I believe misogi and the natural running water really is the key Osensi used to develop his Aikido. It may be a powerful form of energy cultivation.
"Misogi is a Shinto practice involving purification in a waterfall or other natural running water. Water-misogi may be likened to dousing practices." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogi
Sensei got up and said, "You youngsters have no discipline nowadays…" and then continued, "Anyone among the young guys who thinks he can (take me on) just step up here." With that three people pushed their way to the front and immediately jumped to the attack. How it happened, I don't know, but they all ended up being thrown. This time they took jo (fighting sticks) and were told to come from any angle they wanted… This time they were thinking, "This old grandpa sure talks big." But again with no indication of how it was done, look to the left, look to the right, and all you could see were those three fellows flying through the air. Everyone was impressed by what wonderful techniques they were….
"There I asked Ueshiba Sensei, "How did you ever learn such a wonderful budo?" He answered, "Through misogi" . http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=151
Ki and science are not mutually exclusive. The connections can be seen in works of physicist Bruce Depalma, Ed Leedskalnin, and naturualist Viktor Schauberger. Viktor Schauberger has been called the water wizard.
"Schauberger was not technically educated. He was a naturalist, a forester. He observed nature. He watched rivers. He watched the way water flowed. He wondered how it was that fish, with very little exertion of energy, could be moving upstream in a fast-flowing river, and he started to put things together in his head. That was how he discovered the principle of implosion and the energy of the vortex.. Another phenomena that captured Viktor's imagination was gathered from his observation of the trout's ability to jump high watercourses with apparently so little effort. Again this phenomena occurred during the moonlight hours of the night….
Viktor concluded that a natural watercourse allows for a natural build up of energy that flows in the opposite direction to the water, it is this energy that is used by the trout. "In a suitably formed waterfall this energy flow can be distinguished as a channel of light within the streaming water."
Inside of a water-vortex there is an amplification of two streams of energy (yin and yang) running counterpose to one another. Now ki, energy is all around us everywhere in everything, but natural flowing water "allows for build up of this energy". This is what I believe Osensi was tapping into. Just like the trout he was able to use this energy to effortlessly through his opponents. Viktor Schauberger was also able to tap into the energy, creating energy devices utilizing water vortices.
I have practiced some Aikido as well as Bagua. Bagua is a chinese internal martial art known for its twisting spiraling motion. Because of the similar motion and extraodinary feets peformed by Osensi, some Bagua practitioners such as Bruce Francis (whom met Osensi) speculate that Aikido may have come from Bagua. Knowing the less than friendly relationship between the Japanese and Chinese this is unlikely.
The connection between Bagua and Aikido is the energy vortexes (really it's a connection between everything. As above so below). Where the energy vortex of water is utilized in Misogi, Bagua uses circle walking as a means of creating this vortex (note the walker, humans are mostly water). This walking meditation is a prerequisite of the art. Bagua master of old were known to have students circle walk for a year, hours a day, before any technique was learned. This practice is used spiritually, for clearing energy blockages, and developing power for martial arts.
"The simple act of walking the circle creates a vortex that allows the practitioner to amplify, mix, and control the natural energies that keep coming up from the earth and down from above. The twisting actions of bagua create spirals of these energies according to the will of the practitioner. Also, these spiraling energies can involuntarily move the practitioner's chi and body. In later stages of practice, you are able to create energetic vortices that spiral up toward the sky and down toward the ground simultaneously." http://www.universal-tao.com/article/martial_arts.html
I once noted to a teacher how his demonstration of an old style karate looked similar in motion to Bagua. Unlike the hard style karate most are familiar with, this was relaxed and had a twisting motion in the kata. My teacher explained that at very high level all these arts start looking similar. This is because once a person has accumulated enough energy, the energy begins to move the practioner and energy moves in vorticular motion. The energy quite literally flows like water as does the practicioner.
Victor Schuaberger was an environmentalist he saw a connection between the state of our water and the state of our physical and spiritual beings. Very few rivers are unpolluted and allowed to flow in a natural vorticular ways. The water in our pipes is not allowed to flow in vortex motion. Victor would say much of the water present is degraded and sometimes dead. I often wonder if pollution is part of the reason martial artists of the caliber of the old rarely exist today.
There are countless ways in which to draw life energy into our life. Simple meditation will change the body energetically. The chinese have numerous techniques. The simple act of performing taichi with correct alignment will draw energy. Just being in the presence of a master will amplify effects. The use of circle walking and water misogi are ways to amplify the energy.
Osensi was a great man he didn't hide how he accomplished what he did, it is just hard to believe how such a seemingly simple practice such as water-misogi can do so much. When I put this together I first wanted to immediately go out in nature and meditate under a waterfall during the moonlight hours and practice misogi. I have never practiced water Misogi so really all this is just theory maybe someone out there will confirm it.
"There I asked Ueshiba Sensei, "How did you ever learn such a wonderful budo?" He answered, "Through misogi"