Thread: What is aiki?
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Old 01-09-2010, 01:16 PM   #12
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: What is aiki?

Aiki can be discussed from several vantage points. What does it mean simply from the standpoint of technique? What does it mean from the larger cosmological standpoint? How is it commonly used by the Aikido community?

While commonly translated as "harmony", at least in terms of martial technique, it is much more accurate to say "joining ones energy with the attacker's". There are a number of elements that can be considered components of this "aiki". Non-resistance is certainly the hallmark. Internal power is a component. Power neutralization is a component. My own description of "aiki" from a technical standpoint is that this is the way we use the various sensory inputs to move the partner's mind so that he moves his body. Much of this involves connecting with the myofascial structures and the unconsciously processed nerve signals to the brain.

O-Sensei talked about "Aiki" more as a state of constantly moving balance in the universe. Through misogi the individual can bring himself into accord with this flow (the Kannagara no Michi) and ones actions are a spontaneous expression of this state of harmony. Take musu aiki is the oft quoted phrase that the Founder used to express this idea.

Aikido people, mostly outside of Japan, have turned the term into an adjective that describes whether an action or an attitude brings things together or pushes them apart. Aggressive or hurtful behavior is said to not be "aiki". Actions which resolve conflict are said to be "aiki" or an application of "aiki principles".

Whatever one thinks about this manner of usage, the term has has come to such common understanding within the Aikido community that everyone knows what is being said even if one is gritting his teeth over what many consider a misapplication of the term. So I think the hard cores need to give up and accept that this is another example of the evolution of language and stop resisting its usage in this way. It's simply a short hand for a set of much more complex issues. In that sense it is useful for those with a common understanding and totally useless for use with folks without that common outlook. But continuing to bitch about using the term this way just isn't "aiki".

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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