Working on my Druid grade I had this reflection about nwfre, the druidic concept for life force (similar to chi, ki or prana in other traditions):
Nwfre is the relationship between mind and body, and how attitude, mood, intention, motivation and other psychological factors (conscious and unconscious) affect our behaviour, perception and relationship with the environment.
If we have harmony between body and mind (i.e. nwfre is balanced and flowing) then harmony can also spread to our behaviour in the environment, and from there, manifest itself in our relationships. Perpection, key to understanding ki (pun intended), becomes refined and less distorted, and our reactions become more aligned to the nwfre that flows within our bodies and through our environment.
This is something I learning through the marshal art of aikido, which is a Discpline of Coordination as one writer puts it. Not just a coordination of left and right, arms and legs, but also between what I am thinking and what my body is doing. And between my body and the bodies that surround me. In the end it works for harmony between left and right, arms and legs, mind and body, and individual and environment; much of which works with the perception of ki.
I’m recovering. Over the weekend I was pushed to the floor (also practised falling to the floor by myself!), pinned there and had my arm twisted until I called out “Mercy!” Then it was my turn…
I’ve done karate as a kid, and tai chi a few years ago when I lived in England. Karate was defined as self-defence, but its style was straight forward combat: hit the opponent ( a bit more to it than that, but that’s the general jist). Tai chi was interesting, its own style, similar to aikido in that it doesn’t require strength but uses the strength and momentum of the opponent against them. But what I learnt was a “form”, a series of movements. But I never really learnt to apply these movements as a martial art, just as an exercise that helps practice patience, coordination and balance.
The aikido I did over the weekend – a workshop that took place at the Earth Sanctuary – was somewhere in between. What we were doing was somewhere in between what I’ve done with karate and tai chi: it was a practice of self-defence (and only self-defence) with a similar “flowing” philosophy as tai chi.
The techniques, when done well, are effortless; the damage to the opponent practically nil, as long as the opponent doesn’t struggle too much. It’s very difficult to train, or rather “untrain”, the body to not use strength in its defence, and just flow with the opponent’s momentum. There’s a lot of coordination going on between where to put the feet, the best place to grip the opponent and positioning.
Right now my body is so unused to the exercise that I have stiff muscles, but I look forward to it again. In the meantime I think I’ll take the tatami out and practice falling!
If you want information on aikido just look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido