“Not The Shape But The Communication,” by Nev Sagiba

It’s not the shape of techniques; but the communication of training; that unlocks the secrets of Aikido.

Forcing and struggling is a deeply seated primitive instinct. It drives all animals to survive, by forcing a hoped for result, not always obtained. Unfortunately, the conclusion is foregone. The strongest will win, irrespective of wisdom or compassion or love.

Trial by combat did not always produce wise or benign leaders. Herd animals have an innate need to be absolved of responsibility by following, instead of going through the pain of learning how to think new possibilities. And so tyranny had its day.

Evolution is change and change gives rise to energy; and energy, producing friction, can be uncomfortable. Exploration and innovation can be risky. Conversely tyranny, whilst relatively safe, or not, can feel secure to some. But time has proven that trading liberty for a temporary appearance of security, is neither safe nor does it liberate. Rather the opposite.

This conundrum of the ages is stuck in our very genes. It will be up to us to work out this imperative of balances; both personally, as well as communally, and in the end globally. Only freedom and responsibility in proper equilibrium can produce and maintain optimal harmony. You can’t have one without the other and each is relative. Harmony is not a Utopian and static foregone conclusion, but requires active and conscious maintenance in the face of attrition. That’s the nature of the universe. For good reason: Movement is life and stagnation is death.

One thing is sure. We have absolute jurisdictional responsibility within ourselves; and thereby, how we respond to outside energies and circumstance. Not all threat is as real as it may seem.

Communication is the real secret of the ages. Refined, becomes communion. Such words as comm_unity, common_ality, com_passion, com_prehension and others which can be found in the dictionary, arise from this concept and the identification of essential oneness.

If indeed in origins, before the beginnings we know, there was no separation, but unity; where did the separation come from, when and why? Perhaps in the expansion of great universes, it too serves a purpose. And when the separated sentient parts reconnect, myriad possibilities can arise in linking the gaps between.

With or without the nuances, extending and receiving ki, is nothing more than the most ancient and original form of communication. Ki is not a concept, It’s real. Very real. When your jaw or your nose gets broken by an elbow, that’s ki! When someone is grinding you into the ground and you find yourself gasping for the next breath, that’s ki! When a kansetsu (joint) aches, that’s ki! When the whole earth rises up to meet you, that’s ki!

Collusion is not ki. It is deceit of self and others. Conversely, taking ukemi in order to minimize harm, is ki indeed; and it is the beginning of ai-ki. Ukemi is kaeshi and ki no nagare, thereby takemusubi in action. These are nuances that cannot be experienced without the experience of experiencing it in action.


Exchange of energy need not weigh overly on the side of struggle. And yet, watch beginners wrestle. They don’t want to learn. They want to dominate. In so doing they lose the gain of learning and add to their separation of self, while the demon ego is deceiving them attempting to keep itself alive, to drink their blood. Watch those fine kata fall apart, replaced by brawling in a tournament. Aggression, the opposite of creation, in the end separates life from itself.

The “ju” of jujutsu and judo alludes to the soft, or yin ki of noticing, of allowance, of invitation, of openings that most who struggle mindlessly, remain unaware of. The “ai” of “ki” refines this process further.

True Aikido is exorcism of all the garbage and clutter that confuses the mind and body. And conversation is productive exchange, not idle argumentativeness.

On its own, the shape of a technique, or any method, is largely irrelevant except it be a template constituting a compressed package, secretly cataloguing (or kata logging) the best of the learnt gatherings of experience of the ages. And of the training, practice and experiences of this life as well. A seed composite some call “instinct,” others crediting “transmission” externally.

A packaged potential program, which locked in the bulk of our not-really-junk-DNA, rather the gift of ancestral stored reference, constituting the composite of survival mechanisms and potentials, that cannot only be tapped, but further refined without end.

What works best, does so for a reason, this being that it reflects the sustainable, perennial and proven, preexisting predispositions of existence itself. There have been many names alluding to this living, all-inclusive universal essence. Perhaps none alluding more meaningfully than Kannagarra no Michi.

We like to imagine that we are “communicating” when we gibber the most, mostly soliloquy as much of it is lost in the excrescences. The best communicators are listeners. Not those who compete to see who can shout the loudest, as Babel-like monkeys hooting nosily in the trees, because they fear the dark of night.

To communicate, relax and mostly listen. Receive. Learn to understand the nuances inside the noise. Inside yourself. Feel the ki. Receive it fully and openly and then you will not have to receive the intended attack, a mere gift of energy more intensely delivered than necessary. This can be frightening for some. In holding on to unresolved issues, they strive to drown the intimacy of the very real similarities between all living beings, in ideas of separation that look to reinforce the shallow veneer of a difference that does not exist, but only seems to. Thereby the quality and maintenance of the engine is forgotten in shallowness.

Silent transmission of action and interaction allows the most primal of understanding, and can also unlock refinement of the most subtle nuances. Despite the mass of very strong illusions that false ego often spews forth, the gain can only resolve in heart.

In the end there can be no liberty of any kind to be found in the friction that is unnecessarily added in resisting the appearances of difference and merely serves to magnify suffering, in reactivity blinded by ego’s judgment.

Suffering arises from both resistance and forcing. Such being a response that strives to swim against the current, going nowhere. Before a rip takes you ashore, it will first take you far out to sea. Those affeared by their own illusions and terrors of the deep, in fighting it, drown. Those who ride the currents live; and gain a teaching never to be forgotten.

In all Her workings, Nature is trying to reveal to us a great secret; and She won’t let us ignore it.

As humans we have two primary obligations. Firstly, to awaken from the torporific slumber of the matrix that binds our minds. And also to alleviate suffering. But I think the latter comes automatically when the former is in place and well established. So we need to work on that.

Or we can go on forever.. well not really forever, but until the lease expires; clinging onto greed, fears, hatreds and illusions of endless kinds, chasing shadows that don’t really exist or sustain, or have any true substance. Undesirable combinations that will never end or cease to haunt us. The preferred path being simplest, leads on to home; and to gain of the lasting kind. Finding it for ourselves, is the human mission. Or otherwise to wander and struggle aimlessly.

As a species, to find ourselves spiritually homeless and bereft in such a vast universe of possibilities, will be a tragic manufacture made by our too strong minds, pulling against the current that is life itself. And thereby a measure of our ultimate worth, having passed judgment upon ourselves alone, as revealed by the fruit of our collective actions and their consequences. Either way.

We are mostly blinded by what we think we see. And so we react unconsciously instead of noticing clearly. Many budoka cling to form, or to forcing, instead of using the gifts of form and ki to unlock the flowing of possibilities, and thereby, reach instead that very essence of action-interaction that is free and indeed ultimate freedom itself.

Aikido, instead of clinging to entangling influences or seeking to effect mutual threat and harm; is the kind of wrestling that releases; and in letting go; thereby strives to protect all life, providing another chance and the freedom to desist from error and attack.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it can be a path to liberation of the truest kind, at all levels, beginning with ourselves and then reaching out and influencing all other expressions.

Just perhaps…

Nev Sagiba


  1. bruce baker says:

    Perhaps … but not always, perhaps .. the lessons taught during aikido practice are those lessons that force the teacher and the student to communicate without words but as if an encyclopedia of words have been exchanged in the complete verbal silence of practice.

    Just a thought.

  2. I loved it, thank you.
    Been there myself and watch others stay there over the years, some still there even after receiving a position of responsibility, rank, or even Shihan status. This is human nature at its best sadly, unless you actively seek more you will not find more. Seek more my friends, and rise above it all.
    Happy training.

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