Solid gold stuff.
I double dare you!
Maija blogged somewhere that after doing this kind of training for years, she developed an instinct where she would feel a cold wind blowing on her body anywhere she was able to be hit, and would automatically cover the opening.
Maestro Umpad (rest in peace) was reputedly a master of footwork, as elusive as a ghost when he wanted to be — even in that tiny room in the video. Also, his techniques for close-range stickfighting were remarkably clever — levering the stick off the guard-hand’s elbow for extra snap, springloading it against the back of the neck or even the armpit — for finding power without any space to wind up.
In an internal document for future instructors evoking the relaxation, it’s stated: “the places you need to place under tension or relax is a process of personal discovery.”
You’ll say, “that’s not bad, but right now, what can I do?” This questioning has gone on for a while in the French Aunkai practitioners and a rough consensus has emerged around the model of the body devised by A. de Sambucy.
Dr. A. de Sambucy developed a method of correcting back problems through precise movements. Even if the object of Aunkai is not to correct such problems, by a coincidence (which is to say: not one) many of the students in my classes find their back problems are relieved. No surprise when one considers that the principle of Aunkai is to stretch the spine and move to reduce the sometimes excessive curvatures, source of various pathologies.
Dr. Sambucy’s method interests us less than the theoretical model that underpins it, the soft segments and hard segments, illustrated by the famous “Sambucy Snowman”:
The author describes his model as follows: “Man is a pile of hard and soft segments placed on each other and the hard-deformable bone belts, the soft roll of muscle surrounding organs – these segments slide some in front of others – they tend to collapse upon each other. They are all strung on a flexible common axis: the spine. “(A. Sambucy., Spinal corrective gymnastics, 1966, Paris, Editions Dangles)
In plain language the human body is composed of hard bony segments: head, thorax, pelvis) in which alternating soft segments (neck, trunk). The soft segments are held around the spine through a number of muscles.
At the back of the neck, the scalene muscles.
In front, the sternocleidomastoids.
The trunk is often the object of all my attention, because it’s often here that the problem is. The trunk is no more nor less than a “meat bag,” an unflattering expression but which clearly illustrates the biomechanics of this region of the body: a set aof viscera kept at the spine by a sheath of muscle.
Above, the diaphragm. Below, the perineum.
In front, the transverse abdominals.
From which a cross extends to the thoraco-lumbar fascia to enclose the whole area.
We now know that the biomechanics of the body are not homogeneous; all levels of the body do not behave the same way. Beyond the concept of relaxation, it seems more pertinent to speak of equalizing tension: making soft what is hard and hard what is soft.
Concretely, practice of the Aunkai exercises should include relaxing the shoulders and pelvis, but especially by putting tension in the neck and trunk. If the relaxing the hard segments is “relatively” easy, tensing the soft segments is less obvious because it revolves around the work of involuntary muscles (involuntary like the heart or intestines).
One of the methods I prefer for helping the work of equalizing tensions is the practice of “sheathing” (gainage) exercises, which I will explain in a future article.
(he hasn’t circled back to this yet)
Stick vs unarmed:
The truth is that Ueshiba’s spiritual path is so utterly a product of his time and culture, any attempt to imitate his journey will make you a fool — and not even a “holy fool.” Perhaps you should eliminate the… preliminary steps. Ueshiba did not “follow” a path, he was thrown into each period of his life, passionate and desperate to be other than he was. He was driven rather than led. Rather than retrace his steps, should you not be similarly thrown? Should you not try to find what he pursued, rather than what he did? Could you not replicate those initial steps through a path that encompasses putting up drywall in small-towns in sub-Arctic Canada, tango lessons in Buenos Aires, and painting in a garret in Montparnasse?
Let us ratchet it back, then. Let us talk only about the technology of kokyu and ki…
Ellis Amdur’s Hidden In Plain Sight is a pretty good book.