Towards Unity - Part II
This article has been submitted by a very Senior Aikidoka but wishes that his name is not used as he feels the article should be read and understood on its on merit.
I see overt movements only as movements that define a technique. In themselves, they contain no subtleties. If they did, then every technique would have a set of technique-dependent subtleties, giving aikido thousands of specific points to learn and inculcate. An impossible task. However, suppose there were just a few movements, independent of technique, to learn for all aikido. Because they are movements, learning would be so much easier as muscle memory would be involved, freeing the brain for essential thoughts. The mechanical constructs of the first article, gave us the ability to strengthen our techniques. This set of movements, subliminal movement, give us the ability to impair and control our attacker.
Aikido is a little like playing chess, with us being Black. White has made his move and we need to react, but because of the alternate move rule, Black finds it hard to create an attacking move. Black needs to take an extra move, but this is not possible. So Black must make a move that has within it defence and a subtle advantage. Having gained an advantage, Black must ensure that it is kept by building additional advantages with every subsequent overt movement. These advantages should be seen in two ways. Firstly, as a state of impairment in the attacker that directly relates inversely to his ability to counter-attack and secondly, as directional changes in the attacker prior to them being required. The initiated reader will know I am referring mainly to the attacker’s balance but I do not like the word, “balance”. The expression, “Take his balance” is accurate but gives no indication as to how to do that. I prefer the term displacement as it implies direction as well as a shift of his centre of gravity and subliminal movements are the way we can achieve this. Perhaps it does not need stating, but mechanical constructs are essential to maximise subliminal movement.
Initially, subliminal movements will need to be accentuated, so that their advantages can be felt and learnt. However, ultimately they will become imbedded in the overt movements, so much so, that they will not be seen easily by the uninitiated, hence the set title of subliminal movement. Conceptually, they are always placed on the end of the preceding overt movement and not at the beginning of the subsequent overt movement. This time difference, although very small, is vitally important. Furthermore, contact points are now seen as dynamic as they change within a technique. The transition from a prior contact point to a new one is dependent upon subliminal movement to ensure that advantage is developed.
Two final points to consider
Imagine an attacker grasps your lower forearm with both hands and your arm appears to be held stationary. You lock the contact point on your central plane, perform a hip rotation (feeling his centre of gravity move slightly) and push with the back foot (feeling that variable radial control of the contact point push skyward as your front foot slides along the new balance line, now directly below your central plane). The contact point is now high in front of your forehead and you have performed a shoulder adjustment by pushing your elbow forward (feeling his body bend as his hips float and his centre of gravity pass beyond his base, as well as feeling the technical power, you have of the contact line being as straight and running through your body, as your power line is stretched). His grip changes. The power in his bottom hand has broken but the top hand remains strong. You rotate your shoulder so that your concave arm becomes convex, performing a sequential joint manipulation, (feeling his elbow pull his shoulder which in turn stretches his spine and moves his hips and then his knees forward) the contact point now slides down the edge of your central plane like a sword cut (feeling the acceleration of the contact point’s parabolic path), while the power of your rear foot and the height reduction takes him completely (feeling your weight being added to the contact point as weight redistribution occurs). As your front knee softly cushions your motion, you help your attacker to rotate and land correctly on his back. Happy with the technique, you ask your students to practise. Then you notice that one of your experienced students is finishing the technique with a different overt movement. Everything else is correct except for that final movement where the arm cuts, this time, from concave to concave, with a variable radial control. What would you now do?
A sensei might well correct the student to use the same overt movements as was demonstrated and in doing so, build up a culture that the way a technique is shown, is the only correct execution. However, that scenario, where the last overt movement differed, is a better reaction to the attacker’s opposite hand breaking power than the technique demonstrated. How difficult it is for a sensei to observe this subtlety, yet how vital that observation is in accepting that different overt movements can be equally correct.
So here is an example of where different overt movements of the same technique could cause disagreement. Once aikido is analysed with our eyes rather than our feelings and with our overt movements rather than mechanical constructs and subliminal movements, we loose our aikido. To answer the question, if the technique comprises the technicalities of mechanical constructs and subliminal movements, then a variety of differing overt movements could be correct. Overt movements vary, not because there are differing opinions but because there may well be, for example, a differential in height between attacker and defender thus causing a different hand to break power. As the permutations of height, mass, strength, suppleness and physics increase, overt movement differences could tend to infinity. Alternatively, employing underlying movements will help us: keep things simple; analyse; develop and share our aikido.
The second point to consider is that subliminal movement has an additional effect across aikido. When visualising points, such as the contact point, axes and points of rotation, and centres of gravity, these moving points form a swirling network in three dimensional space. One might presume that each technique has its own unique form, rather like galaxies each with their own beauty. Look again, for I believe that all aikido galaxies form a common structure and subliminal movement helps to maintain this structure.
Finally, once subliminal movements become seamless, physical strength is no longer a necessity and conceptual movements can be studied.
Subliminal Movement Definitions
Advantage is the primary concern of subliminal movement where displacement of the attacker lessens his control.
Height Reduction is when one’s front knee lowers one’s height to produce a weight drop that is transferred directly into one’s attacker, thus impairing him.
Hip rotation is the use of one’s hips to displace an attacker to initiate a directional change prior to an overt movement’s angular change of direction or a rotational overt movement.
Sequential joint manipulation the process of controlling one’s attacker by targeting a specific joint and then manipulating subsequent adjacent joints until control is acquired.
Shoulder adjustment the way the shoulder is used to help float an attacker.
Sword Cut The way the samurai moved to make their swords slice, the way their weight gave it additional power and the way the power from the lower body was transmitted to the blade, are vital insights into this subliminal movement.
Variable radii control is the way the contact point is moved by lengthening or shortening the radius created by the arms or shoulders.
Weight redistribution is when one’s front knee is moved forward to create a displacement in the attacker’s centre of gravity.