Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
A Primer on Aikido, Aiki and IS
A summary view based on my experience with Dan, Ark and Rob John and informed by extensive reading of and discussion with Mike Sigman. Speaking for no one but myself and welcoming correction where due.
Power: the ability to be unmoved when an antagonist tries to move you; the ability to move freely though the antagonist tries to impede you; the ability to cause the antagonist to cease and desist, often through loss of his ability to organize himself to gravity.
6-Direction Power: intensive balancing of the self-contradictory directions of the body—front/back, left/right and up/down. Constant measurement of these six influences in all parts of the body is one thing that makes IS development so mentally challenging.
Internal Power: strength derived not from muscle and technique but by balancing the diverse functions of several different internal aspects of self. This generates striking power without "wind-up," momentum or over-commitment of weight.
External Power: a strength based primarily in muscle and skeleton power applied in technique. Hard external power uses speed, momentum and timing through technique. Soft external power uses circular movement and timing for technique.
WHAT IS AIKI
1. The IS view is that aiki is an inner body skill and not one of outward movement.
2. aiki development involves integration of several physical and mental elements of "self," including 1) bones; 2) connective tissue; 3) muscles; 4) ki; 5) mind 6) kokoro. Organization of these elements can lead to great power or, if imbalanced, to self-destruction.
Summarizing: aiki is a body skill which unites several layers of "self" from tangible to intangible, to purely imaginary, in a resonant system tuned not to social or intellectual forces but to the constantly changing and moving forces of Heaven and Earth, Fire and Water, resulting in a body that channels incoming force to the ground and remains free to issue force out of the ground connection, effortlessly to any part of the body to jolt the attacker.
Conclusion: "blending-through-movement aiki" is the omote of aiki—the "face" or visible form of aikido. It's a type of physical effort that does not conflict with the other person's strength but finds the weak side of the physical attack and leads it. But in O Sensei's way, the soft and flowing movement is backed by the deep strength of immovability. This is the ura (unseen aspect) of "blending-through-movement" aiki. It is the ability to remain unmoved. There is an old saying, "You can run but you can't hide." This means that evading someone can only last so long, especially if he is very experienced. One will do well to evade an experienced attacker once. To evade him twice is unthinkable to a budoka. The question is then, "Can you affect him with aiki when he gets his hands on you? So evading is one face of aiki, but the invisible root of aiki is immovability with freedom to move at will, regardless of opposition. If such a person prefers to apply blending movement for technique, it's an entirely different matter than "the same movement" performed by someone who knows only the omote of aiki.
When the attacker touches someone who has attained the physical state of aiki, he will feel that he has touched someone much stronger than himself: more solid, powerful and free to move. In attacking such a person, the attacker suddenly, unconsciously and uncontrollably fears having that mass move against him. He knows that he's over his head in trouble and his body activates desperate unconscious escape responses. Much of aiki technique is just leading his flailing efforts into a fall.
3. What are the body skills of real aiki?
a. to channel incoming force through the body so that the force goes to ground and does not disrupt the posture or position of the aiki person.
b. to keep that incoming force balanced and give it a feeling of firm support even as one moves the point of support.
c. to attack without momentum or over-commitment of balance, producing shocking effects for the attacker
d. to neutralize the attacker's ability to sense gravity and to understand his own movement
e. the opportunity to apply any kind of technique in that aiki moment
4. There is no purely spiritual aiki. It comes from the organization and practice of efforts with the bones, muscles and connective tissue. Real ki emerges when use of bones, muscle and connective tissue is understood and properly practiced in accordance with 6-direction power. This naturally produces much-improved physical strength and health, but that is not the state of aiki. It is the foundation for aiki in the body and without it, only a superficial kind of aiki is possible—notably, "blending-through-movement" can be done, but it has a narrow range of effectiveness if not based on immovability.
5. It Has to Be Felt (IHTBF). The only reason one should have to discuss this matter of aiki development is budo. One would have to be in the presence of budo people even to hear of it and get their opinions. And the only reason to be there would be to see them do the stuff or else show them that you can do it better. The whole key is to step up. Anyone who won't step up to those he questions does not have a budo heart. And budo people won't debate with someone who won't step up. In most cases, if one has the courage to stop pretending to "debate" these questions and step up and challenge the claims, he feels something unlike he has ever felt in aikido class or in most other martial arts.
6. What has to be felt? Aiki must be felt This goes back to 6-direction power. A tree needs continual stress to grow strong. In particular, it needs the wind pushing against it from various directions, constantly sending signals to the roots, causing them to expand and deepen their connection with the earth. If a tree had no wind on it, it wouldn't grow strong. So we first have to feel someone who has internal strength or aiki in order to begin to know what we're looking for. So in IS training, we take on a particular stance and allow our training partners to challenge us in various ways, usually one force at a time, but sometimes several people stressing us from different directions simultaneously. The point, according to Akuzawa is to "tune" the body to constant high affinity to the six-direction self-contradictory forces. Dan's methods seem similar, involving channeling incoming force so that the earth supports it instead of the muscles supporting it. Both guys can blast much heavier people back with very small efforts, no momentum, no over-commitment of balance, no loss of balance when they enter your stance to strike.
7. How can it be developed?
What we've discussed is really difficult for the mind to comprehend since the mind tends to dwell in logic, reason and debate. And IS development requires physical action with mental involvement to monitor and distinguish the actions of the bones, muscle and connective tissue. "Debate" is unworthy to this kind of training. Debate can be nothing better than shadow play compared to the real stuff. There's no time to waste arguing about it. Those who do this will get the results. Those who try to prove themselves by debate will not be taken seriously. No physical results, no credibility.
What the mind uses to monitor the bones, muscles and connective tissue is called ki. This is another distinction the mind must recognize to make progress. First it had to recognize the difference between muscle and connective tissue. This usually takes a long time because the exercises are not explained. But when the student can distinguish connective strength from muscle strength, he can recognize the difference between mind and ki. It has learned that bone, muscle and tendon each have different natures and different kinds of strength. Now it must distinguish between certain functions of "the mind" itself and the operation of the bone/muscle/tendon complex called "the body". Some body awareness functions are not carried out by mind, but by ki. These distinctions can be intellectually considered, but to feel the truth, they must be physically understood and the many different natures of mind, ki, muscles, connective tissue and bone must be properly combined in one self. This harmonization alone produces a fantastically different body than that of a person who lives primarily in intellectual debate. Or someone who lives primarily in muscle. How different does a body feel that carries a constant harmonization of the different natures of bone, muscle, connective tissue, ki and mind?
That's how you get to an integration of bones, muscles, connective tissue, ki and mind. The last level of internal organization is to recognize kokoro (heart) and transfer the center of your organization from the mind to the kokoro, which is the source of ki and therefore the source of the body, therefore the root of the mind. When everything aligns with kokoro and coordinates from kokoro, great indeed will be the freedom of being. True self will be at peace with true self and in harmony with all things.
8. From here, it's important to wring out the potentials from the training methods.
9. Why did so few "GET" it?
Needing to have this explained is why so few people ever got it. People like Dan dug it out from a lot of hard, physical training, as did O Sensei. Mike Sigman studied and discussed, but he worked hard for a long time to develop his understanding and skills. Minoru Akuzawa was very much the same, a ravenous worker of serious physical presence. Our great fortune is that all these experienced and intellectually capable people are dispensing the intricate details of IS development as eagerly as they can.
10. If someone is involved in aikido and has not "felt it" from some of these people, he owes it to his name as a budoka to go and find out if there is something under heaven that he does not already know.