Some years back my old aikido teacher told me swimming was like aikido. Being the guy I am, I never asked him to explain.
Just now as I was doing some laps whilst holding my breath, I realized that it's quite strenuous. I wondered how all those movies about guys and girls swimming underwater avoiding bullets, bad guys, sharks and zombies could possibly do what they do for a minute or longer when even 20 secs was too long for me.
That got me thinking on how to improve my strokes. Being self taught I have no doubts that my technique is far from ideal. Plus the fact that I kept my body straight to prevent water from going into my ears was probably a factor. Then, I thought about how sometimes swimming felt so effortless that I could have swam forever. I wonder what was it that I was doing wrong.
Then I tried to move in unity. Instead if pulling my downstroke with my arms, I twisted my torso slightly. To my surprise, I wasn't breathless anymore. 20 secs was nothing. My arms no longer burned the oxygen I needed. Using the body turn didn't exert my body at all, and the laps went by easily.
So is this what he meant? Well I guess maybe. Moving your body in unison is not magic, nor is it aikido's secret. Certainly it's right there in basic aikido, we do it everyday. However, moving body in unison is not the end to it all. Knowing what part and how to move those parts in unison is equally important. Take our kihon kosanage ikkyo for example. You need to sink and move your body with your hands and get kuzushi. But just turning on your vertical axis won't get you anything but a punch to your face. There is a need to move from your hara and not the hand, but also to maintain a chain or a link from hara to your hands to your uke. Sinking, you take kuzushi only if there is a connection to uke. An easy way to start will be to sink into uke's corner but not moving forwards whilst doing it.
Other techniques need equal study and how to best move your body. And this is why kihon training is so wonderful. It allows an actual study and development period to practice moving your body in a united fashion. That us why in the first level of aikido, harmonizing with yourself, kihon is absolutely necessary.