What is "Aiki"?
The defining of “Aiki” is a very difficult thing to do. This is because the concept defies the dualistic and dichotomous nature of language and the linear functioning of the intellect. In its conceptual nature then, “Aiki” is an apophatic concept. Therefore, if one wants to truly understand my understanding of the concept, I would always recommend for one to watch, read, and listen to all of our publications (videos, podcast, blogs, posts, etc.). I would also advise for one to pay attention to the caveats I’ve given regarding contemporary or modern understandings of “Aiki” – so as not to be led astray, since nearly all of what is said to be “Aiki” today is in fact not. I’ve always played the long game, so to speak, when it comes to training and teaching, and this is especially the case for folks not training directly with me: So, I am afraid, one has to take the deep dive and check out all these materials if they want to understand truly what I’m saying and what I’m not saying even if this blog entry appears to be all-encompassing – which it is not.
In our latest “Gateway Aikido” video (“Kokyu-Ho/Kokyu Dosa”), which is a series I started for a FB friend, I gave what I would call a very important map for understanding one’s Aikido training. There, I mentioned that training has three primary components: Physical, Energetic, and Spiritual (heart/mind). I also mentioned that these components are concentric to each other. In that explanation, I discussed that therein a reconciliation or an integration of the two elements that make up each component must occur. Here, using two examples from that talk to remind the reader of the explanation in the video: The Ego Tripartite Mind and the God Mind must be reconciled at the spiritual component; and, Yin and Yang must be reconciled at the energetic component; etc. In elaborating on this point, I also drew a two-dimensional spectrum for understanding this “reconciliation,” using the energetic component. Therein, I pointed to or made reference to the middle of the spectrum, whereat Yin and Yang are so perfectly balanced that their dichotomy is completely reconciled and where they are completely and fully co-integrated within each other: wherein their dichotomy between them ceases to exist. While not mentioning it there specifically, but saying it here, this reconciliation and this ceasing of dichotomy alone is Aiki.
If one plugs this understanding of reconciliation back into all three components, the spiritual, the energetic, and the physical, one will see that Aiki is the reconciliation of the dichotomy between the Ego Tripartite Mind and the God Mind at the spiritual component, the reconciliation of the dichotomy between Yin and Yang at the energetic component, and the reconciliation of the dichotomy between all material dichotomies at the physical component (e.g. Nage/Uke, Offense/Defense, Push/Pull, Mind/Body, Thought/Action, etc.). As was said in the video, because these components are concentric to each other, traditional understandings of this map tend to hold that while the spiritual component is the source for all other components, a reconciliation at the physical component can lead to a reconciliation at the energetic component, and a reconciliation of the energetic component can lead to a reconciliation of the spiritual component. Also stated in the video, this, however, was not my experience, neither in life/training nor in historical research. Contrarily, I hold that the spiritual component as source must first be reconciled for any true reconciliation to happen energetically or physically: I do not hold that one can reconcile the physical dichotomies of the art nor the energetic dichotomies of the art until the Ego Tripartite Mind and God Mind have been reconciled. Instead, I would hold, the energetic and the physical components, rather than a means toward reconciling the spiritual elements, are to be used to increase the quality of the spiritual component reconciliation in terms of access (i.e. agency over time) and in terms of maintenance (i.e. agency over environment/incident).
As the three components are concentric to each other, Aiki, or the reconciliation within each component is also concentric to each other. This makes the means of reconciliation (Aiki) identical along the three components. That means is The Skill of Releasing: It is also The Skill of Releasing that is being cultivated for quality (as mentioned above) via the energetic and physical components. This in turn holds that Aiki is receptive in nature. Meaning, Aiki is less something you do and more something happening to you. For example, using the spiritual component, one cannot seek a balance between the Egoic Mind and the God Mind and nor can one seek access to the God Mind to achieve the aforementioned reconciliation between the two minds. Such seeking is merely a continuation of the Egoic Mind functioning as is and therefore in dominance to the God Mind. Rather, a person skilled in releasing releases from the Egoic Mind, bringing a cessation to its functioning and dominance, and it is this in turn that has the gateway to the God Mind open: One does not open the God Mind; the God Mind opens of its own accord via the skill of releasing used to bring a cessation of the Egoic Mind.
At the energetic level, the spiritual reconciliation mentioned above opens the gateway to the internal field, allowing Yin and Yang values to pass through the human body as it is centered between Heaven (immaterial) and Earth (material). As before, access to this internal field cannot be done actively, and nor can a balancing of Yin and Yang within the field be done actively. Such agency, which is always a manifestation of fear/desire, will close the God Mind gate, which will in turn close the internal energetic field gate, etc. Instead, one simply releases, the gateway to the internal field opens on its own accord; while in said releasing state, Yin and Yang values reconcile themselves, and Aiki happens to the practitioner, etc.
To the modern mind, which is the Ego Tripartite Mind running unchecked and unaware of itself, which is most minds practicing Aikido today, this all sounds “airy” and impractical, and likely even impossible and irrelevant. This is especially so among the martialists within our community. However, there are very real, very concrete, very practical real-world effects from such cultivation, and this is especially so martially speaking. Speaking martially only then, a reconciliation at the spiritual component produces an unfettered mind free of fear. This mind is the only mind capable of not vapor-locking under the stress and pressure of human v. human violence. This mind is also the only mind that can flow within the dynamic and infinite nature of human v. human violence, and thus it is the mind of spontaneity and awareness (Takemusu Aiki), the mind without which all martial arts training for human v. human violence is useless and pointless. At the energetic component, a reconciliation here allows one to conjoin and/or enhance one’s mechanical engines (e.g. leverage, ballistics, etc.) energetically (Kokyu Projection/Aiki Adhesion), which increases one’s work output potential and the ability to overcome greater resistant values. This in turn allows one to fight above his/her wait class, which is a vital aspect of all self-defense concerns. A reconciliation at the physical component is what allows for the ultimate martial strategy of non-contestation (Jiu-Jitsu) to be embodied tactically. Contrast these reconciliations with what the martialists are pushing today as a product of their Modern/Egoic Mind: The delusion that the one-to-one plug-and-play fetishization of technique solves in-and-of-itself for the spontaneous, unfettered, aware, fearless mind; Just physically be stronger than your attacker and assume such to always be the case; Contest. What a joke! Nothing could be more unmartial than these three positions!
At a spiritual level, these components and their reconciliations also have practical real-world effects. This can be talked about here because Aikido today suffers a lack of viability both martially and spiritually, and the source for such impotency is the same: ignorance of the above-mentioned. Therefore, I would like to provide the reader with real-world easily observable signs of this level of training and of this type of training – to point out that the above is not as “airy” as one may think. This list is not exhaustive:
Spiritual Component Aiki: Emotional stability (absent of depression and anxiety) and an absence of reactive behavior; thriving relationships with one’s children, parents, and spouses; non-attachment to secular-materialism; an absent of victim-mentalities; non-attachment to worldly coping mechanisms; non-attachment to Federite mentalities, discourses, and institutions; Takemusu Aiki (Spontaneous with the Art/Non-attachment to Form).
Energetic Component Aiki: Throwing architectures powered by a ground-rebounding Kokyu Projection, a rooted rear foot (vs a rear foot moving throughout the throw), and an absence of bracing angles in the stance; an adhesion of matter (Aiki) at the contact point generated by Nage and not by Uke; an absence of training choreography.
Physical Component Aiki: The tactical absence of pushing when pushed and pulling when pulled; a highly-mobile, supple, strong body regardless of age and that is thicker in the mid-section; a power-output above expected values for a given mass, strength, and effort; the use of live training environments in one’s curriculum.
Guess my take on the stiff over-weight, muscling, emotionally reactive, divorced, having an estranged son that doesn't train in the art, Federite, that doesn't spar, floats his/her rear foot all over the mat, that uses Uke for their choreography skills and forces newbies into position by sheer superior size or muscle, and holds that Aiki is just sound body mechanics and Aikido Kihon Waza should be understood as one-to-one plug-and-play self-defense responses?