Shishida Fumiaki by way of Peter A Goldsbury
合気武道という名辞が他の武道と識別されるのは、「合気」という概念にある。合気という言葉は、日本の江戸時代の武術伝書、例えば、一七六四年の起倒流柔術書「灯火問答 」に見ることができる。そこでは、「あいき（相気）」を、技の攻防の際に相手と気筋が合って闘うのに困難な状態になる意味で用いている。「合気」という用語の使用は、一八 〇〇年代の多くの武術伝書にも見いだすことができるが、これらの意味も「灯火問答」と同義である。こうした意味内容を転換させたのは一八九二年の「武道秘訣合気の術」であ り、ここで、「合気」の意味は武道の奥義であり、「敵より一歩先んずる」こととしている。ここには、「先んずる」前提として「敵人読心の術」と「掛声の合気」が説明されて いるが、具体的内容について記していない。
大東流柔術において合気の意味をどのように定義付けていたのは、現在ではあまり明確に伝えられていない。それは同流中興の祖武田惣角が、日本武術の秘密主義の伝統に従っ てその内容を書物として残さなかったことによる。しかしながら、高弟の一人佐川子之は一九一三年のノートに「合気をかける (Mark, notice that Shishida writes aiki in kanji. The katakana reference clearly means little to him.) としばしば記しておる、大東流柔術おいて合気という言葉や技法が大東流合気柔術改称以前から指導されていたことが知られる。合気という言葉のこうした不明確性が、大東流合 気柔術教授代理・植芝の合気の解釈に曖昧さを生んだ。
しかし、植芝流が大きくなるにつれて、植芝の門下生や後継者たちはその曖昧さを補うように、合気道における合気という言葉に次ぎのような解釈を行った。つまり、「合気」 が 「合」と「気」からなる文字の構成から「天地の気に合わせる道」という解釈や、体験的悟境から生まれた自然の動きや、動きのリズムに合わせるという「天人合一」の解釈 などである。」
The Concept of Aiki
The term "aiki budo" is distinguished from other budo by the concept of "aiki". The word "aiki" can be seen in Edo period martial arts texts, for example Kito-ryu Jujutsu's "Touka Mondou" (Lamplight Dialogue) of 1764. There, "aiki" (相気) is used to refer to the difficult state of engaging in attack and defense when in the same kisetsu
* as the opponent. The use of "aiki" (合気) can be found in many martial arts writings of the 1800s, with the same meaning as in the Touka Mondou.** The shift away from this meaning began with the 1892 "Budo Hiketsu Aiki no Jutsu" (The Secret Budo Techniques of Aiki); here "aiki" is an inner teaching of budo, with the meaning of "being one step ahead of the enemy" (敵より一歩先んずる). Here, "techniques of reading the mind of the enemy" (敵人読心の術) and "the aiki of battle cries" (掛け声の合気) are explained with "being ahead" (先んずる) as a presupposition, but specifics are not noted.
It has not currently clearly been communicated what kind of meaning "aiki" has in Daito-ryu Jujutsu. The reviver of this ryu, Takeda Sokaku, left no writings on that subject, in accordance with the secretive practices of Japanese bujutsu. However, one of his top students, Sawaga Nenokichi, often wrote in some 1913 notes, "apply aiki" (合気をかける) [Here Professor Goldsbury draws attention to Shishida's use of kanji - JAR], so we know that the word aiki and instruction thereof was in Daito-ryu Jujutsu before the name change to Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. This non-specificity of the word "aiki" led to the vagueness of the interpretation of "aiki" used by Ueshiba, a Kyouju Dairi of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.
However, as Ueshiba-ryu spread, and as Ueshiba's students and successors sought to compensate for this vagueness, interpretations such as this came about
: as "aiki" is made up of the characters for "ai" and "ki", it is interpreted as "a way of joining with the energy (ki) of heaven and earth", or alternatively, a "unity of the heavenly and the human" through the matching of rhythm of movement, or natural movement born of an experiential state of understanding.
気節 is one of those words that lends itself better to explanation than pithy translation. It is a compound of "ki", in this case meaning "feeling, intention", and "setsu", which carries a sense of both "time/rhythm" and "joint/break". In this context, it refers to the ebb and flow of intention and timing between attack and defense. 気節が合う, then, is talking about both opponents engaging in attack, or both opponents engaging in defense, or matched in permutations thereof, creating a stalemate.
** This meaning of "aiki" matches with the one reference to 合気 I've found in all of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, indeed, in a document dating to the early 1800s. There it refers to a state of stalemate created by both opponents embodying 攻防一致, a unity of attack and defense.
The question then becomes, why did Sagawa's father write aiki in katakana and not kanji?
Generally, when one wanted to keep things secret in historical budo writings, one did not write in kana, but used ateji
; different kanji that would be read with the proper pronunciation by those in the know, but would make little sense to those who had not received the proper oral instructions. (I could list several examples of this in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, but then I'd have to kill you.) The most likely reasons for writing in kana would be 1) emphasis, 2) to make clear the pronunciation of an unusual term, or 3) to utilize the existence of homonyms by not pinning down the word to any particular kanji, which carry some semantic meaning. And example of this can be seen in Yagyu Munenori's Heiho Kadensho
, where he writes the word "utsusu" in kana, so that it can mean both "move" and "reflect", without being restricted by the meanings inherent in the kanji normally used to make that distinction.
Just as personal speculation, in this case I expect it's mostly 1) with a dash of 2).
Edit: Actually, I just thought of another common reason for writing in kana, one that is probably most likely in this case. If these are Sagawa Nenokichi's personal notes, and given that Takeda was not keen on writing much down, it's possible that Nenokichi simply wasn't sure what kanji were best used for "aiki" 相気 or 合気, and so merely wrote the word in kana as an expedient.