Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weighted Step Tendencies

"Weighted step": In this circumstance I mean turning or stepping with a foot that is already bearing most of the weight in the middle of a movement. I just realized the other day while correcting papers, that it seems Aikido uses this very often while Tai Chi Chuan from my experience usually doesn't ... but then does in some styles of movement.

In my Tai Chi Chuan experience, with formwork and push hands, I started internalizing and developing a pattern of movement that would rock back and forth between feet; rolling back while yielding, and moving forward for a push. I think this tendency reflects the yielding soft side of Tai Chi Chuan, but it is not by any means a law or requirement of TCC. At a seminar a year back, we were working on Ward Off, starting from a stance with partner who had their hands on our Peng for a push, and we would deflect that push with our Peng and bring the other arm underneath the armpit for another Peng or Parting the Wild Horses Mane. However, we could do this in generally two different ways. One, is shifting our weight to the back leg while neutralizing the push and then coming forward, or two, we would keep our weight on the front foot while deflecting the push to the side, and progress forward. In the latter movement, there is no movement of your weight to the back, and progresses straight forward (Hsing-I people would probably prefer this). That is the "weighted step" I'm talking about. At the time I was confused when I asked which one was better, because the answer was both "There is no better", and "It depends on the situation," and I ended up settling on the non-weighted turn with the roll back because I thought it adhered more to TCC ideals, and it was easier for me.

Well, a year later, and now in Aikido, that weighted step has come back to haunt me as its present in so many movements. As Aikido emphasis yielding and opposes using force against force, I thought my freshly acquired "yielding" experience would give me a head start; but it didn't. I would naturally always put my weight back when yielding, but that is just not done in my experience here in Aikido. When yielding and neutralizing, it seems always to be done with footwork that moves you forward and to the side or a bit underneath your opponent. If you move back, which sometimes is the case, you move your whole body back, but keep your wieght on the front foot (in my eyes sometimes looking like a bow stance, but I hesitate to make connections between Karate bow stances and Aikido movements).

I'm getting better at this, and see a great advantage to this ever moving forward movement, and see how my TCC teacher a ways back at that seminar would employ the wieghted step Roll Back. And actually, I now remember that teacher preffering the weighted step Roll Back.

I have to say though, I miss that shift of weight to the back in push hands, because I think it allows you to make big movements, or fully neutralize someone without even taking a step.

Weighted step: What do you think!? Especially for those Aikido people, I'd like to hear your experience.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Martial Arts as a Way of Life

"Martial arts as a way of life." This is a phrase/idea/question that most everyone who seriously practices "martial arts" will often approach. As a general interpretation I think it implies that practicing "martial arts" is not just about sport, health, violence, self-defense, or being cool; though often it does include all of the above. Rather, "martial arts as a way of life" sinks deeper (or rises higher) to a spiritual level of sorts, where everything in one's life is affected by this thing called "martial arts".

I thought about this early on in my training thanks to an truly enlightening and amazing Sensei when I first began my own journey. However, because of many many many countless reasons and circumstances, it seems to have always been a point of frustration. That "martial arts as a way of life" turned the entire world into black and white questions; or more so, answers. Either you're living "martial arts as a way of life" or you're not. Either it works or it doesn't. A "martial artist" has to do this, and can never do that. Thinking this way has forced me into an ever-apocalyptic state of mind. Everything seemed to be an ultimatum, and goals seemed so many decades in the future, or maybe a couple hundred years in the past. This way of thinking has brought me to where I am, and still plays a part, but I can see its limitations as well as its potential threat to my health and sanity.

So, lately, I have had a bit of a revelation concerning what it means to practic "martial arts as a way of life." Looking back to my experiences in the martial arts, to my situation now, and to my future goals, I'm constantly looking for common threads. And it seems any kind of ultimatum, apocalyptic, black and white limitations are beginning to seem trivial or limited next to an instant and perfect realization of the wonderful nature of the people I've trained with. Aside from any tangible practical reasons, I've been attracted to martial arts because of the students and especially the teachers. I've kept up and revitalized my enthusiasm time and time again because of the same reason. Now I'm beginning to think, "Yeah, those other things are definately awesome, but, there's something different about the people I've met along the way." "Martial arts as a way of life" now seems to me to be something real and tangible, and relating to every single microscopic part of my life ... and it doesn't have to be so judgemental.

I saw this clearly today when talking with my students at school. I can't really explain it, but that's when it happened.

Anyway, enough of that, time to practice wazas!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Aikido Demonstration

Here's a game for you, its called "where's gaijin?"

Anyway, here is my current Aikido troop posing after our demonstration this last Sunday. Usually in class there are about 10 to 14 participants, but for such an event just about everyone attended for this occasion. Everyone had a chance to show off their techniques on a partner for a minute or two, and ranged from the lowly basics of the white belts to cool multi-opponent sword techniques by those in hakama. It was in a community gym in a neighboring town, and the crowd was mostly composed of family members and friends, so no huge crowds or techno blasting, but I was very impressed by the group I train with. As a matter of fact, if anything this was a good opportunity to train hard with my Aikido-mates for a single goal, and now I can revel in retrospect at the past 4 months. I may actually be building on my skills, and really feel part of this group. On a more specific level though, I feel basics that were started especially in internal arts really starting to be applied more and more often such as softness/non-effort, and keeping my spine straight when I move.

Here's Gaijin loading up for a wicked technique (though a bit off-center).

But a reversal is performed mid take-down and white belt Gaijin is thwarted again!

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but soon there will be more so stay tuned! I'm also experiencing camera problems. Jolene was able to take many many tens of great pictures of the demo but I can't connect my camera to the computer now and must settle on these, but maybe later I can post some more photos from this event.