We always talk about circles in Aikido. Here's a big one to consider: We start by being unable to think, since we haven't even the most basic idea of what we are trying to do in the dojo. Next, we begin to think through everything, as if understanding with the mind could substitute for understanding with the body. However, in the end, we must return to nothingness - no thought.
Our learning follows a circular path, and we return to the place we started, but this time, with mastery, doing the techniques just as we would any other natural action, without thinking. Our goal is to no longer DO aikido, but to BE aikido.
Aikido is at once the most unnatural of motions, and yet also the most intuitive of motions.
Becuase as beginners we are unable to command our bodies, we move stiffly, and every motion requires an effort of will to effect. Later, we begin to dig deeper, and actually believe that our words will give us the insight our training has not yet delivered. But finally, we find the movements that were originally so challenging, are now no different that walking, standing, sitting, or any other action we normally take for granted. It is only by drilling the correct movements down into our instinct that we can free our minds of the unconcious desire to analyze and watch what we are doing.
In previous posts I have suggested training with a blindfold, since this develops awareness and sensistivity, and removes our reliance on looking at our feet and hands. Done properly, we should "feel" the location of our body (and uke's) in space relative to each other, and our motion should be based on that feeling. Sadly, the more you think about it, the less you can DO it.
I wish it were only that bad. To make it worse, when you are thinking or speaking or otherwise distracted, you cannot project KI, and without that all techniques fail to manifest properly anyway. The effort becomes frustrating and incomplete.
It is very easy to say "stop thinking", but that is like telling someone to get the words of a song they heard on the radio out of their head - no matter what you do they just keep coming back. Concentration and focus in the dojo are what help us learn to detach our over-analyzing natures, and make ourselves simple again. In this way, simple is good.
If you have to close your eyes - do. If you have to blindfold yourself - do. Whatever it takes, practice keeping your focus and projecting your energy, and LET GO. FLOW. Let your body be free to do what it knows how to do.
And then watch your skills go to the next level.
See you on the mats.