“Ueshiba’s stance is very still, calm, peaceable, and light;
as though he is one with the universe.”
The Aikido of The Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, illustrates several distinct qualities, usually noted as styles. They are described as Diamond, Willow, Flowing, and Ki. Light was added at a later date. (Energy directed forward, energy directed outward, energy directed inward, energy directed into space, and internal radiant energy.) “Our techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstance, you should be hard as diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water, or as empty as space.” (1)
For Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido can also be described in terms of pre-war and post-war Aikido. One of the dimensions that define the later post-war era is the presence of extremely dynamic internal forces being manifested into Aikido technique. The sources of energy include energy harnessed from outside the body. It is to be noted that not only is Ueshiba’s technique different; but the physical response of the receiver also is dynamically/energetically different. Specific description of the receiver’s response is evidence of a distinct style. The unique and signature physical differences of both Ueshiba and his demonstration partners are easily observed in photos representing Aikido from each of the eras.
Two photos of Ueshiba performing an iriminage/step-in throw are on page 243 of the book Invincible Warrior (2). One photo is from 1936, pre-war. The other photo is from 1966, post-war. Both photos occur at a similar point in the execution of the technique. The differences are indicative of a ki entrapment by focusing downward vs. ki release and blending by focusing outward/heavenward. (3)
(Photos with permission and courtesy of John Stevens.)
The pre-war 1936 photo illustrates a powerful, forward focused, hard style with a center to center Ki connection. At this particular moment of the technique the source of energy emanates from Ueshiba and appears to be on an exhale breath or hold for both people. Ueshiba’s energy is driving the attacker downwards. Ki infused hands envelope the receiver’s head to control and unbalance, driving the head downward and arching the back of the relatively motionless attacker. Ueshiba is in a strongly planted, forward weighted, hips locked, splayed feet, driving back leg stance of a “hard style” sword cut transferring energy forward and downward. There is a powerful diagonal line of forward energy from rear toe to forward finger tips. The total effect is a linear arc downward and forward with a slight rotation. Body positions of both people are precisely defined, and grounded. Note the grounded state of both hakamas. A state of muscular tension and rigid joints is evident for both.
The post-war 1966 photo illustrates a void/empty/heavenly space, internal energy state of being. Ueshiba is creating the lifting the attacker upwards. The connection is oneness. At this particular moment of the technique the sources of energy are not only Ueshiba, but an outside energy force pushing the attacker’s hips/small of back upward and forward. The breath is an inhale for both people, but with different manifestations. There is also an energy source lifting/pulling the attacker’s center/hara upward. The total effect is a rotation or spiral upwards.Ueshiba’s energy infused lower hand compassionately cradles the attacker’s head to prevent the attacker from pin wheeling onto the back/top of his head as his feet become weightless and rotate upward. Ueshiba is leading the attacker into a safe breakfall from what would be a neck snapping, totally unbalanced, upside down throw. The unbalancing is via the upward spiraling energy even though there is no physical contact. Ueshiba’s stance is very still, calm, peaceable, and light; as though he is one with the universe. There is a strong vertical line of energy in the erect position of his body (the human connection between heaven and earth.) Of note is the opposite dynamics of the attacker and Ueshiba, a yin and yang. Note the contrast of the wild abandonment of the attacker being lifted into the air as he is simultaneously lifted and rotates on an axis about his hips. Both feet are lifted off the ground by void drawn, rocketing upward of the hips/center. The back is arched in response to the energy flow. The head arcs back without being touched. The receiver’s blurred hakama is an indication of the energy being abundantly released. Ueshiba’s quiet and still hakama is an indication of the rootedness of his energy. Both bodies are extremely relaxed with a center to center Ki connection. There is not any muscular tension in either of them. All movements appear to be without muscle.
The element of timing is present in everything that exists, and all that is done in life. Time implies a constant motion which includes the maturing and aging process. Spiritual and knowledge factors are also factored by time. Time makes the “one point” a continual process. The “right here, right now” moves in time. So does a lifestyle.
The element of timing is always present in Aikido. Today’s Aikido is not as yesterday’s Aikido. Tomorrow’s Aikido has evolved from all that is previous. Aikido is a personal manifestation of the current state of one’s body/mind/spirit.
To pursue the dignity, as well as the compassion (Ai), which we can uplift in all others is also part of the evolving nature of Aikido.(4)
(1) Stevens, John. The Essence of Aikido, Kodansha International, New York, 1993.
And , Workshop Lectures of John Stevens.
(2) Stevens, John. Invincible Warrior, page 243, Shambhala, Boston, 1997.
(3) Rick Hamilton. United Martial Arts and Fitness Center, Oreland,PA.
(4)From the teachings of Kancho Yukio Utada, Doshinkan Aikido International,