Ki musubi (lit. “tying, binding, or joining energy”) is one of the fundamental concepts in aikido. Aikido is about becoming more skilled at matching the ebb and flow of your energy to that of your attacker. The better you are at this skill, the less potential the attacker has to harm you.
Think about standing on the beach in the edge of the surf. Waves crash in, and if you try to stand your ground (in shifting sand, no less) you get blasted off your feet by the wave and then as the wave subsides you get sucked out with it. On the other hand, if you step a few steps up the beach as the wave crashes then step a few steps with the water as the wave subsides, you are left standing where you were. Rolling with the punches. Ki musubi.
Well, people work this way too. As we move around our energy constantly ebbs and flows. When we raise our center of mass we get more potential energy and less kinetic energy. Then, as we drop, we get more kinetic and less potential energy. This is perhaps the most fundamental principle of the ancient Kito (lit. “rise and fall”) School of jujitsu from which aiki and judo were both derived.
So, how do we go about ‘tying our energy’ to uke’s energy? This basically involves two skills:
- Metsuke (eye contact) – choose a place on uke’s body and point your eyes at it. Some people prefer watching uke’s center of mass. Some people prefer watching the neck. We tend to tell people to look at the bridge of their nose between their eyes. This lets you get most of their body within your peripheral vision while maintaining an absolute connection with their centerline. Don’t shift your eyes back and forth among several foci. This changes your sense of center and distance and timing. Stay on the bridge of the nose.
- Synchronization – start moving your center of mass up and down, left and right in synch with uke. This might be very slight, but it should begin as soon as you are aware of uke – before he crosses ma-ai. If you are surprised and uke jumps through ma-ai then one of the best ways to get synched is to pay attention to the footfall of uke’s front foot. Try to make your footfall during your evasion happen at the same time. The better you are at synching up-downs and left-rights, the better your timing will be.