“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”
Every martial discipline begins with working to connect the student to the foundation of their own movement, to connect them into grounding their body effectively for balance, co-ordination and power, leading to the completion of technique.
This grounded principle in Aikido has a dualistic nature, like in other Budo arts, whereby both attacker and defender must learn to make peace with, and work from, contact with the tatami beneath them. This is reflected in terms of both taking ukemi, and in forming techniques leading to this point.
Quickly realising that the best way to improve and learn in Aikido is often to not watch the technique for the way it is done, but to receive and feel the technique and WHY it worked, becomes vital in our development. Quite literally we learn from the ground up, during technique, after technique, and even before technique. Learning Aikido is as much about being thrown and rising again as it is about working to technical requirement.
The connection to the ground is everything and should lead the way through your development from beginner to the end of your days. The connectivity and grounding is a defining principle of the concept of ‘Square’ in the Sangen (Triangle/Circle/Square) and applies not just at the end, but throughout every movement.
It is here that the dichotomy of Aikido movement begins to come into play. Remain grounded, keep the weight low, keep and maintain a solid and defined centre of gravity – yet be mobile, relaxed and capable of change to allow ebb and flow of Ki and movement between you and your partner. Both Aspects at almost opposite ends of the scale in terms of physicality and yet it is not in the physical that you will find the solution.
Aikido is a multi-faceted martial art, it requires not only physical discipline, but also mental/emotional, and even spiritual discipline to understand the many concepts and methods of moving not just our body, but also our mind (thoughts) and spirit (attitude).
Everything must come from a grounded position and focus, all movements need to be fully nurtured and developed, and not only understood, but accepted in terms of movement, mindset, and manipulation of our own body. This is why we spend so much time working on techniques from Suwari-waza and hanmi-handachi – to be so low and connected, to feel the presence of the ground beneath not just our feet, but our entire lower limbs, is vital in helping us to translate that connection into a series of standing movements.
Aikido begins to flow forth by working from the ground up and utilising our physical connection, realising it through mental control of our body, and finishing with mastery over our own responses to a situation. There is a reason that Aikido techniques do not feature kicks – it breaks connectivity to the ground, manoevres our own balance away from our centre and makes us not only vulnerable, but unable to control via the cycle of grounded completion. This cycle comes by working from a grounded posture, transferring that to our partner, then drawing it back down through their own third point (point of least balance) to throw or pin or immobilize or unbalance. To fully complete we need all three aspects – mind/body/spirit to function with a sense of one-ness and not be individual units fighting their own internal battle by being ungrounded as a whole.
Always remain grounded, work from the ground up through and from your connections to the earth, through and from yourself, and through and from your partner and you will find that the techniques begin to complete by returning the movement and energy back to where it began.
Be grounded in technique, in life, and in all you do. And if you do fall, get back up with a Body, Mind and Spirit that is willing to continue.