Re: Defining Kokyu
I've only trained with Ushiro sensei a few times during the past three Aiki Expos, but I'll get the chance to do so again in a couple weeks at the Summer Camp in the Rockies. I've also read a bit from his books (in Japanese), although not enough to make much comments. Mike, if you have any specific questions that you would like me to ask of him, please let me know and I'll see what I can do. (One clarification I did get from him a few years back was whether he meant purely "breathing" when he talked about "kokyu," since so many of the translators kept using the term 'breath" whenever he used that term. His answer was, as I expected, "no.")
As an aside, I remember the late George Simcox sensei (6th dan, Ki Society) talking about how he wondered if the physical breath really was tied into the ability to produce strength in the human body. He asked his son (who was either really into body building or weight lifting) to try lifting a heavy weight while breathing in, breathing out, and holding his breath. To his surprise, he reported that there really wasn't any difference.
And, as a linguistic aside, "kokyu" can mean much more than "breath." Simplistically, the "ko" in this term basically means, "to invite," and "kyuu" means "to suck." Interestingly enough, one of the definitions you can find of "kokyuu" in addition to "breath; respiration" is "knack; trick; secret (of doing something)." It's also used in phrases such as, "kokyuu ga au" (with "au," once again, using the same character as "ai" in "aikido") which basically means that two people's relationship/rhythm are very well matched.