Aiki Waza: When Less is More
August 17, 1997 · 8:29am EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
Students of koryu bujutsu are familiar with the "eyes" of strategy, which begins at the "natural eye" and include tengen, egen, hougen and naigen. These are explained as degrees of insight and foresight. They are considered to be necessary requirements for the successful application of heiho, and the fundamental basics of reishijutsu (the art of discerning the enemy's skills). Without that knowledge, it was said, true aiki cannot be applied.

In the Aizu clan, Daito Ryu instruction was not equal at all levels. Lower class bushi(like the ashigaru for example), had access to Daito Ryu Jujutsu, which consisted of three basic waza, beginning at te-hodoki (introduction, sometimes referred to as oku-iri). The three forms of this waza were: omote, ura and oku. These three aspects covered five skills: osaeru, kakeru, fumu, nageru and ateru. Since these were "open air" (outside) techniques, they also learned kiai jutsu. But aikijujutsu (okuden) was taught only to middle rank bushi those of administrative, religious, advisory, or military positions in charge of other individuals. Included in this level were key members of oku-joshu status. Also some individuals of the goshi class seem to have received this level of teaching. The average income of these individuals ranged from 70 koku to 200 koku. This level included aiki techniques of soundless (silent) kiai, ma-ai changes. modification of the basic techniques, and a large number of waza.

The highest level of aikijujutsu was reserved for the privilege of the ten no kurai (rank of honor) members - individuals of the higher administrative and religious positions such as the jodai karo, jushin, etc.

Aiki waza is not an increase, but a decrease. The minimalism that characterizes aiki waza cannot be truly defined as simplification, since the skills required to perform them are not the easiest to acquire, but once learned, they become the most basic response against an attack. Subtle movements replace larger ones. The applying of focused energy at one precise moment takes the place of sustained muscular struggle, and economy of motion, rather than physical prowess, proves true mastery. To the naked eye, however, aiki waza look like they are subtracting from the technique, rather than adding to it.

Jujutsu techniques have been compared to the use of a shosen, a heavy fan made of forged iron. The next level is the tessen, a folding fan with iron ribs. Both of them are effective, but have a degree of rigidity and require greater physical effort. The higher level of aiki waza is likened to the use of the hakusen, the symbol of authority of a castle's lord, which although is the lightest of the three, in the hand of an expert is the most elusive and the most difficult to defeat.

True aiki waza were once a privilege to learn. Today, they are viewed with less reverence, but they are still as misunderstood, regardless of the familiarity with which we tend to treat the term.

Some make claims about them, others chase after them with more greed than need or reason, while others just do, with diligence. Not all roads really lead to Rome, but those who recognize that true Budo is indivisible from Jindo already know the correct direction.


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