Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Freeforming with the Aikido Staff

A well known musician once asked Chet Baker to teach him how to improvise. Baker's reply was:"Improvisation is governed by your imagination, or lack thereof." Now imagination may appear to be a mental term that has no place in martial arts. But coming from a deep feel place and allowing what's inside to come out for me is imagination as well. When all that is learned is a skilled routine and more and more skill is added to that routine, I don't find much imagination in that. So I have put together this video on freeforming with the aikido staff. Again, one of our main premises is that much of the founder's use of the staff was influenced by his study and talent with the spear. Let's look at the spear for a second. In ancient times, I believe on the battlefield the spear was the primary weapon. When the spear was lost or broken, the sword was drawn. And the spear when extended out gives on the benefit of length when facing a sword. And the tip makes it a cutting /piercing weapon as well.

Now the length of the spear gives one an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage should someone get inside that length. And while strong to the direction that the spear is pointing it may leave its wielder weak to attacks from the side and back. So this might explain Osensei's  use of spins and sweeps in his spear based staff work.. Especially when facing multiple attackers or someone moving in on you inside the reach of your spear, spins and sweeps seem very practical. And on the other hand one can view Osensei's staff work purely in terms of energy movement and see that he was moving in a double helixing field of energy. There appears to be an active invocation of the archetypes circle to center and center to circle in his movements.

I have put the freeforming into five levels:

Level one: Learn the set. I do not believe one has to learn the entire set to freeform. But this set includes the basic hand and body changes for ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo, and gokyo. When you are beginning to study a language it is crucial you start acquiring a vocabulary. So this set represents a good foundation of words that can be later freeformed. This set must NOT be learned in a rigid rehearsed manner. Also the second half will give you more of a feel for the beginnings of freeforming.

Level two: Even if one has not learned the entire set one can take pieces of it, add the spins and figure 8 connective movements and you have the beginnings of freeforming. In learning a language this is the equivalent of not just knowing some words, but now being able to go around. Ask directions. Order at restaurants. Buy items at a store.

Level three: Build on the first two levels and add sweeps and changes of direction. This is now the language equivalent of being able to have a conversation. Good morning. How are you? Did you sleep well? Yes I did.

Level four: As you build on the first three levels you will notice a change in energy. The movements broaden out and become fuller, not just study patterns. And you will notice movements suddenly organize into fours. Cut Cut Sweep Spin. Spin Sweep Cut Counter Cut.Etc......This is the beginnings of being able to express yourself in a language. The beginnings therefore of power.

Level five: Building on the first four levels and the broadness and power of level four, at five you notice intricate but not mental slashes cuts and piercings out of the broadness of four. Like a surgeon wielding a scalpel. This is where one cannot just express oneself, one can create. Both Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov wrote beautifully in English, and it was not their native tongue.

So here is the video:

Here is the first video, going through the five basic changes:

And here is the second video. It goes through the second half of the form and introduces the two transitions, ie spins and figure 8's: