Internal Training Practices within the art of Aikido
In this post I'll try to provide some insight into practices at our dojo that we refer to as internal training (Ki development) in an effort to address the main topic of this forum.
Ki development exercises help students learn how to: establish and enhance correct feeling associated with coordination of mind and body while stationary or in motion, strengthen the body core, increase awareness of moving from the center, handle load stressors while standing and moving, form meaningful connections with their partners' centers, move the body as an integrated unitů There's more but it should be clear from this partial list that these practices are more oriented to developing and strengthening the internal self than they are with throwing and/or applying joint locks that are the focus of waza.
We train with the idea of cooperative growth whereby students help one another to grow stronger by becoming familiar with correct feeling that is generated when mind and body are coordinated. Our approach is oriented towards helping students recognize how performing the exercise correctly feels within themselves. Once realized the feeling can, with practice, be replicated at will.
Our Ki development exercises fall within five broad categories: Solo, Partnered Stationary, Partnered Motion, Solo Weapons and Partnered Weapons.
Solo Ki exercises are primarily concerned with self-organization. The very simple movements enhance flexibility while challenging the mind to stay focused and not wander off with the body on automatic pilot.
Partnered Stationary and Partnered Motion Ki exercises involve two or, in some cases, more people. Some employ the application of force on nage to help reinforce correct feeling in nage while under load (aggression). In others the application of force on nage is used in order to reinforce correct feeling in nage while he/she is looking to move (resistance).
Weapons work, both solo and partnered, is designed to promote the feeling of total body integration and movement. This type of work is not concerned with the application of technique either with or against a weapon. The work is solely intended to condition the mind/body unit by increasing the complexity of the movement via the introduction of the bokken or jo staff. The forms we employ are created on the spot, practiced and then discarded. By constantly varying the forms we aim to prevent students from relying on rote movement to effect performance of the exercise.
I'm interested as to whether other Aikido folks purposely engage in internal training within the framework of their Aikido.