I have spent an enjoyable weekend training in aikido with Matthew Holland. A question he asked of us was, “what is kokyu?” Now my instant thought was, “breath or air throw,” which indeed was the answer one akidoka gave. But another went on and talked about the energy you give and receive.
In aikido people refer to ki (or qi or chi to give alternative spellings). The direct translation is “breath,” but like many translations it lacks cultural direction, one common attempt to bring the word ki into context being, “life force.” This concept is not limited to Japan and China, but can be found elsewhere. Those familiar with yoga will have encountered talk of prana; the historical western medical concept of four humours is known as vitalism; William Roll, a noted parapsychologist, proposed the existence of psi fields in both living and inanimate objects. All of these could be taken as examples of ki.
Image from: http://psi.wikia.com/wiki/
For those practical thinking martial artists who now worry my blog has taken a sharp delve into the murky realms of metaphysics, fear not. I shall attempt to explain how I do see life force reflected in my training.
Something really struck home to me on the weekend course, where we had over 40 people on the mat. Regardless of the experience of my training partners there were some with whom the exercises were more active and dynamic, and there were some which were like handling soggy wallpaper. Yes, when I was with one fellow not-so-long started kyu grade we fumbled through the precise nature of the technique, but we had something going in our intents and the way things developed. And admittedly the best interaction of all was with a dan grade, by the end of our time together we were just grinning in pure delight at what we had done. And with all these exercises, it didn’t matter if I was uke or tori, the feel of the interaction was constant with each training partner.
Now I am sure that there are people whom I train with who feel a lack of energy between us. But both of us can go and do the same exercise with different people and we may well feel a good flow of energy. And by energy I mean how you engage, how much you feel the urge to want to repeat the exercise, and the general feeling that, “it’s working.”
“Learn to fly.” With thanks to London Aiuchi Jiu Jitsu.
In jiu jitsu I find it a lot easier to develop energy with people, because by it’s nature it is a more dynamic martial art. You just can’t be mentally lazy with the delivery or defence of a snap punch. In aikido because there is an emphasis on kokyu and ki, on the way your body interacts with another, then I would argue that generation of mental energy becomes more purposeful. Right now in aikido it feels a deliberate and controlled act, rather than the automatic rise that I experience in jiu jitsu
Even beyond the dojo these concepts still apply. There are those with whom we freely interact, there are those who require more effort to interact with.
“Η ενέργεια του νου είναι η ουσία της ζωής.” Translation, “the energy of the mind is the essence of life.” Aristotle