Friday, November 13, 2009

Training the Fire in us...

I don't remember exactly how our conversation came to this topic, but Sensei Hakim mentioned that he was concerned on how his newer students were training. Its ironic, I think part of what makes him so appealing to me is his grasp of Aiki. But here's a teacher concerned that his students are all but myopic on that elusive subject.

I mentioned before that Sensei delved into many aspects of the art to reach where he is today. He started with the hard before becoming soft. I also remembered some sifus clearly mentioning about this two sides of the same coin debate. Internal arts of China have 2 distinctions. Hard style and Soft style. An example of a hard style is Hsing Yi. Although its a hard style, it is still an Internal Art as opposed to an art which is purely physical say for lack of a better choice, Wushu for instance. A soft style would probably be Bagua.

There are other examples and some schools have hard and soft lineage in their single style. It also has been a grand debate on what gets trained first. The soft or the hard. Logically speaking, we should train the hard style when we are younger and the soft style when we are older. Hard style when we have more physical energy and hardiness, soft style when he have accumulated enough knowledge and experience.

But then, most who join Aikido chose it because it is considered a soft style. If they wanted to do joint breaks and throws, they could have taken up Judo, Jujitsu, Chin Na what have you. Still, before we go down this long road... let us understand what we want from Aikido.

To truly understand the value of something, you must experience its antithesis. To feel the full satisfaction of food in your stomach, you must have known hunger. To feel the value of wealth, you must have lived in poverty. Similarly, in order to fully understand the 'softness', we must know of the 'hardness'.

Be that as it may, we shouldn't confuse ourselves that hard is untenable. Hard style doesn't mean its any less effective. Hard in this context means we should learn Applications waza, mechanics, basic jujitsu, atemi waza, newaza, henka waza, etc. It means we should understand the principle of center line at the very least. The ability to discern tsuki or openings in our opponents defence and in ours. The ability to exploit that opening. The ability to defend ourselves and counter. The ability to recognise attacks and their attack line. The ability to move and keep balance. Timing, distance, kuzushi, first and foremost.

After we have some basic level of this, then I believe it would be more meaningful to start on the Soft aspects. Atari, Awase, Musubi, Takemusu. One who practices Budo must know fire, its danger and its power. The heat it provides us is what makes us 'Alive' and aware. If one takes on the aspect of 'Water' alone, one becomes lifeless or cold. One doesn't have to allow the fire to be big like a bon fire. But a light that can be used as needed.

Just as we hold our kamae in a relaxed but extended way. Our spirit shines a little light from this fire in our heart. But when trouble comes, we can open a bigger hole to send our spirit blazing into him before surrounding him with our 'water' and fluidness.

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