Re: La Petite Mort
I'm at a loss when it comes to knowing these things as metaphors versus literal truths. I see an easy equivalence between (good) sex and (good) aikido. To use a frequent analogy, when plumbers and electricians talk about plugging the male prongs into the female receptacles, to me that's a literal thing. And that's really a lot of how I'm teaching aikido these days. But that doesn't mean that I'm out shagging all my students. Aikido is intercourse, and "sexual" intercourse is a redundancy -- but I'm not having sex with my students, at least in the vulgar sense.
The death that is spoken of need not be one of sadness, but may also be one of joyous release. Every moment is a death of who we've been, and the ejaculation of who we are, who we've become. This climax paradoxically exists in a steady-state and is available to us at all times, but mostly we just sleep through it. That's ok too, as it contributes to a pleasing sense of rhythm, as long as we do remember to wake up and be alive even in the ordinary or the troubling moments.
Tori takes and uke receives. We think this means from each other, and that's true to an extent, but there is something more. When two or more are rightly joined, there is a synthesis that occurs where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. A new being is created, and the couple (for instance) now have a relationship with this Third, as well as each other. Rather than thinking of tori as the one who takes, or uke as the one who receives, we might say that each is one who partakes, taking and receiving but also actively participating and contributing.
We also find relevance in the Izanami and Izanagi cycle, whose names mean "She Who Invites" and "He Who Invites." Uke and tori invite one another, but also and always the Third. In many ways, it's this Third that is the Aiki O Kami-Sama, who also invites us to come and play and combine and commingle.
That said, I do not map uke and tori to Izanami and Izanagi. Rather, I think each player, uke and tori, is simultaneously Izanami and Izanagi, female and male. The trick, as I see it, or the dance if you will, is simply to always align the male parts with the female parts such that real intercourse and creation can happen, and never violation or molestation.
Specifically: where uke extends a male component, tori should open and receive, embrace and admit. Where uke has left openings, tori may extend the male elements wherever they may be free to go without collision or undue increase in pressure.
When this simple formula or principle is manifest, aiki happens as an emergent property. And despite the mystic-sounding language, I have yet to find anything more simple, more concrete, or more practical than this.