In a previous post I began by providing a definition of power as the capacity, ability and willingness to act, as put forth by Robert Linithicum in his essay What is Power and How Can I be Used for the Common Good? Power can be either unilateral or relational according to Linithicum. In this post I would like to examine the types of power in relation to my Aikido practice.
Unilateral power is the power over, the power of dominance, the power of control. It is power that divides. It is the power I most relied on when I began my study. In hindsight it's not surprising since back then I was in my prime and physically very strong. Today, almost 40 years later and of slightly less prime cut, I rarely resort to unilateral power. Successfully wielding unilateral power requires that I control not only my own movements but those of my partner as well. If my partner decides that moving in the direction that I want him to is not to his liking then I must force or otherwise induce him to do what I want. Due to the expenditure of energy released trying to continuously control my partner, employing unilateral power drains my capacity to act. Applying unilateral power lessens my willingness to act since I must do something to my partner in order to get him to do what I want; not my favorite mode of behavior.
Relational power is power with, the power of concordance, the power of reconciliation. It is power that unifies. It is the power that I have come to rely on in lieu of unilateral power. Successfully wielding relational power requires that I permit my partner a certain degree of freedom of movement (within the bounds of keeping myself safe). I look to keep myself in an advantagous position that suggests a way for my partner to move that will seemingly decrease his disadvantage. As long as I can do that my partner will be encouraged to seek a position less dangerous for him. In actual practice however, as we move his position will grow steadily weaker, while my position will grow steadily stronger as I feed off the energy of his motion. At some point his position will be totally compromised and he will go to the mat, completing the technique. Unlike unilateral power which decreases my capacity to act, relational power increases my capacity to act since, instead of using energy to control my partner, I let my partner supply the energy needed to effect his own downfall. In addition to increasing my capacity to act, the application of relational power increases my willingness to act since I'm only looking to protect myself while letting my partner bear the responsibility for screwing himself into the ground, so to speak.