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An Aikido Life (04)

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by Gozo Shioda

Aiki News #75 (August 1987)

The following selection from the Japanese-language autobiography entitled “Aikido Jinsei” (An Aikido Life) by Gozo Shioda Sensei of Yoshinkan Aikido is published with the kind permission of the author and the publisher, Takeuchi Shoten Shinsha. This series started with AIKI NEWS No. 72.

Chapter 5 (Continued)

(6) Kokyu Power And Concentration Power

Although it goes without saying, human beings as well as animals keep themselves alive by breathing, that is, by taking in oxygen from the atmosphere and eliminating carbon dioxide from their systems. In Aikido, this three step cycle including inhalation, exhalation and stopping the breath has a strong influence on the ability to concentrate power. At the same time, breathing is an important point affecting the degree of fatigue caused due to movements.

Whether you inhale or exhale shallow or deeply or stop breathing briefly or for a long period, all depends on the movement being executed. In executing a given technique, a typical pattern is to inhale before executing the technique, stop breathing during execution and exhale after completion. If you try to concentrate your power in one point while executing a technique and inhale or exhale at the same time, this results in the parallel execution of two actions causing a weakening of your power of concentration. Therefore, in order to concentrate power in one point, you stop breathing to focus on that action. However, if you stop breathing for too long, the degree of oxygen deficiency in your body increases and you begin to need more oxygen which will force you to breathe hard. It is this which makes you tired. The shorter the time you stop breathing the better. This is the reason why in Aikido you should execute techniques rapidly. Since your power of concentration reaches its maximum only for an instant, it is impossible to continue concentrating for a long time.

In music, a sound stress is repeated periodically and its frequency becomes one of the elements which gives feelings of pleasure to both the listener and the performer. The theory is the same in Aikido. As a cyclical pattern, these three rhythmic elements - that is, inhalation, stopping the breath and exhalation - form complex rhythms through the combining of different stresses and lengths depending on the technique, the movement and the speed. When rhythmic breathing in a technique or consecutive techniques is well executed, in other words, when your body attains a rhythm, you can move very easily and display very strong power of concentration thus increasing the effectiveness of a technique. Naturally, body stability as I described above is closely related to the ability to maximize the effectiveness of the power of concentration.

To master this “kokyu” or breathing power and concentration power is more difficult than you might think. You should learn with your body through constant practice and study how to balance the stress and length of the inhalation, exhalation and breath-stopping phases with smooth shifts of your center and how to move your body to the rhythm. Then you will finally become able to move your body lightly and easily and, what is more, you will realize an improvement in the effectiveness of your technique and a decrease in the degree of fatigue. You will understand by yourself how wonderful Aikido is and this realization will enable you to enjoy your practice more.

(7) Circular Movements

There are almost no straight movements in Aikido. Movements are circular.

As I have mentioned thus far, we never clash or struggle with the power of our opponent. The basic tenet of Aikido is that you lead the flow of the opponent’s power and you execute techniques instantly when he overextends himself losing his balance. You will learn that moving your body circularly is the most effective, rational and least wasteful way to deflect his power and at the same time be able to position yourself near him to execute a technique immediately.

You move drawing the locus of a circle. When a top spins, both the center and the circumference spin. In the same way, in Aikido when you describe a circle with your movement, you lead your opponent into that same movement. At times, you move circularly by putting him in the center while you are on the circumference and at other times you are the center and he moves along the circumference. These circular movements are executed not only on the horizontal but also on the vertical plane and sometimes the opponent is led as if sliding along a spherical surface.

In any case, circular movements are the most effective way to deflect the opponent’s power. With circular movements, unlike straight ones, you can freely change the direction of your movement without stopping and you can also create spiral movements.

You can break the balance of your opponent by skillfully utilizing the centripetal and centrifugal forces of circular movements in order to execute techniques. You can also execute consecutive techniques easily by utilizing the perpetuability and variability of circular movements. These are major advantages in Aikido.

These seven basics I have introduced in broad terms are, to the extent that they constitute the essence of the art, what we call the “secrets” of Aikido. If you master all of these basics perfectly and are able to display them in your techniques quick and effortlessly you can be said to be quite an expert.

However, mastery of the Way of Aikido requires a firm determination to study and practice all of your life and actual physical practice. The moment you become self-conceited your technique deteriorates. This writer is also a novice. Since the number of true Aikido teachers is still small, I sincerely hope that more and more young people will set their sights on this mysterious and rational martial art which is profound and inexhaustible and transmit true Aikido to the world.

Chapter 6: The Techniques Of Aikido

The techniques of Aikido can be described briefly as empty-handed movements applied according to the principles of the sword. However, the stance in Aikido is different from modern-day Kendo and there are no rules for matches as in that sport. In fact, in Aikido there are no competitive forms. Thus it is different from today’s Kendo.

Since in Aikido we assume real fighting situations, I might exaggerate by saying that “technique is of little importance”. However, if we accept this belief, we cannot practice. Thus various techniques have been formulated postulating every possible fighting situation. I would like to refer you to “The Techniques of Aikido” in Part III for details. Here I won’t explain each technique but I would like to discuss the concept of techniques in Aikido.

The Concept Of Techniques

(1) One Against Many

Aikido starts from the assumption that one person alone handles many opponents.

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