Re: The continued Evolution of Aikido
it seems strange for me that we, as practicioners of an art that is supposed to evolve in practice beyond form, get so easily caught up in the particular forms of the art. it seems to me that aiki is a concept that is easily translatable into other idioms. this does not deny osensei's originality in his controbutions to and expressions of the concept. indeed it seems to me healthier to views his work as contributing to the global elaboration of this concept. i feel like he would agree with this. if so, then, aikido is the ways and means of trying to practice and help in the elaboration of the concept. so it shouldn't matter if you are practicing bjj techniques in the context of aikido, as long as aiki principles are in play.
to wit: my personal exploration of aikido has led me to augment my study of the art with baguazhang. i'm not terribly interested in discussing the merits of these two arts in comparison, but instead to point out exactly how studying bagua has helped my aikido.
explample one: the bagua kobu step.
studying aikido and learning the aiki taiso, no sensei i encountered ever explained to me the very basics of how to exchange my weight from leg to leg while performing an irimi-tenkan movement. thus i found myself unable to properly set up correctly for any technique requiring this movement, resulting in a frequent use of extra and unnecessary force. i didn't understand this exactly, i just knew it felt wrong.
the kobu step is intensely important in bagua, being practiced hundreds of times while practicing any forms. within days of beginning to practice bagua i was working on my taiso and realized that when i was doing irimi-tenkan i was using the kobu step. it didn't make my movement look wrong, in fact it was comfortable for the first time ever. i could flow. my knees didn't hurt. soon after, practicing technique in aikido class i realized that this slight change in my movement was beginning to repair my technique. i was able to use far less force.
example two: roushou.
roushou is bagua's pushing hands-like practice. in the way i have been trained in it, its a bit more overtly "martial" from the onset. anyway, what roushou teaches, at least as i've experienced it, is how to directly feel an opponent's energy, using it to direct one's movements in a way that redirects their energy to one's advantage in the exchange. adding this practice onto the practice of the forms, one finds it reasonably easy to use one's whole body in this regard. and there's the rub.
in practicing aikido, i've never encountered a sensei who taught (at least overtly) how to use one's whole body in a technique. receiving attacks suddenly became a lot easier, so did redirecting them with minimal added force. kaeshi-waza now makes a lot more sense to me.
anyway, those are two examples and minor ones at that. i've only been practicing bagua for about 6 months. hell, i've only been doing aikido for about 4 years. but i'm finding doors being opened for me left and right by this combined study. and frankly, bagua is filling in gaps in my aikido training. sometimes gaps i didn't even know were there. have i left the aikido fold because of this? i don't think so. in fact, i feel like i'm entering it more fully. i'm quite unexpectedly finding phrases like "using the big toe" (something both osensei and shioda-sensei talked about) a lot more clear.
have i reached some sort of aiki enlightenment then? hell no. i know that i am a rank beginner in both arts. but i can not deny the facts of my experience. and i think this is the key to evolution. i think when we look into the history of martial traditions, we find closed off perspectives that do not recognize the similarities between arts, and do not allow arts to mingle and learn from one another, only near the death of arts. it is the stagnation that texts like the tao te ching warn against. the stiffness of impending death.
i don't think aikido is in any danger of dying because i have faith that we won't close outselves off. a cursory look at the increasing number of shihan who are opening up to other arts to fill in the gaps in their aikido gives us proof of this.
we might think we are preserving the purity of the art by not allowing influences to circulate. but, etymologically, to be "pure" means to be in the original state of balance. neither too stiff nor too soft.