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Aikido & Poser

This article first appeared on, a web-based community for exploring digital 3D tools and resources.

As someone with over two decades experience in the movement arts, it's very exciting to finally be able to communicate study materials in a 3D environment. Video resources have vastly augmented traditional flat media, in that motion is an additional vector for viewing, with enhanced capabilities such as slow motion and freeze frame. 3D virtual environments bring a much higher level of control, including zoom, complete spherical viewing angles, lighting, setting, and even arbitrary changes of actors. The possibilities for streamlining the teaching/learning process with these tools are profound, and I believe are currently underutilized.

On the artistic side of things, I am really blown away by what I see people doing with their rendering skills. 3D tools bring with them greatly extended control and flexibility for traditional disciplines such as life-drawing or landscapes. In fact, the distinction between painting and photography is becoming increasingly unclear, while digital media help bring our vision of real and imaginary worlds into a sharper focus.

Yet, as a professional aikido instructor, my primary interest for my own work is not so much in the final render, but in the 3D world itself. Aikido has the potential to help us enter into a deeper appreciation of our relationship with the spatial and temporal world, and allows us to intuit many of the hidden geometries which devices like Poser make explicit. It often takes students years to really understand the importance of Head-to-Hip relationships, but Poser comes equipped with these ready-made. Also, Inverse Kinematics is a fundamental feature for doing proper self-defense and understanding one's own structural integrity. Poser gives us an expanded vocabulary for contemplation and analysis.

So for my purposes, Poser is primarily a medium of sculpture, where the artifact is meant to be viewed from all around, perhaps to be picked up, held, and handled with virtual fingers. While I encourage artists to continue to stage scenes and render within a frame, my ultimate hope is that we will see more true 3D spaces, museums and exploratoriums which will allow us to wander through on invisible feet, magically transcendent of all physics except for those that we design ourselves. The gaming community is leading the way in this, but we do not require (however fun it admittedly is) weapons and adversaries in order to create more fully immersive worlds in which to marvel, to gather, or simply find solitude and solace.

My work in Poser so far is aimed primarily at an audience interested in aikido and similar disciplines. But I am greatly enjoying the artistic effort of learning to create in a new medium. I welcome correspondence from other artists, and would love to collaborate with those whose skill sets may dovetail nicely with my own. In particular, I am eager to move beyond still poses and into motion capture. Lastly, I would like to close with a reminder that the word "digital" itself brings us back to our hands, and therefore that which we can touch and hold. Aikido and the visual arts offer the possibility of knowing that we can connect with our world visually, that light touching our eyes is actually a very tactile experience. Let's not lose sight of the reciprocal truth: that feeling with the body is another way of seeing. I would challenge the artists of our community with greater skill than my own to produce more works which are consistent with this corollary principle.