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Old 09-04-2014, 04:07 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Refining my view of aiki

In a dialectic effort to simplify discussion:
My current definition is that aiki can be summed up as the purposeful balancing of (apparently) opposing forces/aspects in and around the self (taking what seemed conflicted and finding how they work together for a common purpose): "In-Yo-Ho." How is this definition lacking?

May I please ask people to also attempt to define aiki as succinctly as possible?

Please no directly commenting on others' views of aiki. The point here is to get a simple sample of different working definitions of aiki, and to offer my own view as fodder for an effort in distilling what the thing itself might be, assuming it can be described as a discrete "thing" at all.
Thank you for your time (I hope ).
Take care,
Matt

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Old 09-05-2014, 02:21 PM   #2
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Onward with this solo exercise, then :

Aiki is the dynamic balance of opposing/polarized things so they can then operate cohesively as a whole.
Making sweet sweet aiki is based on the understanding of how to establish that dynamic, actively engaged neutrality, which allows one to reconcile otherwise conflictory activities and/or states (symbolized by in/yin yo/yang). Based on a variety of factors, this can be applied very deeply into ones own body, creating proportional degrees of flexibility and powerful movement, but can also be applied as a principle for affecting circumstances around us beyond that use of balanced, whole-body power.

Would it be better to say aiki is whole-body(-ies) cohesion or whole-body(-ies) power? Neither? Both?

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Old 09-05-2014, 02:48 PM   #3
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

The ip/is/ihtbf/aiki people on this forum are not able to describe how aiki works without resorting to Japanese or Chinese culture and language because they do not have an understanding of how what they are doing works.

dps
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Old 09-05-2014, 03:15 PM   #4
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
The ip/is/ihtbf/aiki people on this forum are not able to describe how aiki works without resorting to Japanese or Chinese culture and language because they do not have an understanding of how what they are doing works.

dps
I've seen a lot of good efforts. Better than any I could offer, at any rate. What's your working definition for aiki? Or have you got anything to critique of the offered definition?

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Old 09-05-2014, 03:42 PM   #5
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Here's a pretty fine description as far as I can tell:
Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
There is a certain form of "structure" that arises from a body that is supported in all directions, but definitely don't think of taking stuff to the ground or making paths or anything like that. There is no one direction or path. You are going from your dantien/hara/tanden/whatever-you-prefer-to-call-it out to everywhere (that includes everywhere in yourself, not just everywhere outside of yourself - "aiki in me before aiki in thee") and it is this that puts you on the floating bridge of heaven, not trying to align joints or make a structure with the bones. Again, forget about ground paths or lines or connecting to someone's center or anything that takes you out of neutral and gives your directionality a bias. If someone comes into contact with your surface, there's no need for you to connect with them, because you were already connected with everything. The ground is not special in this sense - it's just something contacting you, and it is no more privileged than anything else, the end.
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showth...547#post330547

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Old 09-05-2014, 04:30 PM   #6
Dan Richards
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

I'll play. Here's my stab in plain English.

Aiki is a demonstrable body skill and mental state achieved through the neutralization of opposing forces, and the directing of power via the center/will through intent/mind.

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Old 09-05-2014, 04:49 PM   #7
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

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Dan Richards wrote: View Post
I'll play. Here's my stab in plain English.

Aiki is a demonstrable body skill and mental state achieved through the neutralization of opposing forces, and the directing of power via the center/will through intent/mind.
Cool! Thanks, Dan! Much appreciated. Just for clarification's sake, are you saying aiki can be one and/or the other (body skill; state of mind)? Or is aiki only both at the same time?

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Old 09-05-2014, 05:02 PM   #8
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Hi, Matt. It's both. But since we're whittling this down, and defining aiki as succinctly as possible...let me tweak my definition for, possibly, better clarity.

Aiki is a demonstrable body skill and state of being achieved through the neutralization of opposing forces, and the directing of power by intent/mind via the center/will.

Last edited by Dan Richards : 09-05-2014 at 05:11 PM.

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Old 09-05-2014, 07:16 PM   #9
Jeremy Hulley
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Aiki-something that cannot be done to a chair- credit Don Angier

Aiki - The creation and management of opposing forces within one's self that makes it impossible for an opponent to respond.

The management of opposing forces is primarily trained through solo practice but partners help, inform, correct and challenge the practice.

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Old 09-05-2014, 07:25 PM   #10
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
The ip/is/ihtbf/aiki people on this forum are not able to describe how aiki works without resorting to Japanese or Chinese culture and language because they do not have an understanding of how what they are doing works.

dps
Wow.

The fact that you or anyone does not understand a description does not mean the person saying it does not understand how it works. And the utilization of Japanese or Chinese terminology appears to me to be appropriate if a) the terms are explained as best possible and b) there may not be perfectly equivalent translations available in the target language. I use Japanese terms all the time when discussing Japanese swords and sword arts because a) it is precise and b) they are correct. Especially when they don't have exact corollaries in English due to the unique evolution of the craft in that culture. After all, what is shibui *exactly*? And when does ko-suguha become chu suguha *exactly*? Oh, sorry, I meant a hamon. Oh, damn, sorry, I mean, um, temper line. DOH! No, sorry, temper line isn't strictly accurate although commonly used... Um, inter-crystalline structure transition region? No, that's not it... Um... The *pattern* formed by the inter-crystalline transitional region between the pearlitic body and martensitic edge. that's a bit closer but we seem to have lost something... Oh, yeah, with chu that means "middle" and that means kinda / sort mid "height" of the intercrystalline structure transition region as measured from the edge of the martenisitic edge?

Oh, and yeah, I kinda made some of that up on the fly because metallurgists right now are experiencing head exploding syndrome because it's obvious I don't understand the entirety of the metallurgical processes. But that's for another few volumes of writing later...

No, wait, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, how if you can't explain it to someone who doesn't know much about the culture within which it arose, obviously you don't understand it yourself.

Oh, crap, never mind. Chu suguha. You know... Chu suguha. Don't know what that is? Huh, maybe you need to look at a few swords (well, Japanese swords. Um, well, Japanese -style swords. Um, well, no, properly differentially hardened swords made from the proper steel alloys and here I go again getting all specific and stuff) in person and learn more -- you can't learn *everything* on-line after all... but I digress...

And since Ueshiba Morihei was Japanese... And visited Mongolia... And read old classics from China... It's not exactly rocket science that his discussions were couched in those terms.

And all that said, that is quite a leap to say that because you haven't had it explained to you to your satisfaction in your terms that the people trying to explain therefore don't understand it what they're saying.

Or... In other words... Your understanding is not a prerequisite for truth value nor necessarily a measure of the quality of explication. The fault could lie elsewhere...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 09-05-2014 at 07:32 PM.

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Old 09-05-2014, 11:15 PM   #11
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Kieth what is your view of aiki and can you give a physical description of how it works.

dps
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Old 09-05-2014, 11:25 PM   #12
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Oh, and yeah, I kinda made some of that up on the fly because metallurgists right now are experiencing head exploding syndrome because it's obvious I don't understand the entirety of the metallurgical processes. But that's for another few volumes of writing later...
I can't speak for other metallurgists, but I assure you my head is in no danger of exploding. It's not possible to write an exact molecular-scale simulation of a system as large as a sword blade, so I'm perfectly comfortable with an empirical description using the terminology of the culture that developed the blade. For me, at least, understanding the metallurgy of a traditionally made Japanese sword only enhances my appreciation of its beauty. So go right ahead.

As for aiki, I'm not sure I completely agree with Dan Richards' definition, but it's a good basis for further discussion.

Katherine
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Old 09-06-2014, 01:12 AM   #13
Keith Larman
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Kieth what is your view of aiki and can you give a physical description of how it works.

dps
I have posted many times over the freaking years what I think. I've lost count of the threads I've added thoughts to, my experiences, my ideas, and my beliefs. You, dude, need to get off your ass and do something other than troll discussion. And if you want to start by insulting the daylights out of very experienced people by saying they don't understand what they're doing because you don't get it, well, the problem is on your freaking end.

I have truly had enough of this crap. I teach. Openly. I train. Openly. I go to seminars. Openly. I get on the mat and work with people. Openly. I have tried repeatedly to explain, expand and contribute. You, on the other hand...

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Old 09-06-2014, 08:33 AM   #14
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

And to add more, just reread Jeremy Hulley's post above. That. Now I've written similar things many times before. As have others. So many freaking times that it's frankly silly to have to type it again.

You know, after a good night of sleep let me add something else. I have *ZERO* (nada, nill, zilch, null, absolute zero) problem with people who do not agree with this sort of definition as aiki in aikido. I don't think it's complete. I think it's all remarkably complex. Stuff I've written before here and elsewhere. Stuff I've discussed with my peers. Stuff I"ve discussed with various folk outside my org at seminars over beers or on the mat. And if the conclusion someone reaches is that this stuff isn't part of it, well, that's fine. Cool. Cool beans. Great stuff. More power to ya. That's an honest intellectual response that is worthy of consideration.

But when something has been beaten to death, reincarnated, then beaten to death again over and over again like a Nietzschian eternal recurrence it just gets freaking old to have someone say "you don't understand what you're doing because I'm not satisfied with your explanation".

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Old 09-06-2014, 08:38 AM   #15
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
I can't speak for other metallurgists, but I assure you my head is in no danger of exploding. It's not possible to write an exact molecular-scale simulation of a system as large as a sword blade, so I'm perfectly comfortable with an empirical description using the terminology of the culture that developed the blade. For me, at least, understanding the metallurgy of a traditionally made Japanese sword only enhances my appreciation of its beauty. So go right ahead.

As for aiki, I'm not sure I completely agree with Dan Richards' definition, but it's a good basis for further discussion.

Katherine
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Old 09-06-2014, 02:05 PM   #16
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Hi Matt. I saw your initial post and started writing my answer offline. I had problems getting back online and now I see my text matches your second post even more than your first! Funny how that works. Here goes:

state of aiki = the constant cultivation of what is needed to allow "the natural balance that resolves dynamism" to be experienced as fully as possible by the conscious entities involved in a given interaction
[note that aiki thus can be happening frequently in many situations, but may not take much work until conflict or aggression is brought to the table.. also note that if Koch/Tononi-type gradations of consciousness exist, then human interaction is a very small part of the whole picture]

ps:
I used terms general enough to not be a good definition, so I hope it doesn't end up sounding like vague, fluffy bs. In fact I mean this to be a practical, working definition that can work in martial art practice.

An example of the process I am getting at: a box with an airtight divider in the middle can have a high-pressure and a low-pressure chamber (if you set it up that way with a pump first). You don't have dynamism because the walls of the box are doing mechanical work (by virtue of their rigidity). But open the divider, and the gasses will naturally dynamically interact, and then the interaction will resolve. So you change what entities are experiencing the resolution of the "conflict" of the pressure difference: in the final state the gasses themselves experience it, but in the initial state something else (the box) has to do the work of keeping the peace.

So in practice I would want universal strengths like ground reaction force and gravity to work through my body. I would thus experience their action personally. Attacker's forces are applied to me but meet a resolving complementary force immediately.
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Old 09-06-2014, 03:22 PM   #17
Cliff Judge
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Aiki is an effect wherein a system of energy controlled by one person's will is combined with that of another person, such that the combined system of energy is under the control of only one person's will.

My term "system of energy" is how I define ki. Basically I see ki as all of the dynamic functions of a person, though in practice I guess I most care about the ones they employ to try to attack me: their balance, attention, intention, muscle control, and proprioception. I am sure there are all kinds of other ki but I'll leave those to acupuncturists.

And there might be other types of Aiki that come into play among people at rest and not attacking each other, but for me, the idea is that two systems of energy are combined, and one of the individuals is in control.

I've seen a number of different ways to achieve Aiki and I am not really great yet, but I am getting better over time.

One of my teachers is able to completely capture a person's intention and proprioception before there is any contact, and take their balance sufficiently to deliver a very quick strike to a vital area, or throw them very far, or crush them. With a cooperative partner he can make some impressively large Aikido throws by gathering up their entire system of energy and flinging it up or crushing it down. Against a resistant attacker I imagine he would simply create an opening and hit them very hard somewhere that would incapacitate them. The thing is, he creates this type of Aiki long before there is any body contact, and I believe he actually brings Aiki about purely with intention, or, if I can slip another Japanese term in here, kiai. It's just a thing he does by looking at you.

Another of my teachers, you grab his wrist and he makes your body drop or shift without really using his body. It is very eerie when this is done slowly. Against a more intense attack, he uses this type of unbalancing as the first part of a much larger movement, and the overall effect is that uke is simply behind the technique, unable to adjust enough to get control back. He basically causes this Aiki with intention. There is something physical going on, but on the occasions where I can make something like this work, it definitely seems like my intention starts the ball rolling.

In another lineage I train in, Aiki is like a little something extra that goes into a technique that makes it impossible for you to bend or straighten a joint, or pops you up on your toes with your balance suddenly placed on top of nage's balance, or changes your posture in some particular way. There are simple methods for generating this Aiki that are part of the core, beginner curriculum, that require attention to form, timing, distance, and intention, and do not work properly if performed with physical power.

My sword teacher has told me - perhaps not an actual teaching of the sword school I train with him in - that the term "Aiki" sounds like an inauspicious turn of affairs when you are sharing as much information with your opponent as you are reading from them, and therefore have no particular advantage over them. I understand that this is generally what the term "aiki" meant in most of the koryu schools, on the occasions when you do run into it, which is not often before Takeda came along.

The differences in what Aiki looks like that I have encountered in my own training (as well as, truth be told, the difference between what the IP people talk about and what I have seen) have led me to think of Aiki as definitely a "phenomenon" or a state of being that occurs, as opposed to a "skill." There is skill in creating AIki but the skill is not the thing itself, and there are multiple skills and ways of building these skills.

And nothing about Aiki has ever led me to think of it as "power." I have also never thought of it as a thing that is created by the application or generation of "power," in fact that's the opposite of what all of my teachers have said. I've always noticed that when a high level practitioner performs technique on me, that I feel absolutely nothing. Nothing is making me move, I just am. Sometimes it feels like the world around me is moving and I am standing still. Furthermore, my primary teacher in fact says things like "gather all the energies" and speaks of affecting the "energy body" around the person instead of trying to move their physical bodies, as a mental image to develop a softer touch that makes people bend and move as you want them to without as much resistance.

So that's why I think of Aiki as an effect where you engage and surround / capture / absorb your opponents ki with your own, leaving you in charge of the combined ki.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 09-06-2014 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 09-07-2014, 08:00 PM   #18
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
....And if you want to start by insulting the daylights out of very experienced people by saying they don't understand what they're doing because you don't get it,.....
It is not that I don't get, its that they can't explain it.

If there is a structure that arises from the body that is supported in all directions and it is not the skeleton ( as indicated by the Lee Salzman quote ), what material of the body is this structure composed of?

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Old 09-07-2014, 08:12 PM   #19
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
It is not that I don't get, its that they can't explain it.

If there is a structure that arises from the body that is supported in all directions and it is not the skeleton ( as indicated by the Lee Salzman quote ), what material of the body is this structure composed of?

dps
This sort of thing has been discussed on Aikiweb for years - I see that you've participated in some of the discussions:

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
That is an excellent post Byron that goes a long way to understanding the Aiki as relates to the physical body.
.
dps
Please tell me that you're not just trolling...

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-07-2014, 09:10 PM   #20
Jeremy Hulley
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

The structure happens via intent.

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Old 09-07-2014, 09:37 PM   #21
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
The ip/is/ihtbf/aiki people on this forum are not able to describe how aiki works without resorting to Japanese or Chinese culture and language because they do not have an understanding of how what they are doing works.

dps
Wow.

The fact that you or anyone does not understand a description does not mean the person saying it does not understand how it works. And the utilization of Japanese or Chinese terminology appears to me to be appropriate if a) the terms are explained as best possible and b) there may not be perfectly equivalent translations available in the target language. I use Japanese terms all the time when discussing Japanese swords and sword arts because a) it is precise and b) they are correct. Especially when they don't have exact corollaries in English due to the unique evolution of the craft in that culture.
Yukio Sagawa -- reputedly quite capable in aiki -- said explicitly that :
Quote:
Sagawa in "Clear Power" wrote:
If you simply go through life by simply thinking you can copy people you'll never get anywhere. The only person that can do this is you. You must create your own understanding for yourself.
Take Aiki for example. There is no way to really teach this. Even if I could point at something that is Aiki I can't put it into words. You simply think you can learn everything from me, so you don't develop the habit to think for yourself. That is what divides people that are smart from whose who are not. Even with mathematics, its not as if you suddenly wake up one day able to do these things, am I right? This is the same with Bujutsu. It is about long periods of work, innovation, that you slowly over time become able to do these things.
I think Matthew's question and David's response are both flowing from the broadly felt need to do what Sagawa could not -- what Ueshiba could not -- put this into plain words and unambiguous concepts. That's a task for us Westerners. Direct and unambiguous expression is not the chief genius of Japanese culture, after all....

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 09-07-2014, 09:55 PM   #22
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
And to add more, just reread Jeremy Hulley's post above. That. Now I've written similar things many times before. As have others. So many freaking times that it's frankly silly to have to type it again. ...

But when something has been beaten to death, reincarnated, then beaten to death again over and over again like a Nietzschian eternal recurrence it just gets freaking old to have someone say "you don't understand what you're doing because I'm not satisfied with your explanation".
Eternal recurrence.

But the problem is generally because two parties THINK they are each communicating with the other -- but in fact, are not.

Look at Jeremy's response that you approve:
Quote:
Jeremy wrote:
Aiki-something that cannot be done to a chair- credit Don Angier

Aiki - The creation and management of opposing forces within one's self that makes it impossible for an opponent to respond.

The management of opposing forces is primarily trained through solo practice but partners help, inform, correct and challenge the practice.
This is an operational statement. Matthew asks "What is a car?" And the response is to the effect of:

Quote:
"A car is something that cannot float on water.
A car involves the management of brake and accelerator to make the car drive as you want.
Driving a car is primarily trained in solo practice, but a passenger can help."
Operational definitions do not tell what a car IS -- these operations also apply to motorcycles, tractors, combines, roadable cranes, and front end loaders -- none of which is a car. It kind of neglects some important operational details -- like, say, the ignition, steering, gears. And some other stuff.

Hence, the eternally recurrent frustration at the manner of communication ...

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 09-07-2014, 10:24 PM   #23
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Question Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
defining aiki as succinctly as possible...let me tweak my definition for, possibly, better clarity.
Succinct. -- Let's do that.

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
As for aiki, I'm not sure I completely agree with Dan Richards' definition, but it's a good basis for further discussion.
Let's begin there, then.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Aiki is a demonstrable body skill and state of being achieved through the neutralization of opposing forces, and the directing of power by intent/mind via the center/will.
Matthew approved Lee Salzman's take:
Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote:
There is a certain form of "structure" that arises from a body that is supported in all directions, ... it has no one direction or path. ... If someone comes into contact with your surface, there's no need for you to connect with them, because you were already connected with everything.
Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
If there is a structure that arises from the body that is supported in all directions and it is not the skeleton (as indicated by the Lee Salzman quote ), what material of the body is this structure composed of?
Jeremy added:
Quote:
Jeremy Hulley wrote: View Post
The structure happens via intent.
Chris added a link to discussion involving tensegrity -- an important point -- though not, IMO for the reason he appears to believe.

Summing up these points (all of which I agree with):

1. Aiki is a structural response -- formed by using the body according certain applied forms or mental impressions of structure.

2. Aiki has features that appear similar to tensegrity:
----- a) Aiki has an instantaneous load path response throughout the structure from any change of load anywhere on the structure, and
---- b) In Aiki, tension and compression forces are distinct in where and how the structure is normally and dynamically stressed.

3. In Aiki (unlike tensegrity):
---- a) tension and compression interact continuously (in yo ho), not discontinuously, and invert smoothly into one another without loss of continuity, or any loss of structural potential or potential energy when reversing the sign or direction of apparent action.
---- b) Aiki is a surface dominated phenomenon.

I think that is what we have so far. Miss anything? I'll keep my thoughts to the side until we're as agreed as we can be.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 09-07-2014, 10:25 PM   #24
Jeremy Hulley
Dojo: Seattle School of Aikido Shinto Ryu/Seattle Icho Ryu
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

The unification of the ki of heaven and the ki of earth in me. Allowing me to stand on the floating bridge.

Jeremy Hulley
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Old 09-07-2014, 10:36 PM   #25
Chris Li
 
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Re: Refining my view of aiki

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote: View Post
Miss anything?
Quite a lot - my point was not that tensegrity is "the answer" just to point out the cyclic and pointless nature of the trolling going on.

I'll step out here, too.

Best,

Chris

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