Aikido is very different in application from many Budo, and is often alien to those who come from a mash-up of martial traditions or extremely ‘hard’ styles. This is in no means a statement that Aikido is in any way a ‘soft’ style, for that remains down to the practitioner and instructor of that particular school. There is hard Aikido (Yoshinkan) and Soft Aikido (Ki Aikido) just as samples, as well as many other options in between.
Good Aikido is neither hard nor soft in application and will in effect make use of both at the same time, moving from one to the next – hard in the extension through the arms, soft in the body and hips then migrating each over the give grounding in the body and flexibility in the limbs etc. etc.
Regardless of changes to physical application what must remain in constant control at all times in every movement or technique is:
- focus and intent upon your partner throughout the technique;
- your own core muscle movement through your centre;
- projection of your own control/bodyweight into your partners centre of balance;
- awareness of changes to your partners balance requiring you to adapt and change.
In doing so we are able to essentially insert our intent and focus into our partners movements, sensing and changing and adapting to their movements in order to maximize on the technique as a whole.
In Aikido, again unlike many martial arts, it does not pay to be faster than your partner or opponent, but instead work in tune with their timing and movements, this is the essence of Kokyu-Ho (breath power technique) where often a link or connection is so tenuous that sudden or jarring movements before or after application will break the hold or connection you have made.
Instead of finishing the technique with the arms to complete what we see being done by other, it must be a whole body integration where we connect mentally, physically and even to some extent spiritually (offering our partners an escape or respite from pain or injury) to complete what we feel is required. Connecting our centre and body to our partners then bursting forth from that power base through the extreme limits of extension, from heel to fingertip (or extreme edge of a weapon if we are using them) through a projecting core to extend our intent into the technique and to the location where our partner, wittingly or unwittingly will seek to be.
This is why Aikido takes so very long to learn, understand, and assimilate and why it will always be a lifelong process of learning.