Half a lifetime ago I saw my first Aikido class, what I failed to understand at that point in time was that what I was seeing wasn’t what I came to understand much later as Aikido, but rather form, or kata.
This is the way of training. Function is understood from form.
Practice, repeat, practice, repeat.
At the beginning we don’t really understand why, we are just encouraged to follow.
Over time we see patterns – pictures, like shapes in a basic geometry class. We start to identify with these shapes, like a child identifying and differentiating between a circle and a square.
Over more time the shapes and movements reveal their complexities.
Tangents – vectors, speed, mass, time, space, open – closed, empty – full, faster – slower, strong, flexible, unyielding, impenetrable, mysterious, hidden, confronting, painful, light – heavy, above – below, within – without, spirals – vortices, winding – unwinding, explosive – static, absorbing – redirecting……..
Confused yet? – exhausted? – overwhelmed?
All of the above – and then some.
We train in the simple to recognise it in the complex.
Technique is just the vehicle to recognise shapes within complex motions.
It’s just a moment, fleeting before we return again to the complex, the chaos as Endo Shihan so eloquently put it. For it is in this realm, this chaos where true budo is born.
It is this realm the founder of Aikido called “takemusu Aiki” the realm of spontaneity, that can only be reached through unwavering diligence.
Through commitment to the form that we use as a roadmap to navigate the chaos we begin to transcend it, we journey back and forth, from form to chaos and back until the mind is free, neither in form or in chaos but somewhere beyond either.
You do not truly have understanding in your art until the form is transcended beyond thought in the chaos.
Until then you are just stuck in what is, and will never feel or know what could be.
This truth is not style dependant, it is found in all true “michi”.
Sacrifice, suffering, boredom, pain, repetition, frustration, confusion, injury and humiliation.
All must be experienced and overcome on the journey.
To do so builds fudoshin, the immovable spirit that gives us the will to endure the chaos, and experience a place where the mind is trained to act from the subconscious.
To know form, to know chaos, then to know neither…
This is mushin, the mind in action devoid of the process of cognition.
It is the path of Shugyo, the path of the heart of budo.
A life lived with glimpses of sunlight seen through the raging heart of a typhoon.