Aikido-Yoga seamlessly integrates the classical eightfold system of yoga (as espoused by the ancient yogic sage, Patanjali) with Aikido training practices and principles (as espoused by the late budo master, Morihei Ueshiba). It is not a separate cross-training of two distinct and isolated practices, but a complete integration of the Japanese martial art of Aikido with Yoga. The alchemy of this integration is called Aikido-Yoga.
To illustrate (and give some insight into) an aspect of how this complete integration takes place, let us examine how the Aikido-Yoga practitioner precedes the execution of all Aikido martial arts techniques with the activation of two physiological “locks” called “bandhas” in Yoga:
- The first of these yogic “bandhas” contracts the muscles of the perineum with a feeling of drawing energy upwards from that point. The second yogic “bandhas”, (performed in conjunction with the first) contracts and pulls the abdominal muscles in toward the spine. The combination of these two mindful, deliberate and sustained actions creates a feeling of stability and strength in the lower abdomen and hips and physiologically centres the individual at a point within the body located just below the navel (known as the “hara” or “tantien”). Once the Aikido-Yoga practitioner is able to activate these two “bandhas”, they will be directed to simultaneously place their attention on their “hara”, and maintain a subtle expanding/radiating awareness/energy that they will visualise to be emanating from that point.
- The next vital step in all Aikido-Yoga practice is the repetition of a specific ancient yogic breath control practice method that is deliberately and mindfully sustained throughout and between the executions of each martial arts movement.
The application of “bandhas”, mental focus and yogic breath is exactly the same regardless of whether the Aikido-Yoga practitioner is performing complex and challenging yoga postures or executing Aikido techniques. Although the physical and mental challenges presented by traditional yoga postures may vary significantly in external form and appearance from the pressure offered by the execution of Aikido techniques against multiple attackers; the internal method and practice of “bandhas”, mental focus and yogic breathing is exactly the same in both disciplines. Without this understanding, yoga practice would be just stretching and Aikido would be just the physical practice of martial arts techniques.
With correct practice of Aikido-Yoga, the rhythm of the breath settles into its own cycle, and the distinction between “you breathing” or you “being breathed” blurs to a point that dissolves any sense of isolation, separateness, disconnectedness or differentiation between self and others. This heightened state-of-being naturally emanates from a physiologically harmonious rhythm/vibration of mind, body and spirit. This heightened coordination of mind, body and spirit spontaneously creates action that is at once graceful and dynamically fluid. This seemingly effortlessness action naturally results when the mind, body and spirit are in resonance or harmony. Outwardly there exists no forceful movement, jarring, haste or lack of balance. Inwardly there exists no wilfulness, fear, the need to prove anything, dominate or conquer self or others.
So to summarise, the Aikido-Yoga practitioner first learns to discipline mind and body utilising very specific, time-tested yogic methods. This is very closely followed by learning to store and direct subtle internal life-force energy by the practice of very specific time-tested yogic breathing and mental focus methods together with the practice of an unwavering focus to direct that life-force energy to expand into infinity from the epicentre of the “hara”. With the nurturing help of their training partners, the practice of Aikido-Yoga in this way facilitates the Aikido-Yoga practitioner’s personal journey of self-discovery and induces states of great joy, gratitude, wisdom and reverence for the life we are all experiencing together here on earth as humanity.
On a practical level, the continuous flowing Aikido-Yoga practice in this manner physically produces sufficient heat, oxygenation and circulation to effectively and efficiently eliminate toxins, improve the body’s immune system, flexibility and overall vitality. However, just as importantly, on a more subtle, esoteric level, the inwardly directed focus, mental concentration and emotional stamina being developed by the Aikido-Yoga practitioner prepares the individual for the vital discipline and joyous practice of fearless introspection and timeless meditation.
There are many, many more subtle and infinitely more complex and dynamic psychological and physiological aspects of Aikido-Yoga that can only really be examined and understood through direct experiential learning experiences along a personal journey of self-discovery. The strong and succinct message here, however, is that:- just as challenging yoga postures offer the yoga practitioner enough physiological pressure to disrupt their “bandhas”, calm composure, mental focus, breathing and balance; each specific empty-hand and weapons movement of Aikido is also required to be performed with exactly the same “bandhas”, calm composure, mental focus, physiological balance and yogic breathing while dealing with the pressure offered to you by your training partners (“ukes”) throughout the execution of each martial technique.
The personal journey of self-discovery and associated self-transformation is what makes the Aikido… Yoga. It is also what makes the Yoga in the practice of Aikido palpable and tangible to every Aikido-Yoga practitioner. Without this understanding and correct practice, yoga would be just stretching and Aikido would be just a technically proficient demonstration of specific martial arts techniques. Aikido-Yoga, therefore, offers this training to a new generation of evolved martial artists and as a divine gift from the heart of each Aikido-Yoga practitioner to one another.