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Aiki and the principle of Go Ju Ryu Ki

September 9, 2014

September 2014

The ancient understanding in martial arts of Go Ju Ryu Ki has many varied applications to training. Literally translated Go means hard or solid. Ju means suppleness or flexibility. Ryu means flowing. Ki means energy. In one sense it is the progression from something that has clear and definable form to something without form.

In science it is expressed as solids, liquids, gases and ether. In traditional practice it is applied in the practice, first of becoming solid in basics and then with more experience moving into a flexible and then flowing application of movement and technique.

Like when a child learns to write they first begin with printing block-like letters before progressing into running writing which is really a flowing form. After mastering running writing they may then begin to put their own creative style to their writing. If they had commenced straight into running writing no one would be able to read their writing. No, first they start with the basic printing which is equivalent to the Go level.

Aikido at its advanced levels is free flowing and creative. But if the Go form is not mastered, it will be ineffective in a real situation. The nick-name for the Go level is Diamond or sometimes Earth. A diamond is concentrated and strong and so at the level of Go one develops mental concentration, strength and groundedness. It is good for the bones, muscles and sinews. Diamonds are minerals – the mineral level in the body is the bones, the health of our skeletal system is enhanced at this level of practice.

The Ju level is the moving into a more supple and flexible interpretation of technique. If one only stayed with the Go level of practice one would become stiff and hard. In the world of Aikido there are some styles that are like this – that stay mainly at the Go stage – just as there are styles that have their main emphasis on softness and suppleness.

In true practice there are no styles because one provides what is appropriate to the situation. This is the meaning of takemusu aiki to spontaneously harmonise and provide the most effective and appropriate response the situation requires.

If the Go stage strengthens and focuses, the Ju brings out a looser more relaxed aspect. This develops greater adaptability and flexibility. This is essential in Aikido because the first aspect of energy response is to blend and harmonise with the direction of the attack. Also one’s internal energy (Ki) is directed out from the body’s core and can only be done when the muscles of the body release and expand. If the muscles are tight the internal force cannot get beyond the muscle.

For an Aikido technique to move beyond the physical level there needs to be a large component of training that develops, suppleness, softness looseness and flexibility.

The Go level develops coordination and unification. Then the Ju level allows unified expression to move more flexibly in relation to the attacker.

After Ju is Ryu – Ryu means flowing or streaming and is associated with air or wind. Just as wind whirls and gusts with dynamic rhythm, the Ryu level of practice is a dynamic rhythmic expression of the previous qualities of Go and Ju. Wind can change direction and speed in an instant – and so at this level training is more free flowing and spontaneous.

After Ryu is Ki. The Ki level naturally occurs after the previous levels have been consistently practiced over time and now involves greater and deeper use of the mind.

If Go – (Diamond or Earth) develops the bones and strength of the body and unification and Ju (Willow or Water) brings flexibility and suppleness to the sinews, muscles and tendons and the ability to blend then Ryu – creates positive circulation of blood and lymph fluids – then the Ki level works strongly on the nervous system and opening up the neuro pathways in the brain. This then leads to the meridians, the energy and auric body.

This is the level of practice with the energy and the intention of the person we are interacting with leading to the touchless level of practice.

In practical terms in training in Aikido we start at the Go level which is when our partner holds us in a static way and we practice how to move from this position. This is also called Kihon – which in Japanese means basics. However the deeper meaning of the word is “to become Solid in Ki”.

At the Ju level we start the movement as our partner takes hold as they move towards us. At the Ryu level – Flowing practice – we catch the physical motion of our partner at a earlier phase and lead them more dynamically into the technique.

At the Ki level – we start the interaction even earlier, before the physical attack even begins. We interact with the partner’s or attacker’s intention just before they actually start the physical movement towards us. This is also called leading the mind. This can extend in the touchless dimension where the attacker is thrown without any physical contact from the Aikidoist.

All of these levels exist together within all practices. Just as – at any time within the Earth – there are rocks and soil – Go and rivers, water, ocean – Ju and Air Wind – and the themal activity – Ryu – and also Sun and ectro magnetic activity – Ki.

So too in our body within any movement we are using our skeletal system, muscles, tendons and sinews, our circulatory, lymph and nervous system. Really Go, Ju, Ryu and Ki are expressions of connectedness, wholeness and oneness.

However as we develop the higher functions of each we move into the marvelous and wonderness expression of Martial Artistry – where the most amazing feats are just the result of enlightened practices. We may even find ourselves moving into the 5th quality – that of Ku or emptiness.


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