The power of the circle

The power of the circle

Andrew Watson, Nidan Roban, 17 March 2012

There are many factors to consider in any discussion of Aikido. These factors include: stance, posture, centering, flow, blending with uke, controlling energy or ki and many others. A tome could be written on each.
All are important, all need to be considered by a practitioner of Aikido, incorporated into practice, and all need to be explored and examined. The challenge is combining them in one moment and movement in time.
One factor that always intrigues me is the circular nature of Aikido. Along with the triangle, and the square, the circle is one of the three geometric shapes integral to Aikido. The Riai logo reminds us of this.
A circle is found in most, if not all, Aikido movements. My focus in this Roban is on the power of the circle. To generate a circle you must have a centre point or axis. Rotation around the centre point or axis, at a fixed distance, maps out a circle. In aikido our hara is the centre point from which rotation and circular movement originates.
When we take our first steps in Aikido the circle quickly takes centre stage. In our first attempts at ukemi, whether mae or ushiro, our bodies quickly learn that a circular shape results in fewer bumps and brusies. Ukemi or rolling is akin to forming a wheel. When we do taisabaki, e.g. ayumi ashi tenkan, our feet map out circles. Try this in sand if you haven’t. Likewise tenkan creates a semicircle.
When you watch randori you quickly become aware of the power of the circular nature of techniques, especially taisabaki which allows nage to avoid and take control of attackers. In an attack, especially group attacks, the circular movement generated by taisabaki creates a powerful advantage for nage, defensively and offensively. Why is this? In simple terms a moving target is harder to attack than a stationary one, timing of the movement creates confusion in the attacker and openings are created for nage to exploit.
Aikido gives you the power to create circles in an attacker or uke. Various aikido techniques allow transference of circular motion between nage and uke. In general, movement of nage’s center and arms are used to generate and manipulate the type of circular motion desired in uke. A good example of this is kaiten nage (or rotary throw). Juji garami also generates rotation in uke.
Nage controls the size and orientation of circular movements. On the circumference uke feels the full effect of nage’s circular efforts. Circular movements of the hips or arms are accentuated to uke. Flowing techniques such as ki no nagare and kaiten nage are good illustrations of this aspect.
Extending ki in a circle is also another powerful illustration of the appearance of the circle in Aikido. In this case an energy circle. In mae ukemi (forward roll) our arms come together to create a circle to roll. Forming a stable circle through ki extension or unbendable arms provides a powerful platform for uke to use defensively in rolling or offensively as for example at the end of tenchi nage where arms are extended creating a circle.
The above are just a few observations illustrating the importance of the circle to Aikido.
A circle is even, harmonious and continuous by nature, akin to the essence of Aikido.