Nice analysis Hugh; especially "...ki as a metaphor should link all the parts automatically, through feeling, rather than working at such linkage by thinking." and "He's just emphasizing working with the parts--just as ki tests work different aspects--so that when working in the moment you don't have to think through what you're doing." Ron
But that is not enough. Because "feeling" still works from conscious voluntary action/reaction. Aiki works at a reflexive level -- way ahead of ALL conscious voluntary action -- whether directed by conscious perception or rational thought -- and thus, when done properly has that "spooky" quality that is difficult to define. Ikeda demonstrates this marvelously.
You can only ever directly perceive the RESULT, but not the reflexive action itself, because it actually precedes in time -- not only your perception of it occurring, -- but also your perception of your reflexive response to it. "What just happened" arrives before your perception of what caused that response. This -- of course -- is exactly the thing of inestimable martial value we are seeking because anyone able to access effective action that proceeds in advance of perception stands, in a sense, outside any reactive dynamic depending on conscious perception. "Timing" in the sense of sente
has no role -- as O Sensei himself noted:
Interview -1957 wrote:
O Sensei: ... We adhere to the principle of absolute nonresistance, that is to say, we do not oppose the attacker. Thus, there is no opponent in Aikido. The victory in Aikido is masakatsu and agatsu; since you win over everything in accordance with the mission of heaven, you possess absolute strength.
B: Does that mean go no sen? (This term refers to a late response to an attack.)
O Sensei: Absolutely not. It is not a question of either sensen no sen or sen no sen. If I were to try to verbalize it I would say that you control your opponent without trying to control him. That is, the state of continuous victory. There isn't any question of winning over or losing to an opponent. In this sense, there is no opponent in Aikido. Even if you have an opponent, he becomes a part of you, a partner you control only.
That does create a training paradox -- for how does one voluntarily go about training to condition reflexive behavior that is, by definition, antecedent to voluntary motor skills. It is, as the play said: ... "a puzzlement."
It is one of the chief reasons why I think that discussions on these topics so often breaks down -- because we are discussing something fundamental that always occurs in a bit of a "black box" -- and it is precisely that irreducible quality that makes it valuable and uniquely effective.
The dynamic being used is not actually itself a trained skill -- in the sense of motor or muscle "memory" (cerebellar-mediated procedural or patterned motor actuation) -- and approached in that way, by training muscle memory to "efficiently" perform technique/waza is fundamental error at least as it regards aiki (and the IP devotees are correct here, IMO). That does not mean that these patterns are without training value however.
But there is absolutely training involved in conditioning the body to respond
correctly to action initiated automatically and reflexively -- and then to pattern its trained motor actions that follow FROM the reflexive template in certain very patterned structural ways that maximize the exploitation of that system and the structural response of the human body to it.
THOSE patterns extend across all waza --- which are in a continuum. The correct continuum of action in one's own body and not requiring conscious control to actuate is represented and trained in the aiki taiso. The specifically denominated waza or techniques are simply slices of that continuum presented in a certain and essentially arbitrary circumstantial configuration when working with another body that is ALSO not under your conscious control. Actuating his body in this mode is exactly the same as actuating my own.
Training must engender a degree of trust in that kind of innate action -- correctly followed -- and following without fear or a reactive mind wherever such things lead on their own . Teaching well in this mode -- IME -- means demonstrating and encouraging that trust by showing THROUGH those more simply grasped approximations in each named waza ( each being but a miniscule segment of the total pattern) -- how they actually seamlessly blend into and over one another as anything or even everything changes They form a totalizing pattern of reflexively driven, but essentially cooperative action in response to anything that happens.
Thought and feeling are equally
applicable to observing and correcting these patterns. Physics or mechanics approaches are useful if they lead to better identification of the total pattern. If such close analysis does not does not lend itself to that ultimate synthesis -- then that method is probably wrong for a given person. An opposite error is true of over-relying on feeling. ,Just as mechanical approaches can have a bias top become ineffectually procedural -- "feeling" approaches can have an illusory sense of synthesis, from a "feels right" sensibility that comes from a mere self-deceiving "ease" in action as a result of the necessarily cooperative training.
But in my experience it is invaluable to identify and provide correction in arbitrarily small deviations from the true pattern, and which are therefore more immediately digestible by the student when they can be broken down analytically, and then immediately built back into the continuum of action being trained.
Both the correct form -- and the feeling of the form -- are developed in voluntary repetitive practice, even though the use of those patterns in actual application come before any thought OR conscious feeling or perception can intervene -- much less control what ultimately occurs.
Our only real "control" lies in the realization and trust that we have successfully accessed a part of the total pattern -- and the pattern controls everything that occurs.