5 Stages of Training and Training Goals
In Aikishintai the development of body and mind advances through 5 stages. Initially, the student endeavors to recognize each of the three primary planes of movement. As awareness increases, the individual planes can begin to be integrated such that the student moves simultaneously on multiple planes. Ultimately, the aim is to be capable of maintaining a sphere of dynamic yet relaxed tension, such that instantaneous movement in multiple directions is freely possible.
In the first stage of training single plane awareness and movement are emphasized. The practice is founded upon the mechanics of ten chi jin or tian di ren (heaven, earth, man). The student begins to explore a deeper understanding of how one’s body and mind bridge the poles of heaven and earth. Students practice pushing or pulling on a single plane while maintaining the ten chi jin foundation. Some of the practices at this level include zhan zhuang (standing practice), silk pulling, push tests, and squat-pushing with a partner.
In the second stage the student learns to express force on two planes simultaneously as equals. This can be in the form of expanding and compressing, rising and falling, pushing and pulling. The student begins to experience the emergence of spirals through the maintenance and expression of two planes. Some of the practices at this level involve rotation around central axis, activation of tanden and koshi, moving push tests, and grappling exercises.
In the third stage the student practices simultaneous movement in two planes such that the combined forces intersect a third plane. For example, the student practices to move upper and lower body mass as one, whilst expressing two forces in an opponent. Similarly, the third plane intersection can begin by combining simultaneous internal movements and directed them externally into the bone center or body mass of the opponent.
In the fourth stage the student practices to connect and combine multiple three plane intersections. The effect is that force can be expressed through all varieties of bone and tissue pathways, internally (through self) and externally (through the opponent) – up and down, front and back, right and left.
In the fifth stage movement becomes more holistic and dynamic. The student moves beyond the limitation of fixed pathways to adopt a sphere-like quality of body and mind. The process begins through recognition of the 3 major bows of the body, which form the 3 primary spheres. However, every point-of-contact also represents a sphere. Every sphere, large or small, is itself composed of infinite points, each point being 3 dimensional in itself. It is the merging of the individual spheres that creates the impenetrable quality of body and mind. Once a student learns to sustain this quality internally, the next step is to practice maintaining and extending the sphere in contact with an opponent, such that the sphere of the opponent merges with your own.