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Home > Columns > Lynn Seiser > December, 2005 - The Elusive Aiki
by Lynn Seiser

The Elusive Aiki by Lynn Seiser


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Ai means harmony. Ki means energy. Then supposedly, Aiki would mean the harmonizing of energy. Yet it seems much more than this simple definition. What does Aiki mean?

What initially drew me to Aikido was the magic. Coming from a real bashing background, the idea of throwing people effortlessly across the room with no effort seemed like impossible magic to me. I saw people doing it. People did it to me. Would I ever be able to do it? What was the magic? What was the elusive Aiki? It was all tied up in the Aiki-speak. It was described in terms I did not understand.

At first, Aiki seemed to be the subtotal of doing everything technically correct. Technicalities are of the body. Aikido first became a study in biomechanics and physics. If I unified the body, aligned it right, moved right, and did the right thing, would that give me a glimpse at the elusive Aiki? No, but it would get me further down the road and maybe I could see it from there.

Later, Aiki seemed to be the subtotal of getting everything conceptually correct. Concepts are of the mind. Aikido became a study in the body-mind connection. If my mind understood what my body was supposed to do, would that give me a glimpse of the elusive Aiki? No, but it would get me further down the road and maybe I could see it from there.

After a while, I forgot to look for the elusive Aiki. It no longer was the goal. Perhaps Aiki was the process, journey, or direction rather than an end state of goal. I started just to enjoy the training itself. I forgot about trying to do the technique right, and just focused on practicing and polishing the technique. I did not count the repetitions. Time passed. If I just trained with honest and genuine intent and intensity, would it give me a glimpse of the elusive Aiki? No, but it would not matter. I was having a good time. In having a good time, you both lose yourself and find yourself. On the other hand, perhaps, when you lose yourself in practice and training, you find Aiki.

Perhaps, Aiki is an attitude. Aiki is synergy. The synchronized-energy is somehow more than the sum-total of the parts. While the whole contains all the parts, it is more than that. While the parts contain the seed of the whole, they are not holographic in themselves.

Perhaps, Aiki is a belief that you can do the technique and an attitude that it does not matter. It is active, but neither aggressive nor passive. It is not the typical fear-response of fight, flight, or freeze. Aiki is flow.

Perhaps, Aiki is a statement of fact. It is a belief that when approached or attacked, striked or grabbed, that you are the one calmly in control. You have them. They do not have you. Let yourself enter and blend with the uke. Some would say avoid or evade. Whatever it is call, stay connected, got off the line of attack, and keep moving until the technique works all by itself. Perhaps, the less you feel it, the more its Aiki. It is hard to practice something that is not there when you can feel it and is there when you cannot. Aiki is a "let", not a "make".

Perhaps, Aiki is like a Zen koan. The more one concentrates on the question, what is Aiki, the less likely the answer will come. It is only through dropping the question and focusing on the everyday training, that one finds the answer.

So, have I gotten far enough down the road to know what Aiki is? No, not really. However, every so often when I am having a good time, training with honest and genuine intent and intensity, lost in what I am doing, I believe that I see a little glimpse of the elusive Aiki.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now, get back to training. KWATZ!


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