skeletal structure (which is just a kind of fascia with minerals attached), some muscles to move it around, and then a kind of exoskeleton made up of the fascia surrounding it.

The Penny dropped on the ‘exo-skeleton’ (which is not a great choice of a word) is maybe a balloon man/ suit (as coined used by researchers such as Sigman and others) created by the fascia.

 

Anyways I saw this image in  “Low back disorders” by McGill as a model of the back

photo 1

 

which looked a lot like, and the next step, but much better than my toppling work’s own http://www.aikidorepublic.com/internal-strength/02stabilitygrounding

passive

and then seeing this image in this article  and structural mechanics analogies that Michael Nash found http://www.intensiondesigns.com/bones_of_tensegrity.html

figure_11

A chat with Sunter san, suggests exo-skeleton is not a great word as this implies ‘strength and rigidity’ maybe there is a better word that describes it as a flexible thing.

Conditioning the fascia by straining it appears to be the purpose of ‘pulling silk’ giving rise to mental models like the ‘balloon man’ and ‘the suit’.

Some scientific researchers talk about a sweet spot of strain (5-10% depending who you ask) being optimal, and from what I know of tendon research (with some involvement in this professionally), I can see that some strain is important for growth and healing, but too much causes damage and too little is just a waste of time.

 

Therefore, doing reps of straining the fascia through ballooning,skin breathing, pulling silk and so on, appear to be methods of developing just this conditioning. Once the exoskeletal structure is built and in place, you still need to be able to move, so winding and bows and similar exercises allow the muscles to move freely beneath the exoskeleton, so we can have our structure and use it too (Marie Antoinette would be proud).

 

Next up, the IS exercises of bowing and using the qua and Tanden (Dan Tien) teach us how to move properly while maintaining the structure, thus providing a way to apply it in a martial context.

Looking back on the exercise set given to our school by Okajima sensei, I see now the role of breathing (as a means to co-ordinate the strain of the fascia), the movements of the body (as bowing and Kua coordination), together with the Tanden ball exercises, the ground connection exercises (source of infinite power) and balance sensitivity exercises. What a terrific set of exercises, given context by IS training methodologies and meaning from the sciences.

 

Is it a complete picture? No way. But it’s an incremental step forward in intentionality in incorporating the exercises in our practise and validates our trust that the solo training, as a means of body conditioning and coordination development, can and will yield results in good time.

 

Of course understanding ain’t doing…but its a start for this keyboard aspirant 😉

 

Domo arigato teachers, friends and colleagues on the path. Dare to dream, dare to question, but above all, give voice and dare to collaborate and rediscover the source !

 

A Union of Opposites with Seymour Sensei

union-of-oppositesA big thankyou to Steve Seymour Sensei from Aikido Kenkyukai and Balmain dojo for his visit on the weekend. We were treated to a tour de force of Internal Strength as sensei shared from his current practice and further research into Internal Strength.

Its almost a year since we visited Seymour Sensei in Sydney to find out a bit more and embarked on the journey with our own study group.  Internal strength allows us to see what is hidden in plain sight in our schools kata and exercises given to us by Okajima and Maruyama Sensei’s.

Unfamiliar and  familiar teachings (like  keeping elbows in and closing and seperating the shoulders and hips)  were given context,  purpose and a framework.

Sensei shared and reviewed the practices of the body work seminar fundamentals and extended on our knowledge to a deeper level with insights from other arts and utilised exercises from physical therapists to increase strength and flexability in our Kua and Body

It was great to see Dave Kolb Sensei from Bayside Budokai and Kim from Brisbane Aikikai too.

We appreciated much also his insights in how to continue this practice in an integrated way with the aikido arts and to know we are (more or less) on the path.

I  think we got a B+ on the report card 😉   Many thanks Sensei for visiting, sharing you time and experiences

Aikitaikai class with Sunter Sensei Sat 22nd Feb 3pm

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Continuing the Aikitaikai dialogue of late with Sunter Sensei, Schnell Sensei and other colleagues on the path, we are delighted to have Andrew Sunter as a guest for a special session on Saturday 22nd Feb from 3pm,  ahead of the Sunday dan grading.
Ever since visiting Okajima Sensei in 2005 (See Budo bums in japan) , we have pursued an interest in the practices Aikido Yuishinkai from the Daito Ryu through the window of biomechanics and more recently internal strength (see internalstrength.aikidorepublic.com).
Since last we met Andrew Sensei has made some progress in developing Kokyu which I am looking forward to finding out more about. If you would like to join us please bring your Dogi and an open mind. A casual class fee for visitors or a little something in the tin at the dojo door for regulars is appreciated.

Internal Strength: How we got started

internal strength aikidoIts about a decade ago since Andrew Sunter and I dropped by the Aikido Yuishinkai headquarters for Kansai (See Budo Bums in Japan). While we were there Okajima Sensei showed us some ‘other budo’ that in time was revealed to us through Aikido Yuishinkai. Dial forward a few years and the material was presented in Australia, fortunately Catherine Schnell captured the moment and we practiced these exercise for the next 4 months as our warmups and the teaching began to reveal themselves. Over time the connection between these and the internal strength movement became clear (see getting an internal strength baseline) as we plod along

You can see the Okajima Sensei’s exercises here along with the back story http://internalstrength.aikidorepublic.com/Home/c-foundational-practice

This week is Mike’s last download of the Hawaii seminar on Sunday, the week after are some Dan gradings and after that Steve Seymour Sensei has kindly agreed to give us a report card.

Hawaiki – Mike gets some hands on IP training!

by Michael Nash

windwardaikido hawaiki hawaii-aikido-dojoWhen you first set eyes on Hawaii you feel a sense of welcome, the embrace is in the land and the people. Time slows; the spirit of Aloha overtakes you, better to let it take hold. If you have a need for rapid response times and carefully planned agenda’s you will be endlessly frustrated in Hawaii. Drinking age is 21, gambling is banned, the only place you can find a nightclub is Waikiki, no bike helmets required you can have plastic chairs in the back of the pick up truck and sit in them driving around taking in the views.

 

Our first stop was the North Shore area of the Oahu virtually no stores, no pubs, small population, main area of interest, the ocean. No signs or directions to the famous Pipeline or Sunset Beach, you need to ask a local if you are there or near the iconic locations once you get close. The main town is Hale’iwa you can get here on “Da Bus” or hitchhike, it is a true, time has stopped in the 70’s, type of place, a little tourist orientated but not in your face as it can be in other Pacific destinations, definitely no hard sell.

 

So after a case of Pacifico is purchased from Foodland along with dinner components, we retire to our beachfront bungalow and kick back and watch a sunset over the ocean, something we got very used to and will miss. 

We moved back to Waikiki, after a few days as this is my base camp for the first Dan Harden seminar. Waikiki is a place you must experience at least once, it is like Surfers Paradise on steroids but it feels safe and there are nice spots just off the tourist strip. Beware the traffic though.

 

The Saturday and Sunday seminars were to be held on the Windward side of the island, that is to say the Eastern side of Oahu or about 35 minute drive from Waikiki. I had no car and public transport was not an option, so some minor panic started to set in I had travelled thousands of miles to get here but those last few kilometres were out of my control. Chris Li the most gracious of hosts from Aikido Sangenkai had told me all along a ride would not be a problem. However, I needed to get set on Island time and trust Aloha, I eventually did, and all my perceived issues rolled away like a wave back into the ocean.

Dan had called a pre- seminar meeting for the Friday at 6pm down at Ala Moana Park Area 51, area 51 is actually a no go zone from what I could work out but not for the IP participants. This is Chris’s crews home away from home dojo, a massive tree lined park with ocean views, you can’t complain when you are oceanfront and training.

 

So, what happened from the time I made the trek down to area 51 and when we finished and I got back about 12 pm to the hotel is still a blur. No, not what you are thinking, not one skerrick of alcohol passed my lips, we trained until approx 10.30pm, (that is what Dan calls a pre- seminar meeting !). Then had a bite to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, Dan still retelling stories and explaining aspects of his concepts all through dinner.

I had meet the majority of the other participants who were there for the weekend seminar that evening, some old hands some newbie’s like me, they seemed like old friends by the time we reached the restaurant, I had a lift organised with Josh from Ohio a much more seasoned DH student than me and my head was spinning. Chris and others took me under their wing as they have all experienced the whirlwind that is Dan Harden.

Saturday and Sunday went so fast, notes, laughs, wonder, no hierarchy, no holds barred. It was literally a barrage of information. This IP stuff is not for everyone and its application to Aikido in my opinion is integral, and it would seem has been lost to some extent in what we might call modern Aikido. When IP is matched with Aiki we have a devastating combination, it is soft yet impossible to resist. While Dan demonstrated and workshopped, the link back to O’Sensie’s real teachings kept revealing themselves, I had heard a lot of it before but somehow it was making some sense this time.

 

What is Dan Harden like, the man I had travelled so far to spend time with.?

Well, like me you go through the years of MA training, does not really matter what style or code you are currently studying. You make it up through the ranks, you train hard, you get glimpses from time to time, you hold a wrist from time to time that says “oh! this is what it must feel like”. You go seminars, you get the flavour of the month be it technique or a concept that launches you into a new lease of life and direction. Sometimes you get disillusioned and change styles. Always on this journey up the mountain you are constantly striving and over many years if you are lucky you get an inkling of what Aiki truly is.

 

As others say if you are lucky you never get to the end destination. Many things are held back until you are worthy, many are never revealed, sometimes on purpose sometimes because of poor communications.

What if you meet someone who is at the top of that mountain has a beachside condo perched up there, and welcomes you in and shows you things you thought were not really achievable, and also explains there is a way to reach them. All the time there is nil rank envy, nil ego, but 100 % intent.

 

So your world is now upside down, instead of working your way through to some level of proficiency, you are now shown it first up. This makes it no more daunting as you are in for a lifetime of studying how to not suck at it. By now I am sounding like a born again something or other, maybe so, but once you have felt a person that has the equivalent of two six inch spiralling stainless steel cables for arms attached to a two tonne block of concrete as a body, that concrete block by the way, can also relocate in space way faster than you can think, you have no choice but to take notice.

 

People who can produce kuzushi on contact, at every contact, using true aiki are rare, he can achieve this.

 

 

My point is that we are talking top down learning not bottom up. For some it is too confronting and easier to dismiss. While many other martial arts were represented over the seminars for me Aikido is the one that stands to gain the most from this integration if you believe aiki is what you are striving for in the end.

 

Notwithstanding the strikes and counter measures Dan is capable of are breathtakingly martial. It is like witnessing the volcanoes on the Big Island or the Twelve Apostles on the great ocean road, until you get the scale of it mentally digested you cannot really describe it in words alone.

 

So next stop the Big Island of Hawaii. This is a completely different trip in itself we are staying waterfront again in Kona only this time the landscape is decidedly rocky, lava rock to be exact.

 

In Kona it feels like it is going to rain all the time but the haze, called locally vog is not cloud rather gases pushed into the air by the volcano’s Maunaloa and Kilauea that dominate the landscape. Again magical sunsets this time tinted red through purple due to the vog.

 

People on this island are even more laid back than Oahu and equally accommodating. Bill and Sharon were the hosts for the seminar and we trained at a little dojo outside Kona. This dojo is the home of another Hawaiian icon in the martial arts Sensei Meyer Goo, sensei is in his 90’s and had just had a hip replacement. He was friend, student and masseuse to Tohie Sensei, he has trained many well known martial artists and he also has taken ukemi from O’Sensie.

 

The trip to Hawaii would have been worth it just to hear some of his recollections and wisdom. Validation of the work being done by Dan came when Sensei Meyer Goo, told all of us that what he felt from Dan was similar to what he had felt from O’Sensie.

He was insistent  that he (Dan) was to keep telling people about it (aiki and how to manifest it ) no matter what obstacles were put in his way. Sensei Goo is old school and a real warrior in the true sense, he also saw active duty during the second world war.

A few of the Oahu crew backed up like Mert. My faithful new sidekick Heraldo and his mum Maria ( they live in the town called Volcano) were my drivers this time. Without them I would have been lost I hope to repay this one day when they come down under. The seminar was more of the same relentless information, some skewed for the MMA types there, as well as judo and jujitsu. The crazy thing is that this aiki, spiralling, IP stuff translates to ALL martial arts. Similar to how techniques seem to blend into each other eventually in Aikido. It becomes obvious from observation with Dan working with other MA styles the current thread is the same. When he is spiralling toward you he could be doing any form you can name, he may lack perfect technique in any particular style but the end result is not in question.

 

I have plenty to download with those who are interested in our dojo, as I say it is not necessarily for everyone and the issue remains that it is so difficult to pick up what Dan is putting down in such a short interaction. But we start at the basics and eventually we start to feel it and work from there.

If you ever get the chance to go to Hawaii do it…… if you ever get a chance to interact with Dan Harden …… jump….. so to get both on a trip it is the ultimate…. just pack a beginner’s mind !

 

Solo training in Aikido

Solo training in AikidoSolo training is not a new idea in aikido, when you think of all the taiso at the start of class and the weapons kata there is plenty of it. But what is relatively new (well what’s old is new anyway) is the idea of purpose behind solo training.

“Your aikido will only improve when your concept of aikido improves”
Kenjiro Yoshigasaki
Founder Ki Society Internationale

Any new idea is helpful and the idea of a purpose for solo training as new concept is something that can enrich our aikido practice. Aikido is often included in the list of internal martial arts, particularly those from China. These arts are by and large solo arts and at the interface between these arts the advantages and disadvantages of paired practice of aikido is laid bare somewhat. Local aikidoka doing these solo arts have had some terrific development in their aikido as a result, though it takes some time to integrate and in the short term has led to awkward aiki at times and some disruption to the dojo pedagogy.
So along comes the internal strength movement in the aikido circles, clearly its a new concept , or at least new packaging on elements that are already in our art. The premesis is that we need to understand our own bodys, how they move and generate and recieve power before we can hope to apply that in two person practice. And indeed it would seem to be the case, though only through paired practice can this be learnt and expressed. In this then we see that aikido kata are examples of aiki rather than the definitive set of ‘aiki’

” they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts” Yukiyoshi Takumura, Soke Takumara-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai http://www.advdojo.org/shuhari.html

Books like Ellis Amdurs “Hidden in Plain Sight” and “Transparent Power” on the life of a Ueshiba contempory, namely Yukiyoshi Sagawa point the way to solo training as being valuable and an integral part of the founders aiki abilities.

So where does that leave AIkido Yuishinkai?  Through the window of a recent  internal strength seminar and interaction with others in this movement in and outside our school does it become clear that we have this method built into our art.
Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years through his 10 basic forms and his tanden ball exercises much that we see in the internal strength movement, its just that we didn’t recognise it. Here are Okajima sensei’s (Maruyama Sensei’s successor) exercises we saw in Japan almost a decade ago and more recently in Australia at his first international seminar. Catherine Schnell sensei captured these then and the review of them continues to shed light..

Here we see exercises reminiscent of the wave in Systema, the centring exercises that are a precursor for reeling and winding in many of the chinese martial arts and strongly reminiscence of the exercises in the Dan Harden bodywork seminars (from what we can gather), the universal exercises of Mike Sigman’s method. Through the various testing methedologies for movement and partner feedback we see the Ki Society methods now as a tool, rather than egoic practice to reinforce the status quo or worse a tangent to the etherial adn intangaable (at least in this moment of time anyway). We see shades of theopening and closing of the creases that Bill Gleeson Shihan often  talks about

Further sharing this through the Yuishinkai community Mike Haft Sensei from the UK shares with stunning clarity here are the ‘rites of spring exercises he has been doing for 10years, through the Hikitsuki Sensei that O’Sensei reportly practiced for more than an hour every day.

Mike writes

The first exercise of the Rites of Spring is Shinkokyu which is almost identical to Okajima Sensei’s first exerecise he demonstrates in the video, the difference being that there are four claps when hands are held aloft in the Rites of Spring. Also I don’t think there’s so much leaning forwards in the RoS as Okajima Sensei does.
The third exercise in the RoS is Furu Tama which is very similar to Okajima Sensei’s third exercise, but not quite the same.

O Sensei’s stuff is clearly shinto and shingon buddhism influenced, but I’d bet that if Okajima Sensei’s exercises are DR derived then they contain some overlap. Apparently O Sensei would do practise the RoS daily from anything like several minutes to several hours.

Recentky Stan Pranin shared O’Sensei’s warmup exercises…where you can see some of these in action

http://store.aikidojournal.com/morito-suganuma-o-senseis-warmups-alive-and-well/

So what its taken to get to this point, here at the beginning of the importance of solo practice. This slow learner, by way of the scientific method, likes to know the what and how, rather than just do and copy. The former being the pedagogy of western science and the latter the observational basis that is eastern science. Everything has advantages and disadvantages. But whats most important is here is something new (thats not new) , something to chew on and reinvigirate/reinterpret everything that Maruyama Sensei has been teaching for years but with now an understanding of the purpose and a critical eye that can help cut to some core emelments of the practice.

An Aikido Conversation in Melbourne

Aikido in Melbourne at Aiki-Centre

This past week I found myself in Melbourne for work and had opportunity to catch up with budo buddy Catherine Schnell Sensei at the Aiki-Centre, whom i met quite a few years ago during a Budo tour of Melbourne (See trip report Budo Bums Aikido in Melbourne here). During the course of that nights regular practice we shared some ‘conversation’ about Aikido. Schnell Sensei has long been a fan of describing the Uke-Nage interaction as ‘a conversation’ rather than winner/loser etc.. Its something that harks back to when Ariga sensei taught in Brisbane some years ago at the Aikikai, but I think her breadth on the topic goes wider, owing to her background in several other schools of Aikido. Schnell sensei opened the class, including warmups with some core strength components and we dialogued back and forth a few times, hosting a workshop rather than class, with everyone participating in the exercises. I think i let down a few training partners when i was paired up by asking questions of sensei rather than practicing 😦
For me it was a chance to learn sensei’s world view as well as experiment with body positioning for Kuzushi and using insights from the ‘toppling vector’ to guide how to throw Uke, – leading to the pre-formal conclusion that you must go up first to throw Uke down (See Aiki Physics II – Biomechanics of Throwing). This led to how does Uke respond? and in this context Schnell Sensei suggests the role of our core (Tanden) is in the correct and striving of an orientation and alignment that allows Uke to recover their centre and thus ‘continue the conversation’.

The development of the core is n emerging intrest of mine, as the biomechanics of throwing (the base, the topple vector etc..) suggest that this vital aspect of the power train from the ground out to the limbs is a vital component. Of course its nothing new, the martial sages and Kami have been saying this forever, but its somewhat new to me and in a different constructshowing some legMany thanks to sensei and members of the dojo for such a warm welcome, again, and for contributing to such a healthy practice and learning environment.
That night I caught up with Maruyama Sensei and had some burning questions from the Byron Seminar answered as well as some bigger picture stuff shrouded in the midsts of time. Next morning we saw Maruyama sensei and Kondo San off on their way to Wagga (Yikes they nearly boarded a plane for Kickatinalong), before heading off to Geelong for the real reason for my trip with a busy 3 days including a workshop, bootcamp and conference on sports and technology – unfortunately there wasn’t a chance to show the Hon. Kate Lundy, Minister for Sport my modest progress on Nikkyo…maybe next time 😉

Thanks also to Asunta Sensei for some nice insights too with some Kenkyukai? inspired movements. Schnell Sensei is up in Brisbane for the Shimamoto Shihan Seminar in December so I’m hoping she can teach a little on Core development at the Republic

Here are some Photos from the nights practice from the dojo camera (not sure who to credit).

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