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Joshua Lerner
28th April 2003, 07:18
I brought this topic up in the Aikido forum, but I've been wanting to ask this question (and many others) to the koryu community in particular, so I apologize in advance if this post doesn't belong here, or if people are annoyed at me being repetitive. If it doesn't belong here, feel free to move it to where it belongs.

A friend of mine practices Shinto Muso ryu, and was contemplating adding either Bagua or Chen Taijiquan (my current art) for a number of reasons. He asked me what I thought the effects would be, and I gave him an answer that was based on my previous experience with Aikido, which is, I realize, a completely different family from koryu, let alone genus or species. So I thought I would ask the question to people actually doing both koryu and an internal Chinese art (I'm assuming there are a bunch of you out there) what is the effect?

In my answer to my friend, I extrapolated from things I had seen in the writings of Dave Lowry and Ellis Amdur, regarding the neuromuscular, pyscho-emotional "personalities" of each art, and how they would potentially enhance or interfere with each other. But I was answering without experience of my own in a koryu. My assumption, and someone please correct me if you feel I am wrong, was that it was probably not a good idea unless you were really interested in going far enough in both arts to not run the risk of dismantling your coordination in one art before getting coordinated in the other.

I'll try to explain what I mean a little more clearly, if I can. The Chinese internal arts, as I've been exposed to them, seem to rely on unlearning habitual patterns of tension, and then practicing new forms of movement without tension, and practicing them for long enough, and with the right intent, that a new form of power starts to be generated that is unrelated to mechanical strength applied by simple leverage more hydrolic, as my instructor puts it. But there needs to be a significant amount of time spent undoing all of your body's habitual tensions. In my own case, it was habits picked up from a good amount of time doing Aikido, and I've been astounded how ingrained they are.

"Harder" arts, which is how I view the koryu, seem to depend much more on instilling very specific patterns of tension for very specific purposes, some of which would be simply to protect your body from the shock of training. Again, I make this assumption without any experience in these arts, and I would assume that the highest levels of bugeisha don't seem tense at all when they practice. I hope everyone is understanding my use of the word "tension" here.

These ideas led to the conclusion that it was probably not a good idea to start studying an art that requires you to unlearn most of your physical habits, if those habits are essential to your practice of another, potentially much more physically dangerous art (dangerous to practice). Plus, he only has a few years of study in Shinto Muso ryu, so I don't know if this would apply to a more advanced practitioner.

Or am I making too much of it? Could the subtle mechanics and awareness learned in Taijiquan or Bagua also help in koryu practice without interfering or watering it down? In my own experience, practicing Taijiquan to the point that I start to develop any skill also instills a very distinct "personality" to the physical sensation of how I move and relate to the environment, and I wonder how that would translate into the practice of a radically different art. Of course, I do imagine that anything done to improve body awareness and coordination would help the practice of other arts to at least a certain extent.

Does anyone here have significant experience with both types of arts? Am I overthinking the problem? Or have you experienced similar, or different challenges?

Thanks in advance for any insights,

Josh Lerner

Ellis Amdur
28th April 2003, 15:37
Joshua -

The problems you are talking about happen more when doing two arts that are similar. For example, the person your friend is considering training with was studying t'ai chi at one point during his study of SMR.

They are so far apart (at the beginner's level) that, if your friend is an open and focused trainee, there doesn't have to be a problem.

On the other hand, for some people one art is more than enough . . . and for others, one is too many.

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Meik Skoss
28th April 2003, 16:19
Joshua,

I agree with Ellis. If one is studying A-style of an art, then begins to study B-style (of the same art), it is not at all uncommon for an unexpected dissonance to upset both schools. If the arts are not similar, f'rinstance chop-socky on the one hand and whacka-sticks on t'other, then there probably won't be much of a problem. By way of example, take my case: I've studied two schools of naginatajutsu, as well as the modern cognate art of atarashii naginata. One of those schools includes a number of bo techniques, as well as yari and kusarigama. I also study a school of jojutsu with its own style of swordsmanship, as well as kusarigama and jutte. Plus a school of kenjutsu that has an affiliated school of battojutsu and jojutsu.

I've never had problems keeping the various kata straight, but what has/does/will (undoubtedly) cause me great problems is the fact that my style swordsmanship is so profound and wide in its theory its influence has become pervasive in everything I do. I do movements of this or that other art, but the "feeling" or "taste" of my sword is a reflection of an entirely different system. And that's VERY BAD!!

The naginata schools have also interfered with one other, though not quite as badly as the style of swordsmanship. My challenge is to remain faithful to what I've studied. Sadly, my solution vis-a-vis naginata is to mostly withdraw from one of the classical naginata schools and the modern art. I will never cease entirely, but I can only do so much and I need to refine my focus.

I suggest that your friend, if he's a relative beginner at Muso-ryu, give serious thought to all of this, but that it shouldn't discourage him from investigating a second art. Of the two, I'd go with Chen t'ai-chi ch'uan -- assuming the teacher is competent -- as that's a very comprehensive and extremely sophisticated system for both unarmed and weapons combat.

Good luck to him!

Cady Goldfield
28th April 2003, 17:00
Joshua,

At one time, I tried to learn a Chinese internal art while I was also heavily invested in karate - a very externally-oriented, not too sophisticated system.

What I discovered was that many of the methods that drive an external art are completely contradictory to those that drive an internal one. The breathing, the concepts of force and power, the timing and application of relaxation-tension sequences and other factors were at odds with one another. I eventually gave up the internal art.

Many years later, I began training in a complex aikijujutsu and a koryu weapons art. The style and timing of breathing, method of hip drive, stances and other attributes of karate were completely inappropriate to both arts, and in fact caused enormous hardship during the first several years of training.

Within a few months of beginning the new training, I gave up karate. It was necessary; otherwise, I doubt I'd ever have been able to "re-wire" my neuromuscular system. I have spent the past 5 years trying to undo my previous training. After having wired it in for more than two decades, it has proven very difficult to remove. It has been only in the past two years that I have finally started to "move like a jujutsuka." I'm still struggling with moving like a kenjutsuka. :)

I realize that every person is different and may have different capabilities and capacities for learning and absorbing conflicting sets of movements, tactical mindsets and methods. But, my experience and observations have been that sometimes even two very different arts can cause conflict. It's certainly true that studying two somewhat similar arts can be confusing, but there's a different reason for that.

FWIW

Joshua Lerner
28th April 2003, 17:10
Ellis, Meik, Cady,

Thanks for the replies. Cady, your experience sounds very similar to my own in some ways, though mine wasn't quite as intense.

Have any of you (or anyone else) seen injuries or accidents that were probably due to cross-contamination? I don't mean putting in the wrong part of a kata from a different art ...

What I was thinking was how (I assume) you have to learn certain ways of holding your body to brace yourself and your weapon to receive or block strikes during koryu training. The image I had was of someone starting off doing, in my friend's case, SMR, then starting maybe Chen style TJQ, and learning how to relax in the particular way Chen practitioners relax. You start to feel good doing the Chen practices that way, but there is a good amount of time that elapses between the "feeling good/getting health benefits" part and the "developing the structural integrity that is functional in any meaningful way" part.

The same thing happens in Aikido (at least it did for me) - people misinterpret the fact that they can relax as a sign that they are now ready to take punches without moving out of the way "because I'm relaxed, which is better than being tense. As long as I keep weight underside and extend ki, I'm invincible!". Ah, the confidence of youth.

So I imagine someone going to do SMR or X-ryu and wanting to try out his or her newfound ability to relax by applying it in their kata ... with potentially disastrous results. I should add that I don't think it's a problem specific to my friend in any way (plus, he's probably reading these posts). Maybe I'm projecting what I think my own problems would have been at the earliest stages of my TJQ training, before I started to realize that my perception of my abilities was not ... how do I put this ... accurate. Not that it is now - I just know enough to not overestimate myself.

Has anyone here experienced this, or am I merely projecting my own neurosis?

Josh Lerner

Ellis Amdur
28th April 2003, 17:34
Josh -

In answer to your question, probably "projecting your own neurosis." I doubt very much that the addition of Chen t'ai chi or Pa-kua would lead any reasonably sane individual to assume that they could "relax" while dealing with a bokken coming at their head, while they are required to block with the jo.

And if they were, it seems to me that this would just be Darwinian evolution at work.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Joshua Lerner
28th April 2003, 18:03
Ellis,

Point taken. I suppose if you've done even a little bit of a koryu, you know the intensity and strength needed to safely practice. I guess I was also thinking about what happened to me when I first went to Iwama after spending years doing a style of Aikido that was very close to the Ki Society style, and which espoused principles similar to the ones in Chen style (but ineffectively). The weapons work at Iwama in particular, despite it's debatable lack of realism, was noticeably more intense and physical than the way I was originally taught. I spent three weeks getting hammered, trying to apply the softer principles I was used to, and although I didn't get injured in the way I described above, there were some close calls. But I was young and dumb and ... you know.

Thanks,

Josh Lerner

Cady Goldfield
28th April 2003, 18:07
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
And if they were, it seems to me that this would just be Darwinian evolution at work.

:laugh:


Joshua,

I have occasionally experienced a bonk on the noggin, a bokuto up the nose (you should have seen the nosebleed gusher) and other indignities, but they were not due to missteps from conflicting neuromuscular conditionings. Just part of the process of learning timing, ma-ai, and all that good stuff.

Suffice it to say that the silly accidents are occurring with significantly less frequency than they did at the outset. But I owe that to a general gaining of skill in a newly learned art, rather than the reduction of clashing programming from two different arts.

Joel Simmons
1st May 2003, 00:55
Aloha,

Very interesting topic.

I agree with the general points made by everyone else. More often than not, a similar art will cause confusion rather than a radically different art. However, there are times when trying to train in two different arts can confuse a person, especially a beginner.

Like Cady said, each person learns and applies these arts in different capacities, so maybe there are people out there that can learn art X and art Y from the beginning stages and not have a problem. My own experience has proven that to be untrue for myself.

When I started Takeuchi-ryu I was lucky that I had had a lapse in training time. I had started out in Shorin-ryu karate, but had not trained for about 2 years. In those two years, I bounced around "testing" many different styles of martial arts, but only recently realized that I didn't stick with any of those arts because I moved in the manner of a karateka. Not in the manner of a gongfu person or what-have-you. That being said, about a year after I started Takeuchi-ryu, my teacher urged me to take advantage of the fact that I could train under a very knowledgeable and skilled Wu TJQ person. Yet, much to my disappointment, I discovered that I am not the sort of person who can do both simultaneously. Even though these two arts are quite different on the outside. I gave-up on the Wu TJQ and now focus solely on Takeuchi-ryu, and I plan to keep it that way. Perhaps, it is best to become proficient to a high level at one art, and then supplement it with something new at a later time?

As for injuries...I guess I could see it happening in extreme examples, but if you've practiced with having punches come at your head at 3/4 speed then a bokken or jo shouldn't be that much different of a threat. Just different distancing and timing. Okay, I'm just repeating what everyone else has said.

I suppose with this sort of question you can only ask what sort of experience individuals have had, and then try to determine to whom you or your friend are more similar. Then, follow their example and just try it out. If your friend decides to focus on one art only, then make sure he does not "burn his bridges" with the other. Its amazing how far honesty can take you.

Jason W
5th May 2003, 01:44
Early on in my martial arts training path, I studied Shotokan karate and Aikido concurrently for about a year, before I decided to give up the karate. I had only studied karate for 5 years before starting Aikido, so you could say I didn't have a firm base in either, but I found a conflict in many areas of training in the two.

After 13-14 years of Aikido, I then tried Ninjutsu for a while. While not a few of their movements were different, I found I picked up them up quite quickly, to the satisfaction of the instructor. I decided to stop Ninjutsu after a while because I felt that Ninjutsu wasn't teaching me any new type of body movement that Aikido couldn't teach me.

For the past year, I have been doing Yang style Tai Ji in conjunction with my Aikido training, and I am not finding any conflicts, I think because a) I now have a firm base in one art, Aikido, and that 2) these two arts are so different at the basic level that they are not impinging upon each other, though I can see that at a certain point, I am going to be presented with 2 ways of performing certain movements, and I believe I will reach a point where I will have to make a choice in one method and commit to that.

I think the Chinese approach to producing power and dealing with oncoming force, especially in Tai Ji, despite having a small subset of similarities, is completely different in principle and application, both on physical levels and mental/psychological/philospohical levels, from the Japanese approach; so much so that they are like different worlds.

In deference to my Sensei, I believe that one has to become very firmly established in a particular art which becomes the mother art, and then one may look to other arts for extra training which one can eventually bring into their mother art's world.

But I've only been at it a short while, all that might change...:-)

cheers,

Jason Wotherspoon
Brisbane, Australia

pooh
8th May 2003, 22:08
Hello everyone,

I have been studying Budo Taijutsu (in the Bujinkan) since 1990. About four years ago I began studying Tai Ji Chuan (Cheng Man Ching Yang Short Form)and I found the principles to be very helpful in understanding the internal connections and power (not strength) created from these connections. I still practice the form, not so much from a "martial" standpoint, but more for the "art" standpoint. I find it to be very beautiful and relaxing/centering. I have come to a point in my "Budo" training that I try not to worry too much about the comparison. When I am training in Budo, I train whole heartedly and ths same goes with Tai Ji.

I also met an extraordinary teacher in a Xing Yi system that I enjoy practicing with as well as hanging out with. I don't try to mix the style's at all, although sometimes some principles in a certain art, do express themselves in my movement at times when I'm practicing an other art.

My love of Budo Taijutsu is where I focus my training for Martial ability, but I can also appreciate what the chinese art's have given me in terms of health and well being. Not to mention the internal focus.

I guess my point is that training in different style's can be practiced, but you may compromise your progression in a certain style because they have a different way of moving and/or acheiving a goal. I enjoy certain art's for what they are as an art. I don't try to compare or combine the art's in my mind. I just practice them when I want to and because I like to.

Good Luck,
Mark A. Franco, L.Ac.

pooh
9th May 2003, 00:37
Hello everyone,

I have been studying Budo Taijutsu (in the Bujinkan) since 1990. About four years ago I began studying Tai Ji Chuan (Cheng Man Ching Yang Short Form)and I found the principles to be very helpful in understanding the internal connections and power (not strength) created from these connections. I still practice the form, not so much from a "martial" standpoint, but more for the "art" standpoint. I find it to be very beautiful and relaxing/centering. I have come to a point in my "Budo" training that I try not to worry too much about the comparison. When I am training in Budo, I train whole heartedly and ths same goes with Tai Ji.

I also met an extraordinary teacher in a Xing Yi system that I enjoy practicing with as well as hanging out with. I don't try to mix the style's at all, although sometimes some principles in a certain art, do express themselves in my movement at times when I'm practicing an other art.

My love of Budo Taijutsu is where I focus my training for Martial ability, but I can also appreciate what the chinese art's have given me in terms of health and well being. Not to mention the internal focus.

I guess my point is that training in different style's can be practiced, but you may compromise your progression in a certain style because they have a different way of moving and/or acheiving a goal. I enjoy certain art's for what they are as an art. I don't try to compare or combine the art's in my mind. I just practice them when I want to and because I like to.

Good Luck,
Mark A. Franco, L.Ac.