There is no secret in Aikido.
Really. If you think that all those magical aiki thing that Sensei's all over are doing is a secret than you are probably setting up yourself for a big disappointment. The truth is, everything we need to know about doing those 'Aiki' things is right there at the beginning. At least that's what they told me... :P
No seriously. Its taken me a long time to grasp an idea of what Irimi means. So all this things said like Kokyunage is a 10 year technique, Ikyyo is a 20 year technique, I don't really know what to make out of it. Its not like grade school. You graduate after 6 years and are expected to know how to speak and write, a little bit of history, some maths and sciences and occassionally paint a picture without making it look like an accident. But giving a time stamp on an Aikido technique or principle is basically saying that maturity of the mind requires 10 years of living. Not exactly precise isn't it what with Shane proving that no matter how many years you live, he'll still be a kid.
Here's the thing. Aikido is not something you can learn. Its not something that can be taught. Its something that you have to experience/live through. You can learn and teach Aikido 'techniques' yes that's true. And you can spout its principles until your mouth runs dry, true as well. You can describe all sorts of things, yet it is not Aikido until you experience it. Hence, for us we must already have this in our minds.
Why do I do this? Well, simply said... no one did it for me. It took me sometime to get that understanding and only because of help from teachers who came when they did. For all I know, in their absence I might have just continued in my ignorance for years to come or I might have come to an understanding all on my own. Regardless, I try to put it out in the open so that you have a choice that you can make. To understand ahead of time, or to go through the paces and hope understanding comes.
The only caveat here is that, now that the carrot is out in the open you still have to catch it. Meaning, I may have said something out loud. It doesn't mean its true until you have experience it. And that my friends will take however much time it takes.
Same thing with Aiki. Its there in the beginning. For some teachers, they want you to follow by rote what they do because that's what they have learned. Sometimes they have intuitive understanding but can't teach it, sometimes they have no understanding but ride along with it. Still there are some that know the theory and are unable to achieve it. Whatever the case may be, first we must know the basic underlying principles of what works and how its suppose to work. The how here is, Aikido employs natural forces. It seeks harmony thus it is 'Alive'. You have to practice Aikido like you wield a dual edged sword. To cut your opponent forcefully, you will cut yourself more. Only by moving with your center and uke's center with it, you will cut neither yourself nor him. You cut away conflict not each other.
The why is Aikido is about peaceful resolution. Not about self defence or destruction, but peaceful resolution. To achieve this in your Aikido class you must keep this in your mental state at all times. If we train to paint with watercolours, we do not use crayons or worse a typewriter. So if you wish to train for a peaceful resolution, you don't train to crank someone or throw them around. It helps to understand fighting because it gives you insight, but it doesn't require a knowledge of fighting. Many people will argue against this. I have said before that Aikido is martial. But there are many levels of martial. The highest level is winning without defeating. How can that be achieved if our only way of winning is through fighting?
How does knowing all this help you in your Aikido techniques? Well, it won't help with the form one bit. But it will form your core. Practising the outer form is necessary and to all intents and purpose it can start from hard to soft or vice versa. As long as your core spirit is true than it doesn't really matter. What that means is, you can practice Yoshinkan style, Iwama style, Yamaguichi's style, Endo's style, Takeda's style, Nishio's style, Aikikai hombu's style, Sensei Hakim's style... and in the end, the outer form is just that. Your dress. You and your spirit have to firmly, joyously, wholeheartedly embrace the Aikido way before you achieve true Aiki.
Achieving this state means you will realise your true self. Funnily enough, it took Silat to open my eyes about spirit and intent. It also showed my maai and entering. All those principles in Aikido, and after 10 years I had to see it through a different lens. Even so, Silat has a different principle overriding it. At least in the form. Though its meaning itself is peace (silaturahim), its nature of conflict resolution leaves something to be desired at least for me. That is why time and time again, I get drawn back to Aikido. At my level, Silat will definitely hurt the attacker. That is why they forbid you to use it unless necessary. But this is meaningless in the achievement of peace if you cannot use it without hurting people. I know intuitively that they can do better but having had no opportunity to see such a master at work, I cannot carry this art as my primary way. Since I have since the possibility in Aikido, I have adopted it as my path for now.
So once you have all this knowing and understanding, does that mean your journey is over? Happily enough its not over. Why do see Osensei's Aikido change so much over the years. Do we believe that in his old age, his Uke's don't really have a high opinion of him thus they give him chance when attacking? Contrary to that, by all accounts his power grew as he aged and they really did attack him to their best ability. His outer form has gone soft, but his core is stronger. When you attack yourself, you will lose. Such is Osensei's ability to be one with you that attacking him ensures you have lost before anything has happened.
So if we understood chushin and can now control uke's center we now need to forget it and look for musubi at Tai atari. After achieving musubi and being able to control uke in the flesh, we need to forget it and learn ki-musubi and kokoro-musubi. Connecting at that spiritual level, we now need to forget it and just be One again.