I disagree with the notion that one either has aiki or does not have aiki.
I’ve heard this idea more than a few times and it’s always made me cringe at best, and sometimes it down right pisses me off. Aiki is neither something you are born with that you naturally possess, nor is it unachievable.
As with an talent/skill there may be those who have an innate ability but Aiki is a skill. It is an awareness to be sharpened with repeated practice to become very self aware as well as sensitive and responsive to the attacker’s balance, power and intention. You don’t have aiki, rather you create, maintain and use it to establish and sustain a connection with your attacker. This connection at higher levels is tenuous and requires subtle adjustments as well as constant realignment to maintain the connection.
There are a number of ways to translate aiki (合氣) these are but a few…
• harmonious spirit
• joining energies
• fitting or matching intentions
Sokaku Takeda, the founder of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu defined aiki in the following way:
“ The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance
and to win without fighting.” *
However you translate it, the process is the same; you must read your attacker and either disrupt the attack or influence it with your movement or lack of it. Whether your response is subtle or more overt will depend on a few factors: your own skill level, timing, momentum, balance, power, tension and intention. It’s because of these factors that aiki will elude people at first, while jujutsu makes it much easier to influence or control an attacker with joint manipulation and/or pain compliance.
Aiki will get you the same results as jujutsu, but it takes much more effort to achieve proficiency. There are those who have an innate understanding of this and can get there quickly, but for the rest of us it is hard work. Well worth the effort!
* Draeger, Donn F. Modern Bujutsu & Budo: Martial arts And Ways Of Japan, Vol III. Weatherhill, Tokyo 1974, 1996.
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