In the Aikido and Zen Dojo:
Stances and the Four Dimensions of Aikido Space

Aikido Space

Early on in learning Aikido techniques, the big picture is just a blur. But slowly, slowly, slowly within each technique we must start to get a fuller appreciation of Aikido space. In a very real sense, Aikido space has four dimensions – four degrees of freedom. They are:

  1. aikido spaceDistance (from attacker to defender)
  2. Movement (stopped vs. moving)
  3. Balance (well-balanced vs. fairly balanced vs. unbalanced)
  4. Breath (inhaling vs. exhaling)

And within each technique, we must also appreciate the importance of stance. The proper stances through the progression of an Aikido technique ensures the proper management of Aikido space. There are three stances we need to fully appreciate:

  1. Starting stance
  2. Intermediate stance
  3. Finishing stance

And from here, we will want to look at the structure of these three stances and how they align with the four dimensions of Aikido space.

Starting stance:

As the name implies, this is how we accept an attack. In the starting stance, feet are turned out at 45 degrees, weight is about equal on both feet. And, as we don’t know where we will be moving – front, back, left, right, we are equally ready to go in any. Last, we are naturally exhaling. Therefore, from the perspective of Aikido space, we are:

  • Distance: Well away from the attacker
  • Movement: Completely still
  • Balance: Fairly balanced (able to go in any direction)
  • Breath: Exhaling

Intermediate stance:

The first response to every attack, is to simply evade. And for many, many techniques, after evading we often seem to be in yet another starting stance. Realize that the mindset here is about the same – that we still really don’t  know what direction we will go next. However, the distance to the attacker has closed and we have just finished inhaling. Therefore, from the perspective of Aikido space, we are:

  • Distance: Much, closer to the attacker, possibly in direct contact
  • Movement: Momentarily still, paused between the movement of evasion and a finishing move
  • Balance: Fairly balanced (still able to go in any direction)
  • Breath: Momentarily not breathing, paused between an inhale and an exhale

Finishing stance:

There are two basic finishing stances – the forward horizontal stance and left-right stance. And we practice these every single class. Both stances have this in common: One leg bent, one leg straight, exhaling nicely and extremely well-balanced. Therefore, from the perspective of Aikido space, we are:

  • Distance: Completely disengaged (for a throw) or fully engaged (for a pin)
  • Movement: Completely still
  • Balance: Extremely balanced – like the mountain
  • Breath: Exhaling

It may take a while, but when you can fully see distance, movement and balance all interacting – and when you are naturally coordinating your breath with each technique, you can then say you that are a true student of Aikido space. And when you are consistently mindful of Aikido space within the three stances, you can say that you are then a true student of Aikido.

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