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Ellis Amdur
31st August 2009, 20:18
Now that I've sent approximately 400 books out - I'm happy to discuss this book, as I did with my previous releases. If you have a specific question that you think my engender a long discussion of it's own, feel free to start a new thread, as in "HIPS - Chapter 1" or "HIPS - Influence of Chinese martial arts," etc.
And if you don't have a copy to enable you to discuss anything, there is an easy solution to that. ;)

Best

Bruce Mitchell
1st September 2009, 07:49
Just got my copy, will try to post something once I get through it, if I can think of anything original to say that is.

Lance Gatling
10th September 2009, 16:42
Now that I've sent approximately 400 books out - I'm happy to discuss this book, as I did with my previous releases. If you have a specific question that you think my engender a long discussion of it's own, feel free to start a new thread, as in "HIPS - Chapter 1" or "HIPS - Influence of Chinese martial arts," etc.
And if you don't have a copy to enable you to discuss anything, there is an easy solution to that. ;)

Best
I'm reading it now - and my congratulations to you. It is very, very interesting, very readable. If I may be bold enough to say, your writing has improved over time, too, and has a nice informal touch with plenty of personal asides.

I'm impressed by your effort to tie so many different ryuha together. I don't know how some folks will take the lack of precise references (like: page numbers), but even that seems manageable.

I've finished the intro regarding Chen Gin'in, and you make as good a case as possible for his impact on the arts of the three ronin given the lack of hard data. I'm not convinced yet, as presumably will never be because of that lack of data, but am intrigued by your take on it all.

More to come....

Ellis Amdur
12th September 2009, 15:19
Lance - by page numbers, I think you mean from some of the source material I cite. I made a deliberate choice there, actually. Either the book would be a true, sourced research book - or a broader sketch. I did not want a <poorly> developed research book. At any rate, I've provided all the sign posts for those who want to follow up and really develop or disprove any of my theses - or others I cited in the text.
At the same time, I admit - I could have been more scrupulous in some of the citations.
Ellis Amdur

Lance Gatling
13th September 2009, 11:04
Yes, I meant pg numbers of the many, many references. The bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

johan smits
14th September 2009, 13:33
Hi Ellis.

I have always liked your writings and this book is no exception . My congratulations on a wonderful piece of work.

It will be a long time before this one will be topped.

Happy landings and all the best.

Johan Smits

Ellis Amdur
15th September 2009, 04:39
Johan - honestly, the way I hope it will be topped is if one or more people do the research that still can be done.

I have a section in the book in which I try to offer guideposts of what to look for and where to look for historical information on the history of Chinese influence on Japanese martial arts, on the history of jujutsu, Daito-ryu and of aikido
I've described some (well-informed) speculations on how certain things developed within Japanese martial arts. These things can be proved or disproved, if someone is able and willing to do the leg-work.
It is VERY likely that certain factions of Daito-ryu have archival material that has not been released to the public. I am a big supporter of traditional martial arts keeping gokui to themselves. That is what makes the art what it is. However, when historical material, be it documents, films or whatever is held in secret, this bespeaks a certain kind of greediness that I have seen in the Japanese martial arts community - not so much among the "fighters," but among the scholars and collectors. Like a person who buys a Rembrandt and shuts it up in his house, never letting anyone see it again. Hopefully, with diplomacy and tact, some of these closed organizations can be prevailed upon, not to release proprietary technical information, perhaps, but their archival material.
Finally, Daito-ryu and aikido have diffused in many factions, with many senior students branching out on their own. Aside from secrecy, many teachers will not answer historical questions OR technical questions unless a student shows that he or she really cares. This is shown, not only by dedicated practice, but also by seizing the opportunity to ask the PROPER questions. Among my greatest regrets about my own training years in Japan is that I know now that certain questions I could have asked WOULD have been answered, had I asked them. Particularly with some of the younger teachers, who are delighted with the power they can now play with as they train, the opportunity to find a kindred spirit, hungry for answers and for getting better, is welcome - at least among some. But if you hold back, in what you think is humility, you will be taken for granted. I'm not talking about being crude or demanding, but this idea that the ideal student of Japanese martial arts is a craven just-follow-orders-it'll-all-come-clear-in-a-couple-of-decades, is pretty new. In Meiji, there were menkyo kaiden in various arts in FIVE years! Not because they were put-up jobs, but because the country was in ferment and often at war, and the students were hungry for knowledge. Too many students today are hungry for membership. They are happy to tell stories about the founder's miraculous power, but don't seem to crave any for themselves. If the teacher has a bit of power himself, why would he desire to give it to such spineless wretches? Step up and ask. Confront the teacher with your desire to surpass him or her. Any teacher worthwhile would be delighted. If not, maybe you should start looking again.

johan smits
17th September 2009, 13:53
Ellis,

Proper questions reminds me of something many years ago. I always had more enthousiasm than intelligence when younger. Since my enthousiasm has waned considerably now it is divided equally.
Anyway, a Japanese teacher (who shall remain unnamed) of sword was quite happy with me working hard and doing my best, etc. This was going to be the beginning of a good relationship. Saving money to go to Japan, etc.
I even send him an interview which a English-speaking student of him would translate back and forth etc.
One of the questions I asked was if he had any stories to tell about his sword using it for real in WW2.
End of relationship...

For me it was not a big deal asking such a question but I was sorely lacking in understanding, etc, etc.

Apart from the above I wonder if Japanese teachers are aware of the enormous interest in their arts and if so if they understand students of different cultures have different ideas and needs?

Something totally different - after reading your book again I got the feeling you should publish a photobook. Hardly any text but wonderful photo's from your own collection.
You can write me down for a copy.

Happy landings,

Johan Smits

Ellis Amdur
17th September 2009, 17:07
Hi Johan - Well, there are questions and there are questions . . .In my previous tirade, I was talking about technical matters. It is not enough to simply ask questions. One has to present the teacher both with your dedication, as I said, but also with what one is doing. For example, I engaged in some "bouts" with people from other ryu - both with shinai and with wooden weapons. With one individual, although I more than held my own with several weapons, I was clearly beaten (60-40) when we were sword on sword. When I recounted this, my teacher was not at all interested in the other weapons. I'd lost. With a sword. He meticulously went over with me everything that happened. And for the first time in our relationship, he bowed and apologized to me. He said, "This is my fault. I should have taught you . . .(and then proceeded to teach me a gokui of sword usage - not concerning internal training usage, btw). And several weeks later, I had another bout with this man - and acquitted myself well enough that there was no need for an apology. (Remarkable, isn't it? One instruction of maybe ten minutes - and it transformed my sword - just like in the novels).
What happened, if I may translate, is that I DID confront my teacher - not with some childish whinging that "You never teach me anything!" Or, "How come I don't have internal skills yet?" Instead, he was confronted with my sincerity - I was training passionately enough that I had a) taken to the "end" everything he'd taught me b) was actually putting myself at physical risk to master it. Given that he had information that he hadn't taught me, he either had to be a man of integrity or a hypocrite. If your student treats things as a hobby, why teach him? But if your student performs up to the ideal, how can you not teach the truth, unless from that day forward, you are, essentially, lying to him.
So the burden is very heavy on the student. If you aren't willing to give everything, the teacher is not obligated to give anything. But if you are, the teacher has no right to escape.
THAT'S what I mean by "confronting."

And I heard all I needed to about WWII from my teachers once they were drunk.

Oh yeah - photographs. Actually, I have very few - and few of high quality. As you see, most of the photos in HIPS are from others. When my Araki-ryu and Buko-ryu websites are up (within the next six months), I will post the few photos I have.

Best
Ellis Amdur

DDATFUS
17th September 2009, 21:48
I've finally had enough time to read and at least start digesting the book. On the whole I enjoyed it and found it well worth the cover price.

Before thinking about the book's content, I'll say that I was very impressed with the binding and book design. It is a handsome book and of much higher quality than I expected. In my experience both martial arts books and privately published books have a tendency towards cheap printing, and I was very pleased to see Mr. Amdur bucking that trend.

With regards to content, I found the book to be both interesting and thought-provoking. Not all of it was to my taste; I could have easily read another hundred pages of history on the Kurama-den, while I could have done without the "three peaches" discussion altogether. For many people I'm sure that this would be reversed. Each section of the book, however, offered its share of interesting nuggets of information and intriguing ideas, and many interesting historical records and first hand accounts are provided.

Unfortunately there are many places where the intriguing ideas seem to vastly outnumber the nuggets of information. Mr. Amdur is careful to remind his readers that he is often speculating, but there are a few places where I felt this should have been underscored even more forcefully. The problem here is in some ways worsened by Mr. Amdur's decision to provide limited citation. It is often possible that the ideas he is spinning have a solid foundation, but if so the reader is left without any clue to that.

Also, while Mr. Amdur's speculation is often intriguing and thought-provoking-- well worth considering, even if we have no way of knowing whether or not they are true-- sometimes they seem to be logically inconsistent, a case of shoehorning in the known facts to fit the image that Mr. Amdur has in his mind. One particularly perplexing example of that came in "The Birth of Daito Ryu":


Can you, then, imagine Sokichi trying to teach such a boy [Takeda Sokaku] the kind of stilted, rigid kata you see enacted in present day Daito Ryu? He would have had to burn a pile of all the incense in Aizu on him to make this wild child pay attention to that!

Instead, Sokichi taught him sumo-- but not just any sumo. I believe he coupled this with solo power training exercises, breathing coordinated with mindful attention to lines of tension and relaxation... that very likely were part of the Inagami Shinmyo-ryu curriculum...

Amdur, 87.

I'd like to unpack a few problems that I have with this passage as a way of illustrating the level of speculation present in this book.

First, let's look at Mr. Amdur's suggestion that Takeda Sokaku would have been unlikely to settle down long enough to learn the kata of modern-day Daito Ryu. I'm not sure if I buy that statement on its face. Even if it is true, however, why does Mr. Amdur assume that the kata practiced in that time period were done in the same manner that they are today? I vividly remember a passage in one of Mr. Amdur's earlier books in which he described watching a film of a recently-extinct naginata school in its last generation. The practitioners minced along, their movements confined and restrained by their lovely kimono, their attacks lacking any type of power or commitment, their "martial art" devoid of any realism or threat. He mournfully compares that final evolution of the school with what the kata must have looked like when practiced by the gigantic, savage battlefield veteran who first brought the school to life. If the kata of today's Daito Ryu are "stilted" and "rigid"-- an assertion that I'm not quite prepared to accept-- then Mr. Amdur's own writings give us ample reason to know that we cannot from this assume that the kata of past generations were the same.

Playing along with Mr. Amdur's assumption for the moment, however, look where we land-- because Sokichi clearly could not have taught his son formal kata, he must have taught him sumo and internal power training exercises, "breathing coordinated with mindful attention to lines of tension and relaxation." So, we assume that Takeda Sokaku was too unruly to settle down into kata training, but at the same time we assume that he willingly sat down to practice these solo training exercises that involve both intense concentration and myriad repetition, often requiring the practitioner to stand, unmoving, for long periods of time? Those ideas aren't even consistent-- either he was too wild to sit still long enough to learn the kata, or he had the patience to devote hours of training to internal power until he developed the skills that Mr. Amdur describes him displaying in his sumo bouts.

The assumptions don't end there-- this passage continues with the assumption that Takeda Sokichi learned Inagami Shinmyo Ryu, an assumption based entirely on circumstantial evidence. It assumes that Inagami Shinmyo Ryu has internal training methodology-- a bold assumption considering that no records of that school survive. That assumption is, in turn, partly based on Mr. Amdur assumption that Inagami Shinmyo Ryu is "given the name,...almost surely a local offshoot of Shinmyo Ryu" (Amdur, 69). Mr. Amdur, of course, knows full well that such names are not a guarantee of relationship; given the presence of Itto Ryu (particularly of the Mizoguchi-ha) in Aizu, Aizu Itto Ryu would "surely" be a local offshoot of the Itto school-- but as Mr. Amdur points out only three pages earlier, it is totally unrelated to the Itto family of sword arts. And even if Inagami Shinmyo Ryu is a local offshoot of Shinmyo Ryu, we've still seen only tenuous evidence that Shinmyo Ryu has the type of training that we are looking for in Takeda Sokaku's early life.

So, while this passage introduces a very interesting-- and, I think, an ultimately plausible-- explanation of Takeda Sokaku's early training, it is made only by piling speculation on speculation. We assume that the jujutsu kata of the time would have been fairly uninteresting to someone of Takeda Sokaku's temperament, we assume that he paradoxically would have had the temperament to make the rigorous and exacting study of internal power, we assume that his father had studied Inagami Shinmyo Ryu, we assume... if there is firm evidence backing these ideas, I've missed it.

And this, in short, is my main problem with the book-- so many wonderful ideas, but so little support for any of them. Mr. Amdur seems to spin theory after theory, but only rarely do we see a firm bedrock beneath them.

Having said all of this, I'd like to point out one of my favorite things about the book. Mr. Amdur takes great pains to show what, exactly, is expected of someone who wants to be the next O Sensei. He spends an entire chapter laying out the type of dedication, the type of sacrifice, the type of obsession that went into the forging of Ueshiba. This is not an easy road; this is not something that we will be able to catch by going to the dojo once or twice or three times a week. If we want to have what the old masters had, if we want to follow their path to the forest, and say their prayers and sing their songs, we must be prepared to make their faith a daily practice. We must be ready to eat, sleep, and breathe these arts. We have to be willing to make each movement of our daily lives part of our budo. We have to be willing to look beyond what we are spoon-fed, to seek the art that lies behind the drills and the kata. And we have to have the right attitude. One of the most beautiful lines in the entire book is a quote from Terry Dobson, when he told fellow students that he didn't care about being O Sensei's student; he wanted to be O Sensei.

That sums up in one line the attitude that we have to have if we want to be serious about our budo. Our teachers were not born superhuman-- some of them started younger than we did, but all of them started at some point. If they are better than us it is because they have been training longer, because they have trained harder, or some combination of those factors. If we are content to be their students, content to say, "Wow, isn't he great?" then our arts won't survive our teachers. We have to be willing to say, "He got there... and I can too." Mr. Amdur's book is a sharp reminder that rather than sitting around and swapping stories about great masters of old, we can walk the paths that those men walked and eventually reach, if not the exact same destination, a destination worthy of their successors.

There is so much more that I could say about this book; it is an excellent read and each time I return to it I come away with more thoughts. However, given that I've been rambling for quite a while, I'll wind down now and simply say that this book is definitely worth the read.

Ellis Amdur
17th September 2009, 22:39
David - Thank you for such a thoughtful set of comments. First of all, regarding the cover. McNaughton-Dunn is the printer. They are excellent. Several of my books have been translated in Europe, and the quality was so much higher, that I sent M-D copies of those books, and asked if they could duplicate the quality. They definitely did - and at a really inexpensive price. (appr. $2.50 per book). If anyone thinks of self-publishing, they make it easy.

Most of what you critique, I shan't argue. My problems with the entire history of the aiki-arts is that too many people accept too much at face-value, they don't question the "history," and they offer mere awe at the wonder-stories. Imagine you've got a nice little manicured clearing where you grow your vegetables. But the land is getting played out. So you go off in the brush and clear some new ground - that's my intention in speculation. Hence my last chapter where I suggest that if someone wants to cultivate that ground, so to speak, I give my suggestions on where to establish the solid research that should have been done a long time ago. And still can.

Three Peaches discussion? It gave a chance to pull out my thirty years abandoned training in Jungian psych, in what is called amplification of the image. I had a lot of fun with that chapter, because I've always wondered what the hell Ueshiba was thinking - or at least, how he thought - and figuring things through there gave me at least a hint.

Actually, I do provide full citation, as the book merits. I got information from several sources: 1) actual texts - and these, I believe I do cite. If at any point, I actually quoted someone and didn't cite the text, I apologize. 2) personal communication from researchers (such as Chris Laughran and William Bodiford). In this case, THEY have done the research, and if/when they choose to publish their word as research, then you will have the sources, in toto - and maybe conclusions different from mine 3) Personal communication from practitioners - the problem is that, in many cases, they preferred that I not name them, saying that they would get in trouble with their own organization. When I do cite the person, there is nothing to keep "you" from contacting them and asking if they agree with my conclusions. I tried very hard, however, to take responsibility - in the sense that I say that I got this bit of info from so-and-so - or anonymously, from this circle/dojo, etc., and I take responsibility for the conclusions I draw.

But what I will guarantee, for better and/or for worse, there are NO textual sources that I have that would better establish my speculations. What is in the book is ALL I have.

As for kata and Sokaku - every source we have - and these I do think I cited - state that Sokaku's training in sojutsu/kenjutsu, etc., was not kata based. Furthermore, Tokimune stated that his father didn't teach him by kata when he was a child, and that he did not know how to teach a child (his descriptions (AJ - see, a source!! - are brutal).

ACtually, I don't think the kata of Daito-ryu were practice in the old days in the manner they are today, because I don't think they existed, something I assert in the book (and this is supported by Sagawa Yukiyoshi, btw, in Tomei no Chikara). I assert that Takeda, afterwards, retrofitted kata to illustrate his principals and also have a means of transaction.

As for Takeda settling to train, we know he could. We have many descriptions of him doing solo training - thrusting a spear at a hanging ball, (AJ), hitting a dangling stick of wood with a bokken (Sagawa), etc. And I can testify that sumo training is a lot more fun, and a lot more accessible than kata. Speaking personally, the only reason I can stand continuing to do jujutsu kata is we added a pressure/testing, randori/break the kata component. (Heck, maybe I was just writing about myself, not Sokaku). Umm, as for standing unmoving - no, that's not part of any Japanese internal training I know of. That's Chinese stuff. The Japanese - and really, most of the Chinese, are movement oriented. And I've seen, in Japan, a lot of kids with attention problems thriving in judo and sumo, including repetitive foot sweep practice against a wall, etc. There is something hypnotic and peaceful in good solo practice, that I, for one, never found, in two-person jujutsu kata.

It's very possible that Takeda learned the same way Sagawa asserts he did. Takeda would do something to him and Sagawa, remembering the feeling, would try to replicate everything that he perceived Takeda doing, and tried to recreate it. Just because Takeda was willful, defiant and rebellious does NOT mean he couldn't focus. But like many such children, I believe he would choose what he could focus upon. In this case, it wasn't that his father would have taught him seventeen exercises. His father did sumo with him, and Takeda felt power that was not purely muscular. Perhaps he saw exercises his father did. Or perhaps he developed his training routine on his own. And perhaps when he achieved something, his father added some more information, perhaps just physically. (Yes, I'm aware I'm saying "perhaps" a lot - it's deliberate).

I shan't reargue my suppositions about the descent of Inagami Shinmyo-ryu into Sokaku through Sokichi - it is a chain of evidence, a skein of possibilities or a house of cards. But as to your question based on no evidence of the ryu survives, THAT'S why I wrote it. I don't believe that. I simply believe no one has looked. It was an otome-ryu! There have to be records, unless the entire area was firebombed to ashes.
It cannot be me - my Japanese isn't up to it, and I no longer live in Japan. But when I did live there, I found all sorts of history on Araki-ryu in towns that no one recalled it even existed. A friend of mine started asking questions about Masaki-ryu, by going down to Ogaki, where the ryu originated. And al these people started pulling out 300 year old chains, densho, diaries of their grandfathers - they just thought no one was interested! And if no one thinks to look, the documents, if they exist, will just rot in an attic. And up to now, no one, to my knowledge, has even tried to link up extant jujutsu schools in Aizu coupled with what ryu Sokaku's family was practicing. That I did.

Either Sokaku created, all on his own, a form of internal training and practice fully the equal of Chinese martial training, the latter taking 100's of years to develop, or he learned it from others. So after trying to establish that such training was rife in Japanese schools, I simply am trying to figure out what alternative there is to the implausible ideas in the standard Daito-ryu history (which several of most prominent of Sokaku's students also doubt, btw).


And this, in short, is my main problem with the book-- so many wonderful ideas, but so little support for any of them. Mr. Amdur seems to spin theory after theory, but only rarely do we see a firm bedrock beneath them. This, notwithstanding any of my responses above, is an absolutely valid critique. I conceded that going in. I would be delighted if someone would prove me right - but truth be told, equally as happy if someone proved me wrong.

As for the praise that you give other sections of the book, to those, I'll simply say thank you. And thank you for a critical read. (You don't happen to read classical Japanese, grass style script, and have a couple of years to wander around small libraries in in Northern Japan, do you?)
Best
Ellis Amdur

DDATFUS
18th September 2009, 01:43
(You don't happen to read classical Japanese, grass style script, and have a couple of years to wander around small libraries in in Northern Japan, do you?)


Not yet. I'm working on it, though-- very, very slowly, as the real world has this nasty habit of intruding.

Just to be clear, I enjoyed your speculations-- even when I don't necessarily agree with them, they are intriguing and thought provoking. Some I found more plausible than others (and thank you, by the way, for explaining how you envision Sokaku learning from his father-- I see what you mean much better now), but all of them are interesting. I think that the book has a real potential to jump-start new and creative research into Daito Ryu history. Where that will lead, who knows? I'm sure we'll all have fun finding out.

Ellis Amdur
20th September 2009, 05:23
I just read Transparent Power by Kimura. I was pleased to note that there are a lot of areas where Sagawa and Kimura tend to confirm some of my speculations:
1. That Hoshina most likely did not teach "aiki" to Takeda Sokaku
2. That Daito-ryu was not taught in the kata form we see it. In fact, Sagawa states that the "numbers" of kata in the various menkyo were, more or less, because Takeda thought those were lucky numbers. Arbitrary, in other words (which would suggest that the kata were placed on the "matrix" of the numbers later - by someone(s) else, yet another of my speculations.
3. Takeda's character - which a) he did not play well with others b) he DID have a remarkable ability to focus on solitary study until he figured something out. Which would make him, in a dojo context, not so suited for years of cooperative kata practice, but very much suited for solitary figuring things out, punctuated by challenges, tests and other competitions.
4. Sagawa scoffing at the idea of the "palace art of defense of the daimyo" - and suspicion/cynicism of all the kneeling techniques. I very much wonder if this was, in part, retrofitting of aiki/jujutsu to look more like classical jujutsu.
Parenthetically, people have commented on Sagawa's "unpleasant" character - and if his accounts are true, he was gratuitously violent as a young man to test his skills on people who hadn't "asked for it." That said, I liked his arrogance very much - because it seemed based on the premise of "if you don't like it, prove me wrong." And his uncompromising views on training - he was NOT a supportive teacher. And a) this reminded me of my closest teacher in Japan b) fits my values.
Shan't summarize the book here - but, as I say, I was pleased to have, at least in this teacher's account, some of my views confirmed.
I know, in the Daito-ryu/aikido world, that is not proof. But nonetheless . . .

Ellis Amdur

Rennis
20th September 2009, 06:01
I just read Transparent Power by Kimura. I was pleased to note that there are a lot of areas where Sagawa and Kimura tend to confirm some of my speculations:


2. That Daito-ryu was not taught in the kata form we see it. In fact, Sagawa states that the "numbers" of kata in the various menkyo were, more or less, because Takeda thought those were lucky numbers. Arbitrary, in other words (which would suggest that the kata were placed on the "matrix" of the numbers later - by someone(s) else, yet another of my speculations.

Although I am pretty sure you are already aware of this, Takahashi Masaru discusses the use of numbers in the Daito-ryu densho in similar terms of being unrelated to the actual number of techniques on pages 239-241 of his book on Sagawa as well.

I've only read through HIPS once so far but I've found it a great work overall. I've been doing a fair amount of work with the densho surviving from the founding family of my own tradition of choice and overall I am finding a lot that also leads me to believe that these "skills" were not unknown to Japan (although lost to most modern pactitioners). I am also finding a lot of similar vocabulary usage between what they used and the more standard "Chinese" vocab used for many of these internal strength sort of concepts. Unfortunately they have left so much material behind that it will probably take me a decade or two to really work through all of it (much less figure out how to put any of it into practice).

Rennis Buchner

Ellis Amdur
20th September 2009, 18:39
Hi Rennis - Thanks for yet another confirmatory post.

It's ironic, isn't it - that sometimes, one wishes there WASN'T so much information - it gets pretty overwhelming to manage it - figure it out - translate it. I really hope you are able to find out something concrete - and that some, at least, can be released beyond the confines to the ryu.
Best
Ellis Amdur

Ellis Amdur
29th September 2009, 09:36
I've edited this post as it's no longer a response to a previous post. Because some interesting questions were raised, however, I'll discuss them in different form:
Several people have commented (either in direct emails, or comments on the web) that I am overly negative towards "average" practitioners of either Daito-ryu or aikido - in essence, that I cite such men as Takeda and Ueshiba, the equivalent of Olympic Gold medalists, and hold ordinary individuals to the same standard, in essence calling all these people failures for not attaining the same heights. Not really so. I simply think that martial arts training should develop far superior practitioners than it has in recent times. [MMA is one direction - gladiator-type competition where the level is higher than the old days - no doubt - but I'm talking about another skill set with another training methodology].
For all the dedication that so many have shown to training, 20-30 years, they should be far better in far less time. For example, Shioda Gozo, the great aikido practitioner, who by all accounts had internal skills of a relatively high level, trained eight years with Ueshiba. Why are equally dedicated modern folks, who have put in as many hours in eight or more years, not close to his level? In my opinion, it's the lack of proper information on a particular training technology. Good intentions will not develop skill - nor will sweat alone - it requires proper training. If it is not available, one will not attain the skills.
My intention in the book was to take apart the mythos that internal strength is magic. I wished to prove that it was, at one time, a much more common and accessible form of training within Japanese martial traditions. My point is that it is not just a matter of talent or some kind of spiritual blessing or that some chosen few were supermen - it's primarily a particular kind of very hard work.

Best
Ellis Amdur

wmuromoto
2nd December 2009, 03:02
Ellis,

I finally got off my butt and ordered the book, and am looking forward to reading it. Not knowing its contents, I'm intrigued by the discussion already ongoing in this thread. It calls to mind something I've been tossing around in the back of my head that may be related...or not. I've always heard incredible stories of physical activities of past people, not just in martial arts, but in everyday life, that beggars my imagination considering our own modern day expectations of strength and skill level. Those tales aren't just from books, but from the very recent past, many from oral history I've heard. For example, once I was talking to an old grandpa out in the boonies north of Kyoto and he was talking about his own grandpa, a farmer, who had a side job as a courier between Kyoto and Edo. He'd run all the way to and from the cities like it was no big deal. Running four days in a row. I can barely keep up with my dog on a brisk 1-hour walk.

...And my jujutsu sensei also recalled as a youth he saw a komuso playing a shakuhachi on a bridge in Kyoto in the dead of winter, dressed only in a loincloth and a straw hat. When the priest walked away from the bridge, my sensei ran up to the spot where the priest was playing and found that all the snow around where he was standing had melted.

So several of such tales told later, I'm doing tea (of all things) and my sensei and I got into a discussion of why the heck some movements seem so hard for us moderns to learn, and it dawned on me that perhaps the "mukashi no Nihonjin" moved differently. --Not to say there's anything mystical, mind you, but somehow preindustrialized, premodern people (of many different cultures) moved in a different physical manner and approached movement from a different mind set than us moderns. That's a given, but I wonder if it affects how much we are capable of doing, physically speaking.

It calls to mind, too, a discussion I had with a Native American Indian. As a child he was responsible for watching his family's flock of sheep. He said he used to think nothing of sitting still in the wild for hours on end, simply not moving, to conserve energy. When I went on a two day hike with this guy, he climbed up a rain-soaked, slippery mountainside singing merrily in a thunderstorm, walking barefooted through the undergrowth while I crawled and scrambled to keep up. I have no idea how he managed to do that.

...Same thing with some old Native Hawaiians I've met. How the heck do they do that? How can they tell where they're heading in the middle of the ocean simply by feeling the rocking of the boat, the way the wind blows? It's not something unearthly. It's acquired skills, acquired knowledge, acquired body movement...and no small amount of toughness, of course...But probably with a totally different sense of perception, physical skill set, way of moving...?

Well, gotta walk me dog.

In any case, I'm looking forward to reading the book!

Aloha,

Wayne Muromoto

DDATFUS
2nd December 2009, 04:04
So several of such tales told later, I'm doing tea (of all things) and my sensei and I got into a discussion of why the heck some movements seem so hard for us moderns to learn, and it dawned on me that perhaps the "mukashi no Nihonjin" moved differently. --Not to say there's anything mystical, mind you, but somehow preindustrialized, premodern people (of many different cultures) moved in a different physical manner and approached movement from a different mind set than us moderns. That's a given, but I wonder if it affects how much we are capable of doing, physically speaking.

At the very beginning of The Seven Samurai, there is a scene where all of the villagers are in a state of shock and morning as they learn that the bandits are coming for their village. A few of them suddenly just drop from a standing position into a deep squat in order to moan and wail. The first time I watched it, that action struck me as being over-the-top drama. Later on it occurred to me that the peasants of that time probably spent a good part of their lives squatting-- there were no chairs, seiza had yet to be popularized, and they were out in the muddy fields a lot of the time. What seemed strange to me may well have been an accurate glimpse into how those men might have moved.

Experimenting on my own has taught me that I have a lot of trouble with that sort of squat; I think that my hips lack the necessary flexibility and my back lacks the necessary strength to drop down into it comfortably. I think that a person who spent a good portion of their lives in that posture would have a body developed in a very different way from those of us who have to spend our days crouched facing a monitor, and I suspect that the differences would make a huge impact for a martial artist.

Anyway, just my .02, which in today's economy is worth-- squat.

Josh Reyer
2nd December 2009, 05:47
Your hypothesis is almost certainly true, David. Squatting was certainly commonplace in that time, and even in today's Japan. Not only is it good for resting outside without letting your bottom touch the ground, but it's also the way one uses Japanese-style toilets. Many Japanese people can easily squat on their haunches without lifting their heels, and stay that way for a long time, something I think few regular-folk Westerners (or at least Americans) can do. It's not unusual to see some middle-aged Japanese guy, not in particularly good shape, squat on the side of the road like it was nothing at all, smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone. Related to this is the Japanese tendency to sit on the floor in everyday life. The lifelong getting up and down from the floor builds their core and leg muscles in a very ingrained way. Most Japanese people have no difficulty rising from the floor without using their arms at all.

However, the continuing prevelance of Western-style toilets and chairs in the home may be reducing that ability in the next generation. A study mentioned on a TV program I saw not long ago suggested that many children these days lack the same ability to squat as children even 10 years ago.

Ellis Amdur
2nd December 2009, 05:58
I remember reading that one of the believed proofs that there were, post-Vietnam, American POW in SE Asia was an satelite photo of a clearing in Cambodia or Laos, of a group of men in a jungle clearing sitting cross-legged on the ground. the commentator stated that it was inconceivable that a group of people indigenous to the area would sit with their body on the group - that anyone who lives in a muddy environment their whole life keeps clean by squating.
Best
Ellis Amdur

wmuromoto
2nd December 2009, 07:48
I hope we don't hijack this thread too far afield, but the "squat" is a common posture among many cultures outside of the West, with our chairs and stools. As Ellis noted, it's much better than getting your rear end dirty by sitting on the ground. Immigrants from Southeast Asia and East Asia still do that quite well here in our Chinatown.

An anthropologist told me that Hawaiians in the past had much stronger thigh and hip muscles from squatting, rather than sitting, so there are oral histories of Hawaiian women into the 1800s who would be working in the kalo fields, nine months pregnant, and then they'd walk out of the mud, squat and give birth, clean up the baby, and then go back to working in the fields. Birthing was not a big deal for them as it is for us, physically speaking.

In terms of budo, I was teaching a "basic" set of kenjutsu forms to my students using a short sword against a long sword. Once you get the proper distancing, you step up, short sword held close to your body, like a natural stance, feet shoulder width apart. Except that in these forms, the knees are bent quite a bit, the back straight, both feet facing forward. You lower yourself by several inches by bending the knees. I was verklempt because several of my students couldn't do this, which I thought was a simple thing to do. They learned forward, got on the balls of their feet, splayed their toes outwards, stuck their butts out back, tilted off balance...They simply didn't have the flexibility in their thighs to go into this position and stay there easily. I told them it was like squatting, only easier, and then I realized they could barely do that!

...Going back to the original thread, I look forward to Ellis' take on the aiki arts. I hope it will give me more food for thought regarding the whole notion of different cultural periods in which people sensed their bodies in a different way than we did, and moved in a different way. Anyway...

Wayne Muromoto

Chuck.Gordon
2nd December 2009, 17:54
Squatting: Heck, how many of us know folks who can barely touch their knees, much less their toes ...

We're not as active, don't spend our lives in labor or physical training, and have some rather odd notions of what fitness is these days.

Kim Taylor
2nd December 2009, 21:53
I can remember clearly a blacksmith in the town where I was born who could bend a horseshoe to touching edges with one hand. I was also told that I had a great great uncle (a fisherman) who could unbend said horseshoe and who could reach down to a lower dock, grab a 50 gallon drum by the rim with his fingers and lift it up to the dock he was standing on.

I don't believe that last one for a minute but I believe these guys had grips of iron since they used their hands all day long.

Now, having impressed myself with the golden days of yore, I wonder what they would have thought of my daughter's ability to thumb-type whole sentences on her phone just about as fast as I can type... and how I can type faster than I can write.

I sand straight lines into wood by feel and by sound, and cut straight lines with a bandsaw even when I can't see the mark because of my old eyes and dim lighting. Others who try the same thing can't do it... but they haven't been sanding and cutting for 20 years.

The physical abilities of anyone who practices something for 30 years will seem wondrous to someone who doesn't practice the same thing, and doubly so to someone who has practiced that craft for a couple of years and knows how hard it is.

Ellis your point about time in training and skill levels is very well put. A lot of our heroes of the old days achieved high rank and supposed skill in less than a decade, while there are folks training today who have been at it for 30 years and aren't half as good.

Dilution? Too many teachers (of lesser ability) and not enough actual physical contact with the top guys? I learned most of my aikido from being thrown around by my instructor and was glad of it, what I know came from that and not from being "taught" formally. If I can see weight shifts in an opponent now, it is because I felt my own balance being destroyed through my own similar weight shifts.

Kim.

Cady Goldfield
2nd December 2009, 22:20
In pretty much any part of the world where people are largely non-urbanized, squatting still is the natural and most convenient way of "sitting." For a number of years, I frequently visited India and Nepal and walked around quite a bit. Everywhere I went, people did deep squats for pretty much everything -- casual chats with neighbors, food preparation, and of course for relieving oneself in a privy.

It's not a complicated thing, requiring only that you regularly stretch your quads. Having a lot of muscle bulk in the hamstrings and calves makes it more difficult to squat deeply, but in developing countries where rice and other grains far outstrip animal protein as the chief source of nourishment, being heavily muscled is not an issue.

As for the other homely skills being discussed, well, if you're sitting in front of a monitor and keyboard, chances are that you live in a developed, urban society and make your living doing non-agricultural, non-pastoral (as in herding, not clergy-ing), non-hunter/gatherer work. Even if you're in the trades, as I am (I'm a professional gardener/horticulturist), you likely have a truck or van to convey yourself to work, and a number of convenient tools that make your physical labors less arduous.

As a side note, my physical work as a gardener has made me quite good at natural squatting, and when I have a task that requires having to move along the ground -- such as weeding, planting flowers or bulbs, or deadheading -- it is much easier on the back and knees, and is much quicker, than either kneeling or stooping.

The upshot is, if we don't use our bodies to the full extent of their natural abilities, we reduce our range of movement to whatever the baseline necessity might be. But if life circumstances lead you to need to expand your range of motion and body use, then your body gradually adapts, and you can do it. It's not like your knees become vestigial organs such as the appendix. ;)

All the above set aside, Ellis Amdur's initial comments do not relate to the loss of ability to do something due to lack of use; rather, they refer to the loss of a set of very specific training methods that led to a very specific set of physical skills, due to lack of transmission. They are not something that can be regained by "just doing them," as you could the ability to squat. These are skills that must be possessed by someone who, in turn, can and will teach them to others. They can't be intuitively reclaimed, because, as a discrete and complete set, they were never a natural part of intuitive human movement.


At the very beginning of The Seven Samurai, there is a scene where all of the villagers are in a state of shock and morning as they learn that the bandits are coming for their village. A few of them suddenly just drop from a standing position into a deep squat in order to moan and wail. The first time I watched it, that action struck me as being over-the-top drama. Later on it occurred to me that the peasants of that time probably spent a good part of their lives squatting-- there were no chairs, seiza had yet to be popularized, and they were out in the muddy fields a lot of the time. What seemed strange to me may well have been an accurate glimpse into how those men might have moved.

Experimenting on my own has taught me that I have a lot of trouble with that sort of squat; I think that my hips lack the necessary flexibility and my back lacks the necessary strength to drop down into it comfortably. I think that a person who spent a good portion of their lives in that posture would have a body developed in a very different way from those of us who have to spend our days crouched facing a monitor, and I suspect that the differences would make a huge impact for a martial artist.

Anyway, just my .02, which in today's economy is worth-- squat.

Coyne
4th December 2009, 03:03
I read grappling with o'sensei right before i read your new book and i have to say i enjoyed both books but i thought grappling with o'sensei was better.I liked your stories about terry dobson and the bond street dojo,you are a wonderful author please keep up the good work

Ellis Amdur
4th December 2009, 04:20
Anthony - thank you. There are days that I agree with you.

My three books (http://www.koryu.com/bookstore/amdur.html) seem to form, for me, a trilogy in more than numbers. Old School is about the value of tradition, Hidden in Plain Sight tries to discuss the kind of power that many of us have sought when we joined martial arts, and Dueling with Osensei is about morals and heart. But if they are not also about the human beings within the traditions, the power and the morality, then I've got nothing to write about.

Best
Ellis Amdur

And parenthetically, Cady, I agree - and I believe that people who have led a traditional, physical life where they have to deal with variable loads, harsh terrain and all the rest are far more ready to learn the specialized skills. I even wonder if many of the specialized exercises are things that had to have been developed for urban folks as remedial training. Perhaps a 14th century Chinese farmer of the Chen village could learn internal strength a lot quicker than his or her 21st century, TV watching, chair sitting, video game playing descendants. And perhaps traveling by shanks mare and squatting when outside gave people like Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei half the preparation they needed to learn the "good stuff." <Note that Kuroda Tetsuzan developed specialized exercises, which he calls "asobi" to train the bodies of his disciples so that they can actually learn the kata.>

pgsmith
4th December 2009, 18:19
And parenthetically, Cady, I agree - and I believe that people who have led a traditional, physical life where they have to deal with variable loads, harsh terrain and all the rest are far more ready to learn the specialized skills. I even wonder if many of the specialized exercises are things that had to have been developed for urban folks as remedial training. Perhaps a 14th century Chinese farmer of the Chen village could learn internal strength a lot quicker than his or her 21st century, TV watching, chair sitting, video game playing descendants. And perhaps traveling by shanks mare and squatting when outside gave people like Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei half the preparation they needed to learn the "good stuff." <Note that Kuroda Tetsuzan developed specialized exercises, which he calls "asobi" to train the bodies of his disciples so that they can actually learn the kata.>
Thanks for that! This is very much along the line of thought that had been rattling around in my head for a number of years now. I've always wondered just how much influence lifestyle has on the ability to perform these arts as they were intended to be done.
I am only half way through this book (and I'm enjoying it as much as your others by the way!) but that thought has kept intruding.

Cady Goldfield
4th December 2009, 21:24
{snip} I believe that people who have led a traditional, physical life where they have to deal with variable loads, harsh terrain and all the rest are far more ready to learn the specialized skills. I even wonder if many of the specialized exercises are things that had to have been developed for urban folks as remedial training. Perhaps a 14th century Chinese farmer of the Chen village could learn internal strength a lot quicker than his or her 21st century, TV watching, chair sitting, video game playing descendants. And perhaps traveling by shanks mare and squatting when outside gave people like Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei half the preparation they needed to learn the "good stuff." <Note that Kuroda Tetsuzan developed specialized exercises, which he calls "asobi" to train the bodies of his disciples so that they can actually learn the kata.>

That's a thought-provoking hypothesis. It's quite possible that people who use their bodies more fully, and who have an intuitive grasp of adaptive body structuring in order to perform their physical tasks, would also be capable and more open to being taught ways to further manipulate the "internal" body. Certainly, it must be easier than it would be for someone who has sat at a desk most of his life and thus has much more limited body awareness.

And, I do believe that it comes down to that -- body awareness. Those who bear loads or do certain physical tasks, likely must go through "learning phases" of shifting and manipulating their internal frame and structure until they hit the "sweet spot" that allows them to be more efficient and effective.

Lance Gatling
5th December 2009, 12:59
That's a thought-provoking hypothesis. It's quite possible that people who use their bodies more fully, and who have an intuitive grasp of adaptive body structuring in order to perform their physical tasks, would also be capable and more open to being taught ways to further manipulate the "internal" body.......
I cannot help to think it must be so.

Last night, I was working in my office and my wife asked me to come watch something on the TV.

Two Russian 'brothers', painted gold, wearing only tiny gold trunks, completely shaven, performed the most amazing floor routine. I looked on Google for half an hour trying to figure out who they are, without success.

Using only their interlocked hands, they performed amazing feats of strength, including going from simply standing face to face, then interlocking their hands and moving ever so slowly so that one brother ended up inverted, head down, back of shoulder to back of shoulder, then releasing their hands so that only gravity and fricition kept the upper brother in place.

Without sufficient understanding, this would surely look like magic to many folks. It was an astounding demonstration of strength and balance.

I remember when a kid reading a 'Ripley's Believe It or Not' about a man on the US frontier, a blacksmith who could insert a finger into the muzzle of a rifle, and hold it out at arm's length with his other fingers holding the muzzle. Although he insisted it was simply a matter of strength, balance, and practice, and he demonstrated the technique in court, he was judged to be a witch, and IIRC executed for evidently being a witch.

As a martial artist I am fascinated by the impact of extended practice on the human body. Pro baseball pitchers' pitching arm bones are much heavier than their non-pitching arms. One of my iai sensei acquaintances is over 80 - his right shoulder and arm have the muscle and tone of a conditioned, much younger man, while his left looks like that of an 80 year old man... The most amazing grip I've ever experienced was that of Herbie Hancock, the jazz pianist, who has a huge, incredibly complex ham-sized hand that is simply a huge mass of muscle and sinew.

On the other hand I constantly train with newbies, people who literally do not know how to walk in balance, and constantly lurch from place to place. It is interesting to watch someone who has never really been athletic in any sense start to carry themselves upright, with poise and balance, in response to their martial arts instruction.

Is there a shortcut to this awareness and capability? I'm sure that some ways are better to explain and practice than others, and certainly certain human raw material is better than others.

But is it some mystic factor outside normal human understanding or science? I certainly don't think so, and reject that in favor of simpler understanding.

But tracking this in the context of Japanese martial arts is clearly breaking new ground, and Ellis Amdur gives us a fascinating look into the history of Japanese martial arts.

Cheers.

Cady Goldfield
5th December 2009, 17:41
Lance,
I find the image of gold-painted, shaven guys (a la "Blue Man Group") more disquieting than the feats the pair performed. :p

To clarify, I don't consider all kinds of body movement to be conducive to greater sensitivity in learning "internal" methods; rather, I believe that certain fundamental body intelligences, such as basic "ground path" and structural alignment, in the course of doing certain kinds of repetitive physical tasks over the years, may give an individual a bit more sensitivity toward what's going in "inside" his body when he moves, and that that in turn may make him more open to learning the rarified body skills Ellis is addressing in HIPS.

For example, tribal women and girls who bear water urns on their heads and infants on their hips, carrying weights that reach 60% of their body weight... or Sherpas who carry 120% of their body weight while expending less energy than do Western soldiers carrying a 45 lb. pack ... There's something going on there that Western scientists have not been able to adequately explain, but which internal MA people can recognize for what it is. (I am cut-and-pasting an old New York Times article, to that effect, as a separate post.)

I don't believe that a generally simpler, less technologically enhanced lifestyle necessarily accomplishes this. While Takeda Sokaku might have spent some years in feral existance as a child, it was more likely his extensive experience in sumo and other martial endeavors that opened his mind-body to divine the concept of aiki. As for Ueshiba, he was not exactly underprivileged, and didn't have to do farm labor or longshoremans' work. Plenty of people still walk extensively now, albeit usually with a cell phone glued to their ear. Squatting rather than sitting, and "riding shanks' mare" rather than sitting in an automobile, are not such profound activities so as to be conducive to cultivating great body awareness (and, by the way, I don't for a moment believe that Ellis really thinks so... ;) ).

Cady Goldfield
5th December 2009, 17:45
The New York Times June 17, 2005

Why the sherpas of Nepal would leave our fittest soldiers standing
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

NEPALESE mountain porters who climb steep Himalayan slopes carrying more than their bodyweight are the fittest and most efficient load-lifters in the world, scientists have found.
Their combination of technique and physical ability makes their performance far more effective than that of Western soldiers marching with backpacks, according to research. It even surpasses the most efficient carrying methods studied to date: those of African women whose loads are balanced on or suspended from the head.

A study by Belgian researchers has quantified the remarkable efficiency of Nepal's porters, most of whom come from the sherpa, Rai or Tamang ethnic groups, for the first time. They carry huge loads in a basket known as doko, which is supported with a strap looping around the top of the head.

A team led by Norman Heglund of the Catholic University of Louvain, in Brussels, conducted tests on eight porters travelling to a bazaar in the town of Namche, which lies 3,500m (11,500ft) above sea level close to Mount Everest.

The dirt-track route from the Kathmandu Valley to Namche covers 62 miles (100km), with combined ascents of about 8,000m and descents of about 6,300m, and takes seasoned porters between seven and nine days to complete. Hundreds of porters make the trek every week; on the day before the bazaar, the scientists counted 545 men and 97 women, along with 32 yaks, with many more passing earlier and later in the darkness. The youngest porter was 11 and the oldest 68.

All were carrying loads that seemed unfeasibly heavy to Western observers. The men bore an average of 93 per cent of their bodyweight and the women an average of 66 per cent. A fifth of the men were carrying 125 per cent of their bodyweight and one managed an astonishing 183 per cent.

By contrast, the greatest loads carried by African women, such as those of the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya, amount to 60 per cent of bodyweight, and the loads typically included in military backpacks are lower still.

Dr Heglund, whose results are published today in the journal Science, recruited eight of the porters for further investigation, which has shed some light on the nature of their amazing skills. The porters were asked to walk along a 51m flat track at five different speeds, carrying six or seven different loads, while their oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output was measured.

The tests revealed that loads of up to 20 per cent of bodyweight were carried "for free" — meaning that the porters' metabolic rate did not increase at all compared with an unladen walk. With higher proportional loads, their energy efficiency was far greater than seen with the most efficient head-based carrying techniques used in Africa.

Previous research comparing Kikuyu women with army recruits found that the former carried heavy loads much more efficiently. For loads of 20 per cent of bodyweight, Kikuyu oxygen consumption rose 2 per cent compared with 13 per cent for the soldiers. The difference was even greater for 70 per cent loads: the soldiers used 100 per cent more oxygen, but the women only 50 per cent more. The porters did even better. While they were not subjected to quite the same tests, they were able to carry an extra 30 per cent of bodyweight, on average, while maintaining the same metabolic rate.

Their secret seems to rest on three factors. The first is physiology: the combination of a short but powerful stature and a high red blood cell count evolved as a result of living at high altitude. Also critical is their carrying technique, by which a strap around the head bears the majority of the load. The final element seems to be the regular rests that they take during their climbs.

TAKING THE STRAIN

SHERPA

Technique: doko basket on the back supported by namlo strap around head

Load and efficiency: male porters carry average of 93 per cent of bodyweight, females 66 per cent. Maximum was 183 per cent. Can carry 100 per cent of bodyweight for same energy used by an African woman carrying 70 per cent

AFRICAN WOMEN

Technique: loads balanced on the head or suspended from it using straps. The most efficient method, used by the Kenyan Kikuyu, uses bindings across the forehead to support a load on the back

Load and efficiency: Loads do not generally exceed 60 per cent of bodyweight

SOLDIER

Technique: backpack with shoulder and waist straps

Load and efficiency: US Army guidelines say that a backpack should weigh no more than 15 per cent of a soldier's weight. A 70 per cent load raises oxygen consumption 100 per cent

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ellis Amdur
5th December 2009, 17:58
Cady - Actually, I do - sort of.
Some very strong judoka of my acquaintance made a trip to a mountain lodge in Japan. And they were met at the base of the very steep hill - parking lot - by the elderly innkeeper, and she began walking them up the hill, they each hauling a large suitcase. And they were stuggling. Mountain air, slope, etc. The elderly woman grew impatient - she well in her 70's, snatched the suitcases from their hands, and stomped up the path, muttering about 'city people.'
Although Ueshiba didn't live as a peasant, his father tried to toughen him up by having him play by the seashore with the fishermen's sons, and he, at a fairly young age, began farming.
But I'm really not focused on him or Takeda - but that an ordinary life in the 19th century and before made much more demands on the body (as your examples illustrate).
I'm not saying that a life close to the "ground" creates "internal strength." But think of all the excercises in Chinese martial arts to create the "kua" - the proper alignment of waist, hips, hip sockets, and legs - which are requisite for the smooth application of integrated power from the legs. If one squats 15 minutes a day (toilet), and walks everywhere and carries everything, a particular body is developed that is, until crippled by the excess work needed to survive - far more prepared, I believe, to learn a more sophisticated use of the body - nervous system, musculature, connective tissue - that we call internal training.
Again, my point is that I think a "civilized" person needs a lot of remedial work that a person familar on a daily basis with variable load bearing, exertion of force at awkward angles (without injuring oneself), varied physical demands on self every day (not a "work out") will learn a lot quicker.

Final example - post standing - in Chinese martial arts, often considered an essential practice. And very very hard for most people to do - to maintain a posture, relaxed but stable without local recruitment of muscles. Back before snow mobiles and guns, the way Inuit hunted seal was to find a breathing hole, take a "kamae" ready to throw his harpoon, and stand without moving for hours. The seal comes up for only a second or so to breathe and the Inuit had to perceive that moment and immediately throw his spear. One perfect second after hours. Masters of relaxation. Think of how more quickly a person already able to do this would be in learning relaxation applied to the scrum of grappling.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Cady Goldfield
5th December 2009, 19:20
Ellis, I understand your points and I don't disagree, if you're basically saying (to encapsulate the whole) that it's easier to open the kua if you've spent your life squatting in the privy. (I used to call the floor toilets of India, "Arthur Murray" toilets... because they had little indents to show you where to place your feet.) It stands to reason that such will facilitate being able to do the exercises that lead to internal skills. For actual internal awareness, though, I'd be more inclined to look at work such as hay-pitching and the like, which require adjustments in frame alignment to make the work less arduous and more efficient.

That said, I do think you're right that the collective effect of "primitive" farm and village life likely did - and still does - convey a greater awareness of one's body (beyond complaining of the myriad aches, pains and ailments that accompany such a life).

Your story of the muscularly strong judoka is a familiar one. Whenever I was in Nepal, I was regularly blown past on the mountain trails by women much older than I, most bearing huge loads of firewood secured by a tump line (strap) across their foreheads. Though I was in good physical shape by "Western standards" at the time, I was no match for their robust stride. Even more baffling was how they could not only dash up steep trails for miles, but also carry very heavy loads while I struggled with a mere 35 lb pack (of course, I pretended I was stopping frequently to admire the stunning Himalayan views...). Only part of it was the altitude; there was more going on with those women. The feats recounted later in the New York Times article were no surprise to me.

Those women's movements are not mere "walking." They are navigating steep mountain paths, up- and downhill, with heavy loads. There is much more going on inside than just the basic mechanics of walking or squatting. It's partly physiological (high-altitude adaptations of cardio-vascular and pulmonary functions), partly frame adjustment (musculo-skeletal alignment).

I suspect that it's not necessarily the general rigorousness of the lifestyle, but what you are doing -frequently- in it that requires a modification in your movements and alignment to make them more energy-efficient, so you can do them for hours and hours, daily, for most of your life, without dropping dead in the process. Your Inuit seal-stalkers and Chinese MA post-standers fit in with that. It's those modifications that, collectively and -I believe- in certain specific kinds of movements, likely play a role in heightened internal body awareness that may make learning IMAs more "natural" for such individuals.

Joseph Svinth
5th December 2009, 20:19
It goes the other direction, too. Kalahari !Kung (Bushmen) have reported severe sensory overload simply visiting cities. You, in their environment, see very little; they, at the airport at Johannesburg, see, hear, smell, and feel more than their brains are capable of handling.

On those Inuit -- Captain Cook or Vancouver, one of 'em anyway, was up in the Aleutians. The Aleuts were paddling their boats a little faster than his ship was sailing. No big deal, you say, he was only doing about five knots. Yes, but sustained speed, open Pacific, five knots. That is an Olympic kayaking pace.

In their defense, modern people have their own skills. Some people can thumb through pages of mostly dry drivel, and say, simply glancing through page umpteen, "Wait a minute. Back up there. What did that just say?"

Put another way, as Kim Taylor has said, his daughter thumb types faster than he types, and both of them type faster and more accurately than they write with a pen.

As for the modern infantry load, that was the old ideal. (See SLA Marshall's books.) Today, US generals in Iraq typically carry about 45 pounds of equipment, whereas infantry privates typically carry about 145 pounds. Total load includes the body armor, water, ammunition, communications equipment, crew-served weapons, ammunition for crew-served weapons, and whatever else the supply room has...

Cady Goldfield
5th December 2009, 21:41
As I said earlier, the human body - remarkable thing that it is - is capable of adapting its range of motion, neuro-muscular wiring and sensibilities to whatever the demands of its environment might be.

I'd like to think that post-Industrial denizens have accomplished more than adaptations for electronic-appliance utilization, however. ;)

When we're talking about people learning internal stuff, we seem to be referring to one discrete portion of the Western "civilized" population: those who are likely to be the ones keyboarding on these forums, and who, largely, work in offices, cubicles and other such surroundings, doing mostly non-physical work. I agree with Ellis that such folk probably do need more remedial work to get in touch with their bodies, before they can learn even the most basic kinds of "new" movement.

OTOH, there are plenty of 21st-century Westerners who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, doing all manner of very physical work. The "cleaning lady" and the stevadore, the construction worker and the farm worker. Do you suppose they could learn IMAs faster and more easily than folks here? Interesting to ponder.

Heck, my own work involves a lot of repetitive schlepping and hauling of heavy barrowsful of mulch and topsoil, stone-setting, tree-climbing and pruning, digging, rock-pitching and you-name-it. Add to that, that my days start with mucking out a small poultry barn and hauling water buckets before I head out to work on other people's properties. But ask me if I think that such work has made me more sensitive and aware of my internal movements... I honestly couldn't say. But maybe I can shovel BS (the real BS, not just the verbal) longer and faster than you can. :p


It goes the other direction, too. Kalahari !Kung (Bushmen) have reported severe sensory overload simply visiting cities. You, in their environment, see very little; they, at the airport at Johannesburg, see, hear, smell, and feel more than their brains are capable of handling.

On those Inuit -- Captain Cook or Vancouver, one of 'em anyway, was up in the Aleutians. The Aleuts were paddling their boats a little faster than his ship was sailing. No big deal, you say, he was only doing about five knots. Yes, but sustained speed, open Pacific, five knots. That is an Olympic kayaking pace.

In their defense, modern people have their own skills. Some people can thumb through pages of mostly dry drivel, and say, simply glancing through page umpteen, "Wait a minute. Back up there. What did that just say?"

Put another way, as Kim Taylor has said, his daughter thumb types faster than he types, and both of them type faster and more accurately than they write with a pen.

As for the modern infantry load, that was the old ideal. (See SLA Marshall's books.) Today, US generals in Iraq typically carry about 45 pounds of equipment, whereas infantry privates typically carry about 145 pounds. Total load includes the body armor, water, ammunition, communications equipment, crew-served weapons, ammunition for crew-served weapons, and whatever else the supply room has...

Joseph Svinth
6th December 2009, 00:21
On wiring post-industrial denizens, I am guessing that most people will be semi cybernetic within ten years. You'll want to be hooked into the Cloud 24/7, and not carry that pesky cell phone with you. Most of our children will end up being essentially cyborg. (Replace a leg? No problem. It will be grown, or metal.)

Even on what we do well, we are essentially John Henry vs. the Steam Drill. Indeed, that is probably why the publishing industry is so unhappy with Google scanning books -- once the material is scanned, anybody will be able to discover, in a few minutes, where the pages were copied from previously obscure sources, and when the professor borrowed a bit too liberally from his grad students' thesis.

Sometimes, we do old things, more or less the old way, simply because we enjoy the activity. One does needlepoint, or reads a paper newspaper, not because one need a cover for the chair or something with which to cover the bird cage, but for the tactile pleasure.

Chuck.Gordon
7th December 2009, 14:09
Most of our children will end up being essentially cyborg. (Replace a leg? No problem. It will be grown, or metal.)


When I had my hip replaced in '07, the doc (chief of orthopedics at Regensburg university) told me I'd need a tune-up in about 20 years ... but not to worry about it, we'd probably be growing them by then.

Whilst living in Europe, watching elderly omas and opas schlepping around on bikes, hiking the hills, still actively engaged in farming, woodcutting and other such activities, contrasted with their grandkids was fascinating.

I know nothing about 'internal' energy, but I do know that people who grow up actively engaged in physical labor - and stay active - tend live longer, are stronger. Until, as pointed out above, such time as that labor catches up and the body wears out ...

pgsmith
7th December 2009, 16:45
But ask me if I think that such work has made me more sensitive and aware of my internal movements... I honestly couldn't say.
Cady,
I don't believe that it is the awareness that makes the difference. I think rather that it is the internal musculature that is developed by living a more vigorous lifestyle that makes the difference. That sort of lifestyle will cause your core muculature to be very stout, and the ability to balance yourself against heavy loads with minimal effort will become instinctive. I believe that learning to utilize these attributes against an unwilling opponent would be much easier for those folks than it would be for us. Further, I also think that this is a large contributor to the fact that there are so few people with the abilities spoken about in Ellis' latest book. We have a great number of techniques handed down from that time, but no exercises to create the specific body type for which these techniques were developed, as specific exercises were not required then.

Vonbek
8th December 2009, 17:59
We have a great number of techniques handed down from that time, but no exercises to create the specific body type for which these techniques were developed, as specific exercises were not required then.

It might be of use to take a look at Akuzawa san's Aunkai:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=FDAB64DECBF6D8B5&search_query=aunkai
Great discussion by the way, go on gentlemen.

nicojo
8th December 2009, 19:03
Cady wrote:
For actual internal awareness, though, I'd be more inclined to look at work such as hay-pitching and the like, which require adjustments in frame alignment to make the work less arduous and more efficient.

Well, we'll be pitching 6000-8000 pounds of hay per day this winter, as usual, so if anyone really wants to develop their internal awareness or whatever, feel free to stop by.

Didn't think so. I'm really looking forward to Thursday's expected 17 degrees! Tonight is supposed to be -20. There are days when I wish I was back in the classroom or the cubicle, working away on my carpal tunnel syndrome or what-have-you. A pleasant visit to the dojo afterwards...ah, very nice.

Chuck Gordon wrote:
I know nothing about 'internal' energy, but I do know that people who grow up actively engaged in physical labor - and stay active - tend live longer, are stronger. Until, as pointed out above, such time as that labor catches up and the body wears out ...

Exactly. Trade-offs abound. None of us out here are internal masters, unsurprisingly. Just a bunch of semi-anachronistic idiots. I'm thinking that an internal master farmer probably isn't farming enough.

Anyway...:look: Great book Ellis. :laugh:

wmuromoto
8th December 2009, 20:31
...By coincidence, a retired anthropology professor, a sort of mentor to me, remarked recently about his one trip to the Himalayas in the 1950s. His guide secured pack carriers for him and some Brits. He said the baggage handlers carried loads that looked bigger than them, including (if I recall correctly) a piano for a British diplomat! When he asked the guide about their amazing ability to carry such loads, the local guide replied that such workers often worked like that until their lungs and bodies literally gave out and they dropped dead. No big deal about it. He was aghast but the guide and the more seasoned travelers thought nothing of it.

...To echo Cady's remarks: I remember walking along a footpath just north of the big city of Kyoto, Japan, through rice fields, and we passed this little old baa-chan (grandma) who had a ten-foot long, about foot-thick log laid on her head. The thing must have been heavier than her! Yet she managed to smile at us and made a short bow without the log rolling off her head. Yikes.

As to that kind of lifestyle being conducive to internal training, I believe so. The kihon found in many martial arts seem to be "remedial," in that they develop muscle strength and basic movements that we need to learn for the kata, and it seems that much of the kihon were developed post-Meiji. Shimizu Takaji developed the kihon for Shinto (Shindo) Muso-ryu jo when he tried to teach Tokyo folk; that's documented. Ditto in our system: there are no kihon or warm ups. What little warming up and cooling down exercises we had, I learned, came from the current crop of top students' experiences in college rugby and sports clubs.

Yet, bereft of developing such musculatures and body movement, many students can be ineffective in their techniques. I've been trying to teach a set of "foundation" kenjutsu kata to my students and it calls for using a short sword, going into a natural shoulder-width stance, except that your knees are bent a lot, in order to have the ability to pounce in quickly (and other reasons)...ALL of my three current students are having a hard time getting that low. They lean forward, splay their toes out, stick their butts out...because they don't seem to have the flexibility or muscle tone in their thighs. It seemed odd to me at first, because the native Japanese and even foreigners I train with in Japan can all do it reasonably well. So it's a matter of my own students needing to develop proper musculature and flexibility. It's not a mystical woo-woo thing.

If you can't do those basic things, then you really can't concentrate on developing "internal" strength, because the physical foundations simply aren't there. I remember grabbing Eddie Wu (the current head of the Wu style tai chi ch'uan) because he wanted to show me what "sticking" and "explosive" power meant, and he pushed me around like a rag doll. One thing I noticed was that his knees were bent; flexible and yet powerful, just like in the kenjutsu stance. Trained as an engineer, Wu decried the mystification of internal power; he said that most of it should be explainable in terms of the mechanics of coordinating breath, balance, timing and movement.


Anyways, just a couple more cents' worth of thoughts.

Wayne Muromoto

Lance Gatling
8th December 2009, 23:12
................
If you can't do those basic things, then you really can't concentrate on developing "internal" strength, because the physical foundations simply aren't there. I remember grabbing Eddie Wu (the current head of the Wu style tai chi ch'uan) because he wanted to show me what "sticking" and "explosive" power meant, and he pushed me around like a rag doll. One thing I noticed was that his knees were bent; flexible and yet powerful, just like in the kenjutsu stance. Trained as an engineer, Wu decried the mystification of internal power; he said that most of it should be explainable in terms of the mechanics of coordinating breath, balance, timing and movement............
Wayne Muromoto
Gee, imagine that....

Build a strong, flexible body.
Add technique.

Viola', you can do great things.

No magic there. Don't complicate the issue necessarily.

Cady Goldfield
8th December 2009, 23:17
Well, we'll be pitching 6000-8000 pounds of hay per day this winter, as usual, so if anyone really wants to develop their internal awareness or whatever, feel free to stop by.


Yeah, don't hold your breath. ;)
No one seems to want to help me yank weeds, either. Particularly the ones with deep taproots.

Again, I don't believe that any of this agricultural and lo-tech work directly cultivates any kind of internal power; IMO, only on the most "primitive" level does it open the gates to better body alignment and economy of motion that may make the individual more open to the training.

As for the "internal awareness," probably not many farm workers and laborers ever thought (or think) about how they are making their alignments better and their movements more efficient. Maybe that's where the genius of the first Chinese (and perhaps Japanese) internal-arts practioners shines through. Someone, somehow, started to make that connection between what they were doing on the "outside" -- the feats of strength and endurance -- and how they had gradually come to alter the way they were moving -inside- to make their work easier.

It is not about muscle bulk and muscle strength; it's (in part) about using less muscle activity while maximizing energy output. Far more sophisticated than just pumping iron and using muscle flexation to accomplish the tasks.

wmuromoto
9th December 2009, 00:09
I had seen some videos of Kuroda sensei, Ellis, talking about his ideas and training exercises. Really interesting notions.

As Cady wryly noted, "...As for the "internal awareness," probably not many farm workers and laborers ever thought (or think) about how they are making their alignments better and their movements more efficient. Maybe that's where the genius of the first Chinese (and perhaps Japanese) internal-arts practioners shines through. Someone, somehow, started to make that connection between what they were doing on the "outside" -- the feats of strength and endurance -- and how they had gradually come to alter the way they were moving -inside- to make their work easier..."

Yes, granted. I cut my previous post short because I had to help a student out with his art project. Anyway, I had also thought about that. So perhaps more food for thought:

I butcher wood sometimes as a hobby, so I am aware of the difference in Western saws vs. Japanese saws. Both cut wood. What's the big deal? Both require muscle strength. However...In traditional Western saws, the cut is on the push stroke, so you place the piece to be cut on a table or saw horse, steady it with your free hand, and saw with the other hand. Because the saw works on the push, the saw blade has to be somewhat thick, so it won't buckle or torque under compression (the push) going through the wood. You also need a decent push, mainly with the shoulder muscles of one arm.

With Japanese saws, the cutting is done on the pull. Ergo, you can get away with a thinner, lighter blade, because when you pull the blade to saw, you have it under tension. As long as you saw straight, the tension keeps the blade from buckling. You also place the piece on a lower stand, only a few inches off the ground, and hold it down with one foot. That lets you use two arms for the cutting action. The lower angle also lets you pull the saw using not just your shoulders and arms, but the strength in your hips and legs. If you are able to coordinate your whole body with the pull sawing motion, you use much less focused arm and shoulder muscles, and more hip and thigh muscles...

Both saws do the job (Japanese planes also cut with a pull, not a push), both are practical, workmanlike activities, but the Japanese style pull-saw and pull-plane make more sense if you are trying to develop whole-body coordination, not just localized one-arm strength. So pitching hay, for example, may not in and of itself make you a better budoka. You may get better overall muscle strength, but unless it helps you develop more coordination and proper body movement, then it's no better or worse than any other muscular activity.

With some crafts and budo, I think the "devil in the details" is basically that: tinkering with movements so that they are the most efficient as possible; less energy expended for the work produced. Problems arise, I think, when there aren't enough basic muscle and physical coordination to do it right, so some students do it wrong and try to "force" it through, rather than trying to develop proper positioning, timing, movement and body alignment.

Another example from my class: in the very first short weapons kata in our school, there is a throw where you sweep the person's foot out from under him and throw him face down on his face. One of my students tried to do it to another student, whose weight was north of 220 pounds. He pulled the big guy's right wrist with his two arms horizontally forward, pulling and pulling, using his arm strength. One leg was out in front of Big and Heavy's leg, but it wasn't doing anything. Big And Heavy just stood there, not moving.

Big and Heavy, a senior student, wasn't going to fall if the technique wasn't right. He explained that you don't try to drag the guy, with your arms trying to pull a body forward. You just knock out one leg from under him and throw his arm DOWN, vertically. He demonstrated on Long Arms. Grabbed Long Arms' right wrist, pulled it straight down, and swept out one foot from under him. Long Arms fell face first very quickly.

Long Arms felt the effect, but after years and years of relying only on his upper body strength, he still had a hard time doing a coordinated motion of foot-sweep and yank DOWN, even when he saw it demonstrated. He kept trying to pull horizontally forward and his tripping leg was all over the place. It seemed nearly like a mystery to him. But it was just body positioning, mechanics and timing, and proper technique.

Wayne Muromoto

Cady Goldfield
9th December 2009, 01:11
Wayne,
I'm going off-topic for a few graphs, because you said the magic words: Japanese saws. ;) Do you get the Japan Woodworkers and Hida Tools catalogues? I have a nice collection in our home "reading room."

Japanese pruning- and bamboo saws are a heavily used part of my horticulturist arsenal. There is no argument that the pull stroke is far more efficient than a push-stroke saw for cutting live wood and bamboo (and dried bamboo) cleanly -- crucial in a practice where you want to minimize the wound on a living shrub or tree.

You're absolutely right about the body dynamics of using this kind of saw; it's from lower in the body, not in the shoulders. The shoulders and scapulas, and the arms, serve as a conduit for the power coming up from the ground and through the "hara" up the spine. I can prune for hours without getting exhausted or sore.

Now, to get a bit back on-topic... I'd bid adieu to the homely lives of farmers and villagers with their squatting, schlepping and load-bearing, and go right to potential martial sources of nascent internal body awareness: warriors fighting in heavy or bulky armor, who would need to adjust the body to be able to bear the weight of both the armor and the weaponry, yet remain mobile. Sherpas and water-toting village girls just have to focus on walking steadily with a load, on all sorts of terrain; armored combatants have a lot more stuff going on, a lot of it unpredictible.

That need to maneuver and effectively cut, thrust, and strike, etc. with various weapons, not just to bear up under the weight, may have been a key proto-element in developing an "interior intuition" for body usage that later might have been part of a skill set codified into a formal internal training regimen.

wmuromoto
9th December 2009, 18:35
Cady,

I get the Japan Woodworker catalog and check up the web site frequently. I don't look at Hida Tools much, but I have a nice collection of Japanese saws, chisels and all sorts of odd planes, new and used. Everytime I go to Japan I used to pick up something, first at the flea markets. Then a friend warned me that some tools were deliberately made to look old so us gullible foreigners would buy them, so I started picking them up new in tool stores. Love 'em. I am also eyeing up some replica old Stanley and English planes and tools that duplicate hand tools from the 1800s and early 1900s. Very Steam-punkish. I love old tools. I even try to use them, when I have the time, to make crooked furniture.

Back on topic: One of my teachers once stuck a 14th Century kabuto on my head and boy, it was heavy. If I tilted my head ever so slightly, the weight would disbalance me and cause a terrible strain on my neck. So I imagine having good posture and balance would sure go a long way to being able to endure wearing and fighting in that armor. Likewise other movements: what works in full armor is probably going to be good balance, posture, body alignment and movement. Take off the armor and it should be even faster and more efficient. It also helps if you have muscles that can endure long stretches of horse-riding, walking, running (to and away from a battle), etc. General labor helps, but you still need particular exercises and training of the proper kind.

I mentioned this in another thread, but I have students who have been training for years, and they still have problems with their basic stances and movements. I correct, they do it reasonably well one or two times after, and then their body snaps back to the way they are "used to" doing it, without proper alignment, proper muscle usage or timing. The body has not been trained from youth to move in that way, so one hour a week they fight a lifetime of muscle and body patterning, and they constantly lose. If they had the muscle and body vocabulary to begin with, they would have gotten menkyo kaiden or its equivalent by now. I suspect that could be the reason why many "greats" in ages past may have taken but a few years to reach mastery level, and why it takes many of us years and years (and perhaps decades) to reach that level. The basic foundational skills are so hard to reprogram into bodies that have been misaligned from childhood to yank with arms instead of hips, push instead of pull, use shoulders instead of lower body, etc.

Attached: an old 1970-ish photo of Donn Draeger (in yoroi) and Otake sensei doing Katori Shinto-ryu kenjutsu kata in Hawaii. Note Draeger's very good posture.

Cady Goldfield
9th December 2009, 18:47
...By coincidence, a retired anthropology professor, a sort of mentor to me, remarked recently about his one trip to the Himalayas in the 1950s. His guide secured pack carriers for him and some Brits. He said the baggage handlers carried loads that looked bigger than them, including (if I recall correctly) a piano for a British diplomat! When he asked the guide about their amazing ability to carry such loads, the local guide replied that such workers often worked like that until their lungs and bodies literally gave out and they dropped dead. No big deal about it. He was aghast but the guide and the more seasoned travelers thought nothing of it. (snip)

Being efficient load bearers and having all the right alignments and whatever other tweakings that are needed to schlep baggage up a mountain trail, obviously does not preclude the possibility of working oneself to death. There's only so far that efficient body useage can take a body!

BTW, going back to the Japanese saws, I wrote an incomplete thought about pruning-saw use: The most efficient way to use the pull-stroke Japanese pruning saw is to use the legs to slightly push off the ground (knees always a bit bent and relaxed) and let the force travel up the spine (which is stretched) and out the scapula, which slightly rolls and pushes the arm (which you keep relaxed but held in place with elbow slightly bent) and hence the hand with the saw... for the push forward to prepare for the cutting pull.

Then, you go in reverse, letting your lower body drop (still with the knees bent, but not deeply) and let gravity pull your (still stretched) spine downward, taking with it the scapula, which rolls in reverse and pulls your sawing arm and saw back for the pull stroke. This way, you are not using muscle-flexing in your arms, shoulder or upper back. You are also feeding a bit of downward force into the saw blade itself as you drop and pull, but in a controlled amount. This is necessary because the blade is light-weight, and doesn't have enough mass to weigh down and cut deeply into a branch on its own. You don't want the blade "floating" in the middle of the cut.

Anyway. It works. Keeps you fresh as a daisy during long pruning projects.

Cady Goldfield
9th December 2009, 19:34
Back on topic: One of my teachers once stuck a 14th Century kabuto on my head and boy, it was heavy. If I tilted my head ever so slightly, the weight would disbalance me and cause a terrible strain on my neck. So I imagine having good posture and balance would sure go a long way to being able to endure wearing and fighting in that armor. Likewise other movements: what works in full armor is probably going to be good balance, posture, body alignment and movement. Take off the armor and it should be even faster and more efficient. It also helps if you have muscles that can endure long stretches of horse-riding, walking, running (to and away from a battle), etc. General labor helps, but you still need particular exercises and training of the proper kind.

I had a kabuto-on-the-head experience once, too, and thought my neck was going to fold in half. Reading about the village women carrying propane tanks and water urns on their heads brought me back to that thought about how crucial skeletal alignment is as part of the equation for load-bearing while in motion.

Ellis briefly addresses "battlefield grappling" in HIPS (in case anyone thinks we're not discussing the book!), noting that they were weapons-based, and though he didn't actually say so, I think we can accept an implication that these battlefield grapplers were attired in bulky and heavy war garb, if not armor. He states that the "slightest unbalancing could mean death," and that "the early jujutsuka made a particular study of postural integrity..."
Training for grappling and weapons use while armored, or at least studying "how it was done," must surely have been a source of instruction toward acquiring that postural integrity.

Interesting about the horse-riding. Like the other skills we've been discussing, horsemanship requires not just development of certain muscles (lower back and inner thigh being among the chief groups), but also balance -- but not just in the sense we're used to thinking of. The balance is in tandem with an exquisite sensitivity to the horse's musculo-skeletal system and the rider must connect with it and move with the horse. Otherwise, the rider is just an "inanimate" object perched (balanced) atop the horse, and easily disconnected from it (e.g. thrown or fallen off with any abrupt movement by the horse).


I mentioned this in another thread, but I have students who have been training for years, and they still have problems with their basic stances and movements. I correct, they do it reasonably well one or two times after, and then their body snaps back to the way they are "used to" doing it, without proper alignment, proper muscle usage or timing. The body has not been trained from youth to move in that way, so one hour a week they fight a lifetime of muscle and body patterning, and they constantly lose. If they had the muscle and body vocabulary to begin with, they would have gotten menkyo kaiden or its equivalent by now. I suspect that could be the reason why many "greats" in ages past may have taken but a few years to reach mastery level, and why it takes many of us years and years (and perhaps decades) to reach that level. The basic foundational skills are so hard to reprogram into bodies that have been misaligned from childhood to yank with arms instead of hips, push instead of pull, use shoulders instead of lower body, etc.

Can relate to that, in spades. :( And it's all the more reason why it stands to reason that people who are best able to learn the so-called internal approach to body training, are those who are directly immersed in actual martial pursuits (such as weapons-wielding and armor wearing, etc.) that force the body to somehow compensate for the effects of a very specific kind of load and the circumstances (i.e. the kind of mobility needed, the terrain, etc.) under which it will be borne. Farmers and villagers may cultivate certain kinds of internal pathways through their physical work, but such pathways are - by their very origins - best suited for the particular tasks that gave rise to them, not combat.

derobec
9th December 2009, 20:29
I think that I'm going to have to get myself a copy of this book. Anything which stimulates such an interesting discussion as this has got to be worth reading.

Best Wishes, William

Lance Gatling
9th December 2009, 22:42
The posture evident in Draeger above seems to me to carry over to Takeuchi ryu, which seems quite linear to me as opposed to newer ryuha and judo.

Generalities regarding people are always problems. But let me try.

I grew up on a farm, and there were, and will be, and probably always were people back to the dawn of mankind who moved more efficiently, could do more work with less evident exertion, seemingly worked outside their weight class. Alternatively there are always physically strong people who are not efficient but bull their way through the problems.

None of this is to say that heavy manual labor is the key to IMA, but rather that some people learn naturally, perhaps partially as a result of exposure to that heavy labor.

When I first walk in a dojo, I believe I can spot people who move differently, have integrated body movement, good balance, etc., and they are almost always the best or the quickest learners. There's always someone who has learned techniques beyond their natural ability, but usually only through the dint of long practice.

You watch a group of people tossing haybales, maybe you'll figure out who figured it out, too.

I developed a couple of crude examples and training mechanisms to use in jujutsu to explain how to use leverage and your own balance to control your opponent. I never bothered to go beyond that because the point of the exercise, at least in our dojo, is to control your opponent efficiently, not to develop internal power for the sake of internal power.

Was Ueshiba training that power? HIPS makes a compelling read to explore that notion.

Chuck.Gordon
9th December 2009, 23:43
My wife is a bodyworker by trade, and while we lived in Germany, I worked for a major NATO/US training center. Naturally, many of her clients were Soldiers, even SpecOps folks who trained there regularly.

We kept Kevlar body armor and k-pots in the office because we regularly went to ranges, maneuver areas, etc.

She asked me one day why so many Soldiers had a sort of habitual stoop, so I dressed her up in vest and helmet and invited her to run around the building ... she declined, but learned a lot about the bodies she worked on regularly in those few minutes.

Now, that said, wearing armor of any sort changes your posture, movement, center even. I easily can see how systems coming from or including armored combatives could change the way the kihon are practiced ...

Draeger: He was an exceptional individual anyway ... not surprised he had great posture whilst wearing yoroi. More surprised they found a set to FIT him.

And yes, I've got to get the book ...

Josh Reyer
10th December 2009, 03:12
Draeger's posture is great, but I think it will avail him little with Otake Risuke obviously wielding a lightsaber...

Ellis Amdur
10th December 2009, 08:59
Unless Donn did such a demo in Hawaii more than once, I believe this was shortly before his death. In the hot Hawaiian sun, emaciated from liver cancer, he did two of the four omote kenjutsu kata, which are very long, at full speed in yoroi. Two was all he could manage. But I've seen the film - and until the helmet was off and he was sitting exhausted in the sun, you would never have known he was ill.
Beyond postural integrity is - -- integrity. What a man.

Ellis Amdur

Ellis Amdur
10th December 2009, 09:11
Harkening back to a previous post by Lance Gatling, I'm training - a lot - on internal skills. I only mention this to note, in response to Lance's post, that there are at least two directions one can go with this stuff. The one direction is "stupid ki tricks," or a focus on "grab my wrist." Aiki bunny stuff.
The other is to increase the functionality of what one does. I have been astonished at the effect of this training on my Araki-ryu over the last six months. One is a real change in my own work - it is as if one took my car and retrofitted it with better steering, a racing suspension, and gearing to make me go much quicker off the line without any revving up. The other is in my ability to teach - I'm discovering the "one" thing to say or to do to most effectively communicate the essence of what a move is for.
I am not asserting that back 400 years ago, they did the training I'm doing, or even that my ancestors did any such training - there's no record of it, so I do not know. I wouldn't be at all surprised, however. The point I'm making is that the proper training is not at all incongruent with the actions in koryu - at least in Araki-ryu and Toda-ha Buko-ryu.
It's very hard to verbally describe - but here's one example; imagine an ordinary cut with a sword, in which power is generated from the "hips" - one has a virtual axle from crown to perinium, and one swivels as one cuts. One can generate a LOT of power. The problem is that the movement has "tells." And no matter how fast one is, one is committed to the cut. If there is a counter by a skillful opponent, one has to "reboot" the nervous system to counter the counter.
Now, imagine the tanden - which is the complete area of the middle including lower spine, sides and belly - one unit. It can rotate in various directions. In this example, imagine it like a bowling ball, and as you move, rather than a swivel, the tanden (lower spine, belly) rolls forward. One doesn't swivel - and one moves powerfully, with no "tell" forward as one unit. The sword cut looks - superficially - the same. It follows the same angle. But the body organization is completely different. Much more powerful. Upper body is more relaxed, and one is not "committed" to the cut in the same way.

What I'm talking about is specialized body and nervous system training. The "stupid ki trick" people have succeeded in making this type of power and skill seem trivial. It's not.
I'm just scratching the surface here in my own training, to be sure. But lest there be any mistake, I'm not talking about farmer's strength, or even "warrior's strength," just that these are precursors. The former and even more the latter develop the body that can learn specialized functioning of the body quicker. And No, I'm not going to post the exercises I'm doing - there are experts, both within specific martial disciplines and others teaching more in general who are qualified. If, for example, Okano is around teaching judo or Saulo Riberio teaching BJJ, why would one want to hear anything specific on how to do x throw or y way of doing newaza from someone new to either art.

Cady - I recall a Roman general's saying - or maybe it was Cicero - "Farmers make the best warriors." Since you mentioned Nepal, think of the Ghurkas.

And to a couple of people - yeah, buy the book (http://www.edgework.info/buy.html). Aside from helping me feed my family, you will be able to take this conversation far further.
Best

Walker
10th December 2009, 17:20
It strikes me that we are able to observe a situation that many ways mirrors the dissemination of these ideas when they reached Japanese shores after spreading through China. Given the pace of communication, we're probably seeing over a decade what might have happened over a generation in the original case. Some are inspired and traditions are revitalized or changed while others add tricks and others continue unaffected.

wmuromoto
10th December 2009, 19:27
Hey Ellis, I ordered the the book, already. I got intrigued by this thread, actually, and got off my butt to order it so I could read what this discussion started with.

...Yes, that pic was the time Draeger was already pretty ill, but he put on the yoroi and kabuto and did some sets, full speed, plus some jo, under a hot, steamy sun. He also presented the kata at a subsequent lecture in the evening. He passed on only a little while after this lecture-demo. There's a video of that taken by the University of Hawaii/Leeward Community College somewhere, and I shot a bit of on old VHS. I sent it over to Koryu Books so they could digitize it and preserve it.

..The light saber effect of Otake sensei's bokken was from the motion blur and subsequent glare caused by a very, very bright hot sun reflecting off a very quickly moving white oak bokken set against a very dark shade, compounded probably by condensed steam on my lens. It was HOT that day.

...Your comments about teaching Araki-ryu and how it made more sense after doing some internal work is interesting. When I came back to Hawaii, I started up a budo club but wanted to progress in martial arts, in general, bereft of my teachers in Japan, who I visited only once or twice a year. I didn't/couldn't go back to some teachers here teaching Japanese budo; but I found a very good Wu style tai chi ch'uan teacher. I managed to fit my work schedule around her classes for a good two or three years and learned a heck of a lot regarding teaching, body movement, and perhaps, maybe, a little bit of how internal systems can add to the functionality of a Japanese koryu. My current work schedule keeps me from training with her further, but what little training I did with her and other teachers in tai chi, chi kung and a tiny bit of Pa Kua really augmented my understanding and teaching of Takeuchi-ryu and Eishin-ryu. --It also taught me how little I still know.

Wayne Muromoto

Cady Goldfield
10th December 2009, 21:25
Cady - I recall a Roman general's saying - or maybe it was Cicero - "Farmers make the best warriors." Since you mentioned Nepal, think of the Ghurkas.


I never said that farmers wouldn't or don't make good warriors (they're the ones with the pitchforks, kama and other pointy agricultural tools, after all, and are in good physical shape from wielding them, to boot!). My references were only toward the postulation that the development of the kind of body awareness that might make a person amenable to internal-power training applicable to combat.

My conjecture was that if you are regularly wearing armor and carrying heavy weapons, the kind of grounding you'd have to develop in order to be able to bear up to the weight and effect on your balance while being able to maneuver, cut, thrust, etc. on uneven terrain and with one or more very hostile individuals trying to hack you to bits, is the grounding that might translate more directly into internal practices specifically "designed" for combat movements, IMO. (I hope I inserted enough commas to break up that very long sentence.)

As for Ghurkas, they were impressive as fighters, and have an interesting tribal-ethnic culture as well. The British couldn't beat 'em, so they hired 'em.
Nepalis as a whole use the khukri (curved knife) as a farm implement -- I often saw women using khukris to cut rice straw in Kathmandu Valley -- but I would not want to irritate any Nepali farmer bearing one!
-------

And to Chuck, et al.: Yes, buy Ellis Amdur's book. I'm on my 6th reading so far, and still finding fresh tidbits to savor.

Cady Goldfield
10th December 2009, 23:15
Wayne,
Thanks for posting that photo of Donn Draeger and Otake Risuge, and for the bit of background on it. What was said about Draeger is the truth -- what amazing personal integrity and grit to maintain all he was trained to be and do, even as his body was disintegrating from his illness.

Gus S
12th December 2009, 23:57
Ellis & everyone,
This is me de-lurking. First time post. I've started my second reading on this book, & like the 'Duelling with O-Sensei' book I think it's going to be hailed a classic. The presentation of martial arts as a human activity by flawed/brilliant people rather than a 'scholarly' presentation of lineages or just technique is refreshing & to me at least rare. Spend the bucks & buy it & the 'Duelling .." one too. There's nothing else like it.
As for Hidden In Plain Sight - I always wondered if the front page was a bit of riddle. Hidden In Plain Sight - HIPS, whatever could it mean?

Folks are dumb where I come from

Ellis Amdur
13th December 2009, 23:53
I moved several posts to a new thread, Lost from Plain Sight (http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?p=481589#post481589) because they were focusing (well, to be honest, Jock, not focusing all that well;) ) on subjects other than my book. Those interested in following that discussion can jump there.

Gus - thanks a lot. It's going to be a "classic" with few sales, apparently. :look:

BTW - the acronym "HIPS" was absolutely serendipity - fortuitous, but accidental. There is some "cloud gazing" to be done in the cover picture that was deliberate - but I was as surprised as anyone else when a friend asked me how my last draft of HIPS was going.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Walker
14th December 2009, 07:02
Gus - thanks a lot. It's going to be a "classic" with few sales, apparently. :look:


I used to joke that this stuff was of burning interest to about 50 people in the world. At least now we know its over 10X that many! :cry::laugh::cry: :(

Whatever the sales are, your work deserves far more.

OK everybody, two copies each! Man Up! :D

Todd Lambert
27th December 2009, 15:37
I cannot help to think it must be so.

Last night, I was working in my office and my wife asked me to come watch something on the TV.

Two Russian 'brothers', painted gold, wearing only tiny gold trunks, completely shaven, performed the most amazing floor routine. I looked on Google for half an hour trying to figure out who they are, without success.

Using only their interlocked hands, they performed amazing feats of strength, including going from simply standing face to face, then interlocking their hands and moving ever so slowly so that one brother ended up inverted, head down, back of shoulder to back of shoulder, then releasing their hands so that only gravity and fricition kept the upper brother in place.

Without sufficient understanding, this would surely look like magic to many folks. It was an astounding demonstration of strength and balance.

Mr. Gatling,

I'm sorry to intrude upon your conversation, but is this possibly the video you mentioned in your earlier post?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6K7KSAwGpc

It is an impressive performance, and I thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Kindest regards,

Lance Gatling
28th December 2009, 01:32
Mr. Gatling,

I'm sorry to intrude upon your conversation, but is this possibly the video you mentioned in your earlier post?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6K7KSAwGpc

It is an impressive performance, and I thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Kindest regards,
It's hardly my conversation, so no need to apologize. Thank you for finding that. I guess it was posted after I looked.

Honestly, look at these guys - would they not be considered magicians in many cultures, in many times? I have no idea if they even know the word 'ki' but the compexity of maintaining their balance at full extension, in a single armstand on top of the other's head is an astounding feat of core strength, upper body strength, and balance. Imagine if either of these guys decided to take up aikido or judo - could you even move them without their acquiescence?

Is there a shortcut to such skills? Is it 'ki'? I am surely not qualified to say for certain but any sort of skill that helps explain and train such seemingly superhuman ability is certainly of interest.

Was Ueshiba superhuman or simply very good? I believe the latter, but Ellis' exploration of the source of his power, or his belief of the source of his power, is very intriguing.

Lance Gatling
28th December 2009, 01:47
The New York Times June 17, 2005

Why the sherpas of Nepal would leave our fittest soldiers standing
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

NEPALESE mountain porters who climb steep Himalayan slopes carrying more than their bodyweight are the fittest and most efficient load-lifters in the world, scientists have found.
Their combination of technique and physical ability makes their performance far more effective than that of Western soldiers marching with backpacks, according to research. It even surpasses the most efficient carrying methods studied to date: those of African women whose loads are balanced on or suspended from the head.

A study by Belgian researchers has quantified the remarkable efficiency of Nepal's porters, most of whom come from the sherpa, Rai or Tamang ethnic groups, for the first time. They carry huge loads in a basket known as doko, which is supported with a strap looping around the top of the head.

A team led by Norman Heglund of the Catholic University of Louvain, in Brussels, conducted tests on eight porters travelling to a bazaar in the town of Namche, which lies 3,500m (11,500ft) above sea level close to Mount Everest.

The dirt-track route from the Kathmandu Valley to Namche covers 62 miles (100km), with combined ascents of about 8,000m and descents of about 6,300m, and takes seasoned porters between seven and nine days to complete. Hundreds of porters make the trek every week; on the day before the bazaar, the scientists counted 545 men and 97 women, along with 32 yaks, with many more passing earlier and later in the darkness. The youngest porter was 11 and the oldest 68.

All were carrying loads that seemed unfeasibly heavy to Western observers. The men bore an average of 93 per cent of their bodyweight and the women an average of 66 per cent. A fifth of the men were carrying 125 per cent of their bodyweight and one managed an astonishing 183 per cent.

By contrast, the greatest loads carried by African women, such as those of the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya, amount to 60 per cent of bodyweight, and the loads typically included in military backpacks are lower still.

Dr Heglund, whose results are published today in the journal Science, recruited eight of the porters for further investigation, which has shed some light on the nature of their amazing skills. The porters were asked to walk along a 51m flat track at five different speeds, carrying six or seven different loads, while their oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output was measured.

The tests revealed that loads of up to 20 per cent of bodyweight were carried "for free" — meaning that the porters' metabolic rate did not increase at all compared with an unladen walk. With higher proportional loads, their energy efficiency was far greater than seen with the most efficient head-based carrying techniques used in Africa.

Previous research comparing Kikuyu women with army recruits found that the former carried heavy loads much more efficiently. For loads of 20 per cent of bodyweight, Kikuyu oxygen consumption rose 2 per cent compared with 13 per cent for the soldiers. The difference was even greater for 70 per cent loads: the soldiers used 100 per cent more oxygen, but the women only 50 per cent more. The porters did even better. While they were not subjected to quite the same tests, they were able to carry an extra 30 per cent of bodyweight, on average, while maintaining the same metabolic rate.

Their secret seems to rest on three factors. The first is physiology: the combination of a short but powerful stature and a high red blood cell count evolved as a result of living at high altitude. Also critical is their carrying technique, by which a strap around the head bears the majority of the load. The final element seems to be the regular rests that they take during their climbs.

..............
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Perhaps off topic, maybe not...

When I was in the US Army security assistance world a colleague was the training NCO for the US military attache' in Nepal. He arranged all the military training by Nepalese soldiers in US military schools, including the physical (as opposed to technical) courses such as airborne (parachute), air assault (heliborne operations), and Ranger (light infantry patrolling, etc.).

The Gurkhas could, he said, walk virtually anyone in the US military into the ground. Born and bred at such an altitude, in the Ranger course, where the highest altitude is something like a couple of hundred feet, and much of it at or near sea level (Florida and Fort Benning....) - for them, it was like walking around with oxygen masks on all day. And they'd take on tremendous loads, massive packs and loads of ammo that would crush much larger men (these gents aren't so tall).

Their weakness? Upper body strength. They always had a terrible time performing the minimum number of pullups, which was always used to measure upper body strength. They simply didn't use their arms or train them them the same way.

Ellis Amdur
28th December 2009, 01:48
Lest there be any confusion - I, too, think, "very good." Like the two "golden men," Ueshiba's "very good" required specialized training (without a doubt, different from the golden guys).
I studied briefly with Wang Shu Chin. He started every class with eight basic movements - which we did for a few minutes. I now understand that these moves allow one to isolate, delineate and enhance the function of the tanden (not the hips) - they are so simple that there is no requirement to recruit other muscles to accomplish the movement. I also remember Wang saying, offhand, that one should do these movements 4 hours a day.

(Wang, for those who do not know, as a famous xingyi/bagua/t'ai chi teacher, known among non-Japanese in the 60's and 70's as "The Chubby Chucker." You want to hear superhuman - Draeger told me that he witnessed Wang shove one of the pillars at Meiji Shrine and caused it to sway.
Ueshiba - and a few others being so remarkable - is it possible that they practice less than the two gymnasts or any other world class athlete?
The secret to internal strength is the same as that old joke where a guy comes up to a man on a NY street and asks, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" And the reply, of course, "practice."

Best
Ellis Amdur

Cady Goldfield
28th December 2009, 20:20
Lance,
RE: Ghurkas' skinny arms and poor upper body strength --
They, and other Nepalese ethnic groups, rely on their body frame more than upper-body muscle to bear loads. So, they don't develop a lot of muscle topside; their legs (at least those I've seen) tend to be sinewy rather than bulked, which I suspect is because of the relatively low amount of animal protein in their diet (lentils, rice, vegetables, potatoes constitute much of what the typical Nepali eats). But, boy, can those guys move! There's more to it than high-altitude conditioning, despite what those Belgian researchers postulated!

What I find so interesting about all that, is the way they do utilize their spine, pelvis and legs in specialized alignment, as well as the way in which they pick up their legs to take a step -- kind of a pendulum movement that does not require the use of a lot of muscle power, thus it's more efficient and uses less oxygen and energy. Their spine actually kind of sits balanced in their pelvic bowl, with weight distributed evenly on the left and right legs, and they don't seem to have the "falling-forward" way of walking that so much of the Western world uses. This, even when they are hunched over under the weight of a pack or other burden (often held in place with a strap around the forehead).

Moving back to Takeda Sokaku, I recall that accounts of him indicated that his arms - at least, his upper arms - were "soft" (unflexed) and his body seemed relaxed, even while he delivered crushing power through them. Upper-body strength has nothing to do with this kind of power, but frame -in part- does when manipulated "internally" (i.e. structure). Whether there is a connection between this and, on a rudimentary level, what Nepalis are doing, I can't say with certainty, but it does make for interesting research if anyone wants to do a Master's or Doctoral thesis in exercise physiology, physical anthropology or other related discipline. Maybe I'll go back to grad school in my old age.

RE: Ellis's reference to "Chubby Chucker"... I'll assume that's a nickname Mr. Wang was never called to his face. :)

Ellis Amdur
28th December 2009, 21:07
Wang Shu Jin #1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgSPsiQhAZk) Ba Gua

Wang Shu Jin #2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVg6De9Rk0Q&feature=related) - xingyi

Wang Shu Jin #3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q5Z9hvoFlc&feature=related) - t'ai chi

Best

Joseph Svinth
29th December 2009, 01:43
One also sees RW Smith, age 32 or so, in the ba gua clip.

wmuromoto
29th December 2009, 08:37
...He must be the tai chi master Donn Draeger once mentioned to me...He nearly broke a Kyokushinkai karate guy's wrist. The karateka didn't think much of Chinese internal arts. Wang let him punch him in the stomach and he absorbed the full force strike, sucked in his gut, and then pushed it out...sending the karateka flying across the garden only with the strength of his stomach.

That kind of power may seem magical, but apparently, as Ellis notes, if you're willing to practice, practice, practice (the right way)...

It brings to mind the book I read last spring, "Outliers." The author, Malcolm Gladwell, postulates that "geniuses" or star athletes are more made than born. Give a person about ten years of the right kind of training and you get a Mozart, or Tiger Woods (well, at least his golf waza is good. Can't say much about his private life techniques)...Mozart had a head start in training because his father started him early, as did Woods. And Ueshiba's intense physical and martial training regime is well known from books about him. About ten years, intensively...Or maybe a lifetime for most of us.

Wayne Muromoto

Cady Goldfield
29th December 2009, 14:13
I'm not sure I buy the "start early/made genius" hypothesis, at least if you mean having a child work with teachers, get a regimen from adults, etc.

When someone is a genius, he or she is SELF-starting, and self-motivated meaning they discover the medium themselves rather than having been put to a regimen by adults. A musical genius will drum on his crib, pick at a keyboard or otherwise "make music" from toddlerhood or perhaps even late infancy. There has to be the latent "wiring" already in the brain and nervous system. An astute adult will then help the child find his way by providing opportunities to study within one or more disciplines.

I started playing the piano with lessons at age 3, but somehow never became a musical genius. :) My "genius" lies in other areas, however, and those skills outed themselves without any early intervention or involvement of teachers or other adults. The child is driven by his own inner workings, and will find a way despite lack of external support. Getting support and direction from teachers "merely" enhances and helps polish the genius, IMO.


...He must be the tai chi master Donn Draeger once mentioned to me...He nearly broke a Kyokushinkai karate guy's wrist. The karateka didn't think much of Chinese internal arts. Wang let him punch him in the stomach and he absorbed the full force strike, sucked in his gut, and then pushed it out...sending the karateka flying across the garden only with the strength of his stomach.

That kind of power may seem magical, but apparently, as Ellis notes, if you're willing to practice, practice, practice (the right way)...

It brings to mind the book I read last spring, "Outliers." The author, Malcolm Gladwell, postulates that "geniuses" or star athletes are more made than born. Give a person about ten years of the right kind of training and you get a Mozart, or Tiger Woods (well, at least his golf waza is good. Can't say much about his private life techniques)...Mozart had a head start in training because his father started him early, as did Woods. And Ueshiba's intense physical and martial training regime is well known from books about him. About ten years, intensively...Or maybe a lifetime for most of us.

Wayne Muromoto

wmuromoto
29th December 2009, 17:52
Cady,

It's the old nature vs. nurture argument, and it would be fun arguing the role of one over the other with an old e-budo friend.

Granted, there are other factors besides having good teachers.

Let me admit that I think that environment and even luck play a role in developing a "genius" or a "master." The "nature" part, I will grant, is if one has certain "tendencies" that make you latch on to learning a skill that leads to mastery. So really wanting and craving to learn budo, for example, really helps. Having a body that is relatively healthy helps, too, and as we were discussing, having lots of a priori athletic skills, ability, strength, etc. will give a person a leg up. There are people I observe who will probably never reach a certain level in budo because they are hampered by certain physical and mental limitations. --Or, as you pointed out, take musical ability. I will never reach opera level singing because I sound like a cross between Bob Dylan with a cold and Van Morrisson choking on a hamburger. I just wasn't born with Pavoratti vocal chords. But you know what, maybe if I really, really wanted to and I studied daily under the best vocal coach in the world for ten years...I'd be decent. Not great, but decent. Training and desire does have an effect. Imagine if I could sing like Iz to begin with and then took vocal lessons. Having training and lessons can take a bad singer with desire like me to decent. It could take a singer endowed with very good vocal chords and desire to Pavoratti level. But of course, you can't turn a frog into a prince, in reality. It's not in their genetics.

BUT...if the very good singer had NO desire, they'd probably end up in the "good" level, but never get past that level to "master" level.

Here's a quote from Einstein, BTW, that makes no matter to this line of discussion but goes back to Ellis' book on Ueshiba: "The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

Anyway, I was hunting for the quote by Thomas Edison: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration."

Given the desire and an aptitude (which I will agree with you on...but I don't think it's as high as you may think, albeit I'll never be a rock singer except in my dreams)...it's luck and training. Luck and environment: If Ueshiba had never encountered Sokaku and other teachers, if Einstein's first notes on relativity had been ignored and he remained a postal clerk, if Tiger Woods was born to parents who never golfed, if Steve Jobs hadn't been adopted and raised in California at a time when the electronics boom was just starting and had never met Steve Wozniak...They may never have been considered geniuses or great athletes, even if they had the desire and inherent skill.

Or, as the football player Joe Theismann said, "The word 'genius' isn't applicable to football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Wayne Muromoto

Cady Goldfield
29th December 2009, 18:33
Wayne,
I agree with you that passion/drive/desire is a key characteristic associated with genius. We all know Edison's (another great genius) famous quote ("Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration"), but that is just part of what makes a genius, a genius, in my opinion.

Yeah, I guess we talking Nature vs. Nurture, or, really Nature AND Nurture in tandem.

Usually, what people from Western cultures consider to be genius, involves mathematical "wiring" that is beyond the norm. Musical geniuses are really mathematical geniuses, in an applied way -- they "hear" pure mathematics in their heads that they interpret as musical compositions when freestyling on an instrument; that's the Nature part. The "Nurture" part is that, in order to best express that internal mathematics externally, they must master at least one musical instrument (which includes voice) or interpretive skills (as a composer), which means hours - a lifetime - of practice and refinement.

Likewise, geniuses in the visual arts express their mathematical vision through applied 2- or 3-dimensional visual or tactile media (Jackson Pollack is a good example... his "splatters" have been found to be not random, but mathematical patterns).

Physical genius, I believe, involves a different kind of wiring (I also believe that there are more than one -- many -- different kinds of intelligence, kinesthetic being one of them). A person with that kind of ability might excel in any number of sports or disciplines, and it's likely more his or her temperament that will dictate which. Add to that any special physical attributes (such as body type -- ecto-, meso-, endomorphic; leg/arm length, etc.) and that will influence the sport or discipline, too. Too many factors to attribute to just one thing. But, at the core it's the kinesthetic genius that will fuel whatever the individual's body excels at.

It's a matter of choosing your medium... which could be Nurture-related, certainly. Personally, I believe genius to be any form of insightful creativity that is so simple in its outward appearance that we all think we could have thought it up... yet we didn't. One of my favorite "geniuses" is the young female Japanese macaque (a kind of tail-less monkey closely related to the Rhesus monkey used in labs) who discovered that rinsing rice removes sand, and that salt makes food taste better!* *see bottom of post for the long story. ;)

Bringing it back to Ueshiba (at last) and Takeda, et al., their temperaments were martial ones so that became their overall medium of expression; the individual facets within that medium (weapons use, empty hand, related body skills) were just other outward manifestations of the core kinesthetic understanding of internal body usage.

--------------------------------------

The Japanese Snow Macaque Story:
She was on a beach with the rest of her troupe, being observed by primate biologists who had scattered rice grains in the sand. While the rest ate sandy rice, grunting in discomfort at the grittiness, this one little monkey collected a handful of the sandy grains, and dipped her hand into the ocean water, letting the water rinse out the sand while leaving the rice in her clenched fist. Then she ate the rice... and discovered that it was both grit-free and tastier than usual. She dipped a finger into the seawater and licked it, and her face lit up... then she went and collected another handful and repeated. Then she showed the rest of the troupe how to do it!

Afternote: The only macaque that wouldn't do it was the alpha-male leader. Why? To learn something from a lowly young monkey -- and a female, at that -- was beneath him. So, he was left eating bland, gritty rice while the rest of his clan enjoyed clean, tasty rice. :D

Chuck Clark
29th December 2009, 18:48
There's a difference in "genius" and expert or master level behavior in some activity. The words often get misused. Expert performance in something can be reached in the approximate "10,000" hours. With the help of an excellent "master" and proper practice and attention with strong motivation added into the mix, an apprentice can/should be able to operate at the expert level. Whether they continue to develop and mastery is achieved depends on lots more ingredients in the mix. Now, if there is "genius" involved, that ingredient might be like throwing some gasoline on the fire. Then there are "savants" that have extraordinary abilities that are unexplainable, but they usually only show this ability in one, or a small group of related activities.

I think with proper teaching, strong motivation, and lots of good practice habits, with the intent to get better all the time, regular people with "normal" tools can get to the "way better than average" mark in many things. Some activities and skilled behaviors need special tools. For example, a good number of intelligent and motivated medical students find they aren't "cutters" when they attempt to cut their first cadaver. They can't become surgeons. Another example, shooters that are very good on the range sometimes find they can't shoot an animal or a person when the time comes. No amount of expert teaching or practice will change this type of behavior.

This subject of who, why, and how related to expert or master levels of performance is very interesting. I enjoy seeing knowledgeable people discussing this in relation to budo practice. Thanks Cady and Wayne.

wmuromoto
29th December 2009, 20:32
Thanks, Clark, for adding more fuel to the fire.

I didn't consider it, but yes, there are people who are just way beyond the bell curve that we should consider as way beyond technically expert. The question Ellis poses (I think) is that how does someone who's like that, like Ueshiba, GET to that point? And can an earnest seeker duplicate that progression in some way? To give up and attribute it to the random luck of genes and extraordinary, non-replicable ability is to say that we might as well just give up and go home and eat fried chicken by the bucketload, because unless we have that intangible "it," we'll never even come close.

I would like to think that we could try to figure it out and at least get a little better at what we do by environment (i.e., right-minded practice). Maybe not as good as someone like Ueshiba, but at least we can figure out sort'a kind'a his footprints. Where he went. Then we could follow up on that and see if it works for us. I THINK that's what Ellis is trying to say.

The intelligences that Cady notes is from educational theory: Howard Gardner's seven intelligences. As a former high school teacher, I had some acquaintance with Gardner's theory that you can divide up "intelligence" and the gaining thereof into seven types. As a high school art teacher, I tried to get the kids in my classroom to address the different intelligences together, so that they learned social skills (one form of intelligence) with logic-math skills, with good kinesthetic/body development, with spatial skills, etc. Although Gardner named seven discrete intelligences, in truth they interplay with each other. Having only one very, very strong intelligence but failing to develop the rest leads to an awkward, uneven maturity. The argument, therefore, is that we can't toss out the arts, physical education, and other "soft" intelligences or we hamper the ability of students to gain other "hard" intelligences such as math and language skills. At the end of my teaching high school, it became an uphill battle for the fine arts, dance, and drama teachers to keep our budgets. So much for Gardner holding much sway among education accountants and administrators.

What matters for budo folk is that we have to recognize that not all people learn optimally the same way. Some folk are kinesthetic learners. They look at a physical activity and can process the movement and replicate it quickly. Others are more logic-driven. They need explanations, step by step process work. And so on. How do you address every different type of learner?

...I dunno. I think I have it down in my college digital art classes. I'm kind of proud of how I structured learning there. Budo is another can of worms and I'm still figuring that puppy out.

Wayne Muromoto

Cady Goldfield
29th December 2009, 21:02
Thanks for those excellent insights and points, Wayne.

Ellis's implication, in his book, is that Ueshiba was using an underlying body-skill set (i.e. "internal" power and structure) that he obtained as a discrete package of physical teachings: aiki. Aiki is something that can be taught and learned. It's what you do with it once you've acquired some, that enters the realm of genius or just "plain" mastery.

Ueshiba had an inner agenda he needed to fulfill, and when he saw the possibilities that aiki afforded him, it was his personal vision of what aiki -- and his Aikido -- could be, in regards to his spiritual and world views, that caused the spark. -That- was the genius of Ueshiba. By contrast, his son Kisshomaru was, to my perception, a follower, and perhaps did not even learn aiki from his father as it seems to have disappeared completely under his ministrations. He doggedly worked to continue his father's aikido as best he could with what skills he had, but no growth or evolution of the art resulted from this. It apparently grew farther and farther away from what Ueshiba Morihei had expoused and demonstrated.

I firmly believe that to learn internal skills, you have to be 1. persistent 2. passionate about them 3. be able to "listen" to your body and the bodies of your teacher and training partners. This third qualification is a form of intelligence - a body intelligence - and while it helps to have some degree of intellect/cognitive intelligence too, I don't believe it's necessary to be incredibly bright intellectually to learn aiki. Just bright enough to "get" some of the nuances and subtleties of how little you need to manipulate your body (and yet, how excruciating it is to hold it all in place!) and how to use this maximized power, in minute movements, to totally blow away an opponent. :)

There were notable competent people in aiki who developed their own interpretations of how to use internal skills outwardly (as in visible techniques). Each is different. You can watch some of them on YouTube -- Horikawa Kodo of Daito-ryu Kodokai, Shioda Gozo (who is thought to have learned from Horikawa), Ueshiba M. himself, and a couple others. They are all using the same core internal skills, but to somewhat different external ends. Which ones are the geniuses, and which are just competent practitioners? I'd say it's the one who took those core skills and came up with something utterly brilliant with them. Not just stylistically different, but an entirely new avenue of expression that can be tried and tested, and which serves a necessary and pragmatic function (if, that is, your goal is to have something martially viable).

If you limit yourself to only trying to be "as good as" Ueshiba M., that instantly precludes you from the Genius Club and puts you squarely in the "Competent Follower Club." :D The first prerequisite to entering new territory is to have the necessary fundamentals --to learn what those internal body skills are, and then learn them, then work them with everything "external" that they know and see how it changes the way those things work. It's using the model that Ueshiba used, without trying to be "just like" him. Nothing wrong with following a model: Have a desire and a vision; learn internal skills basics, test them everywhere and everyhow according to your vision, then see what direction it takes you.

Chuck Clark
29th December 2009, 21:19
Wayne, here's a book that I recommend that's relative to the general subject of learning and teaching skills...

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, published by Cambridge University Press.

http://www.amazon.com/Cambridge-Expertise-Performance-Handbooks-Psychology/dp/0521600812/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262121251&sr=1-1

wmuromoto
30th December 2009, 18:53
Chuck,

Thanks. I'll check out that book. I scanned the first sample pages at amazon.com and it looks interesting.

Cady, I'm going to PM you re: impressions about some aikido folk.

Wayne

Bruce Mitchell
30th December 2009, 23:01
When I read the tales of Ueshiba and Takeda, one thing that stands out to me is that these guys did not seem to have a problem with laying some hurt on people. I would posit that in order to attain the level of these guys it takes more than just training your body, and that it was their mindsets as much as their physical abilities that set them apart.

It also, to my mind, seems like you only really see a lot of this type of training in civilian combat arts. I think that the most plausible reason for this is that if you have a limited amount of time in which to train someone for combat, and they will have a limited amount of time to maintain their training routines thereafter, that training the mind comes first. This fits with all the current research out there in both the military and law enforcement. It also fits with the research that has been done on survival, and what separates survivors from those who don't, it is not the body but the mind.

I am not trying to refute the value of this type of training, but am suggesting that maybe it was not adopted into the older arts for reasons other than what have been posited here to date.

wmuromoto
31st December 2009, 01:07
Bruce,

"...I am not trying to refute the value of this type of training, but am suggesting that maybe it was not adopted into the older arts for reasons other than what have been posited here to date."

With due respect, I'm not quite sure what you mean by this. It has been my experience that the koryu stuff I have been doing...at least what I do...deals with this extensively, to a point where the ryu goes into the psychology of combat and the emotional and mental effects thereafter. In fact, my "homework" given to me in the summer was to read the tracts on such mental states kept within our ryu to balance the upper level physical techniques I just learned, which deal with laying on maximum owee. To my knowledge, I haven't come across this dissection of the mental and emotional effects of combat (not sports) in many modern budo schools.

Sincerely,

Wayne Muromoto

Bruce Mitchell
31st December 2009, 02:33
Hi Wayne,
I'm sorry, I was unclear in my prior post. What I meant to say is that I do believe that many koryu focus on the mental/psychological aspect of training, much like modern military and police training, and not on the physical aspects of training described in Hidden In Plain Sight . I find it more plausible that this was because when training for combat, particularly armed combat, training to achieve a combative mindset is more important than the body-skills discussed both in the book and in this thread. What I am submitting is that just maybe the type of training and skills described in Hidden In Plain Sight are more properly the provenance of modern budo, rather than being something that was either hidden or lost in other arts.

Ellis Amdur
31st December 2009, 02:41
Sorry Bruce - missed your second post, before I responded, so I'll rewrite slightly - but your clarification makes it clearer. There is a lot of evidence of this in a number of very old koryu - although not in others. If I recall correctly, you do Tendo-ryu. But what was in the primordial Ten-ryu kenjutsu - who knows? There are movements in Buko-ryu naginata which never made sense to me from a combative sense- after 30+ years of training, until I realized how perfectly they fit in an internal training methodology - they train the fighter to use whole body power with a very small range of movement, so you can deflect or smash through the enemy without windup, damaging your weapon, or losing your balance. It cannot be an accident that something fits so perfectly that methodology. Given that I find this more and more in the two ryu I train.

It is fair to say that certain methodology - a certain "slant" to this kind of training is more the provenance of "civilian" combatives. But, as I've pointed out in the book, martial applications of internal training either were, or are part of the curriculum of many koryu. A few that I name are: Asayama Ichiden-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu (certain branches), Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Komagawa Kaishin-ryu, Itto-ryu (used to be), Shosho-ryu. One of the reasons this training "takes so long" is a) a cult of secrecy so they wouldn't give the students what they should have from the git-go (this is an Edo phenomena, I believe) b) students not putting in the hours.
As I've posted elsewhere, I'm recently discovering that Araki-ryu either must have had - or by sheer happenstance, has a body form that is the perfect "vessel" for this type of training. I'm teaching a guy Araki-ryu sword - and have been teaching some of the internal body dynamics from the first day. He is a seasoned martial artist, and actually trains long hours on his own. And in two months, he's got things right that I have, previously, not been able to teach in years.
Yes, this type of training requires a very intense amount of practice - I'm only scratching the surface myself - but with each month, I find more and more evidence of how widespread this knowledge was. There is no doubt that most ryu did not do "grab my wrist" type of training like is in Daito-ryu and it's off-shoots. That is one branch of the tree. The mistake would be to assume that this is the "core" training method, and thus, because we don't see that type of training or "ki" tricks in many kenjutsu ryu, that they didn't have internal training.
Final point - a senior member of one very old ryu told me that the headmaster, who clearly has a very high level of skill attributes this to very specific breathing methods and other exercises. He despairs, however, that his students don't believe him - modern guys, they either "don't have time," "think it's weird," or "doubt it really is due to hours of repetition of such drudgery." The headmaster's point - "anybody could do what I do, if they had the dedication" - which he defines as an hour a day of concentrated practice.

When we read of jujutsu and kenjutsu in the 17th & 18th century, we read of a number of guys of Takeda Sokaku's skill. He was unique to so many because the skills were already almost lost in the modernization of Meiji.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Bruce Mitchell
31st December 2009, 03:43
Thank you Ellis,
Your responses are quite persuasive, and much to my surprise, I find myself convinced of the verity of your research.

wmuromoto
31st December 2009, 04:47
Bruce, thanks for clarifying, and to Ellis for adding more to his book's thesis. I understand where you're coming from, Bruce. Interesting ideas.

When I first entered tai chi training, I told my teacher that while I had reached a certain level in Japanese koryu, I KNEW there were things I wasn't catching. Since I had moved back from Japan, I only visited my teachers in Japan once a year or so and felt I needed more training, but how to sharpen my skills with my teachers so far away? Tai chi ch'uan seemed to answer it more than other Japanese budo being taught in Hawaii. It was as if it was the key that opened up a door to...well, I'm still finding out what's behind door number 3. So I find Ellis' observations, deductions, and concepts very, very interesting.

Wayne

Hissho
31st December 2009, 20:59
What I meant to say is that I do believe that many koryu focus on the mental/psychological aspect of training, much like modern military and police training, and not on the physical aspects of training described in Hidden In Plain Sight . I find it more plausible that this was because when training for combat, particularly armed combat, training to achieve a combative mindset is more important than the body-skills discussed both in the book and in this thread.

Interesting thread. Some thoughts without (hopefully) derailing the discussion too much:

I don't think that you can really separate the physical from the mental – at least when we get to the level of function we are talking about here.

Certainly there is room for speculation about certain specific "body skills,” that perhaps the genesis of these was originally a function of ways to move weapons, etc. with increased efficiency and effectiveness, evolved by certain “geniuses” with both talent and a strong work ethic, the “Michael Jordan’s” and ‘Tiger Woods” of personal combat of the day. Xingyi, Chen taiji, Baji, and a few others at least are battlefield systems based on the use of the spear, after all, with their body use strongly grounded in that weapon, and close in their complete teachings involving mindset and weapons use to Japanese koryu.

In professional terms, the move away from contact weapons to projectile weapons is probably a factor vis-ŕ-vis a comparison with modern military/LE. One that impacts both mindset and body skills.

Back on point: At the pedestrian level there is certainly an emphasis on mindset (whether it actually gets through to the students is another matter). It is I think the more important part of the equation. But fatigue and injury can strip the “mindset” right out of someone not physically inured to hardship through rigorous and demanding regimes. Some people have all the motivation in the world when they are not tired or hurt, but away it goes when things start getting tough.

There is a reason, I think, that special forces type selection processes break people down physically: it is the surest test of real mindset at a core level. To draw a training parallel in the LE world, lots of very tough, motivated people that would appear to have “tactical mindsets,” and actually perform well in most street situations, “nut up” or “give up” under some force on force/simunition conditions because it….hurts.

I say pedestrian level because I think that the traditions and training regimens discussed here, both in terms of mindset and body skills, were not for the “average warrior.” They certainly probably trained in the same systems, but training even under a good teacher says nothing about your own individual skill and ability, as already treated with here.

I speculate that the “founders” of ryu, and early on at least, the ones who had ryu passed on to them were probably more like a sort of self-selected feudal era “special forces” type far different from the rank and file bushi. Men not only with the talent and wherewithal to truly focus on both mindset and weapons- and body-skills, to learn when tested and to improve upon their skills through experience and harder training, but who also due to social status had the time to put in to these practices; including the time to sequester themselves at shrines for “1,000 days” of ascetic training.

ahundara
21st November 2011, 01:28
Mr Amdur,

First I want to thank you for taking the time to write HIPS, outstanding book! I have read it no less than 10 times to date. As a student of Yoshinkan Aikido and Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu I truly enjoyed the questions put forth to me in this book. For one it prompted me, as well as many other reasons, to start Hozoin Ryu Takada Ha which I have been doing for a year now. I am very glad to have started this wonderfull art and it has had a change in my Aikido. Definatley interesting learning from such a different distance.
Now more to my point. I was reading Kenji Tokitsu's "Miyamoto Musashi: His life and writings" and there is reference to Morita Monjuro (1889-1978) and his kendo-zen. He discusses the link of koshi, tanden, and sunden and the ability to "read" the opponents mind. Mr Mortita talks about Futabayama the sekitori who had 69n continues wins who stated being able to "read" his opponents intentions.
This is very close to what I also read in a book entitled "Aizu no Takeda Sokaku", sorry author unknown at this time as I have loaned the book to one of my dojo mates and do not have it in my possesion at this time. In this book it is related that Takeda Sokichi told Sokaku that he was able to "read" the opponents mind through his sunden. This is interesting as it concurs with what Futabayama stated.
Mr Morita also discusses the diagonal tension created by training in a nito fashion. All in all very interesting stuff as it coincides with what I read in HIPS.
My question is do you think it is the trinity of koshi, tanden, sunden that gave these martial ancestors an edge that we or I am lacking in our current training?
I thank you for your time and apologize for my ramblings as I am not much of an intelectual, more of a banger.

regards Reg Sakamoto

Ellis Amdur
21st November 2011, 02:16
Reg - thank you for continuing a discussion long asleep. First of all, I'm not familiar with the term sunden. I imagine that it is that either the point of the sword or the point between the eyes. (Which would be very different - but both would make a triangle).
In principle, I DO believe that the cultivation of sophisticated "internal" skills was the key to the apparently miraculous abilities of some of our predecessors.
Considering the specific words (I'll await your definition of sunden for me). Tanden is, of course, the universal center - it's not a point below the naval - it's a "virtual" ball, to some, which encompasses the lower abdomen and spine. I recently, however, heard another definition which likened it more to a flexible leaf spring (I think such differences of definition express different intent of usage - in other words, different martial arts). I think an easy way to think of tanden is a differential in a car, a gear that transmits force from four wheels (limbs), most efficiently, whatever angle the limbs are. Unlike the differential in a car, it is also additive, in that a trained tanden can express force.
Koshi is usually defined as hips, but we should really think of it as "base."
So - I'm curious what sunden is.

As for reading minds - don't know about that - but one can definitely read intent. I've grappled with guys who give me a running commentary on what I'm going to do next, before I move. They can feel it. Personally, I can do that in weapon's practice. It's kind of hard to explain this, but what one should understand is that it's not passive. Part of this ability is to lead the opponent through kiai/kamae - it's easier to read people's intent when many options are closed off to them.
Best
Ellis Amdur

Josh Reyer
21st November 2011, 07:59
Ellis,

Mr. Sakamoto will surely make things clear, but I believe if he is referring to the concept of sunden (寸田) in kendo, it is indeed a point between the eyes/eyebrows. It is also sometimes called the upper tanden (上丹田).

ahundara
21st November 2011, 22:57
Thank you Mr Amdur,

Yes the gentleman is correct I am speaking of the sunden between the eyes. Sorry I was not clear before. Also Mr Amdur your correct I was told koshi as base, as in the small of the back so to speak. Thank you for your reply.

regards Reg Sakamoto

Ellis Amdur
22nd November 2011, 00:44
Although many people do refer to Koshi as the small of the back, I think this is incorrect. Properly, koshi is the hip joints (which are properly supported by the lower legs), the buttocks, the sacrum and the pelvic floor.

Now, as for sunden, now that I know what it is, I do think it is necessary to consider how these three components would be manifested in kendo. Would it not be fair to say that the organization of these three components would be rather different in Hozoin-ryu?

That said, please consider this. When I train psychotherapists, I teach a particular way of breathing, suggesting that when one feels "ready for anything" (i.e., a relaxed combat effective breathing), one has the psychological energy/spaciousness to be aware of subtle changes in the other person's demeanor, and also to have the wherewithal to be aware of small intuitive impressions that float into consciousness. When "tight," one doesn't notice these ideas.

Similarly, if one's body is in a perfect organization for kendo (or another martial art), ready for anything, yet committed to nothing, one can pick up similar intuitions in the midst of randori - or combat.

I think this is tied to the anecdote of Ukei of Kito-ryu who, when suddenly attacked by a sumo wrestler (they are always the fall-guys in these stories), sort of moves and the guy drops, and when asked what he did, Ukei replies that he's not sure himself.

Best
Ellis Amdur

ahundara
23rd November 2011, 02:59
Mr Amdur,

Thank you for the reply. I see your point about koshi. I think you are correct about viewing this trinity from the point of Hozoin ryu being different than kendo. I do not study kendo so I cannot say but the body configuration of Hozoin is radically different! So I would guess that the use of these points would alter.
Now as I am not a very smart guy I believe you placed in your answer my next question. Is sunden then related to breathing? Is it where you draw the breath in? I have a limited understanding of koshi (apparently not that much as I believed it to be a little high! This would explain a lot of my problems in waza) and tanden. I have been practising starting movement from the koshi through the tanden and have some success. Ah I see your point about koshi. In Niten and aikido my body is more forward facing or hirakami but the composition of my body in Hozoin is in a deep kiba dachi so I was wondering how to start from the koshi. Your explanation of koshi makes more sense as it would be more like a ball in socket or bowel than a plate.
So my next point would be that if I understand koshi/ tanden what do you do with sunden. Is it related to breathing? Am I in the right ball park or do I need to get back on the train?

cheers Reg Sakamoto

Ellis Amdur
23rd November 2011, 03:08
Reg - I honestly don't know the answer to your question regarding sunden. I learned a lot about use of the gaze, and I also learned information on driving attention/energy through the top of the head in kiai. But the training I've done neither refers to the word or focuses on the concept.

I'm going to punt that one and say, "ask your teacher(s)."

Best
Ellis Amdur

Guy Buyens
23rd November 2011, 06:43
Hi Ellis,

I just came back from Japan and here I was, awake at an impossible hour reading the discussion. Although not very coherent (due to Jet lag) here some comments:

I don’t know sunden. I looked it up in the Japanese English dictionary of kendo (All Japan kendo Federation), which is my bible for kendo related terminology, and couldn’t find it. Also the upper tandem is unknown to me. From the kanji I presume it is Jōtandem, which I also don’t know.

Having said so, I just want to agree on how important koshi (hips) is. Having had twice a hip replacement in the last 10 years (too much Karate competitions when I was young and of course genetically influenced) , I can testify how this influences one’s ability. I am now recovering from the right hip operation and although I don't have any problems in daily life, finding the right energy balance during training is still not 100%.

Talking about Hozoin-ryu, I am not an expert at all but I had the chance to participate in the anniversary embu of that school in Nara (representing Hontai Yoshin-ryu, together with soke and members of the sohonbu dojo). After that we were invited for some classes at their dojo and I was impressed by the low but very stable position they use. All the energy came from the hips and the abdomen).

Now their position is quite different from let say Kenjutsu, so I agree that you have to consider things in the right context. For instance I briefly stopped at Sasamori soke’s dojo this week (ono ha itto ryu) on my way back and again experienced a different use of body position and hip work. The idea of their school is illustrated in Kiri otoshi, where they create the principle of ue dachi, the idea that your sword has to come over the sword of the opponent, like a wheel that rolls over his sword. Of course this requires a totally different energy base than in Hozoin-ryu.

Now I am not an expert in these arts (I only touched Hozoin-ryu, because I was invited and now, after more than 20 years of Hontai Yoshin-ryu, I am just beginning to train Itto-ryu as a complement to Hontai Yoshin-ryu, which is still the school I devote most of my time to). Nevertheless, I do find it useful to feel different approaches and incorporate them in my own work (without changing the art itself). Of course I had done a lot of Karate when I was young and even touched on some Kendo, but it took me quite a long time to appreciate the energy use in different forms (before I was only interested in the waza). Again my hip problems forced me to concentrate on this.

A last remark on kiba dachi (which I thought was a specific shotokan karate name). From the little that I experienced, in hozoin-ryu the stance is similar but the front foot is turned towards the opponent. This gives a totally different energy balance than in karate. Their typical moving (sideward, crossing the feet) allows to move laterally towards the opponent but still allows them to direct a lot of energy towards that opponent.

I currently don’t train in Hozoin-ryu (how should I with such little experience) but I still use their moving steps as an exercise to reinforce my moving in our bojutsu. Similarly we have a technique with the bo called makiotoshi, which I only started to understand better after having done the similar technique with a yari. Here also the energy that is employed is quit important but although the hips are needed to create a good balanced position, we can’t deny that the upper body plays an important role in the execution of the movement.

ahundara
24th November 2011, 00:00
Mr Amdur

Thank you for the fair answer. I will definately make it a discussion when the opportunity presents itself. Mr Buyens that was a very interesting insight. You are correst we do not use the term kiba dachi in Hozoin, I was only trying to give a general image, my bad sorry.
Mr Amdur, just off topic but interesting for me, I would like to hear your input. In HIPS you discuss the formative years of Takeda Sokaku and the inpact on his personality. I have a great interest in Miyamoto Musashi and from all that I have read they only really give 2 reliable instances of his childhood. All of these recorded by his students so they must have been what he talked about. 1) At the age of 9 he was watching his father carve tooth picks and was critical of his technique, I'm not sure if this is critical of his tooth pick carving or his technique in general. So Munisai threw a tanto at his son's head. Musashi then moved only his head with the tanto sticking into a post. Munisai then threw another blade at him only for Musashi to have dodged that one as well. I don't know but that seems a little extreme in dealing with anyone especially a 9 year old! 2) At the age of 13 Musashi kills Arima Kihei by knocking him down and beating him to death with a stick! Is there some anger issues here? I am not trying to be flipent but that is a very interesting behaviour pattern for a 13 year old. He must ahve had an interesting childhood. Any of your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks again for your time.

sincerely Reg Sakamoto

Ellis Amdur
24th November 2011, 02:09
Reg - I actually wrote a little about the Miyamoto Munisai and Musashi in Old School (http://www.edgework.info/buy-books-on-martial-arts.html)in the chapter, "The Origins of Araki-ryu," the reason being that Munisai was almost surely the teacher of the founder of Araki-ryu (Araki Mujinsai). The relevant passage:

The son, apparently of volatile disposition, displays the symptoms of an early history that sociologist Lonnie Atkins calls “violentization.” A child, particularly a male child, helplessly experiencing abuse by a parent, and also absorbing other early exposures to violence, often embraces that behavior as the best way to survive. This young man killed his first man at age thirteen, reportedly grabbing him, throwing him to the ground and then beating him to death with a stick when the latter advertised himself as a master swordsman seeking challenges. Soon afterwards, he left home, taking the name of the small village in which he grew up. Then Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin, better known as Miyamoto Musashi, marched forth to history., p. 246

To me, however, both Musashi and Takeda represent the triumph of the human spirit. Musashi was a terrifyingly violent youth, became a brilliant artist and remarkable warrior - and in his old age, reading the words of his last work, the Dokkodo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dokkōdō), which on the surface, seem to represent the words of an ascetic, realized being, but a closer reading, even in translation, ache with a kind of depression, a striving to need nothing and no one - because it all can be taken away.

Similarly, Takeda Sokaku, paranoid, harsh man that he was, perhaps suffering from PTSD and a profound injury to his ability to attach to others, created Daito-ryu as a vehicle by which he could leave a legacy that helped others. Further, he had disciples - despite the problems he had in his relationship to many of them, including his own son (similarly throwing a knife at him when awakened unexpectedly) - and in his own way, it is clear that he cared for them.
Ellis Amdur

ahundara
24th November 2011, 02:59
Again my many thanks. I am familiar with your book Old School, got it on my book shelf with your other works. I am aslo familiar with the Dokkodo but did not see it that way. One of the reasons that I appreciate Musashi so much is that after 30 he really seemed to change dramatically. Thank you for all of your time, I enjoyed the conversation.

regards Reg Sakamoto