We are here to practice Aikido, or as I’ll call it here: Aiki-do (pronounced aiki-doo). Our practice may become what appears to be a repetitive routine. It’s important to remember that repetition is a means to an end, not an end in itself. So we practice technique repeatedly. The end is Aiki-waza.
An unschooled observer may think: “over and over, ad infinitum, this is so boring.” We know, of course, that this isn’t so at all. Each instance of the practice, each repetition, is unique. Our minds build ever broadening neuro-behavioral models of the parameters of shiho-nage, and all the other techniques, until we are able to improvise and execute seamlessly. I like to advise students to try it a few thousand times. I whisper the word “thousand” in a barely audible tone that draws giggles from the class. Do they think I’m joking? I repeat: “ Try it a few thousand times.”
As time passes we’ve had the opportunity to practice a myriad of techniques from numerous openings, with various endings. We have also been training our minds to remain in the present, to allow our bodies to execute without critical intervention. Then we begin to see that Aiki-waza is not something we do. We’re amazed to learn that Aiki-waza is something that happens.
This is due to our ability to finally remove our “selves” from the process. When we remove our selves from the process it is the “Self” that is happening. That is, if you believe that the Universe is a single entity, and that we have only an illusion that we are a discreet part of it.
It is the “ego,” our perception of a unique self, which is a product of the brain. This brain is also an extension of the Universe, which creates this illusion of separateness. It is as if the Universe has set up a mirror, a self-monitoring system by which it can look back upon and admire itself.1 But I do not believe the Universe is egotistical. Only its creation, the ego is.
When one has eliminated the illusion of self from the process, one can then join in the harmony between different vectors (Perceived Individuals) of Universal Energy (ki) within the Self (Universe). It is then that Aiki Happens.
1 See The Book: On the taboo of knowing who you are, by Alan Watts.