Location: Fairfax, VA
Join Date: Aug 2006
Re: Defining the word "Aiki" and looking at the phenomenon it describes.
Lets look at some differences and similarities between internal and external and whether or not aiki arises. This is a high level (30,000 foot) approach to both internal and external,and specific implementations may or may not include each element, nor might each element be in play at a given level of experience. That is to say this is not a be all and end all, and written by someone with relatively little experience, skill and conditioning. What is written below is applicable to striking as well as grappling type arts and weapons.
Aiki in this sense meaning a mix of ones own weight/energy rather than clashing between the energy of two opponents.
External/athletic approaches recognize the benefits of relaxing the upper body, to let loads be carried by other major muscle groups and chain muscle movements together to exert onto an opponent.
Internal recognizes relaxation to so that other muscles may take up the loads (mainly in the middle of the body/hip, and not pushing back with the legs), and to let support structures of the body take up and transmit loads, by focusing on these sensations. This is not pushing back with the portions taking up the loads, rather they are taking up the load of the portions of the body above them.
The external approach results in pushing back against the opponent, even if in an direction an opponent is weak and thus there is no mixing of expended energy and no aiki. The internal approach allows for input of the opponents energy plus their own weight added to it and transmitted to/reflected off the ground, and meets a definition of aiki.
External and internal approaches recognize the value of using the hips, but usually little instruction on how to use the hips is explicitly given in external approaches. What often results is using the waist and dragging the hips along, thus using a higher point in the body for a center of motion/gravity. This is particularly evident when seeing someone turn with the feet in a fixed position.
Internals use the hips, but unlike good external movement, the movement is not initiated from the hips. Movement is initiated from the middle which in turn moves the hips. The upper body is stacked onto the hips so that the upper and lower body is united together. Body movement is unified via open and close motions initiated on out through the hips and body rather than chained (sequential ) movements.
The External approach is a less efficient use of ones own weight and isn't as balanced due to a higher center of mass. Pushing back with the hips is a clash and not aiki. The internal approach unifies the body together, and allows one to push/pull within themselves in the same direction as the received push (and not against it), thus energy is mixed together and aiki is achieved. Energy can be returned to the opponent in alternate directions than what is received, but it is not required.
External approaches don't tend to consider body weight all that much except perhaps for targeting muscle groups for training purposes or physically dropping the body downwards to use gravity. They are interested in being stable, but the degree of stability is not achieved to the extent of an internal approach.
Internal approaches use body weight to make there movements heavy. Further they direct their bodies in such a way that they are extremely stable even in positions normally considered structurally weak. They don't rest their weight on their opponent, but since they are relaxed, the opponent they provide no committed weight for the opponent to use against them. Thus they feel very heavy to move and their movements are more penetrating and tend to unbalance the opponent on contact. Alternatively, the opponent gets zero feedback because they can't apply their own strength against the internal practicioner.
The external approach does use mass combined with ones own energy to create power (f=ma), but this is generally clashes with the opponent and is not used in the same direction. The internal approach adds weight, mixes with what is received and achieves aiki.
External approaches recognize the value of a lower center of gravity, and will drop physically lower to apply body weight or to achieve a lower center of gravity. Those with a lower center of gravity have an inherent advantage. Some might push back with the legs or hips.
Internal approaches don't physically drop lower. They drop "internally" and don't try and push back from the legs or progressively lower areas of the body. They recognize the lowest point which force can be concentrated from is the ground. Some approaches mix an incoming force and push in the same direction as the received force to add to it and reflect it off the ground (its a wierd sensation if you can do it, normal pushing makes you lighter and fights against this incoming push, a clash and not aiki). A lower center of gravity due to shorter legs can have its advantage negated by an internal person as they are pushing directly on the ground.
The external physical drop is a clash between you and your opponent. The internal connection to the ground allows one to take the opponents energy and direct it into the ground thus it is taken within them, no clash results, and the opponent is pushed back as a result of "aiki."
Walking/ dynamic movement:
External movements result in limbs having all their weight on it and the opposite limb going light. Keeping all limbs heavy is not focused on. This results in movements which aren't penetrating and unbalanced movements which get taken advantage of and a constantly shifting center of gravity which teeter totters. In general, most people walk as a series of controlled falls where their weight is committed forwards.
Since internal movement has such fine control of balance, all the limbs are "heavy" and connected at all times to the ground and to each component of the body. This results in a penetrating impact as their weight is committed downwards at all time, and thus the whole body is connected to the ground at any moment.
The external approach leads to a lot of unbalance within ones self and thus rarely is an opponents energy able to be combined with the entirety of ones own. Big motions which rely on momentum may be required to effect an opponent and thus aiki is not achieved as momentum is a clash. Internal is always has the weight component/pushing off the ground (even in motion) due to extreme stability, thus aiki is achieved.
When pushed or pulled, external approaches do the opposite i.e. you push, I pull to take your balance. Alternatively, big circular movements or other forward body movements may be used to take an opponents balance.
Internal proponents don't rely on forwards momentum. When pushed or pulled, they may be moved or might not be moved, but as the opponent's energy is added to their own weight and directed into the ground, the opponent pushes and pulls themselves offbalance.
The external approach of momentum and big circular movements don't allow for the entire use of the body and result in a clash by pushing off in a different direction. The push/pull motion is a clash which relies on momentum to take balance and thus no aiki is achieved (and the middle is never used). The internal approach leaves one balanced and weight committed downwards (thus connected to the ground), adds to the received inputted energy, mixing results and you have aiki.
External approaches recognize the power of exhalation as an additive usually with a grunt. Inhalation is minimized and viewed as a suki (weakness).
Internal approaches use both an inhalation and exhalation to condition support tissues of the body, and to drive/initiate movement throughout the body. These support tissues may become stronger to take up loads, and apparently conscious control over them can be achieved with sufficient effort via solo training.
The external approach does not lead to aiki as it adds to a collision between you and the opponent. The internal approach is used to drive opening and closings of the body which add weight in the same direction as the opponent is directing energy. Thus their power is mixed with yours and aiki results.
External approaches generally use "explosive" power generated view the hips and legs to enter and unbalance an opponent.
Internal approaches can "Explode" if they choose, but "explosive" or sudden movement is not required to unbalance. Internal body usage causes the opponent to effectively push themselves away (a feeling of lightness or no feedback).
The external approach requires explosive power to work, which is a clash as they overcome the opponent and no mixing occurs. The internal approach, causes a mixing and the opponent pushes themselves away.
The internal approach results in the opponent doing all the work and moving themselves as their energy mixes with the internal guys weight/energy (hence why there is no feedback, heaviness etc). The external approach results in ones self doing all the work onto the opponent as they are using momentum, major muscle groups etc.
The vast majority of marital artists use a clash to move the opponent.