I have read many times that Aiki Ken's purpose is to illustrate the "the Principles of Aiki." Some questions immediately come to mind for me.
Is Aiki Jo's purpose to illustrate "the Principles of Aiki?" If so, are the principles illustrated different from the Ken? If not, why the redundancy? If not, what is the difference?
Is Aikido's waza's purpose to illustrate "the Principles of Aiki?" If so, are the principles illustrated by waza different from the Ken and Jo? If not, why the redundancy? If not, what is the difference?
O-sensei practiced with other weapons and weapon (like) objects, do these illustrate "the Principles of Aiki" as well? If so, are the principles illustrated different from all others. If so how are they different. If not, why the redundancy?
If so many people agree that Aiki Ken "illustrates the principles of Aiki" or "Aikido," than it occurs to me that many (most?) people pointing to this fact must be able to share the universally agreed upon "Principles of Aiki or Aikido" that they so often refer to.
Would someone care to list the principles that are referred to by both those inside and outside the art? They seem to be commonly known. For communication's sake and for a common understanding of the core of the art it would be very helpful to have a list of these principles posted.
Thanks in advance!
Those are some good questions some of which I ask myself. To this day I don't understand the point of some of the "aiki weapons" training I see being done around, with a few notable exceptions: Some teachers like to demonstrate a technique, say katatedori ikkyo or shihonage, while holding a bokken to illustrate the clean "cutting" lines of a technique. I think this is a nice visual teaching aid that helps "clean up" techniques. I've also seen shinai drills and such used to train mental aspects (sanshin, musubi, etc.). Then again I don't know if these are examples of "aiki weapons" or whether there are underlying aiki principles across these practices. Various shihan complemented their aikido training with various iai and ken training. Their philosophies and technique vary a lot, so perhaps it's my limited exposure but I honestly don't know of a common thread that links these practices to "aiki", i.e. what makes them "aiki".
Ueshiba purportedly trained in some classical forms and made things his own, "in aiki we do it this way…" So he infused some actual weapon techniques with aiki (that he already had?). Unless this was a practice for him alone, I would expect any weapons practice in aikido to actually help me train and develop aiki (among other martial aspects, if possible). Even though the applied principles might be the same I would expect aiki weapons training not
to be redundant efforts of empty-hand training (weapons should pose an extra challenge, after all weapons are dangerous / great equalizers; and manifesting power through elbow, hand, ken, jo, spear… imo should start to get increasingly more challenging, not to mention weapon movements can get more complicated than empty-handed ones).
So, it seems to me that weapons training can only inform your empty-hand training by starting with martially effective/valid weapons techniques, and then going from there. If instead you have a situation where people are told to pick up this wooden thing, and then they're told the line about how it's supposed to inform their body art, most likely they'll try to make motions that mimic what they think they're supposed to be doing in body art, only now they're holding this stick. IMO, this is exactly backwards.
The thing about this is, koryu training tends to involve years of practicing techniques before you learn how or why they are martially effective or valid. Or there is a story about their martial validity at the outset, and then later on you are shown that you have actually been practicing something completely different.
I agree that within the context of any system of aikiken, you need to be able to pressure-test the kata and figure out how they would work in a more fighty situation. Shinai are really fun for this.
I tend to agree with Mary's and Cliff's view that the aiki ken/jo kata should be martially sound in order to adequately inform the taijutsu efforts. I would not limit martial efficacy to partner interaction (ma-ai, metsuke, etc.) but extend it to how the weapon is wielded (transfer power to the hands and out to the contact area), the role of waist vs. hips, weighting, etc., as all this translates to body arts. That said, my main issue with some of the aiki weapons I see is that the way they wield the weapons, move, cut, etc., is in direct opposition to how I understand aiki should be manifested or trained, not to mention being martially unsound (based on my experience). I can entertain the idea that "this [aiki ken/jo] is not supposed to be sword fighting", OK, but then I wonder, how is doing weapons like that
going to help me get aiki?
Interestingly enough, in my brief experience with classical weapons, I find that the performance requirements of these "fighting arts" are a lot more congruent with the idea of moving from the center, balance / in-yo, and efficiency associated with aiki (I'm not saying there's "aiki" inherent in any school I'm familiar with, only that its teachings on weapons handling and movement are not in direct opposition with aiki as I understand it, in fact they bond and aiki complements it quite nicely).