I’ve heard it called “the rowing exercise” and “bird-boat of heaven”… all these different names for it, and I’ve heard it explained as being like the single oar Japanese style of rowing…but for me, thinking of aiki on a yogic level, it’s like winds and channels: you need to understand Heaven and Earth, and the idea of the exercise is to create a really harmonic connection between heaven and earth: and then you can understand kotodama.
The body itself is like an Aeolian harp – and in this vibrational understanding of the body, the strings of the harp have to be correctly tuned.
So when we set it up, I really focus on softening the feet. I think in earlier times, when people farmed and lived on mountains, this was just the way you were – because you’d fall down if you weren’t. And I learned a lot of this because I had a farm, and although I’m not a huge person, I can still pick up a couple of hundred pounds and haul it around because I knew how to receive energy…. and so for us, the idea of relaxing and getting the feet to open up: that connects us to chi no kokyu “the breath of the Earth”. Just as the palms open, the feet can open, and when you move your feet, the soles of the feet should open, then the ankles flex, then the knees flex, and then the hara moves – so it’s like a kinetic chain.
I always teach that if you walk on a crust of snow,…