Aiki Exploratorium, Part I: Combining Simple Motions
Many times we see a movement demonstrated, and we think we understand what is happening. When it is our turn to perform the movement, we do our best to emulate what we thought we saw. Sometimes our results approximate the desired outcome, but often they do not.
Rod Kobayashi Sensei, founder of Seidokan Aikido, used to say "Do what I'm telling you, not what you think you see." A classic example of this is what he called "Enkei Undo," which simply means "Circular Exercise."
Enkei is a small circle drawn vertically with the hand. It is done in close range, directly in front of the body. When people see it, they almost invariably try to perform the movement with the arm. This is weak, and the results are usually unsatisfactory. People see the circle, so they want to do the circle. In fact, the circle is the result of two linear movements that have been combined in a particular way. Let's see how this can work:
First, let's look at a simple horizontal motion, oscillating back and forth. In the case of Enkei, imagine the feet remaining in a neutral position (shizentai), and the hips swivelling freely left and right. Seen straight on, this appears as a horizontal back and forth movement, as shown below:
What happens if we combine these movements? Actually, it depends on the timing. If we do it one way, we will simply get another linear movement, but this time on the diagonal. However, if we synchronize things just right, a perfect circle results:
Our final illustration shows how the timing works. Again we see an oscillation being applied horizontally, and the same oscillation applied vertically. Notice however, that when either reaches its maximum or minimum point, the other is crossing the center. It's this particular synchronization that creates the circle when applied to both axes at the same time.
Hopefully this series of illustrations reveals just one example of the relationship in aikido between the hidden and the manifest. They are related, but different. If we do not understand each, our practice will remain superficial.
I tell my students that all things complex are made of things simple. By adhering to motions that are easy mechanically and neurologically, we respond with greater efficiency and ease. We may then combine these essential movements to make more complex forms, without the complexity overwhelming or confusing us.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin TX, USA
Re: Aiki Exploratorium, Part I: Combining Simple Motions
I found my way to your article just now, after having been away from my Aikido practice for close to four months. I miss working with you and everyone at Stillpoint. It's interesting to note that one can apply the same principles to other arts as well. I have been stuidying Progressive Jiu Jitsu since I started college, and have found myself applying many of these same principles of movement to my Jiu Jitsu study as well, with some incredible results. I'd love to get together with you the next time I'm in town and discuss with you :)
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