Friday, June 22, 2018

The Dynamic Sphere and Alignment

As time passed and I experienced more things I began to see how all the arts, while different, were also inter-related.


My earliest training was Isshinryu karate since 1974.
Then I studied Yang Tai Chi Chau since 1979.
Followed closely by Sutrisno Shotokan, Aikido and Tjimande over 10 years.
And there were many other studies of shorter duration.

One time during my initial Isshinryu instruction, my instructor, Dennis Lockwood, was going to use me as his uke. What he was going to do was a hip throw during the demonstration. When he first practiced it with me, and he went to do it, a course on wrestling I took in college kicked in and instead of being thrown, I lowered my center below his and he was the one thrown.


I much later  realized what happened. The middle of a technique is the exact instant it can be reversed. Then when I lowered my center his attack was reversed and worked against him. Of course it was not my intention to throw him, I am sure I was as surprised as he was. But it did teach me something useful too.


Back in my beginning years I purchased a copy of “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere”.

I was not or have ever been an aikido-ka. But years later learned some aikido that was shaped for karate instruction. Covering many of the aikido basics integrated with karate.

Eventually I remembered that book on my shelf, and discovered the aikido I studied allowed me to work many of those techniques. This was well before the YouTube days where everything seems to be available.


In that context I learned some aikido, it’s purpose was more to train one how to use the space surrounding any attack and then to apply a specific response. That is why the skills I acquired made understand other techniques easier.


But that books many drawings of use of the sphere around yourself in time made greater sense.





An interesting Aikido example is this one, which also melds into something I was shown.





One of the aikido lessons I was shown by Tristan Sutrisno is as follows:





I believe these two examples show the way they are using the sphere around them.


One late night at a martial arts summer camp, my Tai Chi instructor, Ernest Rothrock, took me to a dark field and asked to see my tai chi. I started doing the Yang form I taught him. After a short time he stopped me and began showing I was doing every thing wrong.

He had me begin again, then with the slightest touch or tug, I went falling or flying in the direction he touched me. There were so many corrections, after 15 years of work I realized I was doing nothing right.


Then he stopped and explained what I was doing wrong,  First, beginning his own instructor had also waited 15 years to share this. At the same time, living a long distance away from him also had something to do with it I am sure.


What was happening is my body was not correctly aligned with each technique. Nothing magical, just I should have been doing what I was orignialy shown. But on my own practice, I did not notice small mistakes I was allowing to occur, and each of them opened me to counter-attack, or at the same time made my own tai chi attacks less efficient.


Then what he explained to  me was an alignment point framework to insure my movement were correct. It was extremely simple, and when I used that concept, the same light touches and tugs no longer worked for him.


I could feel the difference, and of course he then proceeded to give me hundreds of corrections. Driving the nail in how much work I needed.


It was hard to get to sleep later, thinking about what occurred.


After that summer camp I returned to my own program. Then I had one of my senior students do Seisan kata. He did it well, but after a time I noticed he was slightly mis-aligned by the concept I had been taught from my tai chi.


I stopped him, told him to hold his position, and lightly touched one of the alignment points as I had been shown. That slight touch unbalanced him.


I realized I was on to something. Using it I now had a better way to make corrections to everyone. From the rawest beginner, to the most senior students, it was a way to make them feel what I was telling them.


I was not doing anything but showing the correct way they were always shown. But now they could feel why it should be done that way. They could feel how doing it wrong could be used against them. And how misalignment could rob their technique of power.


This was not done continually, with the newer students to occasionally make a point why things were done that way.


Then as a tool for dans to understand how to improve themselves.


I learnt it for my tai chi, but found it useful in my karate instruction.


Then further reflection I came to realize every system had their own alignment. It became a way I could evaluate other performances, even ones where I did not know the form.


Simply stated if the alignment shown for a technique shown could be attacked because it showed incorrect, then that performance was less perfect. If they showed more alignment with their technique, Then they were moving toward more perfect performance.


I was not judging tournaments anymore, but I did observe what others were doing.


A small example. The newer trends were newer created forms showcasing the performers strengths. I observed many might place their power in their kicks, but just throw out powerless strikes, for movement flow. Those strikes often without power. Alignment theory heightened where they were incorrect.


 But further thought went into it. If they had weaker techniques because of misalignment, the flip side was those misalignment points were also the places open to strong attack to demolish what they offered.


I came to realize there were two sides to this tool Where one was incorrect to show where to strengthen them. But if one’s attacker as in any way misaligned that showed exactly where to attack them.


Look we aren’t perfect. Imperfections creep in, and in conditions extremis we are more likely to make mistakes. Which is why constant practice is a way to have stronger technique to work with.


So many different things were starting to come together.


Other things I learned over time.


One of the Sutrisno Aikido teachings was how to do a wrap the wrist lock to control someone by their arm. However, he also showed how easy it could be neutralized by just moving the wrist being grabbed slightly to the side. Then no matter how much they worked at it, it would not work.


That does not seem like much, but when I moved to NH, a friend invited me to a martial arts clinic. Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming was presenting some of his Chin-Na technique. After a time he had us partner up, My wife partnered with my friend. As it was he was having some difficulty doing the small wrist lock. And Dr. Yang asked my wife to do it to him so my friend could watch. Of course he did not know we had learned this from the aikido we were shown, My wife performed the wrist lock on him, correctly, and placed some force to it, Dr. Yang dropped to the ground.


An aside, later my wife took a 6 month clinic with Dr. Yang, and I got painfully to be who she did her homework on.


A number of years later we were hosting a clinic with Sherman Harrill, and he was showing how to do the wrist wrap on John Dinger. I gave John a nod, telling him yes, he should surprise Sherman with the counter we had learned. John did so, Sherman got a funny look on his face but immediately countered that with something else. Proving don’t play games with Sherman LOL. I then offered an explanation to Sherman what was done.


It turns out that when the founder of Aikido, Usheiba Sensei, would send out new International Instructors around the workd, the last thing he would teach them was how to neutralize the locks and projections they had studied, I assume to know in case some student got rambunctious.


I am not saying neutralizations are not part of Aikido. Rather at different times and in different organizations things may have been taught at different paces. For one thing the Tomiki Aikido had aikido kata neutralization studies as part of their art.



But in time I came to see how all of the above came together.


And the best realization I could use is that we are all performing with a dynamic sphere.

This is not something mystical.


Take karate at attacker surrounded by his dynamic sprehre, attacks an opponent surrounded by their own dynamic sphere.


The point their sphere’s meet is the same point  the attack moves through.


Anyone attacking is surely trying their best to put power into what they do. The defender is likewise probably trying to do their best in response.


Then using alignment unintentionally being misaligned probably means a weaker attack. When they untended it to be their strongest technique.


The defender also being misaligned means a weaker response.


Mistakes offer a road map where further attack or counter-attack would be successful.


Of if the attack was a grab, misalignment offers further opportunity for defense.


A simple touch of a limb attacked, draws the defenders body into stronger alignment, weakening the attack in the process.


Simple examples for what is a dynamic process to acquire.


We are within that Dynamic Sphere, no matter what our art.







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