View Full Version : Keeping the "unbendable arms"

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11-06-2001, 07:57 PM
somehow keeping the "unbendable arms" is a tough task for me ... last nite during practice, my sensei told me to relax (my shoulders were kinda tense), so I relaxed but then when I was performing kata my arms were too "loose", i.e. they would compress like springs when I walked forwards ...

"you should 'lock' ur joints so your arms are like a pair of spear .." said my sensei.

now that puts a huge question mark above my head ... how can one keeps "unbendable arms" while being relaxed? are there any exercises that I can develope the "unbendable arms" ?

and my sensei talks about "extending" our arms ... my understanding of"extending" means using deltoid and triceps as a power source ... am I in the right track or totally off the mark?



11-06-2001, 08:12 PM
To my understanding, "unbendable arm" is unbendable exactly because you are relaxed. Mechanically, I've heard people say that it's the exact position where the musco-skeletal structure of the arm is at its most powerful. Tensing the muscles on either the flexor or extensor side would disrupt that balance. And as to 'locking' your joint, no disrespect, but you probably misunderstood what your sensei was saying, since it's not really a full extension of the arms to absolutely lock out your joint but rather a 'stabilization' of your joint if you will - I can't really explain this.

As to extension, I always understood it as more of an outward, 'raising' movement, similar to raising a sword in an arc, rather than a 'push' per se. I think ikkyo undo and bokken suburi would probably be helpful.

11-06-2001, 08:47 PM
thanks Frederick .. sounds like it's my coordination problem .. ha ha

just one more tiny question ... what do u mean by "stablizing" the joints ? like keeping them "still" and "relaxed" ?


11-06-2001, 09:12 PM
ok I relize that there is more than one way to teach this great excersize so.. here is how my sensi described it ( i am quite good at it i have had line backers try to bend my arm with all their strength and i cant bench 120 pounds yet ( or spell for that matter.)

first raise your arme infront of you but keep it a little bent so it is like a VERY WIDE v or just as you would hold a bottle of beer in front of you ( i perfer tea!) then consitrate outward dont think here think out but be sure to consentrate ( i am getting to the point where i dont have to consentrate so much) and RELAX dont tighenen up but still focus outward and imagin that you are reaching for something out or engergy is flowing from arm out to your focused point and its not going to be distrubted.

hope this isnt to complex

11-07-2001, 10:15 AM
Hmm, as I said before, it's a little hard to explain.

Have you tried unbendable arm in the way Dallas described? Once you've tried that, it becomes very clear on a sensory dimension - kind of thinking of your arm as an unjointed, single unit, like a firehose spewing water at high velocity. I think your dojo mates most probably know this exercise already. Get some of them to test you and you'll find that the more completely you ignore their efforts to bend your arm the more difficult it will be for them to do it. Your arm mustn't be a limp noodle, but if you concentrate on the person trying to bend your arm, you'll unconsciously use your muscles to resist, thereby defeating yourself.

Once you get used to trying this 'trick' it becomes much more natural to apply unbendable arm to your normal technique.

11-07-2001, 11:26 AM
It reminded me of when I talked about the unbendable arm with my wife. She has no problem doing it at all, and it's because she did ballet for 7-8 years.

She said relaxation and extension are the basic of ballet.

Once she had me do the "first position", where one of your foot in front of the other but facing oppsite direction and have both of your arms up like hugging a giant tree. You are not suppose to tense up to hold your arms up, your shoulder should stay level, not hunching(?) your shoulder/back at all.

That was tough, but if you relax and extends, you can do it for a long time.(which I can barely do 2 minutes)

11-07-2001, 10:09 PM
thanks you guys for the advice ...

just one more thing ... when I was extending my arms ... I only felt that my deltoids were working ... was i doing it wrong *again* :D ?


11-07-2001, 10:36 PM
I find I can get a solid unbendable arm just by pretending my arm is three to five feet longer than it is. (and it's pretty long to begin with).

11-08-2001, 07:20 AM
Hi Colin,

If you raise your shoulders and lock your arms your whole body is controllable through your wrists - so you don't want that.

Your arms should be very slightly bent. When you are trying to extend, imagine you are reaching out into the distance e.g. trying to grab the opposite wall; it should feel a bit like the stretch you do when you are yawning. What is happening is that your triceps are keeping your arms in this position (so you do have to use muscles), but the atagonistic muscles - the bisceps are not coming in to play. It is then your hips and centre that are pushing forward, and your arms are just out in front. If you find you arms collapsing it is because you are pushing in with your centre, but the arms aren't moving with you - it is far better to just stay where you are and feel the pressure, rather than collapse.

Like everything in aikido, you just have to keep training and eventually you'll understand!

There are excerices you can do to help develop relaxed shoulders while extending. Plenty (about 2-300) of bokken cuts on a regular basis is useful. Not only does it build up your back muscles, but your shoulders generally aren't strong enough to do this many cuts whilst tense, so you start to use your body properly.


11-08-2001, 07:37 AM
Wirianto was talking about a ballet stance. Sounds very similar to soemthing I do in Chi Gung which has helped my aikido enormously - in fact some people refer to it as 'hugging the tree'; (Sorry if this is long).

Stand with feet pointing forwards and shoulder width apart. Bend you knees such that it feels you are holding a large ball between your knees. You are also sitting on a large ball (similar feeling to perching on the end of a stool). Feet flat, weight directed just centrally, just behind the balls of your feet.

Your spine must be straight; curl in your tail bone (so back of hips is in line with spine). Stretch the top of your head upwards and straighten your neck (for most people this feels like pushing your head backwards (while keeping it straight) - to line up your spine. - if in doubt stand in stance against the edge of an open door to feel what it should be like.

Raise your (relaxed) arms in front of your body. Have bent elbows and wrists. Underneath your armpits you should imagine (have the space for) a ball the size of a tennis ball. Your arms should be rounded as if you are holding a large beach ball near the bottom (this keeps your elbows low and out).

Your wrists should not be any higher than your shoulders (and palms facing in towards you, as if you were holding this beach ball in your arms). Your shoulders should be relaxed - imagine that your elbows are supported on two balls 'floating in a stream'. Your fingers also have small marbles in between them.


Though this sounds complicated you have to imagine these balls to get the correct position. At first it will feel that the weight of your arms is pulling them out of your shoulder sockets - but this is just your joints stretching (do not do this outside in high winds; bad for the joints). Any past injuries may also ache, but they will strengthen in time.

Try a few minutes each day. Ideally you should work up to 20 minutes (I've stuck at around 10 minutes). If your legs and arms are shaking, don't worry; but do not tense your shoulders or legs (you have to remember you are being completely supported by these balls).
Breath deeply and in a relaxed manner (without making evident noises).

Sounds surreal but its helped me with aikido and also strengthened my shoulder (I dislocated my collar bone a couple of years ago).


11-08-2001, 07:55 PM
Hi Ian,

that's a very descriptive instruction, thanks mate. yeah, I agree with u on bokken cutting .. it does help to understand NOT to use the shoulders. but as u understand, living in hk u really dun have the luxury to train at home ... especially when u r 5'11 and once u raise the bokken and it would go thru the ceiling ... :D

actually from a local martial arts msg board, people have been expressing Tai Chi and Aikido is such a good combination since they are really compatible to each other. Ian, would you please give us more on that topic?

thanks again



11-09-2001, 08:54 AM
Well I can't really say much more. Tai Chi has very similar techniques (ikkyo, nikkyo, etc even zenponage/sumi-otoshi), as do many martial arts. Push hands involves having contact (wrist to wrist) and moving the contact point around in a circle. Each of you feel when the other either over extends themselves or withdraws too much. This can results in ikkyo, kokyu-nage or other techniques. Also, although tai-chi people often move their hips more in an up and down direction, and sometimes use a 'whipping' motion with their hands, everything is generated and controlled by their centre. Also, even for punching, the arms must be relaxed (until the final point of contact). This increases speed and response. Of course, just like Aikido, much of tai-chi is now orientated around 'excercise' and therefore people go through the movements with little or no control of their hands by their centre.

In some ways I think Aikido has regained aspects of Chinese martial arts which alot of Japanese martial arts have lost (relaxation, centering, moving with the person).

An example from writings on Tai Chi :

"When he puts pressure on or attacks us in one direction, rather than resisting the pressure or the attack, we
confront him with the Void by either diverting his force away from us or by removing ourselves from the path of his
force and then attempt to counter attack him as he is unbalanced.
Being still higher or lower than the opponent means that if his force is upward directed we direct it even further
upward, likewise if it is downward directed we direct it yet further down."


11-09-2001, 10:38 PM
Originally posted by colinlam
thanks you guys for the advice ...

just one more thing ... when I was extending my arms ... I only felt that my deltoids were working ... was i doing it wrong *again* :D ?


If you're doing the exercise correctly, you shouldn't be feeling much of anything. Check out unbendable arm (http://www.bodymindandmodem.com/CoolKi/Unbend.html) at Mind, Body and Modem (http://www.bodymindandmodem.com/Main/main.html). If you have a Shockwave plug-in (http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/) you'll see what Chris "Irony" Pasley is writing about. :cool:

11-12-2001, 12:15 AM
thanks Ted, that's a great web site u have there ... I like that "unbendable arm" demostration ... that arm really extended !!! :D

okay I have more questions to throw at everyone this time ..... do you practice taisabaki at your Dojos? Cos I haven't heard anyone talking about it in this forum .... *maybe I'm too new here ... hee*

oh and thank you everyone for sharing their experience with me .

have a nice day !


11-13-2001, 04:21 AM
P.S. Ted,

I tried that one where you make a ring from your finger and thumb, thinking there was some trick to it (like your fingers are just more responsive and you let the shape of the hole bend as people pull) but this isn't the case at all - I can't explain it but it does work!


11-13-2001, 04:25 AM
Hi Colin,

hope you enjoyed those texts on tai-chi. As regards Tai-sebaki, it is probably better to start a new thread.

We practise it quite a lot (I think it is essential practise for tenkan movements), but you have to be careful not to damage your knee ligaments by putting a torsion on it (best way I've found is to put more weight in the heel, and also to start by just turning around a 90 deg. corner so that your hips get used to twisting instead of your knees).