Sunday, March 08, 2009

Strange posture question

Re: Sensei Strange's question on Shizentai - How wide are the feet?
I really get a kick out of having readers who both read critically and leave comments. I'm sure that there are more folks out there that read things that I write and think,"that just doesn't add up," but they keep their thoughts to themselves. Strange jumps right on in there and lets me know, which gives me the chance to re-examine and make myself better and maybe him too. Kudos Strange!
Check out everyone's favorite film (above) of Tomiki doing the proto-walking kata. The walking moves happen from about 00:12 to about 01:18. Tomiki is repeatedly stepping from shizentai at the centerpoint of the kata, to various postural deviations that facilitate the arm motions. Then he steps back to shizentai at the center. In the center, at shizentai, he is always narrower than hip-width. Even in the little footwork glitch at 00:26, he steps back to center but is too wide, feels uncomfortable, and shifts his right foot closer under him.
The photographs that you point to as examples of wide shizentai are not shizentai, even though they are good, relaxed, generally upright posture. Like in the walking video above, in each of those photos he is halfway through a step out of shizentai into whatever technique he is demonstrating. Also, I don't know this for sure, but I suspect that Tomiki liked to stop in these postures so that the photographer could get a good shot of what he was trying to teach. Thus, we get the mistaken idea that natural upright posture is wider than hip-width.
I, too, was taught by my teachers to make shizentai hip-width or ever-so-slightly wider, and I did that for years, but as I got more sensitive, I started noticing more and more glitches in my walking and force generation and flow so I started looking at how the big-dogs do their thing (regardless of how they say they do it) and discovered that they were all saying "hip-width" and doing "feet under center." So, I changed and my flow and synch and power generation have all gotten a lot better for it.
Incidently, check out this excellent, excellent discussion by Tim Ferris on learning. Watch the whole thing because it is a great lecture, but the part that applies most to our discussion is the segment on Implicit vs. Explicit knowledge that begins at about 11:00 on the video.
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  1. Thanks Patrick for the reply and constant inspiration.

  2. Some of the baguazhang folks seem to keep their feet very close as well for moving root rather than static root along one line as in a very wide stance. I guess obviously there is a mobility/stability tradeoff. But as a beginner I sure do find it difficult to try to go closer with the feet.

  3. Ok I have a little more time now.

    I appears from the film we are both correct, and incorrect and seeing the film in different ways.

    Like the pictures show on my blog, his migi and hidari shizentai are very wide during his throws. When he comes to a neutral shizen hon tai, his feet are narrow.

    Walk In Peace

  4. Fascinating, and instructive.

    Were the "big dogs" that you looked at all practitioners of Tomiki aikido or were some from further afield?

  5. Great question, Dan. The big dogs that I have emulated most and looked at specifically in the light of this topic have been 1st and 2nd generation Tomiki students.

    But looking at films of Ueshiba, Shioda, etc... I haven't seen much difference in the width of stance.

    Generally, the greater the experience, the shorter the stance.

    Also of interest is the old Funakoshi quote that long and wide stances are for novices but shorter, narrower stances are for experts.

  6. wider than hip steps are inheirently more unstable on the perpendicular line -- they only feel more stable in the static condition -- so the realitive trade off between stability vs.mobility is an illusion -- the narrower stnace habits probably come from the osawa/nagaoka lineage more than the tomiki


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