Kevin Leavitt wrote:
What you define "highest level" /low level...I have typically labeled "internal versus external" martial arts in the past....however, these days I am not sure I even understand how you label something one or the other.
Why I am confused over internal versus external as it seems that many "combat" oriented systems that have come into popularity in last few years are really fairly complex and based on the same principles that aikido focuses on.
There are supposedly around 12-16 Chinese martial arts that are labeled "internal family", i.e., "nei jia", but the main 3 that everyone knows are Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, and Bagua. What differentiates these 3 is that they use a system of movement called "six harmonies movement" and they use a "store-and-release" technique that uses the lower-back and dantien. It's probably easier to just understand that all the Chinese martial arts use ki/qi and their own assortment of body-mechanics tricks, training methods, etc. In other words, what is called "internal" is more of a certain accumulation of body tricks that are built around technique usages that favor that particular set of body mechanics.
Aikido is not by definition one of the "internal styles", but it uses ki in the soft-development mode and jin/kokyu, *similar
* to what the so-called "internal arts" do. At its "highest level", Aikido, according to what Shioda has shown and according to what some interviews have said, uses the mind-controlled use of kokyu and ki to engage, neutralize, and apply technique. So while Aikido is not an "internal art", it also has the same "highest level", more or less, that an internal art like Taiji, Xingyi, etc., can have.
The general idea of the philosophy at the "highest level" of many Chinese endeavours is to remove the line between Yin and Yang (in the standard Yin-Yang diagram). All things become one and are in harmony. This idea of practicing Aikido, Taiji, etc., is that your level approaches the "highest level" through years of practice, misogi, suburi, Aiki Taiso, etc., so that your mind (the "Divine Will") ultimately brings your instinctive use of kokyu to where you immediately and unconsciously "harmonize" with an attacking opponent. That's the theory.