Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (shortened to “Ki Aikido”) was founded in 1974 by Koichi Tohei Sensei, a disciple of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and Head Instructor of Aikikai for over twenty years. He gave his students many gifts, but perhaps the greatest of these was an experience-based pedagogy to teach the relationship between the mind, the body, and the universe (“Shinshin Toitsu”, aka “mind-body unification”). We use our understanding of these principles to bring strength, compassion, and peace in a divided and frightening world.
The fundamental principle of Ki Aikido is that the “mind moves the body”, meaning that whatever we think and feel, we bring into the world. When we feel conflict, we invite conflict to enter the world. When we feel peace, we invite peace. Through our training we gain a practical understanding of how to better ourselves and bring that into the world. We also learn the great power and freedom that attends a mind that is peacefully connected to the universe.
In the dojo, we spend most of our time practicing kumi waza, techniques with a partner that involve throws and joint locks. The practical outcome of Aikido techniques is to maintain ma-ai (a safe relationship with an attacker). We train to make a connection with our partner by respecting them rather than trying to control them. This connection makes techniques compelling, and as a result the martial “effectiveness” of our training is quite high. Although that is not necessarily the goal of our training, the self-defense benefits are real and important.
The kumi waza is only one element of our practice, although it is often what we focus on. Ki Aikido training involves five major elements:
- Aikido waza: consisting of kumi waza (paired techniques), hitori waza (solo exercises), kata (forms) with jo (staff) and bokken (sword), and Ki tests (which help us understand how our mind responds to anticipated conflict).
- Sokushin no gyo: A dynamic bell-ringing meditation.
- Kiatsu ho: A technique in which we learn to connect to a partner by touch.
- Ki breathing: A form of breathing meditation with movement.
- Ki Meditation: A seated mindfulness meditation.