This article is not an academic document, it is a secular interpretation, not an academic one. It is based on my personal experiences during my 60 years of practice in various martial arts and sports. Judo/Jujutsu, Shaolin Kempo, Karate, Aikido, Hakko-Ryu Jujutsu, Iaido, Jodo, Yiquan, Qigong,….. and guidance from many martial arts teachers. And most important, the ability to self-cultivation.
A scientific statement.
Synchronization is, in a broad sense, coordination of rhythmic oscillators due to their interaction.
Buzzwords or ability to use tough words.
It is almost standard to use scientific terms in articles to give it an academic flavour. Without the necessary knowledge, these words are transformed into “Buzzwords”. A word or sentence, often an element of jargon, which is fashionable at a particular moment or context.
Translating scientific jargon into a plain language for martial arts, can give you a better insight into the many exercises and techniques during your training. The most important thing to improve your martial art as a human being is the competency of self-cultivation.
Definition of self-cultivation: the development of one’s mind or capacities through one’s own efforts.From the Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia
Synchronisation – Neural-Mental-Social
In Martial Art, footwork, stretching and releasing, winding and unwinding…. All these “actions of body and mind” need to be combined into a single and smooth movement. A whole-body motion creates a more efficient technique for overcoming the confrontation with an opponent. This process is known in the language of martial art: Rendo.
But rendo is more than personal synchronization. It is also in sync with the training partner and/or adversary.
Let us look at a very simple action of the daily life:
A person’s steps unconsciously synchronize with those of a partner when two people walk together, although their foot lengths and therefore their intrinsic cycles are different.
Obviously, it’s not just a physical synchronization. Synchronization has a number of levels. There are synchronized neural processes, mental activities, and social interactions. Neural processes are critical to physical or bodily synchronization. Mental activities are required to form a picture of something we like to accomplish. Social interactions are playing an important role in our society. Social media as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…. part of our daily life.
Synchronisation on a physical level
Sports and martial arts are activities that are seen frequently on television or in other forms of media distribution. Unfortunately, the mere fact of watching competitions or sports activities on the screen or in a sport-stadium does not have a direct impact on the search for a healthy body (Mental and Bodily). We have to do physical activities like cardio workouts, flexibility programs and other forms of physical training to build or maintain a healthy body and of course a mind free from frustrations and depressions.
At a beginners level, martial art training is more focused on the physical side of training. But we cannot ignore the game of the mind and the interaction between the mind of the attacker and defender.
Synchronisation and differentiation
Differentiation is the process of dividing a homogeneous whole into parts with different properties. Characteristic of differentiation is that a whole remains and that the division into parts with different properties occurs within that whole.
In Martial Arts, whole-body movement is used to indicate the necessity of using all your physical and mental resources you have. Practising with the focus on all different resources is difficult, almost impossible, especially for beginners. Even advanced practitioners need a method to avoid an overload on details to look after. One of the chief instructors of the Japan Aikido Association made a remark during one of his semnars.
Perfection is a matter of 1000 detailsFumiaki Shishida, JAA Shihan
In a sense, he is telling us to practise with all the details. But I believe we have “to differentiate” and of course not to forget, the details are a part of the whole. The difficulty is to distinguish the various details for focused training without losing the whole.
An example can bring some clarity in this matter.
Tomiki Aikido put much emphasis on the use of “tegatana” during training. The hand can take different positions, and those positions are useful for different purposes in our hands. Using an exercise to indicate the hand position as a basic exercise for daily practice is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Tegatana positions are integral to a whole body movement and should be considered in the context of a whole body movement when using tegatana. Nevertheless, it is possible to do such an exercise when introducing the different positions of tegatana. As soon as possible, the tegatana positions must be included in the whole body movements of Tomiki Aikido.
A simple example of “synchronisation”
- Start posture – both “kwa or mata” are neutral – tegatana uchi-mawashi position
- Turning body by opening “kwa or mata” – tegatana is following body movement and synchronised with opening “kwa or mata”
- Body returns to start posture – tegatana drops to middle lower position synchronised with “kwa or mata”
- Body turn by opening “kwa or mata” – synchronising with lifting tegatana
- Body returns to start posture – tegatana synchronised with “kwa or mata”
- Movement is repeated…..
This simplified movement is an application of uchi-mawashi, soto-mawashi, uchi-gaeshi and soto-gaeshi. Synchronised with opening and closing “kwa or mata”.
Synchronisation and 6 Harmonies
Some of you recognize the word “Harmony” in a non martial art context. Take for example the harmony concept in music. Music can bring movement forward in the actions of humans, going from emotions to dancing. The main part of music is sound with the correct use of harmonies.
What is so enigmatic about sounds that provoke emotions in us? Is it just a physical phenomenon of vibrations or something more dynamic? This question can also be asked in martial arts. Our being starts in the mind, creates a kind of vibration of energy, and the result is a movement useful to apply as a waza. Everything has to be synchronised and in harmony. Without this, chaos is looking around the corner. In your search for effective movements or techniques, you will discover that martial art teachers use the word Qi or Ki.
The discussion of the word Qi or Ki in a Western “consumption” society becomes ridiculous if the focus is mainly on materialism. Fortunately, martial artists are often open-minded.
Chinese martial arts recognise 6 kind of synchronisation or in their words 6 harmonies.
Internal Harmonies is about the way you are using your energy needed for physical movements, internal and external.
- Xin (fighting-emotional-survival spirit or also called “heart”) and Yi (intention or wisdom mind)
- Yi and Qi (physical energy)
- Qi and Li (strength – the physical manifestation of Qi seen as a movement – internal and external)
External Harmonies is about the syncronisation of major body joints
- Hips and shoulders – Connection of the 4 main body joints
- Knees and elbows – Knees are driven by hips, elbows are driven by shoulders
- Feet (ankles) and hands (wrists) – Strength is controlled by the center through shoulders, hips, knees and elbows
The center is the core of the body and has 3 main parts
- The central part of the head
- The lower part of breastbone
- The gravity center of the body
Synchronisation of all thes elements is a main part of the training. If this is not included, your martial art will not function as a whole body system with different part working toghether in harmonie.
Many Japanese Martial Arts have borrowed some of these concepts in their training program. Of course, they added a Japanese flavor, expressed in the different forms of Budo and Bujutsu.
The equivalent of the Chinese words (or concepts) in Japanese can create some confusion.
Xin or spirit: Shin, kokoro…
Yi or intention: I, Zanshin,…..
Qi or energy: Ki,….. the physical manifestation of power is called Chikara
Tanren, forging the mind and body
Tanren-gata and shinken-gata
In martial arts, the terms tanren-gata and shinken-gata are used to indicate the difference between a kata to enhance body movements and a combat-oriented kata.
Tomiki Aikido kata/katachi may also be categorized as tanren-gata or shinken-kata.
Most basic kata (basic15, basic17, tanto basic17, ura-waza….) can be categorized as tanren-gata. A series of movements or techniques for practicing the body movements necessary for the creation of an effective technique.
Koryu no kata are essentially a sort of shinken-gata, a series of formal techniques focused on combat. There is one exception in the Koryu no kata, the dai-yon kata omote and ura are tanren-gata to improve the body movements needed during the “randori” training.
Renshu and Tanren
This training is intended to study the waza found in kata/katachi which are already understood at a base level. The goal is to improve the movements of the entire body in a given context. It may be a combat setting or a randori setting.
Tanren 作務 (building physical and mental strength)
It focuses on improving physical and mental resilience through physical and mental training. For a true practical application of an effective technique, physical fitness and mental resiliency to pain and discomfort are necessary. Tanren actually precedes the other one, renshu. Without tanren, the numerous kata/katach waza become a hollow shell. If there is a demonstration (embu) or a grading (shinsa), the evaluation must take into account the outcome of the tanren and certainly not a show of acrobatic performances. It is not an object of entertainment.
Beyond 10,000 Hours: The Constant Pursuit of Mastery
Robert Greene (born May 14, 1959) is an American author known for his books on strategy, power, and seduction. Although he has a controversial reputation, his idea on “Mastery” is worth a study.
His book on “Mastery” makes a compelling case that mastery is earned, not granted. He describes three distinct phases of the journey, I) Apprenticeship, II) Creative-Active and III) Mastery. His advice is to keep in mind that the goal is not to become a Master, but to continuously pursue mastery with a purpose.
He also mentioned, you need at least 10,000 hrs of practise to forge the mind and body.
The concept of “Shu-Ha-Ri” is certainly a similar concept and Renshu/Tanren is a part of it. We have to use “Tanren” or the forging of the mind and body for the next step: Renshu.
If you have time and energy, you can walk the path of mastery with regular training. But this training has to be of high quality in other words: Renshu
Kenji Tomiki began training under Morihei Ueshiba in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 1926. He was largely responsible for the compilation and editing of the text in Morihei Ueshiba’s 1933 training manual “Budo Renshu” (published in English under the name “Budo Training in Aikido“).
In this book, the assumption is that you have already done your Tanren, creating the foundation for Renshu.