Re: Refining my view of aiki
Aiki is an effect wherein a system of energy controlled by one person's will is combined with that of another person, such that the combined system of energy is under the control of only one person's will.
My term "system of energy" is how I define ki. Basically I see ki as all of the dynamic functions of a person, though in practice I guess I most care about the ones they employ to try to attack me: their balance, attention, intention, muscle control, and proprioception. I am sure there are all kinds of other ki but I'll leave those to acupuncturists.
And there might be other types of Aiki that come into play among people at rest and not attacking each other, but for me, the idea is that two systems of energy are combined, and one of the individuals is in control.
I've seen a number of different ways to achieve Aiki and I am not really great yet, but I am getting better over time.
One of my teachers is able to completely capture a person's intention and proprioception before there is any contact, and take their balance sufficiently to deliver a very quick strike to a vital area, or throw them very far, or crush them. With a cooperative partner he can make some impressively large Aikido throws by gathering up their entire system of energy and flinging it up or crushing it down. Against a resistant attacker I imagine he would simply create an opening and hit them very hard somewhere that would incapacitate them. The thing is, he creates this type of Aiki long before there is any body contact, and I believe he actually brings Aiki about purely with intention, or, if I can slip another Japanese term in here, kiai. It's just a thing he does by looking at you.
Another of my teachers, you grab his wrist and he makes your body drop or shift without really using his body. It is very eerie when this is done slowly. Against a more intense attack, he uses this type of unbalancing as the first part of a much larger movement, and the overall effect is that uke is simply behind the technique, unable to adjust enough to get control back. He basically causes this Aiki with intention. There is something physical going on, but on the occasions where I can make something like this work, it definitely seems like my intention starts the ball rolling.
In another lineage I train in, Aiki is like a little something extra that goes into a technique that makes it impossible for you to bend or straighten a joint, or pops you up on your toes with your balance suddenly placed on top of nage's balance, or changes your posture in some particular way. There are simple methods for generating this Aiki that are part of the core, beginner curriculum, that require attention to form, timing, distance, and intention, and do not work properly if performed with physical power.
My sword teacher has told me - perhaps not an actual teaching of the sword school I train with him in - that the term "Aiki" sounds like an inauspicious turn of affairs when you are sharing as much information with your opponent as you are reading from them, and therefore have no particular advantage over them. I understand that this is generally what the term "aiki" meant in most of the koryu schools, on the occasions when you do run into it, which is not often before Takeda came along.
The differences in what Aiki looks like that I have encountered in my own training (as well as, truth be told, the difference between what the IP people talk about and what I have seen) have led me to think of Aiki as definitely a "phenomenon" or a state of being that occurs, as opposed to a "skill." There is skill in creating AIki but the skill is not the thing itself, and there are multiple skills and ways of building these skills.
And nothing about Aiki has ever led me to think of it as "power." I have also never thought of it as a thing that is created by the application or generation of "power," in fact that's the opposite of what all of my teachers have said. I've always noticed that when a high level practitioner performs technique on me, that I feel absolutely nothing. Nothing is making me move, I just am. Sometimes it feels like the world around me is moving and I am standing still. Furthermore, my primary teacher in fact says things like "gather all the energies" and speaks of affecting the "energy body" around the person instead of trying to move their physical bodies, as a mental image to develop a softer touch that makes people bend and move as you want them to without as much resistance.
So that's why I think of Aiki as an effect where you engage and surround / capture / absorb your opponents ki with your own, leaving you in charge of the combined ki.
Last edited by Cliff Judge : 09-06-2014 at 03:25 PM.