I am very reluctant to discuss spirit when it comes to this training as people draw their one personal conclusions to what they think I meant.
Any discussions I have about how this training changes you mentally and spiritually is not about a faith or about a personal belief in God-or any of the new age animist beliefs. People who know me personally, know I am a Christian and I leave that entirely out of the discussions. I am talking about the mental/physical connection in the body. How the mind/ intent/ body alters your own awareness in the physical world.
I coined the term "Living free in the world" back in the mid 90's to help define what IP/aiki was doing in me, mentally and physically.
If you think about your mind leading your awareness out from you, as well as drawing everything in to you constantly, and joining that with your breath- it gives a greatly enhanced feeling of awareness, relaxation, and tactile control of people interacting with you. It is too difficult to explain/debate on net. [snip]
Agreed on the difficulty of explication of the term "spirit" in the martial sense. I didn't want to detract from or confuse the thread, but just thought I'd share with you something I've been told by Chinese teachers on their use of the terms shen and yi.
Shen is frequently translated into English as "spirit," and yi as "intent." Chinese teachers I've worked with discussed shen in relation to yi in terms of shen being a more diffuse, generalized, background awareness, with yi being a more focused field of attention, the focus coming from intent.
So when you wrote "about your mind leading your awareness out from you, as well as drawing everything in to you constantly, and joining that with your breath- it gives a greatly enhanced feeling of awareness, relaxation, and tactile control of people interacting with you"
. . . that accords well with the Chinese model (obviously, actually being able to do that is a very rare ability, in China as anywhere else).
The corollary is what is happening to your opponent's spirit/shen via the effects you have on his yi/awareness. There is the direct electric-shock-like effect when you (as in you, Dan, or someone who can do it--definitely not me) return their jin or force back to them . . . DR-style locking up occurs . . . think about what that is doing to their nervous system. Or the similarly-disorienting feeling of falling into a hole (what you often call "ghosty").
So the terms, while potentially ambiguous, are referring to very tangible and specific effects on body and mind.