Aikido is a budo. However, it is a modern budo. In old budo I believe that we could say that the resolution of a situation is the destruction of the enemy, making the enemy too injured to continue to fight, or that it is so obvious for the enemy that continuing to fight is futile because it would result in an utter defeat. All of these resolutions does nothing to really resolve the conflict itself. The conflict just cease to be a problem for the victor as the opposing part disappears temporarily. However, if we destroy one enemy, a new enemy would take it’s place in time. Or the current enemy gather their strength and revise their strategy and come back stronger at a later time.
I believe that in old budo are based on superior positions allowing us the possibility for striking (or kicking) the partner while at the same time being protected from the partner’s strikes, or we are in a situation were we, by leverage and by using mayor bodyparts to manipulate the partner’s minor parts, can dislocate a joint or break a bone, or stop the partner’s blood flow to the brain or prevent his/her breathing. These strategies relies on timing, angles and technical tricks to gain these superior positions, but there are always counters, and the partner will always try to find a way to escape the techniques, because they will destroy him/her. The partner will always consider you his/her enemy, because you are acting as an enemy, by trying to destroy him/her.
In my opinion, in the new budo we are not trying to destroy the partner. So doing the tricks and technical things required to gain the superior positions could in fact just be building up the combative energy, making the enemy even more hostile, thus moving the resolution of the conflict even further from our reach. Any pushing, pulling or twisting by mechanical leverage always has a limit with regard to strength, and at the same time it does nothing to resolve the situation itself. Still, our forms are based on the old budo. Wether or not this counterproductive depends on how we are performing the physical forms we are doing, it depends on what feeling the partner receives when we are doing it.
By shifting things inside our own body we are clearing paths inside our partner which initially were closed, opening for possibilities for movements which were impossible before our shift. We are giving the partner a new option where we are both coming out better than before the conflict started. If this new proposed path is good enough the partner would not want to avoid the process, so both partners are in agreement on the solution.
As an example I would like to discuss katate dori tai no tenkan. I have heard many times that uke should not put the head forward because then tori can strike uke on the head. This is true if no shifting is happening inside. So if we limit ourselves to this reality we have to let go of the grab in order to come to the end of the form without coming into striking distance. However, our bodies are much more complex than this. There are lots of little parts that can shift around. I strongly believe, that at least for me, doing katate dori tai no tenkan with a full contact with the partner’s wrist with the surface of my palm is what is leading me to the next level. The full grab limits the options for where we can go and shows us the parts we have to shift in order to not be open for strikes during the movement, even if we are coming forward with the head.
This is challenging of course, but letting go and not coming forward with the head is a bit like quitting before we start studying. We just have to do it with a good friend who is nice enough not to punch us in the back of our heads every time we make a mistake. Eventually the parts starts to move and the partners have clear areas where they can and can’t be. A clear line appears where no partner, neither uke nor tori, can pass without consequences. The partners should both be in a respectful relationship with the other, where nobody have an upper hand. They are merely playing opposite parts of the kata.
Resisting aiki is quite meaningless as a concept because it is for the benefit for both (all) parts, and is not merely a trick to gain a upper hand. Should we at any point try to use it to gain an advantage to do something nasty to our partner I believe we would shoot ourselves in the foot by resorting to the old way, and by doing so gaining a new enemy, or several new enemies, leading to our own destruction at a later time. Resisting aiki is like resisting sombody’s love, or refusing a very precious gift which somebody is giving us.
In the practice we are very often with a partner who are not looking for harmony, but is satisfied with the old way. So how should we practice? What should we do when the partner is pushing us, pulling us, and are twisting our parts, both as uke and as tori?
I believe that we should try to anti push when we are pushed; anti pull if we are pulled; and anti twist when our partner is twisting, to cancel the disharmony the partner is causing. Even if the partner is not in the same practice as us, we can still practice aiki, under cover. These anti movements require us to do these shifts again, just as when we are doing the movements themselves.
Still, for many it is hard to accept the new way. Human beings are not always very eager to find peaceful situations. There is darkness in us which needs to conquer, oppress and dominate others to try to avoid some pain inside, or acting out of fear, I guess. This goes both for the situations in the dojo and in a bigger scale, in the world we live in. I believe this is a reason we have so many horrible conflicts and wars all the time.
The most challenging thing is of course to do this shift inside ourselves which solves all these problems. I call it aiki. You can call it what you want, but it is what makes the impossible possible. This shift requires freedom inside our body and our mind. And this is where my healing comes in.
The katas we do in aikido are the roads we are travelling on. These roads comes from the old budo, but that is irrelevant, really. They are forcing us to face our problems and not merely go around them. To go through these forms with the partner by doing aiki requires us to make these shifts in our body and it will be clear as day when we are passing an unfree area, which I think all of us, or at least most of us, have.
Lately I have shifted the focus more and more on to myself. I have earlier tried to explore deeper and deeper into my partner. Getting further and further by developing new levels of sensitivity. Now however, I am trying to let the light from my partner’s contact penetrate deeper and deeper into myself. The further in I dare to let my partner’s ligth, the more connected we will be. When my partner is lighting up an area the shift becomes visible to me and it is easy for me to examine it. However, I have a very extreme, deep fear of this light. A small scared creature lives in my darkness in there. The fear makes him scream, spasm, clench and wriggle around trying to escape the light. It is like being on a high ledge, stumbling, gripping for something to rescue me from falling to an untimely death. I am struggling with this fear. The fear of the light. The new budo is my only cure. I don’t think old budo can help me with this. I believe it is the same for the world around us. It might be time for the new budo.
So I know that many, very many, are just looking for something that works. I am trying not to offend anybody, but I am searching for something deeper, something more precious, something more useful for me and for the world around us than just another weapon to gain the upper hand, until somebody else finds a bigger weapon and so on.
Luckily I have many lovely therapists, my dear friends and wonderful training partners. I hope to conquer my fear of the light. I hope, some time in the future, to be able to enjoy it even.
Enjoy your practice! Aikido makes people happy!