Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Spirit of Aikido

Human beings are born from the interchange of Heaven (A) and Earth (U). Standing between the two, consciousness begins as (Wa=UA) Heaven refers to sunshine, the air we breathe, and even our highest aspirations. Earth is gross matter, the ground of being, and our physical body itself. When water ki (O) flows through the earth the vitality of the life force (Yo) is awakened from its slumber and the life will (I) begins to reach towards it’s highest aspirations (A), the manifestation of its own perfection. 
This process takes place in the life of every child, yet too often this fountain of youth runs dry and vitality is lost before wisdom can be realized. The balance of our soul and spirit needs to be maintain through proper training in Aiki. In this way we maintain and further develop the harmonious interchange between will (I) and vitality (O). When vitality becomes dominant over the will, we lose the unified focus of intention (Yi) and the wisdom of Aiki (Gokui) is missed. What an incredible waste

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aikido Principle in a Nutshell.

I have written previously about Aiki principle, yet it is extremely subtle and easy to miss in our practice. It is necessary therefore to further clarify it and make it more easily accessible. O-sensei described it as Ame no Uki Hashi, "The Floating Bridge of Heaven.” In Shinto this is the divine cross of fire and water ki.
          The principle of Aiki didn’t begin with O-sensei or even with Takeda Sokaku of Daito Ryu fame. It is at least five thousand years old and is the foundation of Chinese martial art, medicine, and philosophy. It begins with the statement ten-jin-chi, which indicates the vertical relationship between Heaven, Man, and Earth. This is the first manifestation of Aiki.
            This vertical relationship is also called tate. It is water ki, the foundation of the physical world, standing up vertically. The horizontal line of the cross is called yoko.  It is fire ki branching out from the vertical trunk or stem of the physical world. Fire ki is active and moves; water ki is passive and is moved. This active and passive relationship is essential to manifesting aiki in our movement. 
            Mankind moving through the center of this form gives it intention (Yi), which activates the cross to begin turning and create naname, the diagonal, or spiral form of the manifest world. This is what O-sensei referred to as Takemusu, the continual creation of new form, or technique born from the circumstances of the moment.
Practicing with these guidelines as our reference point, the secrets of aikido technique are gradually realized and we are transformed. This needs to be considered seriously. No amount of repetitive practice will reveal it. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Natural Movement

May 2011

            It is a common idea in aikido that hara is the origin of both movement and power. This can be misleading.  Hara is the center of body movement and therefore distributes the power that comes from Heaven and Earth and every other part of the body. It is a spiritual, or psychic, center and should be the origin of our intention towards movement. Nevertheless, natural movement requires that every part of the body, although integrally related, should also remain completely independent.
         Attempting to fuse the hara with the arms, or line it up behind the elbows and the wrists, etc., is mistaken and leads to stiff and rigid movement. Practicing in this way, there is no freedom of movement; no grace, beauty, or power. Just as the liver and heart have their own independent functions so the individual parts of the body should remain independent. As it says in the Bible, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand does.”
            Each of us as individuals are also part of a much larger life force, yet we also should learn to move independently. Lacking this we can hardly discover our own innate freedom, or the happiness upon which it depends. Realizing our own freedom as a part of something much greater we support the totality of humanity, even the universe itself. Unless this harmony and freedom is present in our own lives however, the idea of bringing peace to the world through aikido, or any other medium, is only an idealistic dream. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being Faith.

April 2011

            Such and such a person does such and such a thing. It is not so different from the fact that the river flows and a tree grows upwards spiraling towards the sun. We are all divine beings, created in the image of universal spirit. We are, in fact, all parts of that infinite spirit and no different from it. The problem arises from what the Japanese call Tsumi. It has the double meaning of “sin” and “accumulation.” In other words, trying to add unto ourselves when there is nothing lacking. This is the activity that continually supports our ego. It is the way in which we hide our original nature causing us to act out of ignorance.
            The first movement of the universal spirit is that of expansion. This is A dimensions capacity, the essence of spirituality. In the natural movement of aiki therefore, all movements depend on expansion. What we perceive as contraction is expansion meeting itself. This expansion is the divine love and compassion of the universal spirit that continually supports all of life. When we practice properly we nurture and gradually reveal this spirit within ourselves.
            Practicing sitting for the purpose of reaching enlightenment or some kind of higher consciousness is an ego-based activity. Practicing aikido for the sake of gaining some power, either physical or spiritual, is just the same. The improper practice of anything leads to arrogance and haughtiness; a fact that has been amply demonstrated in both the martial and the spiritual arts.
            Understanding that we are the masters of our own destiny from the very beginning, the element of true faith is revealed. This is not faith in something but rather faith in everything. It is "being faith." It is I dimension’s capacity shining through us. Understanding our true nature to be that of the five dimensions of divine spirit, our practice becomes pure and striving ceases. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sankaku Hou; the triangle method.

March 2011           

            Movement begins with the straight lines of intention, or ki. As we have seen in the February blog, these are what creates the triangle principle of aikido. One of the most basic ways that the triangle manifests in aikido is Sankaku Ho, the triangle method. This begins with Irimi, entering directly into a point at the center of your partner’s movement. This attitude of direct confrontation is the true spirit of aikido, not evasive tactics as is often assumed.
Although physical entering  may also occur, our ki should arrive at the point of contact immediately. Having established contact at this point, we must then turn that point and, once again, exit in a straight line. This completes the triangle form. The common mistake here is trying to move the point of contact rather than turn it. This results in unreasonable effort or Muri (literally, lack of principle). Although this is one of the most basic overall views of any aikido technique, it is the most obvious in Irimi Nage.
The beginner most often moves around the point of contact. The intermediate person who has developed the power of hara will usually try to send power outward and move that point.  This approach can only be effective in a collusive environment where uke takes the compliant role of pushing into nage’s hara. If one is truly manifesting aikido, there is no physical power sent out to uke at all. Nage remains neutral and uke is given nothing to work with. This will be dealt with in greater detail in next months blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 2011.

           If Aikido, the art of peace and harmony, is to be truly realized and manifest, it is necessary that its principle is properly grasped. How can we claim to be studying the art of O-sensei when there is so much conflict even between those who are in the position of being teachers. In an attempt to remedy this situation this blog has been undertaken. I will try therefore, in subsequent months this year, to attempt an explanation of aikido principle.              
First of all we should understand that aikido, like all martial arts, is fundamentally linear, not circular. In a martial conflict the shortest distance between two points is the main focus. Turning the body, other than to continue to face towards your partner, should be only as much as necessary. Linear (tate) is mental-spiritual and depends on intention. Horizontal is the manifestation of physical power. The greater the linear aspect of movement, the greater the level of skill and control.          
The highest level of mastery is called Gokui, which may be translated as “extreme” or “radical faith.” It may also be translated directly as “the extremity of I dimensions capacity. In other words intention, or ki, is the main factor of aikido. To the degree that the power of intention is understood and developed, technique becomes effortless and egoless. There is no competition with anyone; only one’s own movement.
I-Yi is the life will and intention. It is the motive power behind movement. It is "The pivot on which the mind turns” and it is also the most difficult thing to realize. To realize this degree of faith in your practice is to go beyond dualism to the place where, as O-sensei proclaimed, “There is no enemy.” Balancing this is A dimension’s ki which manifests expansion and a sense of self. When A is rooted in I, it gives birth to Sangen, the three origins.
The three origins come forth, therefore, as the simplest form that can be drawn with straight lines. Here, once again, we see the linear aspect of movement, and form, as the fundamental mind of aikido. When ki is sent in three independent directions at the same time the three-point power of aiki comes forth. Uke, confronted with this threefold function, is unable to find the source more less resist it.