View Full Version : Using Aikido to overcome or cope with serious chronic illness

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09-11-2008, 02:35 PM
I started training in 2006 and for my first year trained each day as hard as I could and made the art integral to my life. The feeling training with good people gave me was different from anything I've felt since I studied martial arts as a child/teen. I'm now middle aged.

This year I've had to deal with chronic illness, low energy, the inability to train many times because the side effects of the treatment make me feel so lousy training is the furthest thing from my mind.

I've read that training is possible and quite beneficial for various illnesses I.E healing of mind/body/spirit.

I'm nowhere near the level of skill where to use breathing and meditation etc. although I'm sure I can learn if I can get on the mat and learn to train differently. I'm curious for feedback in this issue as I'm sure many aikidoka have been ill and used their art to help with the symptoms. I read O Sensei had liver problems towards the end of his life and I'm sure he still trained ( or would like to think he trained while in pain and feeling weak) I'd like to capture a small fraction of this spirit.
thank you.

09-11-2008, 03:39 PM
Well...from my perspective (I have rheumatoid arthritis) it ain't magic. For some conditions, like mine, aikido is beneficial for simple physiological issues -- in this case because maintaining range of motion is critical. But it's like doing a lot of things that you know are "good for" your condition -- they may be "good for" your conditioning, but that doesn't mean that doing them always feels good. Sometimes, a few times, when practicing aikido I've experienced it that a locked-up joint just released, and I could feel it like water running out of a punctured tank. But many other times, when someone puts a good kotegaeshi on a flared-up wrist...well. It's "good for" me long term, but not always in the moment or for some time to follow.

Beyond that, I think if you have been training previous to your illness, there's a kind of life-affirming benefit. When you insist on doing things that were part of your life before your illness, you challenge your illness; you tell yourself that your life is still out there. There's a big risk in doing this, too, because sometimes it can backfire. Sometimes you just can't do what you used to be able to, and that may be just a temporary thing, but it can really take the heart out of you. Or it can be an epiphany, as you look around you and see things that were always there with a new eye:

The fact is, although your individual needs and shortcomings may seem very important to you, they are not really all that special. Chances are, if you can walk into a dojo under your own power, you are in good enough shape to begin training there. Of course, your asthma or your myopia or lack of flexibility may be a problem. But if you had the opportunity to ask her, you would probably discover that the woman practicing beside you is dealing with chronic arthritis. The man on the other side has a left hip that has a slight congenital deformity, and the girl behind you suffers from chronic bronchitis. And it's very likely that they all began their training by thinking their problems were as special as yours.

That quote is from Moving Towards Stillness by Dave Lowry (damn, I do quote Lowry a lot, don't I?). When I read it, it really struck me, because when I trained at JKA Boston, there was a guy who had a congenital hip deformity (which I never would have known about, except that when I was brand new there, I saw him limping and rather tactlessly asked him if he'd injured himself). There were several people with asthma -- none of them ever made much of it, they'd just put their inhalers on the shelf at the back of the training area before class. And now there's me with chronic arthritis. In my current dojo, Sensei always says, "We're all training with the bodies we have" when a new student comes in with a great deal of concern about this or that condition. It's good to let people know if you have specific limitations that they might bump up against...but I predict that the fact that you do have limitations will be distinctly unremarkable.

Janet Rosen
09-11-2008, 04:42 PM
If you haven't read it I strongly recommend Dennis Hooker's essay which is an article here on aikiweb (http://aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html).

raul rodrigo
09-11-2008, 07:42 PM
Sometimes I get the feeling that the desire to do aikido is a chronic illness.:)

09-13-2008, 03:35 PM
IMHO, training is a discipline in quality.
So is life.

Mark Uttech
09-13-2008, 10:32 PM
Onegaishimasu. Training the breath is always available. There are breathing exercises that some shihan have said made all the difference. My own practice of kokyuho at 5th kyu more than twenty years ago made a profound difference not only in my aikido practice, but in my daily life practice! Now, breathing practice does not need to take up a lot of time. At the bare minimum I practice breathing for ten minutes on my daily commute to work. The practice is to exhale though the mouth twice the count of inhaling through the nose. An easy exercise is to breath in through the nose to the count of two, hold your breath for the count of two, and then breathe out through the mouth to the count of four. The exhale, making a silent 'ha' sound is the most important point. I think the exhalation is most important because it is a 'giving' breath.

In gassho,


jennifer paige smith
09-14-2008, 01:52 PM
If you haven't read it I strongly recommend Dennis Hooker's essay which is an article here on aikiweb (http://aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html).

My thought exactly!