Monday, 28 September 2009

More than one path leading to the same goal...

I am always impressed to discover converging views expressed by people who seemingly belong to different martial or physical culture disciplines. Check out the following excerpts from two books I am currently reading, Hidden In Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power by Ellis Amdur, and Free to Move by Scott Sonnon.

Amdur writes:
"For Ueshiba, however, 'kasutori' was not primarily for the purpose of martial prowess, as analogous training was for Daito-ryu practitioners, even though such martial effectiveness could still be developed. Practice is for the purpose of creating a body that is not only analogous to the enlightened spirit, but also a body that makes the elightened spirit possible".

The word "kasutori" in the above text, refers to the extraction of the pulp-like sediment that is a by-product of the production of Japanese alcohol. The claim here, in a few words, is that through the practice of the Aikido basic techniques, we remove the tension that lies our partner's joints as if it was residue.

Now, let's check what Sonnon says:
I came to realize martial art is
just a physical trick to convince the mind to adopt a higher vibratory frequency: to be more graceful and less disgraceful. The immediate and traumatic feedback of being hit, thrown, or joint-locked tells you precisely where you're holding tension. It shows you where your ego abides within you, when your mind should have no abiding place. Wherever you stop mentally, you amplify emotionally and brace physically".

To my knowledge, Scott Sonnon has not studied Aikido, and my guess is that Ellis Amdur, a respected scholar and instructor of classical and modern Japanese martial arts, knows little about the range-of-motion exercises that Sonnon describes in his book (actually the book is about way more than healthy joints, but you get my point). Could it then be possible
that there are a number of universal laws which govern the relationship between our mind as a manifestation of our matter (body) and vice versa? And if these laws do exist (I strongly believe they do) wouldn't they be independent of the cultural context (Japanese martial arts, Russian system of health, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais method, you name it) they are expressed in? Just a little food for thought and maybe basis for constructive dialogue...

You can find out more about Ellis Amdur's Hidden in Plain Sight
For more info about Scott Sonnon's Free to Move click here.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The purpose of Aikido practice

What follows is an excerpt from a book I read recently, and made quite an impression to me. The book is Ellis Amdur's Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power. I want to make clear that I haven't ever trained in aikido, nor am I interested to. On the other side, I believe Morihei Ueshiba was one of the greatest martial artists of the twentieth century and also a great thinker, although limited by the era he lived in and the Japanese culture. I also consider Ellis Amdur an excellent writer and I especially appreciate the fact that he attributes Ueshiba's formidable power to his training and not to some supernatural energy he mysteriously tapped into.

Here's the excerpt:
" A person with 'locked' joints has 'handles' and 'levers' - when force vectors are applied, such an individual cannot absorb and flow with said forces, cannot channel them into the ground, or cause them to resonate and amplify within a trained body, and more importantly, send them back through himself into the aggressor. Such locked joints do not only occur within the physical body. Ueshiba shows the same understanding as Wilhelm Reich, Ida Rolf, and Moshe Feldenkrais, that physical 'handles' and 'levers' are associated with binding and limitation within the psychological structure. Even with the most dedicated practice of physical technique, one very possibly will remain psychologically distorted, something we have seen in even graceful, very powerful martial artists. Similarly, were one merely to chant, meditate, or otherwise strive to cleanse the 'psychological/spiritual' body, one might be quite at peace until one 'runs into' the world, something occurring again and again when spiritual teachers of quite high attainment meet the temptations of modern society with a body still hungry for that energy".

You can find more about Ellis Amdur's work (which includes much more that martial arts training and writing books) here: