Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #42
Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.
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2 September 2016
Inside This Issue:
1. Words of Wisdom on my 49th Birthday: Investing in Your Body
2. Ki Survey
3. Personal Development on the Chain Link Ki Technique
3. Bon Odori Demonstration
4. Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ Articles of Interest
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!
So September ~ the end of triumphal summer, the beginnings of College Football, and crisp fall mornings loom on the horizon.
As for me personally, it also marks my birthday month. With September 2nd ~ the summer is officially gone, and I’ve just turned a year older. In some years, my birthday falls on Labor Day ~ which is only fitting ~ my brother was born on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d choose his birth date over mine any time, because green cake is so cool. What kind of a cake are you supposed to make on Labor Day? Maybe Al Capone knows, and why do I always associate unions with the mob or communism? Oh wait, now I remember ~~~ or do I?
Of course, I am thankful for a Gamecock victory over the hapless Vanderbilt Commodores last night in football, and at 49, I have a few thoughts of wisdom about being 49.
Words of Wisdom on my 49th Birthday
The first thought is that I’m glad I have had the opportunity to be 48, and that I look forward to many more birthdays ~ as many as I can stand.
The other thought is about general well being. When I look around at many people who are my age, I can’t help but conclude that too many of them look a whole lot older than I do. Those who are not overweight invariably look younger than those who might be carrying a few extra pounds. The point of the matter is this, you only get one body, and it will eventually wear out. That said, it won’t wear out as quickly if you take care of it. Make it last.
A few weeks ago, my son and I attended a natural bodybuilding contest. The runner up in the Men’s Open Division was a 49 year old named Gino. He came in a close second to a ripped 26 year old. The takeaway is that if you are not happy with your current body shape, take heart because you can fix it. Treat it well, and it will treat you well also.
Other inspirational stories of people taking care of their bodies. I met Sensei Jonathan Weiner (Aikikai 4th Dan) the first time I attended an Aikido of Charlotte Friendship seminar in January of 2014. At that time, he probably weighed 260-265 pounds. It was clear he had once been a fine athlete because he took ukemi in a fashion unlike any big man I’ve ever seen. It was jaw dropping.
Still he wasn’t happy with where he was overall physically. He was also facing some soon to be serious health issues, so he decided to make a change, and took the Advocare 24 Day Challenge.
He lost some weight. Then he lost some more weight. Then he got serious; hired a personal trainer and a nutritionist to help him not only get lean, but to also get strong. He starting documenting his wellness journey at journey.jonathanadamweiner.com - Today he weighs around 193 lbs. and he has only 10.17% Body Fat ~ with visible abs! I see him every few months ~ and I am amazed at his progress. He’s leaner than I am.
Too many people think that losing a little weight and keeping it off means dieting ~ and that dieting means starving to death.
Let me tell you ~ it doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you take a bodybuilder’s mindset. In fact, I bet you could eat 1,000 more calories a day ~ every day ~ and lose weight if you would follow a simple meal plan (which includes 6 meals a day) ~ and add strength training 3-4 days a week to your daily living routine.
Imagine losing weight, and building muscle that will keep you fit and active well into your 80s and 90s ~ while eating significant meals every 3 hours. Truth is, muscle takes a whole lot more calories to maintain ~ so the more muscle you build ~ the higher your metabolism goes ~ and the more you can eat.
Go look at your body in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, take charge and do something about it. It’s your body and it answers to you and you alone.
I just realized that in all of the time that I’ve worked on ngaexperience.com, I’ve never written an article on Ki. How fitting. Why? Well, I guess Ki isn’t something I think of as a topic of much mystery.
My first introduction to Ki was not actually in training at my dojo. Sensei Carter deliberately under-emphasizes (if not all together ignores the subject) due to all of the controversy surrounding it. He teaches the Ki techniques as ideas (perhaps as “applications within applications”), but before we get there, let me back up a little.
I first heard of ki in the unofficial manual of Aikido ~ namely the tome, “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” (ADS) by Adele Westbrook and Oscar Rati (they’re married ~ but for some reason the wife did not take her husband’s surname). Regardless of martial status or harmony, the authors of ADS wrote one of the most popular books on aikido ever written.
The techniques detailed in the book are all illustrated as line sketches. In fact, Oscar Rati’s iconic drawings depicting the art of aikido have been subject to more copyright abuses than you can shake a stick at. They are that good.
On one of the pages of the ADS book, there is a picture depicting nage in a position of physical dominance ~ as his would be attackers stagger and fall backwards down a flight of stairs.
The picture is presented as a potential example of ki, but there is no technique ~ just a guy boldly walking forward, and guys falling down in front of him. It kind of reminds me of the video clip to the left.
I was inherently skeptical (as we should all be) of the notion of a guy just walking into the middle of a group of people and making them all fall down using no technique whatsoever, but the other parts of the book were so good, that it was easy to ignore that one picture.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until I was a purple belt in our art that I was even formally exposed to any of our ki techniques. The date was 4/17/2011 ~ and I learned 5 techniques (Finger Link, Chain link, 2 Man Lift Up, Unbendable Arm, & Informal Sitting). The summer of that year, I was also introduced to the Bear Hug Walk at the Nutley, NJ dojo, and I was amazed at Sensei Durand’s power as he effortlessly dragged me around the dojo using that ki technique.
Rather than see ki techniques as “supernatural” things, it was easy to categorize most of the techniques as an application within an application. For example, the initial hip motion in 2 Hand Grip from the Rear, Throw to the Front ~ is an application of the Bear Hug Walk. “Lead with the hips ~ weight underside ~ and not your upper body or your arms.”
Recently, I’ve been thinking of ki as “liveliness.” When it is there, you feel it. When it is not there, you feel that too ~ especially if you’ve ever felt a technique where ki was properly applied.
Sometimes when I work with other people and there is no ki presence ~ I’ll encourage them to “lock your elbow into your side” ~ or to “envision your arms being filled with air.” This helps with techniques like the Elbow Chop, Leg Sweep, Unbendable Arm, High Bridge, Low Bridge, etc.
Sense we don’t talk about it in my home dojo much, all of the really good comments and descriptions I’ve heard describing ki generally come from cross training situations.
A high ranking Kuk Sool Won practitioner who now studies our art in Lexington sometimes refers to ki activation as “Live Hand” exercises ~ in which your hand is no longer dead or limp, but energetic in the movement. I like that description.
Sensei Truong, of Charlotte Aikikai, says, “All power should originate from your hips and stop at your elbows.”
Sensei Sanders, and Aikikai Sensei in Columbia, SC, can loosen any hand gripping his wrist by slowly extending the fingers of his gripped hand, and turning his hand palms up ~ mimicking a motion akin to scooping water. The grip is broken every time. No speed is necessary. He can break your grip using this technique in a millisecond, or in 5 seconds.
Personal Development on the Chain Link Ki Technique
When I first began to practice the Chain Link or Ring Finger Ki exercise, I so was intent on keeping my thumb and my index finger together that I squeezed them together as hard as I could. Then one day, I realized that I was doing it wrong because I was engaged in a simple exercise of strength.
Rearranging my focus from connecting the tips of my fingers, I began to envision connecting the knuckles on that hand rather than the finger tips. This effort presented far superior results to the first version ~ and was nearly effortless on my part. When I started doing the exercise in this way, there was no tension on the tips of my fingers ~ but you couldn’t separate the fingers either.
Then one day, I was reviewing a jujitsu application of the scissors choke from a headlock escape. After framing out uke to break the head lock, both legs are brought up to catch uke’s head ~ and perform a choke. The legs are crossed at the ankles with uke’s head in between the thighs to create a blood choke. Confused? Watch the Scissors Lock Grappling Explanation video bottom left.
As to the lock, we were instructed, “rather than trying to squeeze your knees together to create the choke, extend your legs instead.” Extending the legs generates a much better and stronger lock. So as it relates to the Chain Link Ki technique ~ now as my uke tries to pull my fingers apart, I just attempt to extend my fingers from their round shape to a more elongated tear drop shape while keeping the index finger and thumb relaxed. This intention matches the description of the jujitsu scissors choke, and creates a super strong lock without applying any pressure on the tips of your fingers.
In this fashion, there is a significant parallel between the Chain Link Ki Technique and the Unbendable Arm Ki Technique, where you simply point your finger at the wall while someone tries to bend your arm at the elbow.
I think these individual examples all hit on the notion of mechanical leverage or advantage, and I think ki exercises can be summarized in that fashion.
So ~ no magic, no skill ~ just a bit of thought about mechanical leverage as it relates to body movement. There you go. My understanding of Ki. I wonder if I will agree with these conclusions 5 years from now?
Bon Odori ~ Charlotte, NC ~ 2016
So, when a 6th dan asks you to participate in an Aikido Demonstration at a Japanese festival, you say “Yes!” It was a wonderful experience, and I was humbled to be included on Sensei Dennis Main’s (USAF Aikikai) depth chart.
In the planning phase of the demonstration, there was discussion as to who would handle which attack. I wanted to show distinct lineage to Nihon Goshin Aikido’s modern attacks, so I asked to be attacked with a closed fisted punch (tskue). It came to the abdomen instead of the chin ~ I should have asked for a tskue to the chin.
At any rate, the entire video is posted to the left, and the attacks I participated in begin at 4:30, and at 10:05. Kudos to Will Robinson (an up and coming NGA practitioner in his own right), who came to the demo to support me, and shot the video footage.
Articles of Interest
Real Fights! Real Fights! Real Fights!
Optimizing Practice Repetitions
New Aikido Applications Galore at the 2013 World Combat Games
Calling All Hakamas! Calling All Hakamas!
All right ~ I think that does it for September’s edition of Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido. I will look forward to our encounter next month.
In the meantime, let’s meet together on the mat and soon!
All the best,
These are not the Ki techniques you are
Oscar Rati’s iconic aikido line sketches have become so popular ~ they might even be said that they “define” aikido to many.
Here’s the entire Bon Odori Aikido demonstration.
Dennis Main, Sensei did a very good job explaining the intent of aikido. In short order, he covered, how the art in general does not create clashes, seeks to unbalance uke, uses uke’s attacking intention against him.
This is me as nage ~ executing a Front Wrist Throw ~ at the Bon Odori 2016 Aikido Demonstration. The uke is Sensei Phi Truong
Standard Chain Link
An example of my original understanding. Note the white area on the tip of the index finger indicating High Pressure at the tips of my index finger and thumb.
Chain Link ~ Knuckles In
An example of my first modification. Note how the knuckles of the index finger and thumb are being squeezed together. This modification minimizes pressure at the tip of the index finger & thumb and creates an even stronger lock.
Chain Link ~ Fingers Extended
This is my current understanding of this Ki technique. Note how the white area on the tip of the index finger and thumb is virtually gone, as their is no pressure on the tips of the fingers. The strength of the movement is vastly superior to the other two options.
Here’s a video clip of the scissors choke from a headlock escape.
The video demonstrates the ki principle of the Chain Link ~ where the fingers were extended to make the lock.
Once the headlock is broken and the scissors lock applied, it is tightened by extending your legs ~~~ not by squeezing your knees together.
Aikido has a living, breathing style to it that is further emphasized by the flowing hakama sway. It is the most intriguing part of our martial art’s uniform. I propose that we wear it often.
The Classic Lines of the Nihon Goshin Aikido training gi are unmistakable.
Some things simply never change. The student/ instructor uniform should be one of those things. This uniform marks a connection all the way back to the Chitose dojo, and should be preserved.
So ~ after a lot of beating on my computer, I think I’ve finally got my website program operational again.
Weapon’s Retention Training
Using Aikido Principles
See the Common Denominator Here?
The Ai and the Ki patches are an original part of the Nihon Gohsin Aikido Uniform.
If we seek to Honor Master Morita and His Art ~ I Would Think We Should Also Seek to Maintain His Highly Recognizable Uniform.