005) Week of 9/22/08: “Ai” in Aikido

I have spent the last two weeks exploring the roles of Nage and Uke. Implicit in this discussion is the relationship between the Nage and Uke. In many respects, the nature of that relationship is one of the unique and differentiating aspects of Aikido within the martial arts world.

In most martial arts, the premise is based upon an two or more people in a physical conflict with one another. It can be viewed as a “you vs. me” paradigm. A critical component in Aikido is the ability to unify with the attacker. This is the process of turning two into one. This creates a VERY DIFFERENT paradigm of “us.” In many respects, this is not only an important foundation of Aikido, but is a very difficult state to consistently achieve.

Most people either respond with fear or anger to an aggressive action. This is a reactive state in response to the actions of another person. It is basically impossible to blend, harmonize, unify, “Ai” with an attacker when one is in one of those responsive states. It is critically important to train in a manner that allows us to blend, harmonize, unify, “Ai” with the attacker. This requires that we can maintain the states of “mushin” and “fudoshin.”

Mushin: This term can be defined as “empty mind.” It is important to allow our minds to simply be in the moment, and not thinking about what has happened, what might happen, or any other thoughts that remove us from being in the present. We strive to become like a powerful antenna, sensitively taking in a lot of information that is happening around us. In order to blend, harmonize, unify, “Ai” with an attacker, we need to be acutely sensitive to as much information about what the attacker is doing. Like a high-end, stereo receiver, we can simply “lock onto” that signal. We have experienced how difficult this can be some times when our mind wanders, we become fearful, frustrated, etc., and suddenly we cannot cleanly execute our techniques.

Fudoshin: This term can be defined as the immovable mind. Our mind can focus in on relevant information without having to lose one’s center, balance, or presence in the moment so that we can move in a state of “Ai” with the uke. We actively practice towards strengthening this ability when we are tested by attempts to distract us when we are standing in hamni. We are tested in many other ways so that we can deepen your capacity to maintain “fudoshin.”

We practice static attacks to allow us to physically feel the connection to the Uke. These attacks are not realistic and are simply the freezing of a moment in time, so that the Nage can learn to make a connection and use the connection to allow a technique to successfully occur. We still need to sincerely attack so as to freeze a sincere attack in a moment in time. As we become better, the attacks involve the process of the attacking with ever increasing speed and force. We will reach points where we cannot execute a technique and we have to slow the attack down so that we can see where we have failed to establish and maintain “Ai” with the uke.

As we progress, we will begin to experience a “slowing down” of what is occurring. This perception is the result of good “Mushin”, “Fudoshin”, and the resulting “Ai.” Techniques will begin to feel effortless and look absolutely phony. This is a point where the deep learning in and understanding of Aikido will just begin! Patience and Shugyo will allow students to reach this waypoint on the life-long journey that is called “Aikido.”

Sensei Abrams

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