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Thread: Hidden in Plain Sight - Discussion

  1. #46
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    Default Off topic and back on...

    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.

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmuromoto View Post
    ...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

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmuromoto View Post
    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.
    Cady Goldfield

  4. #49
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    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
    William Derobec

    Witch hunts often end with burnt fingers....

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    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.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

  6. #51
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    Default On armor and such

    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 ...
    Chuck Gordon
    Mugendo Budogu
    http://www.budogu.com/

  7. #52
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    Draeger's posture is great, but I think it will avail him little with Otake Risuke obviously wielding a lightsaber...
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

  8. #53
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    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

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    Default Value of this training to "activate" waza

    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. Aside from helping me feed my family, you will be able to take this conversation far further.
    Best
    Last edited by Ellis Amdur; 10th December 2009 at 16:23.

  10. #55
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    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.
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

  11. #56
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    Default More...

    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    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.
    Last edited by Cady Goldfield; 10th December 2009 at 21:40.
    Cady Goldfield

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    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.
    Cady Goldfield

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    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

  15. #60
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    Default Thread maintenance

    I moved several posts to a new thread, Lost from Plain Sight 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.

    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

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