AIKI-TECHNIQUES – WRITTEN BY SHUJI TOMITA SENSEI
Aiki, is frequently mentioned in connection with the ancient Japanese combat skill, the Aiki jiu-jitsu. However, the Aiki jiu-jitsu is, in turn, most widely known by the name, Daito-ryu Aiki jiu-jitsu. The history of this martial art goes back to the early days of medieval Japan and to the time of the foundation of the samurai class. Those who are familiar with the history of Aikido know that Takeda Sokaku (a man who influenced Ueshiba Osensei, when he was young) completed Daito-ryu together with the basic combat skills required for the samurai.
In the medieval Japan, the basic weapon of samurai was certainly the sword. However, practicing other kinds of martial arts was also widely encouraged. Indeed, many techniques were obligatory in the education of a samurai. Here are some examples:
- Shooting bow in standing or other positions and also from horse
- Using spear or halberd.
- Barehanded fight (in essence different forms jiu-jitsus).
- Other martial arts.
Precisely, barehanded fight interests us since the techniques of samurai gave the origins to such widely known modern sport as Judo and Aikido.
What is the specific character of samurai barehanded fight, and what’s the difference from other combat techniques?
In the middle age, any conflict between the soldiers (in duel or battlefield) was resolved with the aid of weapons. Therefore, the old style barehanded combat techniques were mainly used for getting the opponent’s weapon in case you lost your own. (the sword was broken or dropped from hands), or for fighting in close quarters. Barehanded combat techniques we rarely used as primary means of defeating an opponent and were called “URA-WAZA”, or “back up techniques”.
So that we can understand better, let us imagine a situation that a samurai suddenly lost his sword in combat. What can we see all around? There are many people in the armour and with the weapons. In this situation, fist fight technique and also the kicking could be little effective – the kicks and punches would not have proper effect on the soldiers in armour. Therefore, the ancient barehanded fighting techniques for professional warriors used submission holds and twists of the joints, which work well even with the armour on, many kinds of throws with landing of the opponent on their head, and also special techniques that let you immobilize the opponent or get behind the opponent’s back, i.e. various styles of jiu-jitsu.
Here, we have reached jiu-jitsu. But what about Aiki?
Throughout the centuries, jiu-jitsu techniques were polished and refined. As in any combat skill, also in jiu-jitsu, there have been many schools and directions (large and small). Since the key for the success was in the complete secrecy, the specific school techniques of single combat with its secret methods were accessible only to small circle of people – in the majority of the cases, the members of a family clan. Those were the turbulent times in the history of Japan. Feudal disputes and wars raged throughout the entire medieval Japan. Consequently, many schools disappeared with the defeat of clan, but a few survived and flourished, hugely, due to the fact that their technique proved more successful on the battlefield; so the people who possessed the technique could survive and pass the secret knowledge to the next generation.
One of the schools which survived this complex period was the school of Dayto-ryu Aiki jiu-jitsu. And this fact is very important! If a school survived centuries of war, then it surely had something special that the other ones didn’t have. This was technique the Aiki. (Finally, we have reached Aiki!)
II. What does this technique represent?
This technique is frequently used in the Aiki jiu-jitsu, in combination with the throwing and so on. It is rather more similar to the Japanese traditional dance than to classical martial art. Using the motions of the counterpart guiding to its advantageous direction through the harmony with instead of the opposition against, this technique made it possible “to freeze” the counterpart for a few seconds – to hold its motion, or on the contrary, to continue its motion in the direction necessary for you and with the ensuing consequences…
This “freezing” distinguishes the Aiki. Suppose what enormous advantage it appears for you, if the enemy is stopped and cannot control its motions for a couple of seconds! In the world of combat skills, even a fraction of second makes the difference between defeat and victory. In the times of samurai, the loss of control over its motions, even in one sigh, indicated instantaneous death.
As it was already mentioned, motions in the Aiki are somewhat strange and are relatively similar to the dance. Names in the majority of methods generally are absent… except basic ones, “aiki-age” and “aiki-sage”. In the Aiki, all motions are based on the understanding of the basic principles (understanding by body, faster than by mind) and they are directed toward the harmony with the enemy.
The Aiki is simultaneously very simple and very complex technique. Mathematical idea of the Aiki is such like this: One plus one equals not two but a LARGE ONE. Specifically, this confluence with the enemy makes it possible to take control over its motions. In the opinion of Maekawa shihan, this is the Ki of Musubi (harmony of the spirits, or verbatim the “binding of intentions”) which was so frequently spoken by Uesiba Oosensei.
Using technique of the Aiki, it is possible to throw down the enemy by one finger without any efforts. Although, more accurately, it might be said that with the correct use of the Aiki, it is not absolutely important if it’s done by one finger or two hands. Ki of Musubi is important for the perfection in the technique and the so-called “empty consciousness” as the consequence of perfection in the technique is still very important.
However, at the physical level, this technique of harmony includes: understanding the dynamics of the motions of the enemy (in addition, not by mind but by entire its body – there is no time to the meditations), a feeling of rhythm (not musical) and finalizing all motions – at first to the stage of automatics, and then to the stage of free and often unintentional improvisation.
Let us make it possible to conduct appropriate idea, maybe it seems like this:
If human body is supposed to computer, then the Aiki might be a kind of computer viruses such as “Trojan horse”. The system passes it as “of itself” (because, at first, it does not attempt to do any harm to the system), and then it feels very sorry about this.
Or, it could be said that Aiki is not “punch” but “penetration”.
Watching the old black and white files of Morihei UESHIBA Oosensei, it is possible to note that the counterparts could not have any chances to touch the hands of Oosensei. This is nothing but the Aiki.
About the Aiki, it might be possible to write and to speak at length. But as the old saying goes, “to see is to believe”. Unfortunately, in our time, the time of the commercialization of combat skills, the Aiki is encountered very rarely.
Because of its rarity and mysteriousness, there are many issues around Aiki. Some regard it with the distrust: they might say this is only fraud; others talk about the black magic. However, as a person who has experienced Aiki himself, I can say that this is anything but fake. It is neither black magic, nor fraud. Aiki does not lie beyond human abilities. This is simply an ancient technique, which, possibly, seems mysterious or even mystical from the side at first glance. However, this is simply a technique.
Article written by Shuji Tomita sensei