The following information is a compilation of the thoughts of many of the aikido within Fugakukai International Aikido. This site is only temporary until this can be placed on the Official Fugakukai Website.

DISCLAIMER: The grammar and spelling of the following text has not been edited.

No matter how much experience one does or doesn't have, you do contribute to the whole. The upper belts want to know how you are learning in order to improve their skills and make adjustments and the less experienced may more readily connect with their instructors.

Principles of Aikido as posted by Henry Copeland.

1. Recognize and accept responsibility for your contribution to failure

Sam Tipton

Regarding giving a shot at defining "recognize and accept responsibility for your contribution to failure," I would like to raise my hand. It would be easiest for me to do so by offering an example of what we did during last Friday's Aikido class.

Our teacher, Jack Bieler, and myself were in the center of the mat. I was asked to perform a two-handed shomen-ate. I placed both of my hands on his chin, with him leaning far back, yet in a static position. Then, as I stepped in to perform the technique he regained balance by grabbing both of my wrists then threw me as in sumi otoshi. We repeated that exercise several times and I remained perplexed as to how he, or anyone, could recover from such an inferior state and then take control of the situation.

Several of us were discussing where things went so "wrong" for me. Our conclusion was that I had defeated myself in at least two ways. First, by initially being in a static posture I was helping Jack retain his own balance. Second, I was leaning forward rather than maintaining my own posture. There are bound to be many other factors involved but those were the first that we've identified. So, using that as an example, I trust my interpretation of this principle is fair.

Henry Copeland

This is an excellent example on how this principle is to be applied.

The principle forces us to examine and question our own actions using an exterior criteria. It is not what we perceive in our minds as right that we use to judge our actions.

By learning to recognize our own failings, we achieve view of ourselves that is compatible with the "real" world around us. Many people cannot admit their errors, and hence set themselves up for catastrophic failure when their view of reality does not coincide with the environment in which they find themselves.

By accepting responsibility for our failures, we set into motion those actions which help us to eliminate the cause of the failure. If we blame them on something or someone else, we have no hope of fixing the problem. Sometime it is hard to see the root cause because we are not looking at the problem soon enough. But if we accept the responsibility we keep looking.

The principle also forces us to measure our solutions in terms of real factors, elimination those solution that are the result of mental conversation with ourselves, but cannot be verified in practice.

The principle applies in aikido in much the same way that mathematical induction does in mathematics. It allows us to get to the next level, with the confidence that we can continue doing so indefinitely.

The principle also helps us to refine our definition of failure and prevents us from defining success as winning.

Michael Denton

I cannot help to comment that if more people applied this to their everyday life we would all benefit and I'd be out of a job. I constantly see people who cannot, in their everyday dealings with other people or institutions, admit to their own level of responsibility in how things went. Instead, they "shut their mind to the chaos" and plod along blaming everyone and everything for their own actions all the while one a downward spiral they could stop if they really wanted to do so.

2. Mutual benefit

2.1. Transcend victory and defeat.

Courtney Dodd, Windsong Dojo

Why does this subject even come up? I mean, we're here to LEARN aikido, aren't we? And LEARNING certainly isn't about victory and defeat, is it? Well I'm here to tell you, the subject comes up ALL THE TIME. I suspect that for many folks the issue of victory/defeat is inherent in the classification of aikido as a martial art. I mean, we can use aikido to defend ourselves, and THAT certainly is a case of victory or defeat (victory we hope). So there is a cognitive tension there from the beginning: we want to LEARN aikido, but we define our learning progress by how many people we can defeat (defeat = get a technique on).

We know that to learn aikido we must actually accept instruction from others already in the art. This means we must enter the same sort of contract teachers and students everywhere must enter: the teacher agrees to teach to the best of his ability and the student agrees to follow the path set by the teacher. Tough one: most of us enter aikido as adults and we already KNOW that teachers aren't perfect. And we've read enough issues of Black Belt magazine to worry that some of the people in the dojo may be, ahem, assholes, and we suspect they may not be the most ideal of teachers. I mean, we not only worry that the teacher we get might not know anything, but we worry too that they might actually injure us, too.

To learn aikido we have to have teachers and we have to TRUST those teachers. And this trust is something that generally starts out small and grows with time and with our experience with the other aikido players. As this trust grows, we begin to see that to learn a technique, we must experience BOTH sides of it, not just the side where we "win." Randori shows us again and again that trying to take a technique usually results in the other guy getting a technique. We learn, slowly at first, that viewing aikido in terms of victory and defeat, JUST DOESN'T WORK. We learn, slowly at first, to trust our sempai, and ultimately to enjoy being on either end of a technique.

A final word: it is mostly in the hands of the teacher to convey the importance of transcending victory and defeat. It is critical, CRITICAL, that the teacher, the sempai, NOT JUST THE HEAD OF THE DOJO, recognize how much the growth of this trust depends on his actions. I think the finest aspect of KG Aikido is the emphasis that is given to teaching, to perpetuating the art as well as moving it forward.

2.2. No unnecessary harm

2.3. Uki provides honest responses

Roy Gawlick

Uke's honest attacks and responses tell us whether a given technique is valid in a combat or near combat situation, and it tells us whether someone of small size or advanced age can defend himself with this technique against a larger, stronger attacker. This is part of our empirical method, and it is essential if we are to transcend victory and defeat.

Karl wrote, "Our test mainly consisted of having uke attack in a realistic fashion, and once tori has begun to take the technique, uke would have the option of trying to prevent the technique from working.

"Uke was permitted to use the prior knowledge that he had about the technique in question, to try and develop various methods of blocking the technique and was only held responsible for making an honestly committed initial attack... We allow any sincere person in our system to question any technique and ask that a reasonable and realistic test be made to prove that it is indeed reasonably fail-safe and really useful against a strong, athletic opponent.

"Our simple rule, 'if it can't be tested, forget it,' is strictly followed today in all of our seminars. The kata techniques, therefore, were required to be realistic and useful to all ages and sizes of persons against a realistic attacker."

We talk about how important it is to practice the large movement in a technique, because it contains the small movement. If we practice the small movement, we may not be properly prepared when the time comes to use the large movement.

Therefore, for a technique to properly pass our tests of viability, uke must give the highest quality attacks and recoveries he can. If uke holds back, we won't have an accurate assessment of a given technique, or our own level of learning. We want to be properly prepared when the time comes to defend against the biggest, baddest uke on the block.

There is a difficulty, however, which Nick describes better than I can. "Kata, as we practice it, is highly refined demonstration of principle that is repeated for the purpose of internalization. As such, kata is a cooperative effort; wherein, both tori and uke are attempting to display, as clearly as possible, the workings of aikido principles in a dynamic forum. The combative uke will really be doing nothing more than enacting a control fantasy that is severely self-limiting to growth and understanding.

"For tori to maintain integrity of principle, uke must maintain integrity of attack.

"Uke must be the best complete aikido person he can be and still commit the attack, lose the balance, recover the balance, and re-attack. On a subconscious level, many people fear the feeling of being out of control in off balance, and subconsciously, they compensate for this fear by not really attacking. Once the problem is faced, and corrected, and uke can begin to deliver real attacks, then a whole new level becomes available to the aikidoka."

We can investigate the limits of our art only through the empirical method. Take a known situation, add a variable, and see what happens next.

This method doesn't work if we change several variables at once, as when we are looking at tori's technique and uke says (and worse, believes) that he has given a proper attack. The result is often something confusing and unexpected, and this makes it difficult to identify cause and effect properly.

To discover the nature of the real world, most humans have to focus on a small, manageable chunk at a time. That means controlling the variables under study as best we can. When we're studying tori or another part of the technique, we depend on uke to give us a full, committed, consistent attack so that we do not have to account for any unusual effects of the attack.

If uke does not give an honest, committed attack, we may believe the illusion that we have found the limits of a technique or counter technique, or that it does not work in certain situations when in fact it could. We can't learn effectively through illusion.

A weak or wild or novel attack is just fine, as long as that is the variable under study, as when we are working with an inexperienced uke or trying to account for drunken red necks.

As Nick wrote, we sometimes have an uke who holds back on his attacks, usually unknowingly, because of fear - fear of falling, fear of being struck, fear of actually striking tori, fear of losing control. That describes me on many occasions, as it describes many others. Again, it's just great to give these poor attacks. Uke should give lots of poor attacks - so long as it's when we're focusing on attacks and how to improve them. I for one have to explore as many of the 'wrong' and inefficient attacks as I can discover, before I see the simple and efficient methods that are left over. But this is only in the context of learning to attack and facing uke's fears.

Failure, in this sense, is a real joy because for some (me!) it is a necessary path toward success. Can't get there without going through here.

Tori needs his share of failure too, though. It's not fair if uke practices failure at the same time.

Our empirical method has led us to learn about another illusion. Deep down many of us believe that accepting a little failure will save us from defeat.

There is a tendency to fail at something, and then to quit. Some people drop out of school after failing a test, or drop out of a relationship after a bad date, or stop defending if they believe their principles aren't working against a persistent attacker, or stop attacking when they meet opposition and don't know how to continue. This is dishonest, because we are "constructing a world to fit our illusions." What we've done is guarantee defeat by accepting a small amount of failure.

We must learn that we're not dead until we're dead. We must learn, and learn physically as well as mentally, that there are always more options. We must learn that we will fail when we practice our techniques, but we can survive if we look for the opportunities that failure gives to us.

With proper responses from uke, tori learns to link distinct techniques and uke learns to keep looking for a way out.

On a technical level, oshi taoshi may lead to ude gaeshi, for example, or kote hineri may lead to kote gaeshi. In rondori, superior and inferior positions, and the roles of uke and tori, flow back and forth continuously. Rather, they can flow continuously if both partners have experience in giving good attacks and applying principles to those attacks, and don't focus on success and failure.

Uke and tori, when they give each other the best attacks and techniques they can, learn to "survive in the gutter." They learn that every position of strength for uke leads to a position of strength for tori, and then back to uke.

If you keep trying, and keep learning, you discover that you might fail at a particular technique but that you haven't failed to defend yourself. If uke gives honest attacks and responses, and tori learns to handle them, both learn that failure is not necessarily followed by defeat.

3. Nothing Works

Charlotte Siegel

It has been stated that every technique has a built in way to defeat it and that we cannot underestimate the human potential. So, this would mean that there is no technique that is "fool proof" and would work all of the time. A person could attack you in a way that would be just perfect for a certain technique, but after you initially take their balance they go to recover in the "wrong" direction and completely mess up your technique. This is why it is crucial to be able to change directions. "Nothing works" all of the time. Body posture, such as keeping your weight 50/50, staying on the balls of you feet, having your knees slightly bent, and moving from your center enables you move in any direction at any time. You never want to make a committed defense that would leave you unable to change directions.

In the Ju Nana Hon Kata there are many techniques which have the same initial off balance. The technique is determined by how uke responds. As much as we practice all of these possible responses, a person attacking could react in a way we never have imagined. So, we need to be prepared for anything and be able to respond in any direction. Randori is the best place to experiment with this since it is a free form and uke is totally unpredictable.

3.1. Two directions

3.2. Every technique has built in a way to defeat it

Sam Tipton

Here's my stab at defining the priciple that "every technique has built into it a way to defeat it":

This is not meant to be a lame attempt at dancing around the requested reply. Instead, I'm referring to something Karl mentioned at the OKC Aikido clinic on 10/16/99. Karl made a point of stating that if he ever noticed that he was beginning to apply a given technique on uke, he would immediately abort his "effort." It's my belief that he was telling us that if cognition of our actions is present in our minds then the technique is no longer instinctive. Our actions should be totally involuntary - that is, without forethought of the outcome - if our Aikido is to remain an art. It seems Karl was, perhaps indirectly, telling us that also letting us know that if we, as tori, know what technique we intend to use, then an observant uke will also know our intention and thus defeat our technique. Perhaps composing this response to you during a bout of insomnia at 2:00am makes my reply a bit rough. But, there you have it. Someone with a refreshed brain --- please jump in and bail me out.

Patrick Parker

I remember meeting Henry and doing randori with him for the first time when I was an ikkyu. He was talking about this topic (sort of). He asked me what my favorite technique was and at the time I told him tenkai kote hineri.

His next sentence stuck in my head and I've pondered it a long time: "You only like the techniques you're afraid of."

He then proceeded to give me every conceivable opportunity to do ternkai kote hineri and walked out of it every time. The whole time - though it seemed like he was either putting me in tenkai kote hineri or I was hurling myself headfirst at the ground (or both).

As to the homework: A technique, while I often talk in terms of techniques being machines, is not a machine that tears a limb off of uke whenever we turn it on. a technique is a set of motions or types of motions that occur inside of a complex system. seldom (if ever) can we see all of the system. With practice we learn to see more of the system and to figure out which parts of the system we can and cant ignore for our purposes.

If, through arrogance or ignorance, we ignore crucial parts of the system that we are in and decide that a technique is something that we can "do" to uke, then chances are that we will push uke right to the right spot to sail us. or at the very least with an unskilled uke, we'll push him to where he can resist.

In other words, it is obvious from randori-ing with karl and henry and compnay that there is a way to get out of every thing we can do. It seems to me that he key word in this homework principle is "built-in" which to me implies that it is an automatic function of the way the technique builds itself within the system of two people hooked together and moving. If we add our desires to the equation then we will change the conditions that exist from those that are making a given technique to those conditions which do not favor that technique.

3.3. Cannot underestimate the human potential

4. Automatic first response (autonomic or conditioned.)

Michael Denton

Automatic First Response or
"To boldly Go where No one has Sen before"

Of primary (and obvious) importance in any martial arts training is "How do we respond to an attack?" Various styles take differing approaches to this question. Some styles ask the question back, "What kind of attack?" They then proceed to tell the practitioner to step to spot B or grab or strike at target Z depending on uke's attack (a conditional response). This approach is problematic for several reasons, therefore, Fugakukai aikido takes an approach that trains a standard first response to any attack

The principal problem with conditional first responses is that misjudgement of uke's intent could and probably will be catastrophic. Even with a significant number of years of practice, the time required for the human mind to process the immense number of variables in uke's attack and then process an appropriate response from his internal "catalogue" is so substantial that error and failure on the part of tori is probable. A beginner in such an art stands almost no chance in processing these factors succ

In building an automatic first response, we try to minimize what the brain has to process. We build upon natural, reflexive motions and make them more efficient. We simplify and distill options. Simplification includes the use of natural motions and universalization of response. Use of the below listed principles allows us to worry less about where we end up (to uke's inside or outside/left or right/etc.) and focus on, as Renard Jackson Sensei says, "The Principle" (getting out of the way of the attack).

Another tool of internalizing our first response is reiteration. Casual observation will show that people react to situations according to what they have most practiced. Kata provides a forum for reiteration of principle. Also, because the number of principles are actually quite small, we are able to reiterate them with high frequency.

Typically Fugakukai first response involves three major components:

  1. falling off the line of attack;
  2. raising our arms to approximately should level with wrists back;
  3. an intuitive understanding of maai, or attack distance.

All three of these components work together to protect tori should the other components fail; they act, as others have pointed out, as a redundant system. These systems also allow for recovery from mistakes. Should tori err in application of these or other principles, all of these components allow tori to correct, disengage, or at least minimize damage from uke.

We build upon natural foot movement; we acknowledge that at the time of the attack tori will likely be loaded on one foot. We then train the more efficient method of "falling" out of the way rather than proceeding through a full gait cycle. We build upon the natural reaction of lifting our hands in surprise. We add components to it such as having the wrist back, the fingers up, the arm centered and same hand/same foot.

The least natural component, judgement of maai becomes ingrained through most of the kata in the system. Practitioners constantly are asked to make judgement of maai in kata. Thus, tori (and uke) quickly internalise effective distance to avoid attack or land an attack. As Henry Copeland Sensei recently pointed out, in order for maai to become internalized, or automatic, maai must remain the same throughout the katas and practitioners should ensure that a standard is set and maintained.

In conclusion, we want a first response that maximizes our use of time. The best way to accomplish this is to internalize a set of principles useful in any situation and that allows for errors. In Fugakukai, our use of movement off the line of attack by falling, the shomen ate arm/hand, and internalization of maai has provided these necessary components.

5. Maai

Nick Lowery

The distance you must train to always react to, defined by the exact space wherein if you are looking the other person in the eyeyou still barely have perpherial sight of the feet, roughly measured by the distance of two tegatana --middle fingers lightly touching, palms only seperate by a few millimeters. Learn to move and react from exactly there-- to walk on the edge of the world-- to define a consistant set of space/time coordinates that your subconscious can dependably trigger on and you have a key to some real mojo. Watch out and be ruthlessly vigilant withyourself in your practice and do not let yourself slipp into adding a little space to your maai -- measuring off then adding a little comfort step back etc. (it is a natural thing to want to do this -- maai sets off our "spidey sense" its uncomfortable and we'd prefer to start a little soonerand not feel pressed) Dont do it -- dont let yourself do it -- Stick to real maai-- live in the discomfort of that closer space, for by doing so you will be adding a condition that demands precision, and you will be forcing yourself over time to work under a pressure of reality that you just cant get if you allow yourself the little luxury of an inflated maai. it comes down to the idea that you train to handle the hard stuff cause if you can handle the hard stuff then the easy stuff is easy. . .

Sorry if I got a bit on the soap box there -- I am a reformed maai inflater and recovering maai dialater myself and once KG showed me the light and the error of my ways Ive been ranting insufferably on the subject ever since.

Patrick Parker

Thanks, Nick, For the insightful comments on ma-ai inflation. I concur wholeheartedly with what you have to say and we have been emphasizing this topic recently in class. I have some comments on it, though.

This may seem like gnawing this bone to death...

You mention that the hand-to-hand thing is a rough measurement or an approximation of ma-ai and you DEFINE ma-ai in terms of peripheral vision. I have always considered the peripheral vision thing to be another approximation - not the definition of ma-ai. I have always considered the definition of ma-ai in terms of distance. Specifically the distance at which uke has to make a step toward you in order to reach you. Recently in our hashing over this my definition of ma-ai has become more rigorous in that I consider it to be the distance at which uke with one full down step can barely reach you. But in either definition I think of it in terms of distance.

Some of my friends think of it in terms of time instead of distance or peripheral vision. Perhaps they would expand upon this. I think that the time and the distance thing is roughly the same thing.

So we have to develop an acute, intuitive feel for this distance/time relationship. The peripheral vision thing is one approximation of this distance. The eye-contact thing is an approximation of ma-ai based on parallax (which is basically a time/speed measure). The hand-to-hand measure is another approximation. By taking these several different approximations and (SORT OF) averaging them then we rapidly develop this intuition of where our boundary of success is and where uke's is.

Am I close to on track or is THE definition of ma-ai based on terms of peripheral vision?

Henry Copeland

The hand-to-hand "approximation" is the most precise and reproducible definition. It, fortuitously, gives a very good measure of all the other definitions. It is the preciseness of this definition which we can internalize, and is independent of how we feel and what we want and what we would consider better and all those other arbitrary criteria that keep us from developing a clear decision point.

Nick Lowery

In definining Maai in terms of peripherial vision I am recalling Karl's description of how Mr. Tomiki defined it -- that the hand to hand mesurement was an approximation of the vision condition, but he did not say that the vision condition was an approximation also so I will have to think on this further..

Heather Beck

From how Nick recently described this to me, it would seem to me they are both the same thing... Try measuring ma-ai using your hands. You will notice that this is the same point at which the other person's feet disappear. I have also heard the time definition of ma-ai and it too seems to be describing the same physical distance as well as time. It is just another way to describe it and gain the advantage of another viewpoint. The critical thing is that you are retraining your subconsciousness to set off those alarm bells when you are no longer at a safe point... (Like Nick's "Spidey-Senses.")

Glenn Brook

The measurement of ma-ai via hand-blades and the measurement of ma-ai via peripheral vision are not universally equivalent. There are many common anatomical deviations (assuming a "normal" human anatomy can be defined) that can affect the measurements.

Suppose a person with rather long arms also had exceptional peripheral vision. It is quite likely that such a person could see a portion of the gound between himself and his partner when standing at ma-ai as defined by arm length.

As a more concrete and actual example, I have small growths in the back of my eye near the optic nerve interface. These growths (referred to as drusen, I believe) effectively limit my peripheral vision. As a result, I generally can not see the lower portion of my partner's legs when standing at ma-ai as defined by arm length.

Should I be training my "spidey-sense" to trigger at the distance I can no longer see my entire attacker, or should I be comfortable allowing the attacker to approach to arm length? For that matter, what should I do about rocks that "disappear" just as I should be stepping over them?

On an aside:

I think that the loss of peripheral vision due to the drusen would bother me far less if I had adapted since birth to deal with the situation. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I have only begun to notice a significant loss of peripheral vision within the last year or two.

These days, I am increasingly likely to stumble over objects, and I have to keep looking away from people with whom I am speaking in order to maintain awareness of my immediate environment. Hopefully, these problems will dissapate as my brain develops a more accurate and efficient extrapolation routine.

Rich Minnis

I have finally read this thread on Maai, and am interested in the thoughts of everyone on the way maai is introduced in "aikido and the dynamic sphere". THey talk about the unified power of force (pg. 58). Basically, they talk about maai as the distance at which uke's power reaches its limit just prior to contact. i.e. the distance at which they punch and can almost reach you is maai, any closer and you receive the full power of impact, any farther and they probably would not attack. What is everyone's thought on this?

Henry Copeland

The definition of Maai in terms of attack distance is correct, except it is subjective and cannot be reproducibly measured. It will always reflect how comfortable we are with our position.

There are two sides of Maai. If you are too close, both tori and uke are within attack distance. If uke attacks from mai (define by arm length), he can be less than maai when his attack fails, in fact he can be one arms length (the other magic distance) away from tori and subject to an immediate application of force. If the distance is to large, then tori must move at a point where he cannot achieve the one arms length geometry. Hence, uke can sneak across maai, cause tori to respond, and be momentarily immune to attack, giving him the opportunity to adjust his attack from a distance will within maai.

The one arms length definition is fairly precise (most shodan and above can walk up to maai no matter who they are approaching), easily measured, and not subject to internal adjustments. Once the distance is imprinted, adjustment for weapons are easily adapted.

Michael Denton

I seem to be following what you are saying, but I get confused with how you diferentiate between two "magic lengths." One seems to be maai and the other one arm's length. But isn't maai approximated by one arm's length?

What's the difference that I'm missing?

Heather Beck

I am reminded once again that this is just another way to describe the actual objectives we are trying to accomplish in the first place. The whole point of any measurement of ma-ai is to help us become aware of our "safety zone." If we never get used to making an effort to learn where this is, we will never be able to subconsciously recognize it when we need to in a real life situation. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to take physical limitations into consideration and modify techniques as needed. In your case, I would have to re-define ma-ai to fit your particular vision problem. (The description itself and perhaps the physical distance as well.) One of my students has a birth defect (bad hand) which prevents him from grabbing people on one side for releases. In his case, we only have him grab for one side and get as close to approximation as he can on the other. Another person has stiff knees preventing him from doing squatting side falls so I have him do them from a sitting position instead. If a person is physically unable to do something a particular way, it should be modified to fit his\her situation as needed while maintaining the principles and final objectives.

Henry Copeland

Maai is two arms lenghts, one for you and one for the other guy. One arms length is when it one for you and zero for the other guy.

Henry Copeland

We generally think of ma-ai as the space which tori defends. We often do not consider it from uke's point of view. Uke must internalize the distance which is the boundary between success and failure of an attack. Any attack from further away must fail. When this distance is internalized, uke will automatically know when tori is close enough. The transfers when uke becomes tori.

It is a more refined sensitivity for uke to walk up just to ma-ai and then attack than it is for tori to repond when uke crosses ma-ai.

The other distance, just one arms lenght away, is the closest distance an attack can be initiated with a straight arm. Tori internalizes these distances when he attacks in the kata. It is the space between uke's attack distance and tori's attack distance in which tori can be harmed and uke is most vulnerable to catastrophic failure. Uke learns to deal with this failure in its extreme form to survive.

Ma-ai with weapons carries the same idea. In san kata, the transition, hand-knife-sword-stick, addresses the problems with changing ma-ai. With hand you can attack uke's center. With a knife you can still attack his center in some cases or attack the attack in others. With the sword you attack the attack. With the stick, you again attack the center, but after an extra step or two.

In randori, we learn to deal with the other person in the space between ma-ai and one arms length. It must be recognized that you are in the same space.

Some tori in the release movements present their hands too high or too low. The ideal position would be if uke is at a distanct just touching tori's chin, tori's places his hand so as to just concide with uke's grasp if uke allows his hand to drop to the grasp position. The reinforces the same ma-ai. You have to practice to create a single ma-ai. Otherwise, you will always be deciding when to move, rather than moving.

There is a famous frog experiment. A frog, because of his independent vision in each eye, has a left ma-ai and a right ma-ai. If a bug crosses into either, the frog eats. But if bugs arrive simultaneously at the two ma-ai, the frog is unable to act. In fact, he freezes and is unable to react to other stimula as well.

Scott Beranek

Thank you Henry, I wasn't sure if I was getting it right about Maai. So many of the words required to express the idea work two ways if I'm not careful. You've a nack for cramming a lot into few words.

Most likely my last posting did not make it to you before your's was sent. I got back to the ART issue. I'm not as married to the ideas I sometimes expound as it would seem. I would personally be gratefull if you'd shoot whatever holes in what I've said as you would.

5.1. Response is independent of strength and speed of attacker. (more than a criteria)

Terrel Gibbs

In the KG system, we seek solutions of maximum generality to physical conflict. This is critical, because choosing from multiple responses necessarily interposes slow, higher-level thought processes at a moment when reaction speed is likely to be critical. We cannot rely upon having the time to judge our attacker's speed and strength and select an appropriate response from a list of options. Although not directly stated here, this also implies that the response must also be independent of our *own* strength and speed, because in conflict situations, it is generally relative speed and strength that is most important.

This might seem an impossible demand, but experience and experimentation have shown that it is possible.

I'll break it down into two parts.

5.1.1 Response is independent of strength of attacker.

Note that this virtually eliminates the option of simply overpowering the attacker, because even if that is possible with a particular attacker, it may not work with another, stronger attacker.

In mathematics and physics, sometimes you have to deal with an equation with a variable in it that you have no way of assigning a value to. It might seem that in such a case, the equation cannot be solved, and you can reach no conclusion. Often, however, it turns out that there is a way to change the equation such that the unknown variable "cancels out," and it is possible to draw a useful conclusion.

So how do we change the conflict equation, to "cancel out" physical strength, so that we may bring the encounter to a useful (for us, anyway) conclusion?

The answer is to use your attacker's power rather than your own. You may or may not be as strong as he is, but he is most certainly as strong as himself. How is this to be achieved? Fortunately, we are two-legged beasts with a narrow base and a high center of gravity, and that makes us inherently unstable. Walking is a complex and precarious activity, made possible only by a precise balance of forces and momentum. Moreover, because of inherent conduction and transmission limitations of our nervous system, walking necessarily involves an element of anticipation and "feed-forward", and all of this goes on below the level of consciousness, because the conscious mind is far too slow. These factors make us particularly vulnerable to positive feedback and overcompensation, in which the reaction to a perturbation actually makes matters worse, either because it is too extreme, or because it occurs too late in time. In other words, our own strength destroys us. This is exacerbated if somebody is trying to deliver power, which forces him to "push the envelope" of what his body can physically accomplish, and makes him even more vulnerable to such perturbations. So our goal as aikidoists is to deliver the small perturbation that initiates a sequence of compensatory reactions that disrupts our attacker's motion and allows us to move to a position of greater advantage, or, ideally, throws him to the ground. It is your attacker's reaction, not your action, that destroys him.

5.1.2 Response is independent of the speed of the attacker

For this to be true, one must maintain maai. A person's hands can move very fast. Indeed, a skilled fighter can strike so fast that it is nearly impossible for the human nervous system to respond in time to block or avoid the blow. But at maai, our attacker must take a step toward us in order to strike us, and it turns out that everybody takes that first step about equally rapidly. Again, this is a consequence of the way we stand and walk. We walk by pushing against the ground with our feet. But a large part of the force we exert on the ground goes into pushing our center upwards.

Mathematical digression (skip if you hated trigonometry):
Mathematically, the fraction of the force you exert on the ground that goes into moving you forward is 1/tan(theta), where theta is approximately the angle of your leg with the ground. When standing upright, theta is close to90 degrees, which means that almost all of the force you exert on the ground goes into pushing your center up. That's why sprinters and linebackers get down into a crouch, because the smaller the angle between your leg and the ground, the greater the fraction of your leg power can go into projecting yourself forward (and also, by starting low, you can afford to push your center up a bit without losing contact with the ground). But to even get as much as half of your power into forward motion, you have to have a 45 degree angle between your leg and the ground, and that's a pretty deep stance.

So if your attacker shoves extra hard against the ground in an effort to accelerate toward you rapidly, all he succeeds in doing is leaping up into the air, making himself a predictable target for whatever nasty thing you might want to do to him. If he doesn't want to jump up into the air, then the vertical part of the force he exerts on the ground cannot be much greater than the force of gravity pulling him down. And since the ratio of the vertical to the horizontal force is set by his leg angle, that means that gravity also limits how fast he can accelerate toward you. As Galileo showed, gravity pulls upon all of us the same. Leg angles depend a bit upon stance and size, but for a normal person standing upright, do not differ all that much. So starting from a standing start, everybody accelerates forward about equally rapidly, no matter how fast they can move their legs. Of course, a runner reach a greater top speed, because he can move his legs faster, but that doesn't help him get off the mark any faster than an 80 year old grandmother. Moreover, he accelerates very slowly at the beginning of his step.

So as long as we maintain maai, we know that no matter how fast our attacker can move his fist, it can't reach us until his body gets into range, and that part is fairly slow. No matter how fast the fist is moving, it still can't get to us any faster than if he were stepping forward with a simple shomen-ate. So there is plenty of time to move off the line before he gets to us.

There's another thing about motion that's worth mentioning. We stop moving in exactly the same way we start, by pushing against the ground, and all the same considerations apply. Again, we can only shove so hard on the ground without jumping up into the air. So it takes just as long to stop moving as it does to start. Making a 90 degree turn once we are in motion is particularly bad, because we have to completely stop our forward momentum in one direction, and then start from scratch at right angles, so there are *three* acceleration/deceleration delays. So when you step 90 degrees off the line, you present an attacker with a particularly difficult problem. And of course, any off-balance you create slows him down even further. So long as you continue to walk off the line, so that your attacker can never build up a "head of steam" in your direction, it doesn't matter how fast he can run; he'll never be able to catch up to you.

6. Techniques are self regulating

Patrick Parker

Part of making this system self regulating and self separating and naturally disengaging is allowing for the possibility for uke's system to fail catastrophically at any time but not trying to make this happen.

Something that we practice every so often is having uke fall out of the offbalances in junana. If uke has much momentum and you do the offbalance to #1 then uke takes a forward otoshi fall. If you do the 45 degree offbalance like in #3 then uke spins and takes a side fall or a back fall. If you do the offbalance to #14 or any of the floating throws then uke spins into a guruma-like fall.

WARNING: use a crash pad. These falls from these off-balances will kill people.

But anyway - what does this have to do with self regulating and naturally separating? If we are clinging to uke expecting a certain reaction but we accidentally happen to get everything right then when he falls we're screwed. On the other hand, if we are depending on getting everything right and shit happens then we're screwed again.

By living on the edge between expecting nothing to work but being prepared for it to work dramatically the techniques begin to evolve toward a form that will work in either situation. This is part of self-regulation.

Henry Copeland

This is a partial example of the concept. In the "what he does, he references his activity to uke. In the "what he doesn't do" he avoids creating expectations that are derived from within himself.

I have even seen people build this into kata. Someone will analyze a technique thus:

I "do something" to uke. Uke then "does something". Then I can throw uke. That tori will then find a willing uke to practice the scenario and things work. He then proclaims he has found the "Holy Grail" for the technique and begins proselytizing others to buy in to this form of the kata. Without testing this becomes a self-reference loop.

When your actions are dictated by uke, the techniques become self-regulating. Uke determines the direction. Uke determines the time. Uke determines the technique.

Terrell Gibbs

In keeping with Henry's thermodynamic approach, another way of describing a self-regulating system is to say that the optimum is a low-energy state of the system. In other words, to do it wrong, you have to actually put energy into the system. In the motion of a body, there are an immense number of variables, corresponding to all of the things that uke might do, as well as all of the different physical parameters, such as height, weight, etc. If each demands an adjustment to tori's technique, then tori is put in the position of having to determine and execute the appropriate corrections at a time when things are moving very fast and tori is probably not in the best mental state to be making complicated calculations. On the other hand, if the technique is designed to be self-regulating, then all tori has to do is not interfere, and the dynamic system will spontaneously seek its minimum energy trajectory--which will be the correct path for that set of variables.

It sounds very simple, but as usual, simple does not mean easy. People who go into the martial arts tend to be control freaks in some sense or other. We like to *decide* where we are going to put our foot down, and the idea of ceding that decision to our opponent goes very much against the grain, even when we know intellectually that the only way to truly be in control of the situation is to stop actively trying to control it.

6.1. Response is self separating

Terrell Gibbs

As I see it your response to an attack, as a highly trained Aikidoka, is primarily self-levelling. In that Uke will at some point become level with the mat with the exception of certain body parts upon occasion.

The aspects of our system that lend themselves toward self separation, like mayonnaise on a hot day sitting in an ice chest left in the shade four hours ago but shade moves as the sun moves and I don't appreciate it being left out like that! Oh, sorry. Self-separating, is like when the wind blows through the trees. No, it's not like that it's more like cutting your own leg off when playing with someone else's favorite sword. Even when you clean everything and put it back, you still can't just get up and walk out without someone noticing.

Well, I should have explained or sought to define 'Response' first. It will make much more sense then.

Let's see, 'Re' means to do something again. We all know that. And 'Sponse' is from old Italian, it's derived from the root word 'spouce'. Turn the 'U' upside down and change the 'C' for an 'S' and you'll see what I mean. So, 'Re-Sponse' means to get back together with your wife or husband. But in today's language we use it to mean that unmeasurable period of time that your pay check is yours. The only way that we can know that there is a moment when it's yours is because it's recorded that way some where so that taxes can be assessed.

Now we have the two parts of the principle laid out. We just need to put them together.

'Response is self separating' or Your paycheck was yours but it's spent before you got it.

I don't for the life of me know why that's an Aikido principle. I thought they'd be things like;


If someone attacks, fall down, but keep one leg under you so that before you fall too far you can catch yourself with that leg and you should wind up moving over and the other guy should miss you, if you do it in time and you don't go all the way down or trip. Now that, I can understand.

But that's not what we get. We get things like the principle that says, 'Nothing Works'. Shouldn't that be 'No One' works? If nothing works, then my faith is shaken to the very core! I'm going to quit typing and go find a doctor. Because right now, I'd swear that I was typing on a key board and letters seem to be forming before my eyes. Of course it nothing works, I can't shut this thing off because it's not on. A Koan?

It's all too much. I think I'm self referencing.

6.2. Techniques naturally disengage when past endpoint

7. Power from center

Scott Jenkins

I was at Winter Clinic many years ago, when the fireplace was on the porch, and twisting balloon animals was a major side activity, and during one of those conversations that often break out at the front of the dojo, Karl made the point that learning anything is essentially building up the vocabulary of the new discipline, along with the required physicals kills. Karl was using a very broad definition of vocabulary, I think, but within that definition the point was fairly true.

So if the discipline is Aikido, everyone will build a vocabulary to teach themselves and supplement the physical learning. I don't know that this vocabulary--dialect if you will--is going to be the same for every aikido practitioner, or every region. What should be true is that despite the dialectal differences, the underlying physical experience is the same.

We are asked to explain what some of Henry's analysis into words of the principals of aikido means to us. I can only do that in terms of my own dialect and experience. I don't know how this will map exactly onto Henry's interpretation of the terms, nor anyone else's.

All of this is by way of being a big disclaimer: everything below is my interpretation, as I understand things right now. Measure any truth it may have through the filter of your own experience.

Power From Center

Shoulders Over Hips

The more I learn about aikido, the less is there. Things learned earlier by rote become manifestations of rules. Rules learned earlier through hard practice hours become manifestations of underlying principals. And those principals become consequences of even more fundamental principals.

Over time, I have established what for me is current Working Hypothesis that several of our most basic rules:

  • Hand over foot
  • Same hand, same foot
  • Left, right, left, right
  • Keep the Box

actually contribute to the more general physical invariant Shoulders Over Hips. I have watched gymnasts, golfers, speed skaters, and (due to the insidious influence of my teachers) NFL football athletes, and even martial artists of other styles (as well as our own)--and all of them keep their shoulders over their hips.

At one point in my youth, unfortunately not yet forgotten, my Dad tried to teach me to play golf. This involved various cruelties such as buying me golf clubs, taking me to driving ranges and golf courses, and of course, trying to explain and demonstrate how to play. At the time, I had the approximate physical coordination and body knowledge of a two-day old infant, and so these efforts were doomed from the outset. Golf had a number of strange things you had to do, such as Keep Your Head Down, Turn Your Foot, and Follow-Through (I am sure I am forgetting some). As I recall these lessons through my aikido-trained eyes, I realize that they all, together, had the intended effect of Shoulders Over Hips.

A couple of days after this revelation (if it deserves such as fancy term),I was at my folks house watching world-class women's gymnastics on television. I realized I could tell every time the young woman would falloff of the balance beam, or break her tumbling run (before it actually happened). It was because her shoulders weren't over her hips.

By shoulders over hips, I mean that the spine is not torqued, and the back is relaxed, and if you drew a line from the right shoulder to the point of the right hip, and the left to the left, the lines would be parallel (or at least have an equal angle of convergence towards the spine).

Thus my working hypothesis is that good posture in aikido requires Shoulders Over Hips, not because it is fundamental to aikido (although it is) but because it is fundamental to the physiology of the human body. I cannot explain why in terms of skeletal anatomy or tendons or what not(nor even in terms of chi meridians) this is true, but it appears to me to be fundamentally true, by empirical evidence.

I notice that when I manage (rarely enough, but just once in a while lately) to keep my hand over feet, manage to use the same hand and foot(or manage to have that floating hand that goes with the non-power foot),and with one foot and then the other--magically, my shoulders are over my hips.

Shoulders Over Hips is the first element of what Power From Center means tome, because you cannot have Power From Center if the body is not in fundamentally good posture to deliver that power.

The Unbendable Arm

A small aside: the Unbendable Arm may sometimes be required to transmit Power From Center, but it is not part of the principal as I understand it, nor essential, because that power can be transmitted through any appropriate connection (such as a hip as in some variants of Gedan-ate, or through the upper body if an uke grabs on and doesn't--or cannot--let go, or through a jo, and so forth).

Timing and Opportunity

Shoulders Over Hips necessarily is the first, and easiest element, of Power From Center to learn. It must come first, because without it, no power can be transmitted. It is the easiest element to learn, because it is entirely within your own body. No feedback and interaction with an uke is required to know whether your own shoulders and hips are in alignment--just the physical experience to recognize it.

The second element I am just now beginning to learn, and I have no name for it. Since I am just learning it, I may be very clumsy in expressing it, so I hope you will be patient with my groping towards understanding.

In randori, a moment may occur when your partner attacks that if you drop your weight through your good structure into them, you know that it will have a deleterious effect on their balance. They might not be thrown on that step, but they will have a problem to solve, with more strictly limited choices, then if you had not allowed that body drop to happen. Without the body drop, they may complete an attack to you.

This moment, recognizing it, and allowing the body drop to occur in the right direction, to me is the second element of using Power From Center. It is a moment of maximum changeability in the system comprised of both randori partners, when a small motion can have a disproportionate effect.

There are many complex elements that I cannot yet express in words, having to do with how the cycle of the step works, and rising and falling, and which parts of the step permit changing of directions, and so forth. I suspect the fact that to me it is so complicated means that I haven't yet learned enough about it to make it simpler.

The best way I can explain when this moment occurs is to tell a story about some randori that helped me understand something about this time.

I was practicing randori with a person who is smaller than I am (I am pretty tall, and pretty wide, and have a consequently large mass). I was practicing with an individual who was much smaller than me, both in height and slimness. This individual therefore had a very quick step cycling time, unlike mine which is ponderously slow.

I would just be dropping into my right foot, and right handed unbendable arm, when this individual would be ready to change feet due to their quicker cycle time. They would try to change direction -into- me. There was no way for me to reset my body from falling and remove the power from that arm without completely destroying my own balance and structure--it was a time when I could legitimately use power, and the other individual could not. However, the only power I could legitimately use was the power I was already committed to: stepping into that foot, because anything else would have destroyed my Shoulder Over Hip structure. The time and opportunity was created by my partner's actions.

I suspect this is a more obvious example of what I am trying to express as the right time, and that many more subtle examples exist. This probably plays into not making arbitrary motions which Karl has frequently addressed, but I cannot express that connection coherently.

Life is Art

Pat Parker

As for the biomechanics behind "shoulders over hips" as you call it, there are several elements:

Each of our joints has a neutral resting range. A place where it hangs out comfortably. Each of our joints has a position at which the muscles surrounding it can produce maximal force. The neutral place and the maximum force angle are rarely the same but they are generally similar.

Whenever we move a joint outside of it's neutral zone we create both active and passive insufficiencies. By this I mean that the muscles on one side of the joint will be stretched more than normal and will therefore be less capable of contracting forcefully (except in certain cases). This is called passive insufficiency when you stretch a muscle and make it weak. On the other side of the joint the muscles will be slacked. If there is too much slack the contractile elements in the muscle cannot take up the slack enough to move the joint. This is called active insufficiency. (active insufficiency can also be when you contract a muscle so much you can't move the joint any farther)

Henry and I played with this a while back in the context of ude osae gatame. If we lay uke on his stomach as in #6 of junana or #1 of san kata then we stretch one arm out above his shoulder level then when he places the other arm under him to fight to get up he creates active and passive insufficiencies in his chest and abdominal and back muscles. In this position uke is frequently too weak to lift his own weight off the ground. Tori, therefore does hot have to lean hard on the arm or torque the elbow backwards to hold uke down.

Another common example of this is in judo when we take the bottom position on the ground and "crotch lock" or "guard" the top man. If we use our arms to hug his neck or hold both of his shoulders then the top man is in a symmetric position and can more readily fight us. If, however, we hug one shoulder or one of his lapels to us then this creates an asymmetric position from him to fight from. This creates these muscular insufficiencies in the top man and makes him weaker.

In addition to the insufficiencies mentioned above, the angle at which the pulling muscle/tendon inserts upon a bone changes as the joint position changes. As the angle of insertion changes the ability of the muscle to exert force on the bone changes.

Karl sort of talks about this on one of his tapes where he talks about the slightly bent unbendable arm with the hand pulled back. This position of the arm places the muscles of the arm (especially the tricep) under a slight tonus. This means that the tricep will more readily fire when something hits the end of your arm trying to bend it. This means that it is easier to maintain unbendable arm in this position than in any other (except maybe locked-out elbow but then the elbow becomes unstable backwards.).

Basically these factoids say that outside the neutral range of a joint (or series of joints) the system is weaker and/or less stable. For a pretty good discussion of these topics, check out this link:

So, back to Scott's discussion of "shoulders over hips", when we maintain this neutral position we are muscularly and skeletally more stable and capable of exerting force. When it gets down to it, we are only made to so a few things well: pushing and pulling forward and backward, bending and straightening our knees, and bending and straightening our hips straight forward and backward. The motions are tightly wired together so that pushing with our arm makes us bend forward with our abs makes us...

Since we mechanically suck at twisting and turning and bending, when we introduce a twist into this system it is magnified throughout the body and our muscle forces that we exert screw us up.

Here is an interesting little posture experiment to play with: try spinning in a tight guruma motion round and round with good posture. Then try it while bending forward at the waist about 45 degrees and see don't you almost fall on your head!

7.1. Energy from gravity

Nancy Bonner

Ok, this turned out to be pretty straight forward. Thanks to Mr. Lowry's book.

On page 19, about 3/4 of the way down the page it says something like this: in the process of moving with both feet the center of gravity goes through a rise-fall cycle. Maximum energy can be generated on the downward phase of the cycle because "the energy of body weight is multiplied by momentum that gravity produces" or something like that. The least amount of energy is produced at the top of the cycle because the body is busy pushing all that weight up (with some of us that is a considerable job). Therefore, if you can tell what part of the cycle you and your uke are in you can deliver the most effective technique with the least effort.

Thank you Mr. Lowry. I hope you will have more books at OK this weekend, mine has gotten a little trashed out from frequent use. See y'all there!

7.2. Higher grade of energy

Henry Copeland

This term was used in a clinic several years ago. I do not know if it was used as an intuitive sense or in its technical sense. From the context, the technical sense was applicable and provided the correct interpretation.

A high grade of energy can be transformed very efficiently to another form of energy. For example, potential energy due to gravity can be, for all practical purposes, completely transformed into kinetic energy and kinetic energy can be transformed back into potential energy. This is a high grade of energy.

Heat energy, on the other hand, cannot be transformed completely into mechanical energy. Thus an automobile engine can produce only about 30% of the chemical energy stored in gasoline. This is a low grade of energy.

In an elastic collision, the energy in the system is not changed. In an inelastic collision, the energy can change considerably and is dissipated as heat.

So how does this apply to aikido? Consider the human body to be made up of many parts that are organized and bound together by connective tissue and skeletal muscles. If we have the system well organized with a slight tension (tonus) is the skeletal muscles, then collisions are almost elastic. With practice, applied forces are converted into either kinetic or potential energy, both of which are high grade. The potential energy of the body drop in stepping is converted to kinetic energy and then back to potential energy through good postrue and a following foot.

Muscle energy, on the other hand, disapates heat that cannot be recovered. If we do not have our system well organized, then collisions are inelastic. Energy is transferred to many of the body components where it is lost in random movement and eventually heat. When muscular energy is being used, the body organization depends on the resistance the muscle is working against. If this resistance is removed or redirected, the organization disintegrates.

This is the underlying principle for ki hands, move from the center, following foot, continue the motion, hands centered, tension and compression, etc.

7.3. Tension and compression

Henry Copeland

If you stand in front of Uke at arms length with feet on a line perpendicular to your arm, there are essentially 6 directions in which you can exert force on him (up, down, right, left, forward, backward) with one arm. The making of compound directions is difficult because of the opposing muscle structure (agonistic / antagonist) of the human body. Arbitrary directions are composed mainly of incremental components in these directions.

The down direction is not very useful since almost no effort is required to oppose it and any slight movement destroys tori's posture.

Up is even worse. A meaningful amount of force is not possible, while uke's stability is enhanced. Again, any movement destroys tori's posture.

Right and left require muscles in the upper torso to pull in one direction and lower torso those in the lower torso to compensate to prevent rotation. Both feet must be attached, otherwise, a rotation on the supporting leg will occur. Movement by uke in the direction of the force (is always possible) will cause tori's body to become misaligned. Likewise with motion opposing (may not always be possible), forward(perpendicular), or backward perpendicular).

This leaves us with backwards and forwards (tension and compression). For a forward force, if uke retreats, we merely complete our step. No bad things to us. If he opposes, his structural weakness will cause his posture to deteriorate backwards. If he prevails, we swap stepping feet and complete a back step. Right and left steps create extreme structural weakness in Uke. Similarly with a back force (tension).

With two hands in contact, we can eliminate those forces that cause internal circuits, that is, forces opposing one another. Uke, by helping one of the forces can use you effort to destroy your posture. With straight arms, and hand together, tori can create a stable upper structure(triangle consisting of arms and shoulders). In this form, the arms are functioning in tension and compression. The upper body is stable since all motion is generated in the hip joints.

We must therefore conclude the most viable means to deliver energy to Uke is through tension and compression. All else cause problems for tori.

We also note that tension and compression are compatible with energy coming from gravity. Also, if muscle energy is kept to a minimum, we can use the energy put into the system to help us recover. This is just another way of saying a high grade of energy.

Pat Parker

It seems to me (to some degree) that the tension/compression thing either happens by accident or it happens when we decide to actively do a technique. Our ultimate goal (if we were good enough at tegatana and shit didn't happen) would be to move with uke adding no energy to the system - creating no tension nor compression. But when we are unable to move exactly right discontinuities happen and they take the form of tensile or compressive forces. If we keep ourselves in order then we can withstand these tension/compressions but they tend to degrade uke's posture and gait. The second place they happen is when we feel that we know enough about the system that we can actively start to affect it. This seems similar to the "laying traps" that Henry mentioned earlier. In this situation we can deliberately create and utilize these tensions and compressions. This works dramatically if we really do know enough about the system we are walking around in but it can fail dramatically if we don't.

7.4. Posture stays centered

Sam Tipton

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sam Tipton and I have the good fortune to study Aikido and Jyodo with my friend and teacher, Shihan Jack Bieler, in Denton, Texas.

I was initially ecstatic with the concept of involving all of our members in a discussion forum. However, my bubble was burst when I spotted my name on the first list of test subjects. I've been getting used to sitting on the sidelines observing (call me wallflower). Oh well, here I go.

Scotty, my interpretation of "posture stays centered" follows: In Aikido, proper posture is essential. This is emphasized repeatedly in Nick's book (pp 15, 16, 56, 113). We are to keep our posture centered, for without this, our own balance (postural stability) becomes compromised.

Jack (and many other aikidoka in my class) has demonstrated what happens if my posture becomes unstable when we practice Randori - I readily lose my own balance, lose any advantage I may have had, and usually end up on the ground. We practice keeping the posture centered in each of our katas.

Of note is the walking exercise. It took me perhaps my first year or longer to internalize this concept when we perform Tegatana. By adhering to what Nick writes in his book and by what Jack stresses in our classes, I am finally beginning to feel powercoming from my center as we perform our walking. I am now trying to carry this principle (as well as all the other principles) over into the releases, "the 17," and the "Big 10."

In summary, if my posture stays centered, I remain balanced and also in control of uke's intentions. If my posture is not centered (or otherwise becomes weak), I eat dirt.

7.5. No torsion

Pat Parker

No torsion, huh? I think Scott and I already addressed WHY we want no torsion in our posture in a previous thread - at least to my limited knowledge on the subject, but I have another anecdote on the subject:

A prime example of this is in the judo randori drill that i posted last week. If both people are attending to their own centeredness while trying to find the times to torque the other guy out of center then we notice interesting things: For instance, if we try to screw the other guy up and it is not the proper time then the torque that we put on him is reflected back to us.

I think it is still reflected back to us even when we get the timing right, but when the timing is right then we are prepared and in position to use the reflected torque to pull us into throwing position.

But when it is not right timing the reflected torque does (at least) as much to us as to them and we are not set for it. This ends up a fight where both of us are uncentered and whoever is stronger or luckier gets the throw.

Here I sorta diverge from the "no torsion" topic, but I have some observations related to this drill.

First it brings up the question of when do we uncenter from the other guy to effect a throw. Obviously to do a hip throw we will have to turn our side or back to the other guy, so we have to find a time when we can safely make this turn and effect the throw. I think it is not sufficient to say that you can make this turn whenever he is off-balance and you are not. While kuzushi is necessary to make this turn effectively it is not sufficient- it seems that you need to be in synch and you need to be able to effect the throw in a single step.

This brings up the topic of what is kuzushi? Is it when the other guy is tilted so that his center lies over the edge of his base? I don't think so. Karl & Henry & company can use far smaller kuzushi than this. This is also not the kuzushi we see in hanasu no kata or nage no kata. My current definition of kuzushi is "whenever the other guy has to take one more step before he can do something productive (i.e. damaging to me)

If this definition is viable then when we attain kuzushi we have to be able to effect the throw in one step because he only needs one step to fix his balance so we only get one step to make a throw. Therefore it seems that we have to practice such that tsukuri and kake only take one step to attain.

Y'all are probably saying "duh of course that's what we've always done". But it is a topic of current interest to me because i started learning judo in a non-Fugakukai judo club. This sort of stuff is making a miraculous change in my judo and in the learning curve of my students.

Another thing that seems to be necessary to make a throw is synchronization. We talked a while back about how if we synchronize then we don't feel that the situation is chaotic but the other guy does. if we are not synched then we can hardly ever find the right places to make our one step to throw.

Kinda got off the topic, but all these principles are so inter-related that I don't think any of us are going to be able to avoid crossing into other folks' domains. I also sort of got off the topic of aikido but I think this applies to both aikido and judo.

Nick Lowery

Ive come to see that turing around to execute a big throw like tsurikomigoshi is often not based on turning yourself so much but on letting the uke's rotation bring him up upon the throwing surface of your hip, unlike the various popular dropping seionage ideas of spinning in place and dropping, here we have uke doing most of the work of coming to your backside as the result of kuzushi (specifically a garuma type kuzushi controled from the perpendicular off balance line i.e. from your collar grip) while as tori we only turn around minimally. At first this struck me as counter intuitive until I began to look at it like two spheres rotating around one another or two spools winding in opposite directions until they naturally bind -- the less uke spins the more tori has to, the more uke spins the less tori has to -- As you say the action must be synchronous -- the rate of turn is the same , but as tori your turn is much shorter if his is longer.

From what Moose has said--Kuzushi is causing the uke to make any action that he did not plan to make-- this may be as great as a step or series of steps or as subtle as the raising of an eyebrow. It is the involentary nature of the action that makes it kuzushi.

This kind of understanding of off balance and control is largely lost in the world of modern judo.

In my mind scynchronization relates to tsukuri and works in tandem with kuzushi-- this is to say we may begin to effect tsukuri and syncchronize ourselves with uke before we implement kuzushi ( this is in part perhaps what Tomiki called "preparing yourself") we then effect kuzushi (what he called "preparing the opponent")and then as he recovers from off balance we synchronize again, off balance again, fit with again etc. until uke can no longer recover -- at this point tsukuri, kuzushi, kake all start looking the same to some extent -- Where does one leave off and the other pick up? Absolute tsukuri is kuzushi, absolute kuzushi is kake.

7.6. Good body mechanics

8. Stable only when control system can respond

Henry C. Copeland

This is the theoretical basis, which explains the source of the "magic" in aikido. One of the things Karl Geis did was to demonstrate the magic was possible and also teachable. You did not have to be a genetic freak to learn to do the magic. In most arts, crafts, and physical activity, if you do not have a born in ability, you can not achieve a high degree of proficiency. Not so with KG aikido.

To apply this principle, you do not have to understand it. It is much like driving a car. Very few people understand the intimate details of its operation, but almost anyone can drive. Most people can drive a car at 60 mph. A few can drive at 200 mph. Karl demonstrated that if you can drive 10 mph you can drive faster than is necessary.

While the fine details of structure and muscle action are not completely known, the overall external characteristics have had extensive empirical verification. The science of control theory provides a framework to which these characteristics can be imbedded without employing mystical concepts. It provides the theoretical verification of what has already been experimentally observed.

8.1. Feed forward control

Henry C. Copeland

This is a control theory concept.

Suppose you a running a process that needs steam. Your cannot create steam instantly and is cost money to keep it around all the time. So you build a control system that anticipates the need soon enough it will be available when needed. This is feed forward. The stimulus occurs before the action.

In feedback the stimulus is triggered after the action.

A more common illustration would be the action of the cruise control in a car when going up a hill. The cruise control will occasionally kick down to try to keep the car speed constant. A driver, however, will anticipate the slow down effect of the hill and accelerate to compensate before the car experiences the deceleration.

In the body, in the act of walking, etc., the nervous system must send a sequence of commands to control the action before the action is complete. This is necessary because the propagation speed of nerve impulses is too slow for most activity.

For example, the push with the toe in walking is a feedback directly to the calf muscle. The upper body must have already anticipated this response to remain stable (feed forward). Thus an otoshi throw adds a disturbance just enough to make the anticipated response incorrect.

A little experimenting will show the feed forward anticipation time is probably on the order of 0.2 to 0.3 seconds. A sprinter will complete a step about ever 0.3 seconds. This means the signals to bring a leg forward are being sent before the foot hits the ground.

The following question from Scotty and answers are also related to feed forward.

Henry wrote, "For example, the push with the toe in walking is a feedback directly to the calf muscle. The upper body must have already anticipated this response to remain stable (feed forward). Thus an otoshi throw adds a disturbance just enough to make the anticipated response incorrect."

"A little experimenting will show the feed forward anticipation time is probably on the order of 0.2 to 0.3 seconds. A sprinter will complete a step about ever 0.3 seconds. This means the signal to bring a leg forward are being sent before the foot hits the ground."

Q (Scotty): Does this mean that the disturbance added to Uke's system must occur no sooner than 0.2 to 0.3 seconds after entering that point where a throw can be initiated?

No. You are also subject to this delay and use feed forward. You must synchronize your internal clock with Uke. You use your own internal timing to determine the time. When Uke commits to make a step, or push, or pull, or whatever, a sequence of events is initiated. The signals to control the events are sent 0.2 to 0.3 seconds before the event actually happens. Thus if the body rise at the end of a step triggers an inappropriate (for the anticipated event of the foot landing) toe lift, the body dramatically inverts itself.

If a Uke extracts his arm from Waki Gatami, there is an anticipated pattern. If however, his hand is constrained to move on the end of your arm, the curling action is transformed into a rotating curl that must be adjusted for resulting in a posture break that can become Kote Gaeshi.

Q (Scotty): Not being Karl, I don't know if I personally take Uke out farther on say, Kote Gaeshi, before I effect the throw, than other players, but, there would seem to be a method that allows calculation of the point at which Uke can take an elevated breakfall. (I thought this was a question) I laid out the movements that must occur in order for Uke to complete a breakfall at different heights using stick figures and observation (Dan and Phil enjoyed that part). What I see is, well, tough to explain here. One must intuitively understand the weight of body parts in motion, but hell, that's a part of what we are learning anyway. So, It would seem that where Uke's center rotates is controlled by the height of Uke's hand at the moment when that signal reaches the toe? (See, it is a question,)

Kote Gaeshi has a number for interesting phenomena. The body rotations is initiated when the constrained arm moving through a three dimensional arc cause a dramatic shift is posture when Uke's elbow position becomes unstable (moves a long way with little effort). If at the same time Uke's weight is shifting onto the ball of his foot (especially the last two toes) a dynamic metatarsal reflex (toe lift) kicks in. The upper body rotation plus the lift results in the high fall. It was not where you put his hand, but where Uke placed his hand that caused the dramatic effect. Uke's system had anticipated his hand movement would solve some internal problem and sent appropriate control signals. It is when Uke discovers the solution was inappropriate that the dynamics begin.

Q (Scotty): And does this mean that the size of the circle Tori makes with Uke's outstretched hand to effect the throw is only related to timing? What I'm saying, I think, is that Torii's timing is not as critical the larger the circle.

As above, Uke determines the path of his hand. When all the unanticipated (and unanticipatable) consequences of these actions become evident, the timing is automatic.

8.2. 3 response times

Henry C. Copeland

The human body has essentially three response times, depending on which part of the body control system is active a particular time. If a decision need to be made between two or more courses of action and involves us being aware of the stimulus, the response time can be long, on the order of 0.7 seconds or longer. Once the conscious mind has determined a course of action, it may take several times this time for it to change.

This is essentially the response time we experience when we first start to drive. Brakes are applied late, we turn late, we are always surprised by the action of other vehicles.

If a simple action is the result of a practiced activity, the response can be very quick. The simpler the action, the quicker the response. These actions involve subconscious process in the central nervous system.

Some very basic actions do not involve the central nervous system. For all practical purposes, these can be considered nearly instantaneous.

8.2.1. Conscious mind 0.7 sec

Henry C. Copeland

This is the place for complex decisions. Empirical measurements indicate this is usually greater than 0.7 seconds. The more complex the decision the longer the time required. In fact, if the decision criteria are ambiguous, the decision cannot be made.

The decision to initiate an attack must be made at this level. The decision, however, can be made a considerable time before the actual attack. Once, initiated though, the chain of preplanned actions is difficult to stop.

Catastrophic posture failures are highly probable when the required action involves the conscious mind. This is because the action usually exacerbates the posture failure because of the delay.

In KG aikido we attempt to eliminate conscious decisions from our responses by practicing simple, repeatable movements that have general application.

8.2.2. Two rooms, one with switches allegory (George Weber)

Henry C. Copeland

George Weber noted the central nervous system acts as if there were two control rooms. In the first room is the autopilot from which the planned course of future events is controlled. In the second room, the operator makes the minor adjustments necessary to keep the system going. When things are going badly, the operator does not have time to get to the other room to change the autopilot without loosing the system. This can be demonstrated by the difficulty to turn loose that uke experiences when he starts to fall.

8.2.3. Conditioned response 0.1 sec

Henry C. Copeland

A conditioned response can begin is about 0.1 seconds. This is the kind of responses we generate after we have been driving for about a year. These responses occur without our conscious knowledge. They must be practiced until no conscious thought is required.

8.2.4. Autonomic response .02 sec

Henry C. Copeland

These are the actions that take place in the muscles themselves or very short nerve linkages. The unbendable arm is created by the response. As long as the central nervous system is disengaged from the arm, it will be able to withstand considerable force without causing an unstable structure.

The toe kick (metatarsal reflex) cause when weight is shifted to the toes in stepping makes the Otoshi type throws possible.

8.3. Skeletal muscles are agonistic /antagonistic

Henry C. Copeland

What this means is that muscle only pull. Some pull independently (agonistic) and some pull against others (antagonistic).

An aikido practitioner adopts movements and postures that are both consistent and stable with regards to this characteristic of muscle action. The unbendable arm, hands centered, posture erect, following foot, etc.

9. Infinite responses

Copeland, Henry C.

Suppose to every attack, I only step right. Then we might develop the17 kata with right hand attack, and that would be the end of it.

This is the approach of most Karate systems. They postulate a few punches and kicks, develop a series of 1-2 or 1-2-3 responses (blocks, punches, kicks) and you have the system. Somehow this is supposed to always work.

In KG aikido, we respond to the flow of energy and learn to move when constrained by that energy (walking, releases, 17, big 10) and adapt these to each situation (randori). Since the flow of energy can come from anywhere, and we are randomly related to the energy, we are able to generate an extremely large number of responses. Two skilled randori players may attack and respond 10-12 times or more before one them cannot respond. Given we have at least two directions and at least 4 hand positions, these variables alone give us 1,073,741,824 responses (8^10). This is considerably more than can be experineced in a lifetime.

Avoid Attack (1,3,4)

Following foot (6)

Ki hands (6,7)

Patrick Parker

the ki hand takes some extra variables out of the equation.

Ki hands place a tonus on the tricep which aids in the unbendable arm without having to consciously lock the arm.

Ki hands reduce the tendancy to grab the other guy and lock yourself to him. the tendons in the back of your hand are too short to grasp while making a ki hand.

Ki hands place the muscles throughout tehe body in a favorable position for pushing or pulling. We do this all the time - if we push a car or a heavy door we extend our wrist and point our palms away from us. When we pick up a heavy box (one without handles) we flex our wrists and point our palms at our face. These are ki hands

when picking up the arms, extending the wrist before raising it effectively shortens the arm making it easier to raise. this also places a tonus on the arm-raising muscles. It also prevents you from having to extend the wrist when the arm is moving fast. This is important because the faster someting moves the more energy it takes to move it even faster. If we raise our arm fast and we extend our wrist during this it creates postural deformations in us. If we make ki hands then raise the arms then it is easier and more reliable.

For these (and other) reasons, using the ki hand tends to create more organization in tori's half of the system thus causing uke's half of the system to get more chaotic. (thermodynamics again)

it also looks cool and makes people think that you can shoot your life energy out to the ends of the universe!

Pat Kelly

Ki hands means not to grab hold of anything. Especially don't grab hold of a lock or throw and stick to it no matter what. Grabbing does bad things to body stability. It will immobilize your feet and cause your body to lean over with any movement. If uke grabs, it makes the technique too easy for tori and doesn't teach anything to uke. If tori doesn't open his hand and bend his fingers back, then it's just as bad as grabbing something. It's pretty easy to have a student leave his hand limp as you grab his arm and drag it around. He'll lean over with the pull and make all sorts of openings. Then when he makes the ki hand his whole body moves with the pull. I see it as an integral part of the unbendable arm and posture in general. It makes yielding with the attack possible.

Unbendable arm (6,7)

Grasp (Body mechanics 6,7)

Avoid Self Reference

David Gibson

Okay, I'll admit that I had to get a good bit of lecture before I started to understand what this meant. Hopefully, my regurgitation of the information doesn't reflect badly on Jack.

I'll start off with an Aikido related example. If every class, I work on the techniques with the same partner, react in the same manner, and the results are the same every time, I could say that through rigorous testing I've proven that blah, blah, blah. However, while the results are true within the scope of that testing, they are not globally proven. The scope of the sample that I'm basing my conclusion on is too narrow. I need to introduce more variables. It doesn't necessarily mean that the conclusion is arbitrarily wrong, just not supported properly.

Now let's see if I can clarify that without all the scientific jargon. The demonstration that Jack gave me was, he grabbed one of the new people in our class, Jason, and said to attack him. Jason gave a pretty straightforward Aikido attack. Of course Jack easily took control of the situation and we could say that the technique Jack used is effective against an attack. But all we've proven is that it is effective against _THAT_ attack. If we want to avoid Self-Referencing and prove that our techniques are effective against _ANY_ attack we have to introduce random variables. Jack told Jason to attack him again, and to use any attack he wanted. Jason threw a circular boxing punch, and got a palm to the face for his trouble. Jack didn't know what attack was going to be thrown, but just reacted and fell into Shomenate.

If we conduct a test where we already know what the outcome will be, either because we have previous knowledge of or control over all the variables, then that outcome is too subjective. The outcome is still valid for that situation though. To achieve a truly objective outcome, you must have chaos. This is one of the reasons why we do randori. If all we ever practiced was the katas, well, the katas are truly subjective. One of Uke's jobs in the katas is to not react in a random manner. In randori, that constraint is removed, and anything can happen. I don't forsee anyone trying a flying side-kick during randori, but the possibility is there (would hate to be the poor guy who tried it).

Strategy for survival (1,2)

Pat Parker

I had to contemplate this one for a while. I think what henry is talking about is that there is a big difference between trying to live and trying to win.

when we place the condition on ourselves that we have to "win" or we die then we have no room to screw up. anything that screws up can prevent us from unilateral, hands-down victory. On the other hand, if we decide that we don't have to defeat the other guy, and get it in our heads that we only have to keep ourselves alive then we have much more tolerence for screw-ups (which combat is full of)

The NLP guys have as one of their guiding principles that the only way we can lose is to define limits for ourself (i.e. to say "i'm not popular right now so i have failed - i cant be popular - i'm a failure"). While i don't fully believe that this is the only way we can fail, there is a lot of validity to the idea that we set limits and conditions upon ourselves.

As Karl says "You miss a lot that is excellent when you go for perfection."

Karl has also talked about our groundwork system as being an example of this concept. as long as we are JUST TRYING TO STAY ALIVE we are successful but when we start trying to WIN then we lose because we all of a sudden need to have a LOT MORE SKILL.

This is what i think of when Rich mentions "strategy for survival." What do y'all think? Is this what you were talking about, henry?

Michael Denton

I had started an essay on this one but couldn't quite get what I wanted to say from my head to the virtual paper.

I definitely agree with you here, Pat. It seems to me that the strategy for survival involves a couple of things.

One, which you mention here, is working to control only our own internal structure and system. Our chances of survival deteriorate the more we try to take control over our environment or our partner (uke, attacker, etc.). Once we give up the illusion that we have control over the world and realize the truth that we can only control ourselves (this is a good general life philosophy in addition to self-defense) and our own reactions, we begin to utilize true aikido survival strategy.

The second part of our survival strategy involves the placement of redundancies in our system (our backup mechanisms). We can fail to utilize one or two principles but we have fall-back principles (hands to the face and centered; falling of the line; etc.) to help us survive. Survival depends on a true ability to react w/o thinking much and so we train core principles over and over and include "fail-safes" in case we freak out so much we forget others.

That's my take.

Pat Kelly

I think survival means "don't be self-destructive." There's no point in guaging your performance by circumstances beyond your control. We practice to learn what we can control and what we can't.

Nick Lowery

Once upon a time at our dojo there lived a genuine bad ass judo grappler (Korean/American National Judo Champ- been playing since he was 5 -- son of a judo 7th dan ) -- named gene shin -- he was around several years as I was just getting into judo and though my aikido made me comparable to him in standing work, on the mat in ground work he was so far ahead of me that he would inevitablly destroy and humble me. I hated ground work anyway and gene's crunchin on me didnt help any. But I had to put up with this shit to do judo -- so I took my licks -- one day the light dawned on me that maybe the aikido ground work was the way to go with this guy-- Karl had emphsised that the survival/pure defense game is much more efficent than the offense/ win/playing beat game by a factor of 10 to 1. So what did I have to lose? I was getting trounced anyway, day in day out, why not just slip into survival grappling mode and see what would happen with ole gene? So I tried it out -- I didnt try to do a dam thing to gene -- I just kept my ass moving, rollin, turnin, bridging, shrimping, any way I could-- I gave him a constantly moving target and never tried to stop and do anything to him -- it was amazing -- went on for about 20 min. -- Gene finally got so frustrated that he stopped and asked what was doing -- how was I thwarting him ? When just the day before he had been so clearly superior , this day he suddenly found himself in another reality... I must say I enjoyed my ground work time with gene after that though our sessions got to be fewer and farther apart.. Thank you Karl and thank you Gene for a really important lesson in my martial arts life -- "just survival" is a great equallizer -

Chaos to order.

Jack Beiler

----- INTRO

I don't see how I can improve much on what Karl, Henry and Pat have said on this list, so I'm quoting them, and I'll add some comments at the end.


Dear nick

You will carry the work forward. It is of little importance that others fully comprehend the body of knowledge or the principles therein. It is important to know that true self confidence comes from the development of the subconscious to handle chaos both physical and mental.

Normally, without pause or reflection we try to erase the chaos around us. We do this by choosing to ignore chaotic events, thereby closing off our subconscious mind's efforts to develop a viable protective strategy in our behalf. Out of sight out of mind.

Unfortunately almost all accidents that we have could be prevented if we learn to trust our subconscious. for example, 4 out of five of the emergency room events in this country are from common falls. Especially in older people over 50 yrs of age.

On the TV the other day the commentator was giving advice on how to prevent common falls. His advise was all left lobe conscious advice keep stuff off of the floors, off of the stairs etc. Take smaller steps.

At no time did he ever say. You need to learn to fall automatically safely under the worst unpredictable chaotic conditions.

The effort to control every aspect of your life fails in the face of chaos. It is the plate spinners dilemma, at some point there is no time for the next plate and any little event will bring the whole thing crashing down.

Unfortunately, it is when we are under the most stress that we fall over stuff. People who expect to fall don't because they mediate the situation. It is When we are preoccupied that the dirty deed occurs. If our subconscious has received proper permission and training in the areas of how to handle the chaos created by a fall and thereby instantly derives a strategy, The result is a dirty or torn skirt or slacks and the attendant irritation of having dirty or torn etc. Not a broken etc.

So our subconscious is our great protector, if we let it? Most of the people that we teach have a hard time learning to trust the subconscious and fight the process, that is just the way it is. It takes us a long time to do our job right.

There will always be those who understand and respect our work and those who do not. Those who do not, often bring us profound disappointment. If, However, we have learned to handle the chaos they cause our Zen mind will learn and grow while their efforts to control will ultimately bring them to a state of chaos.

The amount of chaos in each of our lives is about the same. The Zen way is to teach the subconscious to handle it as it comes along. The control way is to keep pushing the chaos away from our reality. The problem is when chaos is pushed away it eventually gets loose and comes crashing down on us like the hammer of Thor. Leaving the end of life a chaotic and barely endurable existence at best. Wealth and position will not mediate this existence.

Therefore, learn to live in THE WORLD with all of the people accepting all who accept you as you are. learn to live in the river of chaos without the fear of not being in control. You will always be living in chaos anyway so learn how to live there.

Thank you for the kind words.

I love you my friend


ps you may share this with whoever.

Actualize others and they will actualize you.


There are two ideas that are imbedded in KG aikido, each of which would make it totally unique as a martial art.

The cause and effect concept separates KG aikido for all other martial arts in much the same way quantum theory separates classical and modern physics. It is a different way of looking at a martial art.

Striking arts all presume a effect that the opponent is disabled by the strike. I watch boxing and karate matches in which hundreds of strikes are initiated, yet both participants walk away from the ring. The have not factored in the affect of chaos.

Judo assumes that if certain things are done, a throw will happen. Karl's judo, however, make use of your own internal chaos. The arbitrary step, the meaningless hand movement.

In KG aikido, the outcome is not predicted. A little disturbance here, another there, keeping yourself in stable posture. Going with the flow, even when it appears to be wrong. Eventually all the chaos is in uke. He becomes unstable. The technique is determined by the point in time and space, not what some preconceived notion of where we were going.



So, what are we trying to do in this art? In general we are trying to turn a chaotic situation into an ordered situation (ranai). One very important tool for achieving ranai is learning to synch as we did in the above exercise.

Combat/Shiai/Getting mugged is a very chaotic situation. Two (or more)people are scared shitless and/or mad as hell and they're vying and pushing and scratching and pulling and panting. (I've been there) But within the chaos exists nodes of peace and order.(there are those nodes again!) There are instants of quiet in the storm. These nodes are the same nodes we talked about earlier. These are the same nodes we want to practice finding in the kata.

In other words, for brief instants during the chaos the system will synchronize and a lot of the chaos will drop out of it. for a short time there will be peace. If we can learn to rapidly identify the instances where chaos turns to order then we have a vast advantage because the other guy still feels chaos while we feel peace. We feel as if we are taking a stroll and the other guy's world is getting more and more hellish.

Thus ki musubi (synchronization) and ranai (chaos into order) are inter-related and inter-dependant.


You cannot control chaos, only adapt to it. Chaos is by nature infinite, and the world is by nature chaotic. Trying to devise a system of rules to impose on the world is futile (and co-dependent).

For example, in Denton they want to make sure businesses have enough parking, so the council made a law that requires a certain number of spaces per square foot of business floor space. This ignores the fact that businesses are different. A book store may have a lot of floor area, but never have a lot of customers at one time. A restaurant will be packed twice a day. So if a book store comes in, they will have to make exceptions to the first rule. In fact, every business that does not conform to the prototype is penalized, and they will be making exception after exception (infinitely more rules) just to keep functioning.

Creating a system of specific rules to make decisions for you is trying to impose order on chaos. Investing trust in judgment is allowing for chaos with something pliable enough to adjust.

Physically, you make yourself neutral. You attach yourself to the chaotic movements of your partner, whatever they are, and by matching them they are no longer chaotic, at least with reference to you. This means no predetermined sequences or responses. It means relying on broad principles(like laws of nature) that are simple but consistent and applicable to all situations. The more specific a rule is, the less useful is will be.

Rise and Fall of Body

Clock (synchronization)

Pat Parker, Southwest Martial Arts

Ki Musubi

I'll start with a personal anecdote and an example of an exercise. Awhile back on the list someone asked what was the most torturous, difficult part of aikido to learn. Someone else responded that it was randori. Randori was really difficult to me to get a handle on too. In fact, it really didn't make much since to me until well after shodan. The shodans that I see at clinics now often have much more of a clue than i did when i was shodan.

Then at a clinic we worked on a randori drill that really hit home and made this thing make sense. It gave me a launching point from which to begin playing with randori. It was a synchronizing exercise. It goes something like this:

Define an uke and a tori. Uke grasps tori's wrists lightly and uke and tori stand face to face both balanced and with flaccid arms. Tori gets one free move and uses it to move his body one step in any direction as in tegatana. Tori does not push or pull uke. Tori DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING but tai sabaki. There is a pause while uke and tori examine the shift in their center of balance. Then uke takes whatever step he can to fix his balance.

If, during uke's step, tori doesn't move then uke can fix himself. But if tori moves (almost anywhere) while uke is trying to fix himself then uke's fix that he anticipated will be screwed up and uke will be off-balance again. Continue in this fashion with uke trying to fix himself and tori doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except tai sabaki every time uke tries to fix himself. You begin to notice some interesting things about timing and synchronization:

So long as tori does not move without uke and so long as tori never lets uke move without him uke will never regain balance.

This is synchronization. Sometimes this is called ki musubi which means becoming connected/in-synch to uke.


So, what are we trying to do in this art? In general we are trying to turn a chaotic situation into an ordered situation (ranai). One very important tool for achieving ranai is learning to synch as we did in the above exercise.

Combat/Shiai/Getting mugged is a very chaotic situation. Two (or more)people are scared shitless and/or mad as hell and they're vying and pushing and scratching and pulling and panting. (I've been there) But within the chaos exists nodes of peace and order.(there are those nodes again!) There are instants of quiet in the storm. These nodes are the same nodes we talked about earlier. These are the same nodes we want to practice finding in the kata.

In other words, for brief instants during the chaos the system will synchronize and a lot of the chaos will drop out of it. for a short time there will be peace. If we can learn to rapidly identify the instances where chaos turns to order then we have a vast advantage because the other guy still feels chaos while we feel peace. We feel as if we are taking a stroll and the other guy's world is getting more and more hellish.

Thus ki musubi (synchronization) and ranai (chaos into order) are inter-related and inter-dependant.

Clocking (or Ben Johnson vs. my Granny)

We work on probabilities - not possibilities.

We have to design every aspect of our art so that we maximize our probability of success. We cannot afford to work on possibilities.

We have many tools for doing this, one of which is clocking. This refers to making sure that we train to make only one discreet move for each of uke's discreet moves. While it might be possible to make two moves for one of uke's moves (or even three or four or five to one) there comes a point where we are studying techniques that will only work if you happen to be twice (or three or four or five time) as fast as the other guy.

We can pretty safely assume that everyone on earth can take one step at the same speed, right.

At first this makes no sense. This says that Ben Johnson and my grandmother move at the same speed - right? No, it doesn't. It says that they fall at the same speed. It has been shown in biomechanical labs that the speed of a person's first step from a balanced position is dependant on the length of their legs. it is not dependant upon strength or mass or muscle fiber composition - just leg length.

While a matchstick and a tree might fall at drastically different rates, there is not much difference between the 95th percentile and the 5thpercentile of leg lengths in adult humans. therefore the difference in_first_step_ speed is negligible. We all take one step at the same rate.

So we know that if Ben Johnson attacks our Aiki-trained grandmother and granny took a step to the side as Ben took a step at her that granny would be able to make this move and have a good chance of success.

However, If Big, Bad Ben steps at our karate-trained granny and granny shifts her weight to her left foot (1 move)so she can kick him with her favorite kicking leg (another move) then she will have to be twice as fast as Ben Johnson. (her chances are not good)

In an extreme example, Ben punches at Granny and she has learned fromher3-week short course on self defense taught by Master Bubba that if someone punches she has to fix her feet(2-3 moves) elbow Ben in the groin (another weight shift or two) then push him down as he bends over (another 3-4 weight shifts). Here Granny has to be many times faster than Ben if she is to be able to do all these weight shifts while he makes 1-2 weight shifts.(no chance in hell)

By making sure we practice techniques where we are required to only take one move for each of the bad guy's moves we maximize our probability of being able to successfully do the technique.

This is clocking.

Henry C. Copeland

Excellent essay.

If you can synchronize your clock with the attacker, then your timing become internal and the moments of peace can become longer.

Karl made this point in an earlier posting:
" Therefore, it was no quantam leap for me to relax and let the energy flow. 1st I could walk really good with someone holding on to my gi. So walking apart without that restriction was easy. 2ndly my years of randori and practice had developed my subconscious to a level of anticipation of my opponants body and feet movements. in other words I always knew instinctively the relationship of my opponants feet to mine and his weaknesses from each foot positon. ..."

Structural Stability and Instability

Consistent with what Uki is attempting to do. Use his effort.

Alicia Holston

Well, this is my assignment and while I have no books on Aikido yet (Nick Lowry's is on order), I do have a great class and teacher. So, this may be short, but perhaps concise. :)

My understanding of this subject is essentially "following Uke, why it is a good thing". For me, it is one of the major lessons in aikido. Flow. The path of non-resistance. It embodies a spiritual philosophy for me that is expressed physically in aikido.

Uke attacks. If I resist, or have a pre-conceived notion of what I think should happen, then I am adding my energy into the equation, giving him my energy and helping him out. Let's say I am doing release #1. Uke attacks and I move, to find his off-balance point. At that point, if I do not wait for him, I can give him back his balance, and the upper hand. If I wait, I find that "decision point" he makes, and move with him, leading him effortlessly to another off balance. It is part of what makes aikido work for anyone. As a 5' tall female, there are many who are bigger and stronger than I am. My own strength is not going to help me as much as my intellect, my instinct, my trained responses, waiting so Uke makes a move that allows me to use his strength and size against him. Seeing a 5' woman do release #2 against a 6' man is something!

In class last night, Jack had us do a wonderful drill. Instead of firmly grasping the arm in a committed attack, we played with the lightest touches in a still-committed attack. This forces Tori to sense the slightest movement of Uke, and not anticipate Uke's movement. As Tori, I *have* to wait for Uke, or we lose contact. It really brought the concept home to me on "keeping up with/moving with Uke" When I didn't, the effects were much more pronounced.

Franky Canant

Ok, I'll take a crack at this one briefly.

As I referred to before, I found this principle while performing the release movements. Make sure Uke has a very light contact with your wrist, and allow him to move as SLOWLY and as LIGHTLY as you possibly can. Now, if you are doing one of the last 4 releases in Hanasu No Kata, (going under the arm), do NOT pivot under that arm until your point of contact with Uke is directly over the top of your head, at the top end of the imaginary rod running vertically through your entire body. Doing the releases super slow with absolutely no strength improves one's sensitivity not only to Uke's movement, but to one's own use of arm strength. Keep it slow, and you will keep it pure. Hope this helps!!

Rich Minnis

I view this as something that occurs on 2 levels or planes.

First, is the concious reaction plane of uke. To me this is fairly self-explanatory. You should not resist that motions that uke is implementing. If uke is adding energy into the system in one direction, go with the flow of energy. This relates to the idea of working around the point of energy. Go with the flow and don't impede uke's movement but don't be on the line of the attack (see principle "avoid attack"). Thus, uke puts the effort or energy into the system for us to use later.

Secondly, and more related to what Karl has been emphasising the last few years (at least in my mind), is the natural motion built into the system from ukes concious reaction or energy input. This incorporates the principle of feed forward control (I think). Uke has started a motion and his body is anticipating a specific outcome. We use the motion that has been started and continue that motion in a natural flow. Since these motions are fairly structured, we can understand (at least I think I will someday understand) what they are. Thus we see the sequences that Karl has developed. Last year he called the drills the natural motion drills.

In short, uke starts a motion by adding energy, and we follow the initial input and continue this motion in a natural flow to a point of devestation or new input from uke. Does this make sense? What does the rest of the list think? I would appreciate comments.

Henry Copeland

This is a really good analysis.

When uki begins his attack, he as not factored in the effect of failure (because he doesn't know how the attack will fail--feed forward). Once tori and uki come in contact, uki is constrained to move relative to the contact. Tori (with practice and following the other principles) can learn to move with the contact if he is not adding significant muscular energy to the system (lets uki's energy direct the movements). Since the new movement will be close to what uki expects, he will not notice the affects until they become detrimental to his posture or balance.

Off line

Ally Badger, Kumayama Dojo

The best way I have heard off line being described was in one sentence by Frankie:

"If you aren't there, you can't get hit."

Moving off of the line of force is one of the first things I learned when I began training. It is the beginning of the technique and sets up the off balance. The attacker is expecting to make contact at a certain point. When one moves off this line of force and that contact is not made, it kind of puts the attacker in a tail spin. This also opens the door for one to teach a lesson on the way of harmony and the error of the attacker's ways.

This principle can also be used on a verbal basis. When one begins a verbal attack, this is a line of force. One can verbally move off this line of force and redirect the conversation.

Just a humble shodan's point of view


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