O’Sensei said that the two most important things for practising aiki are: “ki kata” and “tanren-ho“. We think we know what tanren-ho is: at its simplest it’s the repeated striking at a bundle of wood with a bokken, just as in those iconic pictures of O’Sensei and Saito Shihan in the fields at Iwama. But “ki kata“? Does that mean “kokyu-waza” (“aiki-waza” ) ? Or is it possible that O’Sensei is thinking of kata not as physical forms… but as ki-flow? The shape and movement of ki-flow? That, in fact, O’Sensei saw kata primarily as ki-flow – and maybe he wasn’t watching physical form at all?
One thinks of Zeami’s remark that the highest form of singing in Noh theatre is the “singing of no singing” – where the performer is so focused on what they are doing to the audience – on the emotion that they are creating – that they are not consciously aware of the sound of their own voice.
The more one translates O’Sensei’s words and thought, the more it becomes obvious that, for him, what happens in the mind is primary..