It's been ages since I wrote anything here. In part because I'm still trying to understand better before I speak of a subject, but mainly because I was so busy with work. As always, with Ramadhan, I get more time to sort things out because we spend less time doing needless things.
Funnily enough, that's what Aikido training should be about. Leading towards the gradual elimination of needless things. Most people study Aikido awhile and come to various different conclusions. It doesn't help that they came in already colored by rehire expectations coming from watching all those videos out there. More often than not, they'd come to conclude that AIkido is so fake nowadays because people try to hard to follow Osensei's vision of harmony (or what they perceive as his vision). And because of that they talk about collusive aikido, about cross training, about looking for 'aiki' or 'IT' from somewhere some who...
Then there'll be the Daito ryu boys saying that Aikido is nothing but a watered down version of their budo and so on and so forth. First thing's first... Osensei said a lot of things about Aikido, but he emphasized in so many different ways that Aikido was never about the technique per se, nor is it about the movement. He almost always approached it from a relational aspect of the universe. How to fight someone who is in harmony with the universe is impossible. That Aikido begins in the heart.
Nevertheless he did condense certain techniques that he used again and again to demonstrate this art. Amongst the most often used is ikkyo and iriminage. He also said much of aikido can be taught from shihonage. Yet, they are a means to the end not the end itself. Otherwise how could you do it any better after 20 years or 50 years? The process of writing a word doesn't make a particular word any more meaningful, you can wrote gold a million times if you wish, it won't make you rich by the way. However, practice writing continuously and I'm sure one day people will praise you of your script. Perhaps you could even do calligraphy by then. For all of the beauty of your script, does it mean that you can now write tear jerking prose? Or novels that paint a picture so vivid that it colours the imagination?
Thus in that simple technique that's made up of so many different principles and mechanics and rules, what we are polishing goes beyond the application of the technique. Goes beyond the proficiency, the fluidity and the validity of the technique. You need to realize the technique's true purpose and that is to understand Aikido.
And at what stage can we begin this type of practice? It really boils down to you. Needless to say, to begin with you will need your letters and you need to learn the vocabulary, so I suspect Shodan is where you try to take your first tentative steps into the unknown.
This is the point where you can no longer answer through copying, where you have to answer through understanding. And of course, what I understand is but a piece of a million pieces and each of us may pick up different pieces in the beginning. Yet, persevere and we will complete the same picture. Some of us may take longer than others, but keep at it. For the pieces fit only in this puzzle. If we discontinue and try to pick another piece from a different puzzle, you will only end up with a weird incomplete picture in the end with many more pieces missing.