The three phase practice model telescopes. For a student at the primary level, it is predictable. For a more advanced student, the three levels of practice are defined relative to the purpose of a given session.
Phase One is fundamental, and refers to whatever has been demonstrated as basic (kihon) for the purposes of a given session. At the primary level, this means naming the technique in Japanese before beginning, a focus on one's own structure/posture and balance, and a slow stop-start movement in silence through each balance transition.
Phase Two is flowing (ki no nagare) and includes a scripted phrase that helps the practitioner integrate a specific concept that is vital to the martial (in confict) application of each particular technique. At the primary level, this means that one partner will continue the movement of the other, both speaking as they engage, with the focus of one being on the movement of and connection with the other.
Phase Three draws all the elements of the previous two phases together, as though committing to both awareness of an entire system and this particular moment in time, connecting different strands by making one knot (ki musubi). At the primary level this means uncertainty and little explicit guidance, simplifying as much as possible to move directly to a different state, to speak or not, to attack physically or not is decided in the moment, so that attention, choice, and movement must be sharp and clear.
At an advanced level, each phase can expand into three sub-phases, for deeper integration of the process being practiced. For instance, a practice can:
remain basic (self and structure focused) while being done three ways: slowly, with more motion but with pauses for exploration or to return to a theme, and then as simply/directly as possible. This is Phase One expanded and expressed in a three part progression.
flow in different ways that 1) help to reinforce rather than challenge strutural integrity, 2) truly expand the space avalable for movement beyond the comfort zone, and 3) simplify through larger-than-life expansion rather than compression to tiny circles. This is Phase two expanded into three levels.
simplify without losing essential funtions so that 1) efforts at maintaining structure disappear in the establishment of posture 2) the minimum possible blend becomes sufficient before redirection and 3) adjustments are already made before anyone is fully aware that an interaction was in progress.
(pron. key-hohn), or Basic, concerned with Function and posture, attention to self, fundamental structure/balance
"Pausing to sense what I am actually doing, step-by-step, this is how I balance while connecting and blending. When someone is connected to me and I move into/with balance, they become aware of their own imbalance."
Ki no nagare/Flowing
concerned with taking the grounded functionalism into continuous connection and blending, attention to other and continuous connection
"Without pausing, continue the initial reception, connection, and attention to places where there is an imbalance."
the two previous stages tied together--woven into a moment, the martial Now in which each movement is the Finish and both legitimate (effective) self-defense and an embodiment of a carefully cultivated ethical character allow attention to be paid to all aspects of the system as choices are made now.
"Connecting as early as possible, immediately bring your structure into balance in a way that accounts for the parts of the system that are out of balance, and weave the actual movements happening together in a Now of dropping into a third point."
Beyond the three part learning series, always repeating, is Takemusu (pron. tah-keh-moo-soo), or emergent improvisation in which each response is the ideal response to the choices happening in the whole conflict system. You may want to watch Aiki Peace Week 2012 Classes with Brandon Williamscraig for an articulation of the basic themes of aikido as it applies to Martial Nonviolence to put this all in context.
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