Aikido Essentials: Unearthing Some of the Discipline’s Most Basic Principles
Undoubtedly, it would be impossible to cover all the principles of aikido in just one article.
However, we will unearth some of its core principles so you will have a better insight of the art and why it has earned its rightful place in the heart of many practitioners the world over.
Considered as a spiritual martial art, aikido makes extensive use of the whole idea of Ki.
Sometimes referred to as “moving Zen,” loosely translated, the term aikido also means “the way of the harmony of Ki.”
However, Ki can mean different things to different people.
For some, Ki as a physical entity does not exist.
Rather, the intention, spirit, and the bio-physico-psychological coordination through awareness and relaxation are the concepts being utilized in the teachings.
For others, the Ki exist as a physical entity and is transmissible through space.
Whatever the belief may be, it’s undeniable that a huge number of aikidokas (practitioners of aikido) are and will continue to be in constant quest for Ki, whatever that means to them.
Irimi or entering is one of aikido’s most basic techniques.
It is closely related to “blending” with the attacker.
At the most basic level, it is a movement that resembles a sliding step into or toward an opponent’s attack.
In aikido, most movements are being perceived as spiraling or circular in nature.
The whole idea of irimi is to bring the person into the circle of the attack so the energy of the attack is directed along the circular plane.
The whole concept can be likened to catching a Frisbee and allowing it to spin before sending it on the same or opposite direction with minimum to zero effort.
Essentially, ukemi practice involves rolls and breakfalls.
Ukemi is also perceived as the art of receiving a technique.
Ukemi is an integral part of aikido and is practiced for the following reasons:
To promote safety. Avoiding injury in a confrontation is without doubt vital. To help ensure safety, it is important to be aware of what is going on during the entire encounter so finding and responding to openings is a lot easier.
To learn how to listen using the body. To execute right throwing, you need to be sensitive to your partner. In some cases, those who take up the role of the nage (thrower) get so caught up in the moment that they forget how to harmonize with the uke (one who receives or one who takes the fall).
To help your partner learn. Being a good uke will entail maintaining a connection with the nage and allowing them to execute the technique and experience the connection. It also allows the nage to perform the technique without having to worry about injuring the uke.
To help condition the body. Good ukemi will require a lot of hard work since focus is given to staying flexible, connected, and aware.
Literally, atemi means “to strike the body.”
One primary purpose of atemi is distracting one’s partner so focus is transferred on the hand or their pain and not on their grasp.
When the focus is divided, making your move becomes a lot easier.
Used in this context, atemi is regarded as “Ki disturbance.”
For some, atemi is not interpreted as an actual strike since the primary goal is to upset the uke’s psychological and physical balance.
However, others claim that to ensure the unbalancing, a real strike needs to be delivered.
This is especially true in cases where the potential for strong resistance is there.
Haragei / Hara (Center)
The center or the martial arts and physical “middle” of the body is in the abdomen (hara).
It is believed to be the focus or source of Ki / energy.
It is also seen as the balance point when executing aikido techniques.
Maintaining a connection and awareness to your center and that of your training partner can make a world of difference in the ease and flow of aikido.
Equally as important to “staying centered” is “extending.”
A lot of aikido techniques are carried out by “extending energy” or “extending the Ki.”
Psychologically and physically, this will help counter people’s tendency to keep their arms and legs close to their body and contract.
This is important since aikido involves large, sweeping movements.