The path you choose to take dictates the direction, the distance, and the destination.
When I first started Aikido, I kept hearing the slogan that wherever the head goes the body would follow. I found it to be true. No matter how hard I tried to get my movement circular, my mind kept telling it to go in a straight line. The opposition between the body and the mind lead to a lot of stress, confusion, frustration, and dizziness.
Here is an experiment to start out with. Tai-sabaki is body turn, usually associated with the Irimi-Tenkan Ashi-sabaki or footwork. It is a relatively simple step and turn pattern. It is basic to Aikido and provides full body movement and power. It is circular, spirally or rotating around the erect spine as its center, into a full 180-degree half circle. Try doing it while you think about a straight line. It is hard. Now try it again, thinking in circles. Easier?
Here is another one. Do a simple forward roll, Ukemi. Extend the arm, roll up the outside of the little finger, to the elbow, shoulder, across the back, the opposite hip, down the leg, and onto the foot. That is the path. Try it think about a straight line. Again, it is hard. Try it think about your body as a helium-filled beach ball. Easier?
I know they say that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but is it the safest or most powerful? Take two straight boards and aim them at each other, let them fly, and watch the collision. Now take a board and a ball and aim them at each other, and watch the ball roll safely off the board's path, or line of attack. Roll two balls at each other, and, well I think you get the picture.
When someone does a typical Aikido hand grab, if you wait and then push directly into them (straight line into straight line), resistance and a power struggle is inevitable. If you extend, relax, and initiate contact with a slight circular motion generated from your Hara (center) directed towards a Kazushi (balance) point, you easily take their balance.
Movements that spiral up into the heavens generally take balance. Movements that spiral down into the earth, generally facilitate falls (let the fall, there is no need to throw an already falling object, just get out of the way). Tenshin-nage is a great example of doing both at the same time.
So, what is my point, if I have one (and I usually do)? Well, it is the same point I often try to make (repetition is the discipline of training and it takes a lot of training before I can get my body and mind around anything let alone the same anything). I see a lot of physical training in Aikido that remains on a purely physical technical level. Getting congruency with the mind, making it conceptual or strategic brings harmony and unification to body and mind. This is the path of least stress by overcoming our internal resistance to what you are attempting to do.
On a larger level, we all know the right things to do in life. We all already know that ignorance, arrogance, fear, violence, quick-fixes/easy-ways, and intoxicants are often (if not usually) a causative or contributing part of the problem, they are seldom (if ever) a part of the solution. Yet, we often engage in them, making what we know and what we do in opposition to each other. We also all already know that intelligence, humility, honor, courage, love, and discipline lead to solving solutions for our families, our communities, our world, and ourselves.
We simply need to keep thinking in the same direction we want our lives to go, a positive future, not a negative past. The path you choose to take dictates the direction, the distance, and the destination. Choose wisely.
(Notice how circular this article has become? Yeah, I actually do that on purpose. No, really I do.)
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, and for sharing the journey. Now, get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan) Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 37 year. He currently trains and hold the rank of Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in Tenshinkai Aikido under Sensei Dang Thong Phong at the Westminster Aikikai Dojo in Southern California. He is the co-author, with Phong Sensei, of Aikido Basics (2003), and the (2006) Advanced Aikido Concepts and Aikido Buki-waza for Tuttle Publishing. His martial art articles have appears in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders and victims of violence, trauma, and abuse living in Marietta, GA.