The term riai means, literally, a blending of [ movements of the mind]. By understanding Aikido through riai, one sees that the taijutsu techniques were developed from movements using the sword. Therefore training with the sword will develop taijutsu techniques.
The Founder said that a weapon should be used as an extension of your body [ – and of your ki-body, thus defining your ki-envel0pe]. However he stressed that one should not develop a dependence upon [actually having] a particular weapon. To build [this way of using your ki (kimochi)] one should practice the basic exercises of ken and jo suburi, tai no henko, and kokyu dosa consistently. A good understanding of these basic exercises will enable the practitioner to move smoothly and surely with or without weapons.
– – – Morihiro Saito Shihan (presumably), inside front flap of Traditional Aikido vol. 1
In Aikido, victory or defeat is decided in an instant.
– – – reported by Gozo Shioda Shihan, Aikido my spiritual journey p.23
If you pivot well with your hara, the circle that you describe, truly expressed by the body, in all its purity, will never allow your adversary to reach you. If he tries to penetrate your “sphere”, he will slide quite simply around its periphery.
– – – translated (and possibly paraphrased in translation) by Itsuo Tsuda, recorded by André Nocquet Shihan. Published in Maître Morihei Ueshiba: présence et message p.121
Tai no henka – “transformation/bewitching of the body”
– the “-KA” shows a standing person next to a fallen person –
This is the “transform their body”, “change their body” that we hear so often in the dojo, but it can also mean making a move that transforms one’s own body. There are two tai no henka in the Budo manual, two in most Yoshinkan training manuals, and five in Kanemoto Sunadomari’s Aikido Densho – and all of them are moves that transform uke’s body. One such move is the classic tai-no-henko, and this move – minus throw – is what is described in paragraph three of Budo.
Tai no henko – “transtorm the body to be facing where it was” 1)
– the “-KO” shows a window in the wall of a house –
In one of his videos, Michio Hikitsuchi Shihan makes it very clear that “tai no henka” means “transform uke’s body”, whereas “tai no henko” refers to the familiar pivot move. In Traditional Aikido vol. 1, Morihiro Saito Shihan spells “henko” this way, emphasizing the “suddenly be looking in the opposite direction” – or even the “be looking out of your partner’s eyes” aspect of it.
Tai no henko – “change/modification/alteration of the body”
– the “-KO” shows a striking hand under an altar (meaning “thirdly”) –
This is the modern spelling of the term, apparently adopted in Tokyo in the late fifties. It appears to signal conformity with the approved dictionary spelling… but the two kanji together offer a web of possible meanings that might adhere to a martial art with ancient roots, for…
…the older form of “HEN-“, as used in the printing of Budo, shows a complicated pattern of threads tied together around a word (which is to say: like words) over a striking hand –
1) not a dictionary compound, which makes it look like a creatively punning compound, common in folk-wisdom and in Omoto-kyo discourse. The spelling of the second word of Aiki Shinzui is one such.
“ Your mind must be silent, an unblemished crystal to catch the vibration...” – – – Mitsugi Saotome Shihan
“After transforming [their] body, it is essential that your legs be open in roppo, so that your posture is stable…” – – – O’Sensei
“When the face is turned around, the mind must make a complete turn-around…” – – – Koichi Tohei Shihan
“ Guiding your partner’s ‘Ki‘ onward is an important process in quickening the whole movement…” – – – Morihiro Saito Shihan
Aikido has many metaphors, and you can study each metaphor in many different ways, and every one of these ways is beneficial. So when we think about the notion of “transforming the body” [tai no henka] – one thing is, that on a very practical level, as nage, if you do not transform the body of uke – meaning you take their balance, etcetera, causing a change in their initial intention – and in fact you join intention with them – then you get nothing more than force and the use of strength and lots of shoving – and you don’t really get to explore very deeply.
Another way of thinking about this is that you have to transform your own body so that you have the capacity to feel them… so the higher level of our practice is to be able to perceive how they perceive themselves: rather than having your own perception of them you have the direct experience of how they perceive themselves. Because, in fact, when you think about leading ki… you cannot lead ki unless you can feel what they’re feeling. When you cease to feel what they’re feeling, you start doing an arbitrary motion which is no more than trying to pull on something by visual observation, or desire, or hope or whatever. But when you can perceive their own organisational aspect, then you’ve already transformed their body by merging. The transformation is union.
– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei