There is a quote by O Sensei that I often find myself returning to -- one about the Eight Forces. The English translation with which I am most familiar is (evidently) from John Stevens:
Eight forces sustain creation:
Movement and stillness,
Solidification and fluidity,
Extension and contraction,
Unification and division.
Another translation, this time with accompanying Japanese text:
"The 8 powers are opposing forces: Movement -- Stillness, Melting -- Congealing, Pulling -- Loosening, Combining -- Splitting / 9-1, 8-2, 7-3, 6-4"
In my view, the first of these paired forces are the parents of the remaining. Movement and stillness seem to me to be the logically necessary basis for any plausible system or universe.
The other three paired opposites all imply a dynamism, suggesting a direct link to the first force of movement. Yet stillness is a recurring presence whenever forces are balanced, or perhaps at the pause in a cycle, such as the moment between breaths.
In my own personal cosmology, I place increase and decrease as the first derivatives of stasis and change (stillness and movement). And in fact, we see this implied in O Sensei's schema as well:
Solidification (congealing) is a process of coming together as a more stable structure which then approaches stillness.
Fluidity (melting) is a condition or process of releasing rigidity, which facilitates dynamism.
Extension (loosening) is a radiant process, presumably toward some limit.
Contraction (pulling) is a process of gathering in, also toward some presumed limit.
Unification (combining) is a process that may encompass solidification and contraction, but can also imply a coordination/integration among different components, as with a healthy biological system or a well-engineered mechanism.
Division (splitting) is a process of separation, which may be destructive or generative.
Part of what I find puzzling is that the remaining pairs of forces seem somewhat redundant. Although different in expression, they all have to do with coming together or coming apart, or an increase or decrease of elements or qualities. (And, unrelated, where the number pairs are meant to show balance of parts within a whole, why leave out 5 - 5?)
Of course, I know next to nothing about O Sensei's conception of the Eight Forces. I don't know if he was recapitulating some Omoto Kyo doctrine, or if it's a product of his own thought/meditation/inspiration. Regardless, I have found other instances where one of his sayings once seemed esoteric and thoroughly inscrutable, later (often many years) to have profound practical implications for my understanding of aikido. So I keep coming back and analyzing.
Often such analysis causes me to retool the original, and try it out in a form that is more workable for me, given my current level of understanding. Accordingly, I might reframe the schema as follows:
Stasis and change,
Increase and decrease,
Differentiation and integration
As previously stated, increase and decrease are a logically necessary extension of change. Increase and decrease themselves suggest a kind of basic mathematics, from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division to exponents and logarithms. These in turn take us to the calculus of differentiation and integration, which could also be expressed as analysis and synthesis.
And that's where it stops -- for now, anyway. I suppose six forces is numerologically different from eight, but that's not my concern.
Aikido for me is the study and discipline of what needs to be preserved and what needs to change. Success is largely a matter of increasing or decreasing distance, force, and velocity. I have to know when it is appropriate to join, and when to let go.
Like all deeply interesting systems, aikido is very complex. Like all complex systems, it is made up of simple things. Oversimplification is a perennial hazard, but the distillation of a concept to its fundamental core is key to true understanding.
I know I still don't understand O Sensei's Eight Forces. Yet each time I return to them I am able to hone my own ideas about the hierarchy of logical necessity.
If this is of any interest to you, I urge you to identify your own set of constants and variables which define your practice.
Still Point Aikido Systems
Austin TX, USA