by Chuck Clark
(This article was compiled using excerpts from personal correspondence. Had the author been writing for a larger audience, he may have worded it differently. Ed)
What I call “storing energy” might be easier understood by seeing it as holding tension (contracted muscles) in your body. This often happens as the balance is taken and you loose the sente (initiative), or in anticipation of ukemi. I often see people holding energy in the shoulders and hips. It creates more trauma in ukemi and also keeps us from feeling what’s happening to us. This of course doesn’t allow us to develop an understanding and sensitivity to what our options are for kaeshi waza.
If we are very skillful we can let this energy pass through us to make falls easier; and we can also use the energy by directing it into our opponent.
Think of doing the “egg toss game” with some distance between players. If your hand, arm, and shoulders are tense, I don’t think you could catch the egg without breaking it (which is the idea of this game).
I want my aikido to be so soft that no one can feel much from me. Whatever energy they put on me is dissipated by letting it go, or used by me to affect their posture.
Paradoxes are hell, I know, but….
You must get to the point where you realize that you’re not in control of the experience, and at the same time know that you have the ability to make decisions and actions based on the reality of what’s happening. Too many times we want things to be “different than they are just now”, and that creates confusion and fear that we are helpless, etc. Things can never be different than they are. If you accept what is, there are lots of creative actions which can be taken.
As for holding energy….
Lots of what causes us to not be able to relax as we need to is related to the above — “Don’t worry… nothin’s gonna be alright.” — but you have got to keep going anyway and make the best of what you have to work with. But, realize it will never be the way you want it to be… until you stop wanting it to be different than it is… and you ain’t in control. You’re just one of the players. Be ready to die at all times.
I have no idea what your expectations are about your practice or possibly what you’re looking for in general. All I can talk about is what I know personally from my own practice and what I have experienced along with my students over the years. I do know for sure that the process is real. I have seen it work in myself and quite a few others.
Going beyond the reactive techniques of what most people think of as “oriental self-defense arts” is what real budo is about. I can’t tell you exactly what it is because it takes on as many facets as there are people who have reached the place where they recognize the nature of things and are not afraid of what most people fear.
Much of this is paradoxical in nature and cannot be understood or articulated through linear thinking and logic. I believe it is mystical in nature, something one experiences and has faith in but cannot prove. It can be demonstrated, but most often, only those who have some inkling recognize it. Others know there is something about these people, but they don’t know what.
The physical technical side of this practice is just the discipline, the problem to solve, the physical beauty and artistic aesthetics that give us pleasure as well as frustration. But there is much more. Look within and recognize, if you can, a teacher who has what your gut instincts tell you that you need, and then have faith and learn. It often is not that far away.