Structure, Connection and Intent
At core martial training is about responding to incoming and outgoing forces – in essence that is all there is. Whether you are getting hit or hitting, getting thrown or throwing, getting locked or locking; every action amounts to energies entering or leaving your body. Developing an ability to respond freely to any force requires an understanding of the three primary approaches of Aikishintai: structure, connection and intent.
Structure refers to skeletal alignment and the stacking of the body in coordination with gravity. Structure is the most basic way in which we can change how our bodies respond to gravity. We generally spend most of our lives falling in and out of balance, and the ability to take advantage of out of balance responses is the basis of almost all throwing techniques, or the reading of body language when someone wants to throw a punch or apply a technique.
Training in Aikishintai begins with an exploration of structure in relation to the fundamental incoming and outgoing force of gravity. Without proper training in structure, almost everything people do enables gravity to exert greater influence upon them, leaving them unable to respond effectively to incoming and outgoing forces.
In Aikishintai vertical alignment is emphasized with attention to handling gravity through dissipation and rebound. A primary concern is transforming the ‘hinge action’ of joints into a ‘bow action’ by engaging tendons and ligaments. Bowing creates the beginning of additional ‘connected’ structures not subject to the requirement of skeletal stacking.
Connection is about how you can use awareness to actually rewire your muscles, tissues and ligaments in such a way that your body functions more efficiently. What stops us is that extensive areas of our bodies, although connected by an infinitely perceptive nervous system, are largely asleep. Building and refining internal connections allows the practitioner to move while keeping the integrity of body alignment intact to such a degree that the force of an opponent can readily be absorbed and directed.
Like a suit or a fishnet stocking, every fiber of your body is connected and held together to every other fiber. Recognizing and recruiting these connections can give rise to unbounded power, sensitivity and responsiveness. Aikishintai teaches one to mindfully connect the three outer and inner harmonies. The outer harmonies are up-to-down, front-to-back and side-to-side. The inner harmonies are shoulders-to-hips, elbows-to-knees and hands-to-feet. Connections are built across these pathways first directly, then on the same side, then with the intent to recognize body seams and range of stretch. In time cross-body elasticity increases and, level-by-level, the proprioceptive system is reorganized.
Training with intent (mindful attention) allows one to direct energy in ways that more fully engage the nervous system. In this manner we can receive and deliver force using the whole body as one power chain.
Initially, intent involves guiding your mind to look into your body to reveal the processes that are taking place so that you can become more attentive to the most effective ways to use your system. The ultimate goal of any martial art is to build a quality of intent into your body and mind that is always present. Building a capability to respond to the need of each moment can only be the outcome of having consciously embodied a quality of intent.
Training intent in Aikishintai involves sending out nervous system activity from the brain into the body so as to discover and create new neural pathways and networks; connections that were already present but not consciously active. By repeatedly activating new neuromuscular connections in a variety of ways you build a quality and state of instantaneous responsiveness that is capable of receiving and delivering immense power.
The goal of every martial art is to become free in your responses. When a person’s mind and body are full of intent everything is possible, nothing is fixed and there are no openings. Structure becomes less important because you become structurally intact unto yourself. This is the meaning of the saying, “one part moves, all parts move”