There is a big misconception about what the meaning of Aiki (合気) is. To many practitioners of internal of so-called ‘soft’ arts aiki means matching the speed and energy of an incoming attack. In reality, this is awase (合わせ) a part necessary to creating aiki, but it’s not the compete picture. Morihei Ueshiba called it the “unification of opposites” (陰陽合致)”. Specifically, creating tension in the body by pulling in opposing directions in the yin/yang (in/yo) model. Dan Harden can explain this to you in complete and irrefutable detail. But, here’s why it’s a big deal:
There is no way you will ever learn to match speed and overcome a live attack if all you do is passively react to technique by riding along. You absolutely must create power in your your body to redirect and overcome an attack. If you are just a soft spindle, or a wet sack of (ahem), you may be a great surfer but you can’t accomplish anything. Take your technique up against a practitioner of a competing martial art and see how you do. Go to your local BJJ or MMA gym and try your aiki on them. See how well your kotegaeshi works against someone who gets grabbed day-in and day-out. Try to catch a jab to the chin with iriminage. When you get up off the floor, rethink what it has to mean.
So, how do you get real aiki? Practice. Loads of internal training, push training, spiral training, etc. Then you need real randori. Both people need to be working to achieve technique, like what BJJ practitioners call rolling. If you can’t work against resistance, you’re learning to dance. Period.
You need to be able to feel the directions you are free to move in. You need to feel the ways that you can create immobility without excessive tension. You need to learn how to create unstoppable power, not use strength. There is a lot to it that I won’t pretend to know everything about. However, I’ve seen guys who are proclaimed aiki experts get taken down as fast as the no-touch guys, and I’ve seen guys who do aikido with real aiki take them apart. Go to one (or a few) of Dan’s seminars. Ask lots of questions, then get hands on him. You will feel the difference between awase alone and aiki. It’s undeniable, and will drive you to better, more realistic training. You’ll learn what only a small handful of people can do.