Misogi 禊 And Meditation 瞑想
The rigours of martial practices can put considerable strain on a persons body if they are not relaxed and mentally prepared. For this reason it is important to practice in a calm and relaxed manner. A person can better improve this by undertaking meditative practices (Meiso 瞑) which is encouraged in many dojos. Along with this traditional Aikido also encourages preparation through ritual purification exercises (Misogi 禊) the simplest of which can be done during class.
One of the more common of these in aikido is the practice zazen (座禅, sitting silent meditation) which may occur at the start or finish of a class usually this is Shikantaza (只管打坐) method which involves emptying the mind.
This practice of emptying the mind is called mushin no shin (無心の心) meaning mind without mind, and is the ability to do things without thinking about the past or the future or reacting emotionally.
The commonest misogi exercise performed is ame-no-ToriFune-no-gyo (天鳥船の御, Heavenly Boat) also called fune.ko.gi.undo (船漕ぎ運動, Boat Rowing Exercise). This is an exercise of rowing the hips back and forth in a stable posture, swinging the arms similar to rowing a Japanese boat. It is designed to help the body relax and to clear the mind.
This exercise is coupled with furitama.no.gyo (降り魂 the soul shaking exercise). Where the hands are clasped together and shaken. Often Followed by sayu undo (左右 運動, swaying exercise).
A less common practice is that of koto dama (言霊 or spirit chanting) which is used to centre the body and clear the mind it is also good for morale. There is a belief that different sound frequencies produced are able to alter the way the body and the mind works. In Aikido the most noteworthy for of this is the KiAi (気合, Fighting Yell).
Fundamental Movement And Posture
Practicing postures and body movements is often done at the beginning of classes and are the building blocks of the techniques. It not only makes Aikido work but makes it look fluid and effortless while keeping the practitioner out of danger.
There are two methods of practicing by solo exercises and paired exercises.
Tandoku Dosa (単独 動作,Solo Practice)
Strange as it may sound solo practice is essential to developing good Aikido. As it can be done anywhere with no special equipment. These exercises help hone fluidity and precision of movement exercised with good posture. A lot of these motions are based on sword cutting exercises.
Sotai Dosa (相対動作,Paired Practice)
Basic exercises and movements conducted with another person. This helps hone contact and timing as well as stretching your partner. It helps a person develop to be up against a real person and more important to experience practice with a range of body types, ages and abilities.
Posture and position is key to making aikido work well, as it employs positions from both standing and sitting and transitioning between them.
Aikido is centred in Japanese tradition thus the practice of sitting in seiza is important though if this is not possible agura (胡座 cross legged) is acceptable. Transitioning between postures should be fluid while maintaining good balance.
This is the reason for repeating these exercises, some of them are similar to those practiced in Iaido. The Standing Han Mi (半身, Half Body) posture practice is a narrow T-Shape stance common to Japanese sword which allows for a full circular movement.
Kihon Dosa (基本 動作) or Basic Body movements, there are 6 movements which need to be executed with precision and fluidity. These help reinforce a persons posture and balance.
1 ) Tai no henko ichi
2) Tai no henko ni
3) Hiriki no yosei ichi
4) Hiriki no yosei ni
5) Shumatsu dosa ichi
6) Shumatsu dosa ni
As a traditional art Aikido as previously stated can be performed from standing and sitting. In order to improve the speed and fluidity of motion it is important to exercise from kneeling and sitting. There are 3 essential types of exercise from kneeling.
Za Ho (座り 法, kneeling position exercises) shifting between sitting positions and learning to sit still.
Shikko (膝行, samurai knee walking) a glide across the floor on the knees this helps develop lower body strength. All techniques should be able to be performed fluidly from seiza.
Seiza Ho 正座 法 is just as important as posture exercises is the practice of standing and sitting. From a martial point of view it is essential for defence to move between a prone position to one of defence at a moments notice. It helps train a persons alertness and Zanshin (残心, Awareness) improving responses to attacks.
The Motions in Aikido, tai sabaki (体捌き) can be said to come in two different forms. The first is Irimi (入身, Entering Body) where the practitioner enters with their body, the second is Sabaki (捌き, the handle or manage) where the body deflects an opponents through a spinning motion. In techniques these are movements are called tenkan (転換, change).
Ashi Sabaki (足捌き) are a set of basic foot movements which afford swift and fluid mobility through 360 degrees. Repetative practice of these movements greatly improves the flexibility and accuracy of a persons technique. The number of different movements help take into account the changes in situations allowing the adaptability of techniques.
Te Sabaki (手捌き) is the movement of the hands through the rotation of the wrists and arms. It is often noted that these practices enhance a persons use of Kokyu-Ryoku ( 呼吸力) and is a means to manipulte opponents without direct brute force.