George S. Ledyard wrote:
I am definitely with Chris on this one. I actually do not think that most folks doing Aikido really understand much of what constitutes "aiki". ...
I actually do not think that the body mechanics of Aikido or Aikijutsu are "natural" in the sense that if we can just relax they will come naturally to us.
I think this is a more complex question actually, because what is "natural" to human beings is in part a philosophical question as much as a practical one -- since we are by "nature" highly adaptable learning creatures, and as children we learn like we breathe air -- innately. Which may be some of what David is really getting at.
Gorge Ledyard wrote:
Training in "aiki" is the process of re-programming the body and the mind to believe that tension will not make one safe. Then there are very specific elements that combine in terms of how one joins ones mind and physical movement with that of an opponent. You do not have "aiki" automatically just because you have some kids moving in a relaxed and free fashion.
I like to analogize the problem of aiki movement to the related problem of swimming. It is instinctive for a non-swimmer thrown into water to thrash and fight against the water in an attempt to keep afloat. In fact, it is quite deadly to move in this way. It is natural for them to do this; it is not, however, a natural form of movement in water.
(On the other hand, very young infants naturally hold their breath and move without tension when placed underwater. They seem to "unlearn" this when learning to sit upright, i.e. -- to "fight" gravity, and then must (re-unlearn?, un-unlearn? ) learn to do it again as a complement to the skills of upright posture they have since acquired.)
Aiki may be like swimming in this way -- re-learned innate movement that follows the flow of the medium at every point of contact with it (and this is the important point) -- even when moving partly counter to it. In one case, it is the medium of water, in another it is the medium of physical conflict.
For most people, understanding this aspect of aiki is very hard. They lack a frame of reference in which to embrace conflict and non-conflict as coexisting in such a tightly dependent way. But understanding the related principle of movement in water is intuitively obvious -- for a swimmer who has gained the proper frame of reference.
Once this principle is learned, with practice, aiki movement, like swimming, becomes more and more effortless, and more and more intuitive, until it is just as innate as walking or running. On the other hand, it is more than just the infants' innate skills in acting without tension, since by the time of adulthood a person has a rather great and useful foundation in resistive mechanics to build upon (and to exploit in others). None of that is lost, it is merely altered and built upon.
Once this principle is learned deeply, you naturally find new ways to move (techniques) that operate on the same principle but are different in particular application. And further refinement and innovation is possible at every level of skill.