THE BASICS OF AIKI
The basics of movement and strategy are the most important aspect of any martial art. What does the basic movement entail in an Aiki based martial art? We should differentiate what occurs before the physical action and what follows once action is initiated.
THE PATH OF THE WARRIOR - BUSHIDO
The word Do means way, path or wise. It's the way you approach your life, others and yourself. Budo is the way of harmony. Bushido is the way of the samurai. Aiki-jutsu-do in this context is the technical system that makes budo possible. The very first thing a person has to learn is respect and correct behavior both in the dojo and in everyday life. Be in harmony with your environment by being yourself. Respect to others shows respect for yourself, this is the basis of self-confidence. The road of Budo begins in the dojo by practicing Aiki-jutsu-do with others and gradually it will automatically be applied in everyday life.
The study of Aiki-jutsu-do and Budo should be seen as a study to understand life better and to do better. It is a school where you never stop learning and never reach the finish. But what's so interesting about a finish line? The study of Aiki is as infinite as the universe. Do not go to this school if you are mainly interested in achieving belts or grades or learning cool techniques.
I have made a classification of four levels in the study of Aiki-jutsu-do:
- advanced beginner
- beginning advanced
- progressing advanced
As you can see no finish line and no clear ranking system. This promotes harmony with your fellow students.
When you see an advanced demonstration it seems like Aiki is a dance or a game. In the core, this is true. If you have no fun in practicing Aiki you can not find the base of the path of bushido. Aiki must be seen as a dance of the Gods. In harmony with yourself and your partner life becomes a dance. If you practice Aiki-jutsu-do to explore yourself and improve you will find the way of bushido and thereby enrich your life, the life of those around you and the universe.
STRATEGY - HEIHO
The Heiho Okugisho is a classical martial text written by Yamamoto Kansuke (1493-1561) that describes many of the secret military strategies of the Takeda clan. The Bushido code, texts of strategy and management, training scrolls and so forth offer an insight into the life and mentality of the old warrior, the samurai.
Every movement starts either consciously or instinctively with a predetermined strategy. Flow as a river. This means that you have learned to give and receive ukemi. Your senses will then be optimized in a way that enables you to listen and feel what the attacker - uke - (or partner when training) does and will do. An Aiki strategy is and always stays fluid.
It therefore seems best to have no planned strategy at all. The opponent cannot develop his own plan if there is no evident plan on your side. If I attack, uke thinks that is my plan and defends or counters. If my attack however is only an illusion, uke's strategy has taken shape. If I target my strategy on his falsely formed strategy, the surprise will be complete and my strategy succeeds. If I manage to keep my strategy flexible, an infinite number of variations is possible and I will not easily repeat myself.
To use 'soft Ki' against 'hard Ki' one must be able to control evasion, extending, leading and maintaining contact with uke perfectly. Only then will it be possible to immediately reply correctly to the movements of an attacker. If you fight a 'hard' charge, your own movements will become slow and stiff. If you fight a 'soft' charge, your techniques become dry and near impossible to apply to perfection. You must use 'soft' and 'hard' in harmony.
THE THREE CERTAINTIES OF AIKI
- Stand like a mountain
- Flow like a river
- Move like a wave
THE STRATEGY OF ATTACK AND WITHDRAWAL (Old China, author unknown)
- Use an attack as an attack and it is not defendable
- Use a withdrawal as a withdrawal and it can be attacked
- Use a withdrawal as an attack and create an attack
- Use an attack as a withdrawal and create a defense
Attack and defense must be in balance. It is imperative to wait until the best opportunity offers itself. Your own actions are also dependent of the opponent. Before physical contact, you should generate Ki and store it in your embryo (Dan Tien, Hara, Center). When uke moves just enough for you to decide your direction, you move first. You do not wait for the attack to completely unfold. If you can catch an opponent while attacking, it is nearly impossible for him or her to switch to a defensive reaction.
In T'ai Chi Chuan and in Aiki-jutsu-do the strategy of "important" and "unimportant" is used. When a technique is no longer sufficient, it becomes unimportant and transition to an important technique is required. Training of the Aiki-jutsu-do system increases effectiveness and the reflexes to a condition in which decision and action are one. When the concentrated mind Yi leads the Ki harmony with yourself, your opponent, others, the earth and everything else is established. This total Ki is the foundation and also the highest goal in many martial arts and even some religions.
THE STRATEGY OF THE FIGHT - HEIHO-SHIAI
Before the fight:
- Know your own intention and motivation
- Consider the consequences
- Know yourself and the opponent (teki ni naru to iu koto)
- Scan the location and choose position (ba no shidai to iu koto)
Before physical contact:
- Control the distance between yourself and the opponent(s) (ma-ai)
- Intimidate and surprise the opponent (mukatsukasuru to iu koto)
- Melt together (with the movement) (shikko no mi to iu koto). This is Aiki.
- Move the shadow (kage o ugokasu to iu koto)
- Project peaceful illusion
After physical contact:
- Recognize the intention of the opponent by harmonizing energies
- Be fluid in the extension and strong in the taking over
- Be confident with the Aiki-jutsu-do techniques
- Use the weak moment of the opponent (kuzure o shiru to iu koto)
- Choose the right moment (teki o utsu ni ichi hyoshi no uchi no koto)
- Move in with annihilating power (mi no atari to iu koto)
- Make sure to win with one decisive attack (hitotsu no uchi to iu koto)
- Be terrifying, be the master!
INITIAL DISTANCE - MA-AI
We can differentiate 3 strategic distances:
Dai-ichi-ma-ai - the 1st distance
Out of (un)armed reach. The posture is relaxed, but alert in basic stance (kamae)
Dai-ni-ma-ai - the 2nd distance
Out of unarmed reach. The posture is in ready mode (chudan kamae)
Dai-san-ma-ai - the 3rd distance
Within reach and at contact point (kumi-te or nuki-te)