Stylized Movement in Aikido

Aikido is plagued by stylized movement. What do I mean? When I refer to stylized movement, I am wishing to draw a distinction between said movement and movement that is commonly shared amongst a majority. Stylized movement then is a movement shared only amongst a minority. The smaller the minority, the more stylized a movement can be thought to be. Philosophically, as art claiming to be one with the Universe, an Aikido that is based within a stylized movement would obviously be in contradiction with itself. It would seem a more consistent position for an art that is “one with the Universe” to have its practitioners moving in a more universal, or a more shared, way – not a stylized way.

When pursuing this line of reasoning further, it makes sense to first identify the movement shared by the majority. In that regard, one could first look to other martial arts, and then second look to any types of movement wherein power, speed, balance, and mobility are determining factors. Identifying such a movement is important because a commonality is likely to entail a more sound body mechanics for power, speed, balance, and mobility, whereas a stylized movement is therefore likely to be biomechanically unsound. It is also likely that a biomechanically unsound stylized movement is being determined by other ends, ends different from the production of power, speed, balance, and/or mobility. In this regard, modern Aikido, is quite distinct from how other martial arts are biomechanically embodied, and likewise it is quite distinct, for example, from how other physical activities such as sports are commonly biomechanically embodied.

Key amongst said stylized movement in light of the greater universally shared movement (e.g. sports) and/or in terms of other martial arts, and most distinct to modern Aikido, are the following:

- A ground vectoring of one’s weight towards the heels of the foot.

- The use of the arch of the foot as a grounding or bracing point for propulsion or stabilization.

- The absence of a forward cant to the torso.

- The absence of a forward cant to the chin.

- The use of bases of supports that lack width in the face of lateral torque.

- The use of a hip-knee-foot alignment that generates torsion across the MCL.

As was stated above, it seems a stretch in reasoning to hold that modern Aikido’s use of these biomechanical unsound elements stems either from it alone having discovered greater ways of achieving power, speed, balance, and/or mobility, or from Aikido’s need for power, speed, balance, and mobility being unique unto itself. More likely, as universally sound biomechanics are selected for by a given environment, in contrast, Aikido’s environment is non-selecting. Such a hypothesis seems supported by the observation that who falls or who is pinned in Aikido environments is in large part determined culturally and not mechanically, such as via rank and/or choreography. This makes Nishio Sensei’s caveat that Aikido movement must be consistent with other martial arts extremely pertinent and perhaps even more so if we add: Aikido movement must be consistent with all other movements that select for power, speed, balance, and mobility.