Polarity, a question of flow in Aikido

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo

Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other martial arts concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Yin – Yang theory

Yin – Yang (Chinese: 陰陽; pinyin: yīn yáng). The basic idea of the ‘yin- yang theory’ consists of two natural, complementary and contradictory forces in our universe, the principle of opposite polarity and duality. Both of the forces are different, but in the best way, they mutually complement each other.

Yin & yang have its origin in ancient China and can be traced back over 2000 years. When we talk about this duality in Japanese martial arts, we must understand that Japanese masters have imported these ideas from Chinese thought. A great deal of philosophy and history is written into documents and books. I suggest you do an internet search if you are interested.

Flow of energy, harmony between active and passive

Energy is a living thing, with no energy our life is nonexistent. By the time you realize this energy, you will probably feel the flow. When somebody attacks you, you can sense the flow of energy before there is physical contact. Keep in mind the concept of “SEN” or preventive action. Preventative action is the decisive factor of victory, it is the most crucial in the martial arts. Feeling the flow of energy is necessary to comprehend the concept of Sen.

But even when you succeed in neutralizing an attack, your control action may disrupt your own energy flow. We always use two hands in the application of a “waza” to control the opponent. One can touch the opponent with two hands, or one can hit the opponent with one hand. A hand may be active (yang) and one may be less active or passive (yin). Sometimes we see an action with 1 hand and the other seems to have died, not active either, not passive. The energy balance is not there.

Also important, the yin-yang aspects are in dynamic equilibrium. As one aspect decreases, the other increases to the same degree.

  1. Kamae with 2 hands in front of body – both hands are active – front 60% rear 40%
  2. Kamae with 1 hand at belt – both hands are active – front 70% rear 30%
  3. Kamae with 1 hand active and 1 hand dead
  4. Daed hand during application

When 2 hands are active/passive, they create a “ring of power”. An example is irimi-nage.

During irimi-nage a push/pull action is performed by the 2 hands. If there is no harmony between the 2 hands or when 1 hand is dead, opponent can easily escape.

Polarity in Aikido

What is polarity?

Polarity is a term used in electricity, magnetism, and electronic signaling.  In short, it is the directional flow of electrons from one pole to the other. Alternating current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction and changes its magnitude continuously with time in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction.

Polarity, a game of 2 hands

Two magnets of different polarity attract each other, but those of the same polarity cause rejection, or confrontation.

Aikido philosophy teaches the principle of non-resistance. This process is necessary in all aspects of confrontation during your training.

Sometimes its seems there is a confrontation with clashing forces. But the principle of non-resistance can be applied with expansive force used as a coiling skill.

The description given above is simplified. There is an external force that attacks and by using winding skill, the attack force is returned to the sender. Finally, an extra can be added to control the adversary after neutralisation.

Remember that with each push there is a pull, and with each pull there is a push.

Coiling skill

Coiling doesn’t belong only to martial arts. It is also present in a number of other human activities. For instance, pottery and ceramics use this skill to make beautiful artwork.

In the Aikido curriculum we can find numerous coiling skills. One is called “meguri”. Hirokazu Kobayashi had a special meguri skill, he used the suppleness and rotation of the wrist to produce maximum result with minimal levels of effort. Because this is a skill, you need a lot of training to internalize this sort of bodily movement.

Polarity during coiling skills

The polarity of coiling skills relates to how energy moves during body movements. Polarity greatly affects a technique’s effectiveness. The maximum effect of one quality will be followed by the transition toward the opposite quality. It’s not a waste of energy.

Oshi taoshi polarity

If you direct your power away from your power ring, you need to regain your balance and you need to start over. Sure, your opponent will use your error to apply a counteraction.

A simple example to show the loss of power is the grip of the sword.

The first image shows the proper method. There’s a powerful ring, holding the sword handle.

The second one doesn’t have a power ring, there’s a power failure.

Some people think holding the sword with a stretched index finger will relax the hand, arm and shoulder. As a matter of fact, when you hold the handle, there’s no tension, so you don’t have to relax. You hold the sword by closing your hand and using the power of expansion. There is obviously a very short time with a certain tension when you make an impact. You relax the tension immediately without losing the power ring.

Tension at impact

That’s a very difficult concept to grasp. Tension may not produce rigidity. The aim of the tension at the time of impact is to create 1 solid body, but still able to absorb the incoming power and direct it to the earth. If our body is not a whole, we will struggle to maintain our balance, which is necessary to apply power. The voltage at impact is indeed similar to the expansive power.

Please refer for expansive force/power to another article: Shotei-awase, improving expansive force

Published by

Eddy Wolput

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

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