“The Yoga of Aikido and Zen,” from

“We begin with the rigid forms of uke and nage, perfecting what it is to be each, seeing how adopting the form defines the interaction within different circumstances.

In some cases practitioners are satisfied with this basic practice of forms, but sometimes the practice evolves to experience the fluidity between the forms. In time, perhaps the practice may evolve to include the formless itself.”

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  1. …there are all sorts of things that can happen in the world, even in the dojo. forms, however, are rather by definition, specific and technical. training in sports is similar. If you are going to practice a tennis serve, there are proven ways to do them best, forms. so to play tennis you might go to a class or get a coach and one of the forms would be “serves”. the more you train, the closer to the form you get and, the better your performance. in aikido, too, you do forms because they are the proven core of the art. do them enough and you incorporate them into your body. in western terminology they are “ballistic movements”, like walking. once you’re there, legitimate variations may occur to you, or just spontaneously come out of a situation. i “reinvented” a daito-ryu technique the other day. didn’t know it until i saw a picture of it here being demonstrated by Kondo sensei. but be careful. the proof of aikido techniques is not found in the dojo and few of us live the sort of lives where we are likely to be in life or death fights very often. the forms are the legacy of survivors. it would be a shame for our egos to lead us down a path in which survival is unlikely…

  2. Sometimes when we focus upon the “forms” of ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, …, iriminage, kaitennage, kotegaeshi, kokyunage, …, we do not see the forms we voluntarily adopt and practice which make it possible: sempai and kohai; shihan, sensei, and student; and *especially* uke and nage.

    Fortunately, aikido practice is clever this way. Through marvelous slight-of-hand, the person practicing to be stronger, to live longer, and to survive would-be violent encounters by perfecting techniques, is voluntarily practicing something much deeper at which he might otherwise balk or simply reject.

    So practice hard! You’ll learn the very same lesson in time… It can be so much more fulfilling to your practice, however, if you’re actually awake to what is happening sooner rather than later.

    ~The Author

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