Aikido from the Inside Out

 

The Principles:

Balance and Center

Connection and gravity

Make your partner weightless

It's over right at the beginning

Aikido deals intimately with the center, with balance, and with gravity.

From the perspective of aikido, you move from a point known as the center, or hara--a spot approximately two inches below the navel. By bringing your awareness to the center and moving from this point, you can experience a sense of unity and integration of movement. Great power is available from this unity.

In a similar manner, if you want to affect your partner, the most effective way to do that is to "touch" your partner's center. If you affect the center of an opponent, his body moves easily.

By moving your partner's center, you affect his balance. Two valuable assets you can use in affecting your partner's center and balance are your connection with your partner and the force of gravity.



Connection and gravity

It is through your connection with your partner that you can push his center off balance to let gravity take him to the ground. In many ways, all you're really doing in aikido is pushing someone over. The elegance of aikido is that you can do this with sensitivity and control.

An excellent practice for getting a sense of this quality is to have a partner stand near you in a relaxed, comfortable stance. Place you own hand on his upper arm or shoulder. Make a connection from your center through your arm to your partner's center so that when you move your center, your partner's center moves also. It's important to transfer the movement through your arm, so your arm mustn't collapse.

Try this from several different angles and positions and find out in which direction and at what angle he is the easiest to move. Experiment to find the minimum effort necessary to take the balance.

Whether this practice seems simple or incomprehensible, you can learn a lot from attempting it. One thing to notice is how little effort is really required to take someone's balance. In a throw, most of what you are doing is simply taking the balance and possibly extending your partner's existing momentum. Gravity does all the work from there.


Make your partner weightless

Another way to think about this connection with your partner's center is to think in terms of making your partner "weightless." When your partner is solid in his center, with feet firmly planted on the ground, in a strong stance, you will have the most difficult time affecting him. Imagine instead, your partner up on his toes, leaning awkwardly to one side, just barely managing to keep from falling over. In such a situation, he would be (from your perspective) nearly weightless. Simply pushing lightly with one finger might be enough to knock him over, since gravity would be doing all the work. By affecting your partner's center, you can lead him into this weightless state.


It's over right at the beginning

In working with the principles of balance, the goal is to take your partner's center and upset his balance so that he is in this unstable, weightless state.

This aspect of the practice happens right at the beginning of a technique, during the blend. At the "end" of the blend, you want to have established a relationship with your partner so that he is already weightless. In other words, your partner attacks and you blend to get out of the way of the attack without opposing it. However, at the same time, you connect to your partner's center in such a way that at the end of his strike or grab, he has lost his center and balance and is already weightless.


With proper blending, leading your partner's ki, and touching his center, the technique is "over" before the throw occurs.

If you learn how to make your partner weightless, there is no concern over doing a throw. The "throw" is effortless, since your partner is ready to fall anyway. The throw can usually be adjusted to any direction and you do not need to rely upon technique to make it work.


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©1993-1998 Howard Bornstein