Re: flow, or technique
For me, definitely technique first. There are different levels or hierarchy in aikido training:
Katai, meaning stiff, hard or rigid training
Ki-No Nagare - flowing
IMHO, this is also how each and every technique of yours should progress. For a person who has trained extensively with Katai training he would find it easier to go to Ki-no-nagare but an aikidoka who has practiced ki-no-nagare disregarding katai training when faced with a resisting partner would have difficulty progressing.
I say this because by doing katai training and having a very strong partner resist (by resist I mean not countering, just making it difficult for uke to perform technique), you are understanding body mechanics and lines of movement where the uke's body is weakest/nage's line is strongest. This is also where you work hardest. You "feel" the "lines of weakness" most by having uke resist a reasonable (or large) amount. No matter how uke resists, I believe there is always a line somewhere where he is weakest that you can do the technique. Aikido works because aikido techniques are based on physics/lever principles.
Katai training is a practice of basic discovery, "your" discovery. I think you cannot do this discovery "experiment" with flowing technique since you do not know if uke's line of weakness is genuine or not. whether he just falls by himself or you actually threw him properly. Although some would argue that flowing technique works, I think it is probably because it is the "generic" aikido technique that works however "your" aikido technique might be questionable. Anyway all I am trying to say here is that you don't know if you start with flowing if "your" technique works or not. IMHO, Ki-no nagare is advanced training.
Why would one progress in advanced training if his basics is on shaky ground?
If you look at the way Saito-shihan always teaches, he starts off requesting uke to hold hard and resist as much as he can for every technique. This is because he wants us to understand the basic movement, understanding the lines where uke is weakest. I see this in all of his videos.
Similarly, I also believe an aikidoka technique's progression should be:
Full contact (by this I mean uke holding onto nage as much as possible during the technique)
Some contact (nage leads just as uke makes contact)
Minimal contact (nage leads uke before making contact)
No contact and you should still be able to do the technique
This is one of the mysteries I have for my aikido why I can do the techniques with no contact. The reason one is able to do this I think is that aikido first and foremost is leading the mind, second understanding distance (maai) and timing and lastly leading uke in the lines of weakness as what you have discovered during katai training.
In my aikido, I approach my learnings adapted to my techniques as a progression or as a spectrum, not if a way of learning is right or wrong. By doing this I have somewhat clearer objectives of what I need to achieve as an aikidoka.
These are just some of the examples:
Katai training > Yawarakai > Ki-no nagare > Ki
Full contact > some contact > Minimal contact > No Contact
intent through physical atemi > intent through spiritual/thought atemi
Leading the body (physical technique) > Leading body and mind > Leading the mind (spirit)
understanding your movement > understanding uke's movement > understanding your movement in relation to uke
My 2 cents worth.
Last edited by Mario Tobias : 09-28-2012 at 04:17 PM.