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The Concepts involved in Aikido training are so intrinsically intertwined, and the Japanese names attributed to these concepts are so massively rife with alternate and broader meaning, that it makes writing an article of this type extremely easy in one sense. In the sense that, I can elaborate into other areas of my life and training as an Aikidoist without fear of veering off topic (Like now for instance).
In another sense it becomes ludicrously difficult to pin down exact English translations for just about any of these concepts. What constitutes an adequate synonym for a word in Japanese may well be totally off track when directly translated back to English. By no means am I implying that the English language is less poetic or profound. What I am iterating is that our languages grew up a world apart and associations between objects, feelings and concepts mapped themselves differently. Differences, at a glance, that are astoundingly slight, however during close inspection of philosophy and mindset, drift apart the further you travel. Like two blind men given the same directions to a tree in the woods. Both men make it to a tree. Who knows which tree is the correct one?
Given all of the above, ‘Kimai' translates loosely as focus. I'm going to discuss the implications of, and cultivation of focus.
The good student should practice Aikido always with the focus of a swordsman. This is the crux of our practice of focus. This is also a principle motive for training in Bokken (wooden sword). The tension created by good focus during Kenno Awase (Sword Forms) should be carried into your regular practice. It is this tension that promotes the good practice of Kimai. Also it is this tension that is a result of good Kimai. By creating this tension we create the link needed between aggressor and defender to perform a technique with good timing.
Some who read this and have not yet felt the tension I am referring to will not understand any of this. So instead start at the other end of the spectrum. As I said, "the good student should practice Aikido always with the focus of a swordsman." Put yourself in the place of a swordsman about to duel. The famous one cut victories of the samurai often lasted for great lengths of time. Neither opponent moves. Put yourself in the place of one of them. You have conquered your fear of death. You face an enemy. Some one who intends to kill you. Your awareness must be complete and you must focus entirely.
Once we learn to create the link between Shite and Uke. Once we understand the phrase ‘Uke brings your death'. Then we can begin to understand how to manipulate situations physically and mentally to our advantage. In Aikido we talk about tension all of the time. Predominantly we discuss physical tension. When somebody grabs you, or you make contact, you can use it as a physical illustration of what I am trying to describe. Create tension between you and your Uke. Then use it to break balance. This is Kimai.
This principle has been the singularly most useful in my attempt to bridge the gap between the dojo and reality. Notice I use the word reality. I purposely placed that word because people will conjure up images of street fighting and such. Actually I think that the mat should be referred to as reality. Our training is about real life things. We do not make up pointless exercises so we can all come and have a pleasant time twice a week. We study the martial. I digress; In bridging the gap between aikido training and off the mat physical altercations, the tension created by proper cultivation of Kimai is the largest contributory factor in my experience.
Safety is a telling factor. An Aikidoist with good focus should always practice safely with there partner. By comparison the demonstration of powerful technique is secondary. This area of the subject is where kimai converges with other concepts. The concepts of Ego, and of Zanchin(awareness).
Focus must be demonstrated to your instructors at every level of Aikido training. As a beginner, showing attentiveness and concentration is considered a demonstration of focus appropriate to your level. As we move up the grades Shite will be pushed to greater physical stress and still be required to show good timing and posture, thus good focus. The responsibility then, on black belts becomes a great one. The focus required when training at high speed and having developed a certain amount of power in technique becomes of paramount importance.
All of this has a beginning. We learn good focus just as we learn the rest of our martial art, through training. Sometimes training is tough. It is during this training our focus should be cultivated. The more you train in Kimai the more aspects of it become clear. So concentrate on what you can do, not on what you do not understand. Concentrate on your posture and your movement.