November 2, 2009 at 4:15 AM
as I have noted before, my cat hates the sound of the violin to the point of pathology. Indeed, I only have to unzip one side of the case and his head shoots up, his body goes rigid and glares at me with a depth of hatred I have never seen bettered on a human being. Then he runs screaming and howling out of the room.
Anthropomorhism aside, he has clearly been studying my Aikido texts while I am out and he recently defeated me at a level only a sixth dan would understand and be able to control. As I tuned the violin he looked at me impassively in a curious state of no mind. There was no energy to feel. As I begin to play he turned sideways in a seated position (Tenkan- the essenc eof Aikido) and did a breakfall onto my feet so he was lying on top of them, back to the ground legs fully extended and pretending to be alseep. I played a few more notes, but what could I do? I put the violin in the case and scratched his tummy as he carried on gently snoozing.
The little swine has become a master!
In the meantime here is a perfect description of how to become a good violinist from a martial arts writer:
Thanks for the article! I agree with it...
The poor thing wanted to have his tummy scratch... animals can communicate with us, there is no doubt!
I believe the proper term is Puddy Tat. (Smile)
My Black Cat loves the high notes, and the artificial harmonics. My Grey Cat just wants love...
Nice blog linky--Thank You!
on the other hand, if you said pussy tat, you would be referring to the rubber dice, Woodstock memorabilia and victorian lampshades decorating the average cat box?
You should be thankful for such subtle tactics. My savannah cat doesn't hate the sound of the violin, he hates the idea of me practicing instead of playing with him. This he conveys by taking sizable bites out of my thigh.
My two male cats just want their heads and tummies be scratched whenever they can and since they know I won't being doing that when the violin out, they'd sit there and watch with patience. My female cat on the other hand always runs a way as quick as she can when I open the case and produces a disgusted sound along with it.
I've been starting with yoga lessons these days and quite like it. But one thing that an AT teacher said keeps coming back to me but has been missing in the yoga classes. The AT teacher said, our body wants to do the right thing but it's our mind and our habit get in the way. The yoga teachers seem to imply that the body needs to be fixed. The AT concept sounded weird to me when I first heard it, but more and more I found it quite profound. I read the article you linked and I wonder what the author would think of that concept. While of course we'll have to correct a lot of wrongs by keep practising, observing, etc in order to meet certain standard or realm or what have you, should we also establish a starting point where we can have some faith about ourselves and where we can find our footing when push comes to shovel?
Thanks Buri for your quick email response! As always, your comments and advice are insightful, incisive and timely.
Yixi, I read about AT a bit. But in my case at least, I am sure it doesn't want to do the right thing naturally. So much people without a violin teacher have all kind of bad habits. The body doesn't auto-correct itself. My teacher always says "the body is stupid" so it's your job to train it properly. The AT concept you mention is interesting and sure we have a part of instinct in everything we do but in something as complex as violin... I am sceptic. Maybe it's true who knows?
Anne-Marie, I'm not the best person to explain AT. Buri will be a much better person to do this. But Buri seems to have some difficulty sending response today (I got his email earlier) so I'll give it a try. Basically, as Buri pointed out many times over time and I completely agree that the Cartesian mind-body separation should be rejected. I wouldn't go so far as to claim that mind is body but the two are so intertwined that I can't say I know where it starts and where it ends. But since we are used to this kind of mind stuff vs. body stuff language, some AT teachers will keep using this ordinary language to make a point.
So to say the body wants to do the right thing is in a way to say that if the mind is not interfering, the body will be able to do its job more efficiently as it is designed to do. It doesn't mean that the body will be automatically doing virtuosic tricks without thinking or years of training. It means you have to know how to think when you use your body and how to train so that you will allow the body to do the things that it naturally can and will do correctly, and/or to unlearn the things that have been incorrectly forced on it by our mind and/or other external forces.
I don't think I can explain this very well but only to open a big can of worms:-P
p.s. I don't think one can understand AT by reading a book or two any more than one can understand violin playing by reading about violin playing.
Did you find that article on Aikido Journal, perhaps? I seem to remember it being a featured article recently in their newsletter
Thanks Yixi! No, it doesn't sound like a can of warms!
I've studied Aikido for about a dozen years, and often help teach classes. I took up the violin about four years ago, and am fascinated by the similarities.
"Don't forget to breath", I tell them, usually right after I realize that I have subconsciously been holding my breath.
"You should be relaxed", I remind them, and I can see that it's really confidence that will help them do that, confidence that will come from practicing much more slowly than they tend to do on their own.
"Tune in to what the 'opponent' is doing. When they attack and you defend, it should become one thing...." And I realize that when I tune my violin I am also tuning myself, just as much.
"You're actually doing more than you need to do..." is pretty common advice, often with the same students who benefit from the suggestion "Let's practice more instead of talking about it. Let's try it more slowly..."
And, of course, if you want to observe a true Aikido master first hand, just get a cat.
thanks Phil. I`m betting there are a lot of Aikidoka on this site. Not just becaus eof the universla popularity of the art but because to my mind the similarities between violin playing and the core precepts and aims of Aikido are identical to me..
One just seems to leave me aching a bit more....
Anne-Marie, below is what Buri wrote the other day via email when he had problem with 'response' button. I've got his permission to post it here.
It`s interesting that the Cartesian split (lot`s of Descartes coming up
this week...) between mind and body is so deeply embedded in our cultural
thinking that even AT teachers still talk about it as a reality when
Alexander flatly rejected the notion. I think what makes AT unique is it
provides a genuine starting point. In other words it is a precursor to any
form of exercise. This is not surprising given its central premise that
our bodies are providing skewed date to ourselves (via the
proprioreceptors) . One would do yoga better if each exercise was
approached with the work on primary control embedded in it.
The limitation of what the article states is how we process data, how the
glasses we are wearing distort our perception of the world. This has
always been a weakness in education and it tends to emerge quite strongly
in Asian arts simply because there tends to be only one way of doing
things. Copy the teacher and repeat a thousand times. Great teacher shave
the ability to reframe things until something clicks with the student that
relates to their experience and most efficient learner style. I am
exceptionally slow at learning Aikido because I cannot follow vizual
demonstrations. The teachers recognize that and have me practice with a
sword instead. I can feel what that is doing.
IN terms of faith FM Alexander always said `You have to be willing to be
wrong.` That is a problem for a lot of adults because we don`t like to be
wrong and we also have a tendency to throw th blame onto the teacher or
the style or whatever and move onto the next thing without digging deeper
and finding a new path. This would be an example of `endgaining` in AT
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