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Chinese posture vs. Japanese posture

It seems that Japanese arts (we'll take aikido as an example for this post) seem to have a different concept of posture than do Chinese arts (like taiji for example).  Check out the following two videos, watching the quality of the postures of each instructor.

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Both seem to be based on a generally upright ideal, but Chen Manching's torso seems relaxed and pliable while  Ueshiba's torso seems to be locked into a unit.  It seems like the taiji motion is characterized by soft, fluid mobility of body parts around a mostly vertical ground path.  On the other hand, the aikido posture is a more rigidly vertical stack of body parts piled on top of each other.  The aikido posture, when it has to change, breaks at the hips while the torso remains rigid.  The taiji posture changes are spread throughout the entire body.
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Of course, this is only one demo from each guy, but I think one can draw interesting conclusions because each teacher's followers have emulated them to the point that these two demonstrations seem characteristic of the arts that they represent.  As an example of this emulation, dig up any video of Tomiki sensei from YouTube and compare the mobility and dynamics of his posture with those of the two videos above and it's easy to tell who taught whom.
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So, they are different.  Does that make one right and one wrong or one okay and the other better?  Maybe it depends on what you want to do with your body.  What you want your art to be like.  Personally, I'm leaning (ha ha, get it?)  toward developing more more taiji-like qualities in my posture and motion.
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How about you guys?
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14 comments:

  1. Generally, I would not attempt to perform Aikido technique with an intentionally Taiji body, or vice versa.

    That said, a Taiji body will perform better in Aiki randori than an Aikido body will in push hands.

    I think this is not really a fair comparison, since there is no Aikido analogue to the long form.

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  2. I tried doing push hands but the Aikido in me kept making me just want to step back then step forward instead of lean. In response to the actual question, I find that keeping my torso rigid helps move my body as being pliable in the torso might absorb some of uke's force instead of redirecting it...but that's my VERY limited experience

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  3. Chris, I thin you're right - a taiji body woul likely do better in aiki randori than an aiki body would do in push-hands. I know it's not a perfect comparison because no perfect comparison exists that I know of, but I'm not really comparing aikido to the long form - I'm comparing the apparent qualities of the aikido torso to those of the taiji torso using a cole of what seem like representative examples.

    Thanks for the thoughts, guys. Keep em' coming.

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  4. Haha, co-worker participation is cool. I just got a couple of them to first walk normal then try and walk across concentrating on their center of gravity and thier hips. On the second part they walked all stiff legged. I was curious how their posture would change, which it didn't, but their motion did. What does this have to do with anything? Probably nothing.

    I was thinkng of how to keep your back straight like those in the videos and i figured they both moved from the hips. I remembered some of the conversation Pat had once about the difference between japanese and american walking. Is motion from the hips what allows them to have such a comfortable upper posture or rigid torso? And if so, other than practice at something like aikido can anyone develop a better comfortable posture? This may all be off topic but im curious.

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  5. In both the goal ought to be the same: become pliable and upright, aligned with gravity and powerfully sensual!

    I maintain that errors in Taiji occur because of the expectations (to lose) on the student's part; likewise, Aikido stylists that I work with seem primed to peculiar types of failure based on uke (is that the word?) expectations. It's so hypnotic.

    In Chen Man Ching videos where he pushes folks: he appears much more rigid and forceful. Perhaps an aiki solo practice will look softer, bringing the two postural images closer together.

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  6. I think the idea of "national postures" is pretty interesting... Just looking at how different areas behave in their judo (Japan, Soviet bloc, Europe, South America), it has a profound impact on what their judo looks and feels like... Perhaps it reflects the postures useful in the other popular activities common in those areas?

    As a bit of an aside, it occurred to me the other day how useful the Russian dancing (I don't know the name for it, but it is the style that involves a lot of squatting) is for wrestling, sambo, and russian-style judo... I wish I could dance like that...

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  7. I read the post and comments with great interest. I am new to Tai Chi and my background is in Okinawa Kenpo. I have been trying to use Tai Chi movement principles in my daily activities. I think that it has reduced stress and made my movements more fluid. In my opinion regarding Okinawa Kenpo and Tai Chi, the styles are very different…both are good/right and one is not better that the other.

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  8. Perhaps it reflects a cultural difference as well; Japanese rigidity and martial flare vs. Taoist fluidity...?

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  9. Right, DR! I think Chad is thinking along these same lines. Certainly how you use your body all the time every day affects how you use your body to fight.

    You know, that's probably part of why martial arts is so therapeutic - it lets you learn to use your body like someone form another country might use their body. That gives you a break from your native posture and gives your mind some options when choosing future postures.

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  10. What I meant was that the Taiji long form presents an opportunity to develop body movement skill, in depth, without any distractions posed by a partner or opponent.

    According to the classical Aikido curriculum, this is not important enough to warrant study in comparable depth. So naturally, the Taiji body will be more refined. We can draw this conclusion without passing judgment on which art is superior overall.

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  11. You guys sure are kind for not commenting on my grievous spelling and grammar and typos in these comments ;-) My first connent on this post was written in the dark when I was first waking up (at least that's my excuse) but i still type terribly when I'm awake.

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  12. It's so hard to say. This style of taiji is considered a particularly soft variation of this "soft" art, so it'd be interesting if you compared/contrasted the videos with, say, a Chen style video which would have more apparent, explosive strikes, and might appear more rigid. I never heard aikido breaks at the hips. It'd also be interesting to compare the torso posture from a bagua video.

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  13. Your martial art is a training method and it will shape your both to best suit that method.I don't think it's so much a matter of you looking like your training method, your martial art will look like you.

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  14. In a lot of aikido, the power comes from hip rotation. For techniques to work, the whole body moves as one, with unbendable arm - firm but relaxed. Power is then transmitted efficiently from nage to uke, without the need for excessive muscle power in the upper body. O-sensei may look hard and rigid to you, but I don't think that was the case at all. I've learnt that there's a lot more to aikido than what you think you see.

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