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Thread: Hidden in Plain Sight - Discussion

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Gus - thanks a lot. It's going to be a "classic" with few sales, apparently.
    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!

    Whatever the sales are, your work deserves far more.

    OK everybody, two copies each! Man Up!
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    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,
    Nullius in verba

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    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Lambert View Post
    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 ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cady Goldfield View Post
    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.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

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

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    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

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    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.
    Cady Goldfield

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    One also sees RW Smith, age 32 or so, in the ba gua clip.

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    Default Wang Shujin...

    ...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

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    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by wmuromoto View Post
    ...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

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    Default Nature vs. Nurture

    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

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    Default Inspiration and Perspiration

    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.
    Cady Goldfield

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    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.
    Chuck Clark
    Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
    http://www.jiyushinkai.org

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    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

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    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." 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.
    Cady Goldfield

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