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How do we really communicate in aikido? What is it we are transmitting to each other through the connection and what is the connection?

I was introduced to some exercises for studying the connection itself by Endo sensei and my focus in aikido has shifted heavily towards studying this. These exercises are mostly consisting of the situation where the partners are connected by a mutual push initiated either by tori or uke. The exercises are very simple to do at all levels as there is no particular goal with the movements (you don’t have to make the partner fall), but the goal is rather to study the causality of different movements and mental states and different reactions from the training partner.

What is a strong connection and what is a weak connection? A strong mutual push does not necessarily result in a strong connection I think (often it is rather the opposite). A slight push can give a strong connection I think, but how? So what separates a strong connection from a weak one?

I would define the strength or weakness of the connection on how much of a message would come trough all the way if it were sent at that exact moment. I think that the message can get lost both in tori, in the contact point or in uke. Stiffness actually often gives a good connection, as there are fewer places where the message can get lost. However, the communication becomes very primitive in that way.

Of course, at first when we do the exercises we only concern ourselves with the pushing feeling. Later we find that moving our intention can more subtly change the partner’s intention. I believe I am still only on the outer surface of this exciting world, and I can hardly wait to plunge deeper into it (however, I believe I would need training partners to do so).

If uke gives a weak connection it is relatively simple for tori to provoke a stronger connection by moving towards the partner. However, if uke becomes stiff, even if the connection might be good, it would probably not be an ideal situation for kata as tori often would wish uke to be in a state where movement should be easy to make a beautiful form.

“Weak power” can be very powerful. Picture by Tomas Svec from the seminar with Endo sensei in Púchov July 2012.

I feel that aikido is very much using the concept “inception” introduced in the movie Inception. We would like to plant an idea in our partner in such a way that the partner can’t trace it back to us easily, or maybe not at all. So how do we give the partner the idea of giving a good connection? I have often tried to flash a weak point in myself to “hook” the partner.

If tori would like to rotate the katate dori grab one way he/she have to transmit the idea to the partner in such a way that it is not obvious that the idea came from tori. This idea would have to pass trough the connection with the partner without being detectable in the contact point. That means that any pushing, pulling or twisting would not do the trick, as this is would be revealed in the grab. I have felt this concept from many of the very experienced people and I find it extremely intriguing. We just move together and I don’t know why it is happening. That is inception indeed!

Enjoy your practice! Aikido make people happy!