Harmony in Aikido is a concept that I believe has been seriously misinterpreted by many. I believe that a lot of the misinterpretation had to do with confusing the founder’s message of world peace with the nature of harmony that the founder was talking about in the application of the martial art of Aikido. Major Kudos go out to Chris Li, who has been “reinterpreting” the writings of the founder of Aikido (http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog).
If you have not read any of Chris Li’s blogs, then I suggest you do so to better acquaint yourself with what I believe are more accurate translations and understandings of what O’Sensei was really talking about. The other notions of harmony such as achieving a state of harmony with the attacker, creating a state of harmony within the attacker, etc. sound nice but fail when you are really attacked by someone who means you harm.
The lack of interpretation and misinterpretation of O’Sensei’s writings regarding “Kamae” is a critical component in appreciating how people misinterpreted and created their own idiosyncratic meanings to the concept of harmony. The six harmonies that O’Sensei was talking about is at the core of correctly understanding his use of harmony in Aikido. Achieving the six harmonies inside of yourself requires a lot good instruction, solo work, paired work, etc.. It also takes a lot of practice to be able to move, while maintaining the six harmonies inside of yourself, while being attacked. When you are in this “state”, you are essentially balanced in all directions. When a person makes contact with you, not only is he/she not able to unbalance you, but he/she become unbalanced in the process of becoming part of YOUR harmonic whole space. You are able to move with relative freedom of movement, while the attacker’s body is “behind” in time, because his/her body cannot accurately read and respond to what your body is doing.We have to re-train our bodies to not react in response to incoming force, but instead, to move as a unified whole, maintaining the six harmonies. The attacker can experience this as smacking into an impenetrable force, feeling like a marionette, falling “peacefully into an abyss, or some combination of those experiences.
When you are moving correctly within the six harmonies, you do not really experience fear and anger because you are in a state of harmony. This experience effects you physically and mentally. This position sends out a communication that in and of itself, can thwart a potential attack when someone “pinging” you to create an unbalanced state in you and does not get back the anticipated response. It is remarkably difficult to consistently achieve this experience for me. I am working very, very hard to change myself so that my state of harmony can really contribute to making my world a more peaceful place. This also means that my martial abilities are getting better as well. As I jokingly say “the harmony in me can be the harm-on-you if you chose to enter my space with bad intent.”
I hope that we can focus this month on establishing the six harmonies as our kamae BEFORE the attack and then focus on trying to maintain that state as we move through our techniques.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here