Types of Contact in Aikido

Mapping Aikido Training on a Continuum from Assault to Intimacy:

How Intention and Connection make Aikido a Spiritual Experience

I ask myself, what differentiates aikido from other martial arts?  Paradoxically, it is that the goal of aikido is to learn how NOT to hurt people.  This practice of non-harm, is the process by which we learn to become spiritual.

What does it mean to you to be a spiritual person?  Is it to be caring?  Or, to transcend one’s ego? To be “one” with everything?  Think about this, as you read.

Connection,  as Essential to Intimacy

How do we experience quality of contact with our partners?  It is something that is felt the moment uke grabs nage.  The quality of uke’s contact can be soft, rigid, engaged, limp, firm, present or absent.  Nage also connects, or not, with uke.  It is a two-way experience of engagement, or not.  In this sense, the quality of contact between uke and nage determines how each of them experiences the other.  If both partners are hard, then there is no feeling between them.   In aikido we do not:  “attack – defend”.  We “attack”, “connect,” (or blend), and “redirect”.

Mechanical Practice can Feel like “Assault”

In this version of practice there is an attack and a response.  It is characterized by no mutuality and no feeling, as the connect piece is missing.  Ask yourself:    do I see the “other” as an object, a thing that is just there for me to “do something to?”   Am I “grabbing an arm,”  “striking a head?”  Do I notice my partner as a WHOLE person?  Or, am I just thinking about the technique that I am doing TO my partner. Martin Buber, a religious philosopher used the term I-it, to describe this type of relationship.  That is a nice way of saying that the most objectified type of relationship can be described as completely lacking in intimacy.  It is tantamount to feeling assaulted by another person.   This type of relational contact is characterized as a lack of awareness of the other person.  There is no caring for the other.   As aikidoka, we all know those types of practitioners.  They are the ones, who after practicing, you say to yourself: : “avoid this person.” This type of practice is based in fear, and in an insensitivity to the other.

Connected, Purely Physical Practice Feels like “Sex”

I call this type of aikido practice energetic, fun, and mutually engaged.  Many aikidoka practice at this level – it is connected in an intensely physical way.  What is doesn’t have is subtle intimacy.

At this level of practice we are both still doing techniques to each other and it feels great.   There may be a sense of “orgasm in motion,” but not transcendence.   This is undoubtedly a stage in the practice of aikido that we all necessarily go through on our journey with aikido as a relational art.

Love: Transcending the Physical

The breath

I breathe in, you are coming.  We barely touch.  I breathe out.   You fly through the air.  I forgot where I begin and you end.  Am I nake?  Am I uke?  I do not know?  I am on the inside, with you.  We are together.  In losing myself, I find myself.  I am joy.  I have no doubt. No fear.  I see clearly why I practice.

Why I love this art is revealed to me in the practice.  I am harmony.    Moving together, we are joy.  I cannot reach the bottom of knowing you.

I call this the inside of aikido.  This place is the heart of aikido:  where we are open to everything, ready for nothing. It is relaxed, open, and receptive. It is not something that we experience, per se, it is something that we can be.  This.  A spirit, in motion.

by Kali Hewitt-Blackie, 4th Dan


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