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Eight Forces
Eight Forces
by Ross Robertson
Eight Forces

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.

https://books.google.com/books?id=Mx...tion&f=fals e

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.

Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA

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Old 07-24-2016, 07:23 PM   #2
Dojo: Open Sky Aikikai
Location: Durham, NC
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 430
Re: Eight Forces

Coming in with a tai chi background, I have wondered if the eight forces are to be interpreted the same as the eight Baguazhang palms or eight hands in Tai Chi - and they are all derived and contain aspects from the mother and father, Earth and Heaven in the Yijing.

Interesting reading, thank you
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Old 07-25-2016, 09:16 PM   #3
Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 824
Re: Eight Forces

Ross Robertson wrote:
If this is of any interest to you, I urge you to identify your own set of constants and variables which define your practice.
Not really constants or variables but...

A metaphor I find helpful in my training: I have 4 coins. Each coin has two sides. The sides of the coins correspond to the parings of the forces. Each force extends into the coin and at some point becomes its opposite. Aikido happens where each force is neither itself nor the other; where motion and stillness, solidification and fluidity, extension and contraction, unification and division are indistinguishable.

In my Aikido practice I seek to experience and strengthen the feeling associated with being at that place where Aikido happens in order that I may internalize it and recall it at will.


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Old 08-01-2016, 06:47 AM   #4
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South
Location: Johnson City, TN
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,209
Re: Eight Forces

Chris has a lot of good articles on the Eight Powers, as well as some articles that touch on them. From my perspective, I think you'll get turned around if you look at Eight Powers and Six Directions together - they are not the same thing. Also, there is a fair amount of Chinese-based concept surrounding Eight Powers that suggests that it is probably not original to Ueshiba or even Japanese culture, but probably derived from China and re-interpreted. Read that as politely saying the Old Man got his ideas from somewhere.

Eight Powers is a sophisticated concept. I found myself confused about it for years, mostly because the only explanations I ever received where intellectual, not physical. In other words, I was told about it but nobody could ever really "show me." Starting small was a good place for me to start. For me, that was Three Powers - Heaven, Earth, Man:
Looking at another post, Chris ties together Heaven, Earth, Man and Eight Powers:
You get the idea that the numerology is not theory or philosophy, but a technical manual with instruction represented as numbers. Oh, it's 8 and 2, not 8 then 2, so Eight Powers challenges the whole "wave" thing that is prevalent in our movement. Instead, you're doing both simultaneously. Easy, right?

Jon Reading
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Old 09-11-2016, 01:27 AM   #5
Dojo: Aikikai Jerusalem
Location: Jerusalem
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 7

Hallo all of you , my peace warrior friends
I need your support and advice
I"m a social worker , working with youth at high risk
I love these kids and find it easy to see the light in everyone of them.............
My dream is to combine psycho-educational intervention with introducing them into the world of Aikido - with the help of my sensei.
How can I get the burocrats into this ?
How can I raise the money for 2 training sessions a week - for the next 8 or 9 months ?
What will work to make the institutions pay for 2 sessions a week and can I persuade them to give this a chance ?????
Does any-one of you have experience with this ?
My personal boss is thinking that it is a waste of time..... but then - she does not really care to understand anything.........
Love you
Dorit (from Jerusalem)
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Old 09-12-2016, 01:08 PM   #6
Dojo: Aikido Club of American Samoa
Location: American Samoa
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 179
American Samoa
Re: Eight Forces

I like what you are trying to do.....facility costs and any other overhead create the need for funding. if you can find a way for those to be borne by your institution it may help. In the case of my dojo, we train in a government facility at no cost, I own the mats, and no insurance is required, therefore I teach at no cost to the students. Good luck in your endeavor.
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Old 09-16-2016, 12:46 PM   #7
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 346
Re: help

Shalom, @Dorit,

I remember my visit to Jerusalem to share aikido very fondly. I know there is a vibrant and committed aikido community there, and collectively I expect there would be the resources and the will to put something like this together.

Best wishes, and let us know how it progresses! (And, how the Eight Forces sustain your creation.)
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