Playing with Kanji, playing with Aiki

ai-kanji-toppleI’m told language changes over time, the way we use it and the meaning too.

Recently I was invited to share some thoughts on biomechanics and Aikido at a friendship seminar at Aikido Redlands. A friendship seminar is where people from different styles of Aikido (and related arts) might come together to share experiences and learnings. I think there is much to be gained from these great ocean experiences, rather than dwelling on lofty mountain tops. (Check out Redlands Aikido facebook page for some images and reflections on the seminar by my betters.)

Clem Sensei, the host is also experienced in Japanese calligraphy so I asked if he might brush something I could refer to in my session. Happily he indulged. with the Kanji for “Ai’ inside a circle (many thanks Sensei). Its very close to my former dojos logo and for his dojo at one time too.

The topic for the seminar was beginners mind, for which the circle symbolising a continual process of renewal and returning to the beginning is quite a nice reflection.

‘Ai’ in Aikido has usually the meaning of ‘to join’ and so the Kanji for ‘Ai’ was a nice symbol for the practice of the art (the joining with your attackers energy) as well as for the seminar , we we join together with others to learn.

I’ve been working for a while on bringing the biomechanics idea of toppling in Aikido as a vehicle for understanding it for a while. 

Essentially you need to take a persons tanden (centre of mass) diagonally up and then diagonally down to outside their feet (base of support) accomplish the topple and subsequent throw, Doing this below the threshold of perception and with minimum force is a pretty good first approximation for Aiki I recon, though there is plenty more to it. Its easy to say but hard to do. 

‘Ai’ reimagined

I kind of like to think of the Kanji for ‘Ai’ now as mnemonic for a person (the box )  and the diagonal brush strokes above it as the directions for up (aiki age) and down (aiki sage). Its easy to remember, something we can see everytime we are in a dojo, and perhaps not so irreverant that its a worthwhile tool to prompt memory.


My thanks to everyone involved and congratulations to Clem Sensei, a great day out and some good dialogue on and off the mat too!

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