Trying to put into words something that has eluded me for my entire time studying Aikido is a tricky task. However, recently I have begun to explore more of how I want “my aikido” to feel, so I will try to articulate that feeling. I apologise for the excessive use of quotes in advance, but there just aren’t the right words!!
I have always felt the principles of aikido should be fairly simple, they are after all the building blocks, the starting points for the art. Personally I have taken the principles as posture, blending (awase), connection (musubi) and breath power (kokyu); there are other “tools” that could be considered such as ma-ai, movement, even atemi, but I feel these all fit within the other principles.
The side-effect of thinking of these principles is they become “things” that I try to do; I want/try to blend, I try to connect, etc. This seems to go against Aikido principles as the process of doing something “to” uke seems aggressive or confrontational. Aikido by definition is harmonious, I should aim to do things “with” uke not to him/her. This of course is much easier said than done!
The idea of leading (see The powers we use in the execution of technique) became more and more intriguing to me, the process of leading uke into a technique; guiding, influencing uke’s ki without stopping the flow or going against it. Again much easier said than done, and can equally become something that I “try to do” but for me an important mindset as the mind leads the body.
So I began to look at connecting and blending without stopping uke, without destroying the ki flow that is there, but guiding it to a safe place. The practice of “being there without being there” has begun to develop. Rather than entering, clashing with uke, overcoming uke’s ki and taking it somewhere; the process/mindset of being “with” uke before the initial physical contact and all the way through the “technique” without making the connection bigger or smaller (bigger feels more like forcing uke, smaller feels more like allowing myself to be hit). Sadly this has led me to more conundrums: I feel I need to be there without being there; to move even when motionless; and to interact with and not react to uke. When all these factors are unified, when the opposites are all put together, I can move with uke, always connected but never a hindrance or obstacle for uke (never applying “to” uke).
This feeling/principle/thought/option (delete as applicable!) allows me to feel or sense uke’s ki flow and follow it and even guide it, thus becoming a lead without ever having the intention of doing so!
I know these words are inadequate to convey the sense of what is happening, but the feeling certainly makes sense and feels nearly aiki.