A Stiff Challenge
This is the dilemma
faced by many students of Chito-Ryu and derivative
they apply the tension
of shime and shibori to their technique, yet stay soft
and supple, so they can move freely and respond effectively
to the circumstances of combat?
Tension can be misapplied by students of all ranks.
Too much contraction slows movement and forces up the
centre of gravity. Ask a student, for example, to stand
in uchi-hachiji-dachi and apply as much shime as possible.
Go behind and lift them around the waist. They should
be easy to pick up. Then ask the student to hold the
stance and relax with a dead-weight feeling, almost
as if they were drunk. Then they become very difficult
to pick up, if you can do it at all.
So shime improperly applied actually interferes with
rooting, the sinking of the weight into the ground – an
essential feature of many traditional Japanese and
Chinese martial arts.
As a young man, Sakamoto-Sensei
demonstrates basic Chito-Ryu stances.
Though the stances are high, his weight
is rooted into the ground.
As I tried to understand shime and shibori,
I was puzzled by some other senior Japanese Chito-Ryu
towards the concepts. Outside the hombu dojo, the emphasis
on shime/shibori varied quite a bit. Often, if it was
taught at all, it wasn’t given the same importance
as by young Chitose-Sensei and Sakamoto-Sensei.
Whether this situation was a matter of Sakamoto and
Chitose being privy to O-Sensei’ advanced technique
as live-in students, or O-Sensei evolving this teaching
emphasis late in life, or the young men fastening on
a single facet of O-Sensei’s teaching and developing
it as the core of their technique – I don’t
know. I’ll leave it to someone braver than me