Author: Bret Gordon
Now that we've explored the aiki body (part 1) and defined the various terminology of the aiki arts (part 2), let's get deeper into the actual techniques of Aiki no Jutsu. But didn't I say in my last article that aiki was something you have, not something you do? Like the art itself, it's complicated...
There is a subsection of techniques called Aiki no Jutsu, literally "techniques of aiki," that are meant to showcase the practitioner's expression of aiki without relying on the standard skeletal or muscular manipulations of jujutsu.
Of these techniques, Aiki Age 合気上げ is the staple of Daito Ryu and its derivatives, to the point where if one cannot demonstrate at least the simplest variation of it, it's safe to say they haven't studied the aiki arts at all.
The problem with Aiki Age, along with every other technique classified as Aiki no Jutsu, is that it can be cheated with structural physics instead of using true internal connection. In fairness, "cheating" may be the wrong word. Let's just say that the physical shape of Aiki Age can be replicated using simple leverage without the practitioner having any internal integration whatsoever.
Shoden (beginning) level Aiki no Jutsu is just that, however. You learn how to recreate the shape of aiki techniques using timing, leverage, balance, and "artificial stickiness" (thanks to Rob Liberti for such a great phrase). To perform the basic Aiki Age technique at Shoden level, normally practiced against ryotedori (double wrist grab), you essentially turn the point of connection into a pivot point. Circling your hand around the thumb, drop your elbow so that you create one long arm from your elbow to their shoulder, and drive your hand forward towards their face. This creates what is called a "cognitive lock," one joint lock that locks a series of other joints, and your partner's center of balance is lifted up. If they are standing, they should rise on their toes. Being able to perform this physics trick, however, does not mean one knows or has aiki.
The same is true for the rest of the Aiki no Jutsu catalogue of techniques. Without possessing the aiki body, they are in essence simply Jujutsu techniques (joint/skeletal manipulation), with the primary difference between these and conventional Jujutsu techniques being that they are not intended to be combative or used for self defense. They are attribute building exercises meant to measure one's progress in aiki development, not the art itself.
Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, and all of the highest-level instructors of the aiki arts echoed the sentiment that simply studying the techniques of aiki will not get you any closer to developing real internal skills or power. To do that, we must look inward and train the body to connect itself. The development of an integrated structure, as I have only begun to scratch the surface of in these articles, is the only way to truly have or express aiki. However, solo work is boring and tedious, and throwing people with effortless physics is fun, so the true secrets and level of mastery will continue to guard themselves...