The schema of seven levels of aikido outlined by André Nocquet Shihan’s first student, in a book published soon after Nocquet’s death, and with full access to Nocquet’s archives and papers, almost certainly goes back to conversations in Iwama and Tokyo, 1955-58, during the time that Nocquet was one of a very small group of uchideshi – the lone uchideshi, in fact, when he first arrived.
Aside from level 2, which clearly reflects discussion about Tomiki’s university-based approach, starting in Manchuria, the schema matches up well with Morihiro Saito Shihan’s schema of four levels of waza – as taught by O’Sensei – which are outlined in some detail in Traditional Aikido vol. 5. Furthermore: the nomenclature implies that these four levels are actually the training of four different a s p e c t s of the body, something that O’Sensei discusses in Takemusu Aiki.
Nocquet’s level 1 is Saito Shihan’s kotai-geiko (the foundational training to the marrow of the hard body – one might even say: ‘stiff-bodied training’)
Nocquet’s Level 3, with its ‘absence of stress’, corresponds to Saito Shihan’s jutai-geiko (training of the soft, gentle, even “willow-like” body – this is the same kanji used in the compound: “judo” – and, old school, it is read as yawara). In practice, emphasis is laid on relaxing the upper body, on moving before contact is made and changing the angle of the hand, unbalancing uke, finding the correct angle and ma, and twisting the koshi. Over time, of course, a greater degree of relaxation unblocks the ki-meridians, which is both mentally and physically therapeutic.
Level 5 corresponds to Saito Shihan’s ryutai-geiko (training of the flowing body – this is both blood-flow and ki-flow). The emphasis is on leading uke‘s ki, which involves facility in achieving mushin – which allows one to perceive and function in the real moment, to be in katsuhayabi, and eventually to sense uke‘s initial impulse in their mind.
Level 6 corresponds to Saito Shihan’s kitai-geiko (literally: training of the ki-body, the aura) – with a deepening understanding of in-yo-ho and of the multiple meanings of shikaku (also referred to as sumikiri).
It’s worth saying that in the Vajrayana (and thus Shingon and Omoto-Kyo) view of things, one has further bodies, each one progressively larger in size, and more delicate of perception: next after the aura, would be the causal body, and after that, the etheric body (shin-tai) which O’Sensei does from time to time refer to, and which would be the body at play in…
…Level 7, which presents aikido as a way of attaining the tao, as described by Miyamoto Musashi in ‘The Scroll of Emptiness’.