We learn not to move, but to be moved
Sometimes people ask me about my passion for martial arts. The answer is straightforward: to become better than yesterday.
Of course ageing is a factor to take into account and which is “a game breaker”. What you can do when you are 20 will be not the same when you are 50.
The search for a method to become better than yesterday is a path full of obstacles and the end is for everybody the same.
Becoming better than yesterday?
Maybe the answer is at the end of this blog post…….Maybe other questions will be asked…….Who cares…..
I “feel better” than yesterday.Eddy Wolput
Meditative Martial* movements and Mushin Mugamae
When we speak about Meditative Martial Movements, we are talking about body and mind movements. In general the body is for movement and the mind is for thinking. But what about a “thinking body” or a “non-thinking mind”?
Our Aikido as a kind of meditative movement is a method where mind and body make a fusion. Both becomes one unit and both are equal with a different function.
We have to look at the body and mind in a different way.
The body operates according natural laws, the mind guides according natural laws. There is no interference from the ego.
This is called “Mushin mugamae”: No mind, no posture.
Which means, the body is not rigid, the mind is not fixed.
The mind as an observer
Commonly spoken, body movements are mostly based upon using power generated by muscles. But as said previously, ageing is a game breaker.
The answer to this problem is the use of natural forces of our environment.
Mostly our movements are inspired by reflexes or inborn actions and also by learned movement patterns stored in the brain.
To learn a new pattern or overwrite a wrong pattern, we have to practise the “new” pattern according natural laws. To become succesful we cannot allow the conscious brain and ego to interfere. Mind in this context means “awareness”. The mind is neither engaged in conceptual activity nor focused on a future goal, but instead is focused on bodily experience.
“Don’t think, listen to the body”Akira Hino – Budo Researcher
Relaxing & acceptance, a skill called zanshin
Zanshin is in general defined as a state of alertness or awareness. When you are alert, it means you can start a movement immediately. This only can happen when you are in a state of relaxation.
To define relaxation in the context of our training in Western language is very difficult. Some therapeutic systems use the word “eutony” to define this state of being.
The term eutony comes from Greek Eu: good, – and of Latin Tonus: tension, the grade of tension or elasticity of muscle fibers. It was coined to express the idea of a harmoniously balanced “tonicity in constant adaptation to the state or activity of the moment”.
Essentially, accepting “the truth” causes less suffering than struggling vainly against it. In many cases, we have a choice. We can either accept or reject, and much of the time rejecting doesn’t change our reality, it just causes mental pain.
Acceptance is an active process. It must be practiced.
It can require effort most of the time, at least initially. It can be frustrating at times. By acceptance you create and strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, facilitating ease in the future. It is no defeat, it is a gate to victory. Because there is no frustation, no pain, you can use your energy to keep your awareness and start an action without delay.
Relaxing and acceptance go hand in hand and cannot be separated. Excessive tension physically and mentally is a barrier between your body and mind.
Relaxing is no collapse
a balance between tension & un-tension
Acceptance is no defeat
finding a way out of the impasse of losing
How to practice relaxing and acceptance?
Using natural laws is a principle wellknown in internal martial arts and can be very practical explained.
Take for example gravity. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, and everybody is influenced by the forces of gravity. Old bodies undergo the same influences as young bodies. Of course, strong muscle can give you some advantage as more body weight.
The point here is, gravity is not influenced by age. By using gravity as a source of power, even old bodies can put forward a powerful presentation.
Relax your body, especially your shoulders is a common problem. We know the expression: drop your shoulders. In fact you have to accept gravity on your body. Shoulders go down as the rest of the body, but you are not collapsing. The fear of collapsing doesn’t exist, it is a delusion. But your mind need acceptance.
Musoku no hô*** , a principle packed in a practical example.
Musoku no hô,a method or principle in which one does not use the force of the feet, aiming to make fast and powerful movements, without being predictable.
To demonstrate this principle we will look into 2 ways of moving around.
Displacement by propulsion
The first is the principle of displacement by propulsion we use spontaneously in all kinds of sports activities. With each stride, a sprinter gives a powerful blow to the ground to obtain a force of propulsion. With differences in degree of performance and intensity, this type of displacement is present in all sports activities. The characteristic is that you exert a force that goes against that of gravitation to produce a movement.
Don’t confuse this with the rebound of power during accepting an attack from opponent.
Displacement by immersion**
One of the keys to understanding longevity in budo is what called the immersion principle.
Although little known, this principle is in Japan transmitted in some kenjutsu and jûjutsu schools as a secret teaching. It makes it possible to increase the speed of displacements and the strength of the technical execution. The perception of this principle is masked by speed, and the difference is difficult to perceive. To move, instead of giving an impulse against the ground, you “remove” the force of the legs to let act the gravity of which you will transform the force in a horizontal movement by a control of the center of gravity. You have the impression of immersing yourself in gravity, which is about “displacement by immersion” as opposed to “displacement by propulsion”. It is in fact to find the sensation of gravitation as an existing force that can be used and no longer, as usual, as a force against which we must fight.
With the principle of displacement by immersion, you can engage the total weight of the body in the technical execution, which considerably increases the efficiency. Because you can use the energy of the descent of the body due to gravitation. This descent movement is absorbed by the flexible muscular contraction of the legs. This process is the opposite of the ordinary movement where you first propel yourself by muscle contraction and then absorb the fall.
How to do?
The first step in teaching is to properly place your weight in the lower body and use the force of the fall in a shift. In the second step, you learn to transfer this fall force to your hand, your fist, or your sword.
In kenjutsu this is associated with a rotation around the central axis of the body. Monjuro Morita described this action in one of his books:
To hit properly from the tanden and koshi, we must use a perfect structured body and a perfect handling of the sword. This is a gesture that is produced in accordance with the two forces that go diagonally right leg left arm, left leg and right arm.
The perfect handling of the sword is produced by the integration of three elements: the rotation of koshi, diagonal tension produced by this rotation and displacement of the body.
In martial arts methods, the application of the immersion principle is not limited to displacement but can be extended to other physical movements.
The realization of the principle of immersion first requires a physical relaxation.
To apply the principle of immersion in the hand movements, it is essential to locate the center of gravity, which brings out the sensation of the center of the body, in other words “hara” and “tanden” and also the central line (seichusen) of the body.
The merit of this type of displacement consists firstly not to express the start of the gesture, which is essential in combat technique. Even if you can move with a great speed, if you express beforehand a start-up gesture, so small, your movement loses its technical efficiency. On the other hand, even if your movement is not very fast in appearance, if there is no prior expression of the start, it can be fast from a moving point of view. To act after making a setup for a technique, is missing the chance to become successful. This is why in all schools of Japanese sword, one seeks the “strike of non-thought”. This is the goal of the musoku technique.
Speed and gravity
An important aspect of the immersion principle is the ability to maintain the speed in the movement as you get older. Since the principle is not to use the force of the legs to propel the body, this type of movement keeps the speed of technical execution and serves as a basis for the practice of a long-term martial art.
Speed is maintained by immersion in gravity and respiration. In the martial arts, this aspect is related to the channeling of the physical force, since it is to use the gravitation to move and to execute a technique. By using the weight of your body in the most rational way to be effective, it is concentrated in every attacking movement.
*Meditative movement: is a “Western” term used in medical articles about qi-gong and other Eastern Movement methods.
**Displacement by immersion: is a term used by Kenji Tokitsu. He published many sociological articles on Eastern Martial Arts.
***Gravity and displacement: Akira Hino, a Budo researcher, quoted the term Musoku no hô in his writings and seminars to explain the concepts of Taiju no dendo and taiju no ido.