THE 3 PRINCIPLES
The Principle of Gentleness
(Ju no Ri)
An attack can be rendered ineffectual or minimally effective by quick, controlled footwork and body movement, yielding to force when it is advantageous. The physical manifestation of this principle is most easily seen in taisabaki, i.e. moving out of the way of an attack.
The Principle of Natural Posture (Shizentai no Ri)
Shizentai is the physical embodiment of “mushin, mugamae” – neutral mind, neutral stance. Shizentai means that head and body are upright, feet side by side about shoulder width apart with weight equally spread. Knees should be slightly bent with weight on the balls of the feet, with heels lightly touching the mats. Legs are not stiff, but not physically lax, so you retain springiness that allows you potential to move. The back is straight with hips rolled forward and underneath the spine. Chest and shoulders relaxed, arms hanging naturally by your sides. Mouth is lightly closed, eyes looking forward.
The Principle of Breaking Balance (Kuzushi no Ri)
The main component of this principle is seizing the split second when your opponent is immobile, either at the beginning or end of their movement, to break their balance. By effectively applying kuzushi, the actual application of the aikido technique can become far easier, if not nearly effortless.
The Six Concepts
When the three principles are put into practical use, these six concepts grow from their interchange. While none are originally from him, Tomiki Sensei used the much broader framework of martial arts, both old school (koryu) and modern, to create these concepts.
The six concepts differ from the three principles because they can be measured, gauged, and experienced. While they are presented here in related pairs, all six concepts are dynamically related to each other.
Safe Distance (Ma’ai)
Simply put, this is the minimum distance at which your opponent cannot attack you without movement. If you and your opponent were facing each other, arms extended and finger tips touching, ma’aiwould be the distance between the both of you. Ma’ai has three aspects: your position relative to your opponent, the speed required to cover the relative distance, and the rhythm of movement with your opponent. Ma’ai changes constantly because movement is a dynamic process. A related term is issoku itto no ma’ai–the distance you can cover in one step to reach your opponent.
Eye Contact (Metsuke)
Literally meaning “eye contact,” metsuke allows you to use your peripheral vision (that is a result from constant eye contact with your opponent) to better detect their movement, however slight. It is well known in the scientific community that peripheral vision is much better than direct focus at detecting motion. When interacting with your opponent, a combination of concentration and awareness is required, and your visual and mental perception must be broad even while focused. An example would be a person’s perception while driving a car. The focus is on the road, but the peripheral vision is constantly engaged as well.
If you were to draw an imaginary line vertically down the center of your body, that would be your centerline, and, when keeping your elbows close to your body, is where you are mechanically strongest. The easiest way to find your centerline is to be in shizentai (natural stance) and raise both hands as though in prayer – that is your centerline. When the center of your body is moved away from this imaginary line, stability is greatly reduced. We use our tegatana (hand sword) to defend this centerline and apply techniques.
Hand Sword (Tegatana)
Meaning “hand sword,” the tegatana is used most effectively when it is along your centerline with your power concentrating through it and is paired with quick footwork and a strong, mobile posture.
To implement your tegatana, have your fingers together (not splayed apart), the thumb extended, and your energy flowing and focusing from your center to the “blade” of your hand. Since aikido applies sword and weapon principles to empty hand fighting, the tegatana can be used as a shield, similarly to how a fencer would use the blade of a fencing sword. By focusing our energy on our tegatana (the blade of our hand) we are then able to generate a unified power (see next paragraph).
Unified Power (Toitsu Ryoku)
Toitsu ryoku is “the concentration of power through one point,” and in most cases, through the use of tegatana. Tegatana can be applied to multiple spots on the body, while still utilizing toitsu ryoku.
Locomotive Power (Ido Ryoku)
Ido ryoku is using body movement in a coordinated, controlled, and effective way; using the most direct way to connect whatever that is being moved to the power source. In essence, capitalizing on either yours or your opponent’s momentum.