At the end of each open hand class we tend to finish with an exercise known, at least within our School, as suwari ho kokyu ho. It is a common warm down form used by many Aiki based schools.
When done correctly it helps students to re-centre themselves and it settles and aligns the ki generated by the class.
Uke becomes immovable through centering and relaxation, gripping with ki rather than strength.
Nage centres and extends ki in order to unbalance and pin the immovable uke.
When performed correctly, it is an elegant and subtle exchange of energies, honing both students’ skills and helps to integrate all that has gone before in the lesson.
Too often, however, it deteriorates into a competitive ego-fest.
At the lower levels, the competition is strength based, at higher levels it is ki based, but it remains competitive, nevertheless.
This is sad.
Competition has no role in our art.
That may sound odd in contemporary Western society where competition is one of the gods of behaviour and where martial arts has become synonymous in the mainstream mind with cage fighting and activities of similar ilk. Where, even in Japanese arts, Judo has become an Olympic event, the Way of the sword has deteriorated into kendo and there even exists the abomination that is sports aikido.
No, we are a traditional Japanese martial art and as such competition is anathema to our fundamental philosophy.
Students learn and develop through a process of forging not fighting. Uke and nage, shitachi and uchitachi, work together as honing blocks for each other, there is pressure, but not dominance and submission.
This is not always an easy concept for students to grasp; it involves letting go of much of their societally induced notions of behaviour.
But now, once my students have read this, their understanding will blossom, their behaviour will change, the suwari ho kokyu ho will be a joy to behold and all will be right with the world.