The Problem of Recognizing Aiki

As you remember last . . . 

Girl_listening_to_radioJean asked:  How can I see if someone has an aikibody and can you point to me someone on the net can demonstrate it ?

I tried to answer that question with my post Aiki Body/Mind.  However, this week

Jean asked:  Anyway what I am asking is what to look for when I look at an aikido video. If aiki is invisible, what are the results I have to watch for so I can see if someone has aki ? I mean not only aikido video but other martials arts video as well.

Well, I think Jean must be my muse, because while attempting to answer her question I wrote a piece longer, and better, than the one I had been preparing for this week!  So, suffering from jet lag and being pressed for time, I decided to fix up my answer a bit and publish it as this week’s post.


The Problem of Recognizing Aiki

The Question:  If Aiki is invisible, what are the results I have to look for such that I can see if someone has Aiki, not just in Aikido but in other martial arts as well?

The Warning:  You are not going to like my answer I’m afraid. But it is an honest one, nevertheless. 

The Answer:  There are some traits, or “tells,” that MAY indicate the presence of Aiki. Unfortunately the presence of these traits or “tells,” certainly does not guarantee the presence of Aiki.

The Aiki body is often barrel shaped composed primarily of soft musculature.

There are exceptions of course.

And certainly not all barrel shaped people have Aiki

The Aiki body often exhibits unusual stability. This means stability present along the lines where one’s body would not normally be stable. In other words, it is unusually stable along the “weak lines.”ueshiba-push-test

The Aiki body often exhibits great power. Here I’m thinking in terms of P = W/T. P is Power, W is Work, and T is Time. In physics, a force is said to do WORK if, when acting, there is a displacement of the point of application in the direction of the force.

So in layman’s terms: A lot is getting done in a short period of time.

But, in relation to Aiki this power should be accompanied by seemingly very little expenditure of effort on behalf of the one demonstrating the power. In other world, where a powerlifter might move a great deal of mass in a short period of time thereby demonstrating great power but with obvious considerable effort, an person demonstrating Aiki might move a great deal of mass in a short period of time thereby demonstrating great power but with NO obvious considerable effort.

Why? Because in the case of the powerlifter there is an overcoming of resistance, and in the case of the Aiki demonstrator there is no (or at least imperceptible) resistance.  (Obviously this isn’t the “gold standard” of examples, but it gives one an idea at least.)

So, one can look for those things. But there is a catch, there is always a catch! With collaboration one can imitate all of the above!

That is the conundrum. Real Aiki looks fake, and fake Aiki looks fake. So which one is which?  (Just look to Youtube for videos of “Ki Masters” getting beat up.  It isn’t pleasant to watch . . . unless one enjoys watching clueless people getting pummeled.)

Most people have to touch to tell for certain.  (All of the individuals pictured as having Aiki bodies above didn’t/or don’t shy away from walking their talk . . . without getting pummeled in the process.)

What does one feel for in person? The feeling of Aiki! It is a feeling different from the overcoming of resistance with force. And it is a feeling different from the overcoming of resistance through technique (usually leverage, timing, and/or psychological manipulation). It is the feeling on behalf of the non-Aiki person of full physical effort, with the result of no sense of resistance, no expected outcome, and no proper explanation for what is occurring.

Weird right? It get’s weirder. Here is what the person demonstrating Aiki feels . . . nothing beyond the sensation of physical contact.

So when one is looking to do true Aiki one is looking for the feedback of no feedback!  The only feedback being true results.

Welcome to the upside down, topsy turvy world of Aiki!!!


Until next week, thank you for your continued interest and support!



10 thoughts on “The Problem of Recognizing Aiki

  1. Sorry, but I’m going to have to disappoint you by agreeing with your description. 🙂

    Although we may not always use exactly the same words, we seem to be speaking the same language. Maybe I should’ve asked you for input on “aiki” for my upcoming language book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah well, I’ll just have to learn to live with it!

      Not too surprising though, Tomiki and Shirata were taught by the same guy after all. Shirata was tapped by Ueshiba to teach in Manchukuo, but got called up to be a battalion commander. So Ueshiba sent Tomiki instead. He obviously thought both men quite competent in their understanding and ability!

      And then there is that Chuck Clark guy. What does he know anyway?!?!



    1. Hello Jean,

      I got away with a “non gender” response up until my last post and then figured I’d hear back if I screwed up. So, no need to apologize. Or, if any apology is necessary, please accept my apology! And while you are accepting my apology, please accept my gratitude for your questions and continued interest!

      You can still be my muse, so please don’t hesitate to ask further questions, seek clarification, or present a well reasoned difference of opinion. We do this all the time in training and it, more often than not, leads to better understanding.

      Kind Regards,


  2. Just a couple of points regarding the master in the video that might need clarification: I’ve been told that the multiple-person push demonstration has a net effect of almost zero due to the forces of each man pushing back against each other, and is not the equivalent of all the men’s strength against the master.

    I haven’t tried that one, but the jo demonstration of Ueshiba’s I’ve tried with my sons, who are much stronger than me, and by applying a subtle forward force with the jo they don’t realize they are subconsciously applying a force sideways to counter mine, which prevents them from pushing forward against the jo. You can’t push forward and to the side at the same time when your arms are extended.

    Also the demonstration by Ueshiba pictured above seems to depict a downward force on his head, which can be absorbed with the body acting sort of like a conduit into the ground. Similar to the master in the video pushing up against the strongman’s forearm to redirect the force downward.

    I may be way off the mark here, but have been told early on to always verify things of this nature.


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