View Full Version : How do you react to pain in class?

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Mary Eastland
12-08-2008, 05:38 AM
In class yesterday Marie's knee met the back of my arm...the pain was startleling and really woke me up...it passed....we continued.
Pain is inevitable in Aikido class...I don't feel it every class. When I do it reminds me that I can feel things and I am not dying.
See ya on the mat.

12-08-2008, 06:16 AM
got a paper cut the other day. i screamed like a girl and broke down crying. my kid gave me a cookie to help me getting over the pain. :))
so now my programming is: pain = cookie

12-08-2008, 06:29 AM
I realized long ago that there are two types of pain. One type of pain is simply that, pain. The other type of pain is your body warning you of impending injury (such as a wrist breaking). I feel that over time you learn which is which.

Now I try to ignore any pain that does not lead to injury. I want my outward appearance to be like a blank slate. So if they are punching me, pinching me, etc I simply do not show that it hurts.

Of course I'm not perfect at it...but it's a start.

Eva Antonia
12-08-2008, 06:40 AM
Hi all,

last summer an evil shiho nage was performed on my right arm; I could not do ushiro ukemi and did not know any other sort of ukemi, and it made a weird noise and hurt like hell (when hearing the noise, tori stopped twisting more...:yuck: ).

I did not react at all because at the beginning I thought it was not important, but then the arm hurt during two or three months. So I learned to do falls helping me out of shiho nage in any position.

Then there is pain that announces, like Don put it, that something worse is coming. I overdid sankyo on my right arm this summer (trying to show another uke that his sankyo was not working...and then it suddenly worked much too well), and from that one I drew the lesson not to wait with slapping until it really hurts too much. There are some ukes that accelerate towards the end, so if you slap in the right moment, it's already too late because they twist a good deal more before being able to react.

Worst of all is pain of tori's feet standing on my hair...I am thrown, I go forward in mae ukemi and than suddenly a tearing sensation in my scalp brakes everything down. To that one, I react screaming.

And then there are mat burns, and falls on the head, nikkyo (hurts always), collisions with uke/ tori...these are the minor pains I try to ignore.

Luckily I never had something REALLY bad. Maybe that is just waiting for me?

Best regards,


Janet Rosen
12-08-2008, 11:24 AM
Like Don, I've gotten really good at quickly distinguishing "benign" pain from damage pain. The former I aim to just relax and breath with. The latter, well, depends on how bad and how sudden.

12-08-2008, 01:50 PM
Add me to the list of people who have unfortunately accumulated plenty of data points on the types of pain (in my life there are actually three: injury pain, just-pain pain, and rheumatoid arthritis pain, and they're all different). I think I'm at the point now where I react to other cues as quickly as I react to injury pain -- for example, the other day the mat was very crowded and nage kind of dumped me in a corner up against a wall, so I landed awkwardly on my shoulder. It didn't really hurt but it made a funny crunchy noise, and I stopped immediately -- it was a "something not right" cue.

12-08-2008, 04:56 PM
I once heard that "Pain is just weakness leaving the body".

raul rodrigo
12-08-2008, 06:47 PM
I've seen a very wide spectrum. Once our dojocho was being used as uke by his own teacher and she hyperextended his elbow on a shihonage. He got into seiza, held the elbow completely quiet and expressionless and didn't move. Everyone understood that he was pretty badly hurt, but he wasn't going to show it. The teacher just excused him for the rest of the class. Another time a white belt sprained his ankle on a bad fall and cursed loudly and repeatedly for several minutes. We could see it was just a sprain, nothing too serious, but his reaction was so over the top that the rest of the class shifted from alarm and concern to "wait a minute, he's going on a bit too long," to open chuckling. For months afterward, all the yudansha had to do at our parties to get a laugh was repeat his !@#$@#%!@%!%%@#%. He took a ribbing for that for quite a while.


PS. I dislocated a toe once in class. I didn't curse, but I am told I yelled really loud.

Andrew S
12-09-2008, 02:28 AM
One type of pain tells you that you're alive.
The other kind tells you that you're dying...

12-09-2008, 06:51 AM
I once heard that "Pain is just weakness leaving the body".

I once heard that the earth was flat. That guy was talking crap, too.

Marie Noelle Fequiere
12-09-2008, 09:27 AM
Pain can be tricky. A few years ago, while I was mostly training in Karate, the class was performing a kata, and a young woman was distracted and miscalculated the distance between her and the teenage boy in front of her. So she kicked and slammed the blade of her foot in his elbow. She swears she did not feel anything. The boy spent the rest of the class needing to stop from time to time to rub his elbow. The girl completed the class happily, and the pain started when she got home. After a sleepless night, she went to the doctor and learned that her foot was broken. The boy was absolutely ok.
During Aikido training, I've bee waked in the head by a stray bokken once. Another time, I do not even remember what hit me, but I decided to ignore it, and forgot the pain. But one day, I was practicing kokyu nage with a guy that I think should weight a bit more than two hundred pounds. I did not move my feet correctly, and he landed on my right foot. My ankle went: KRRRRRRRRRP in protest. Sensei was passing by, and he later admitted that he heard it too. My partner was sorry, he massaged my foot, and Sensei sent him to train with somebody else. Meanwhile, I was panicking. I just could not imagine having a broken foot. So I forced myself to stand and walk a little, and realized that if I could stand, it was not broken (Sensei was pretending to ignore me, but he was watching from a distance. He just hates people whining in class). So I rested a little, and resumed my training with another partner. Everything was fine until the same two-hundred-plus pound guy was projected by his partner, and he executed a beautiful mae ukemi that sent him slamming in the side of my left leg (the one with the bad knee).
I kept training because I was having problems with the technique we were practicing and I needed to learn it.
So when I left the dojo that day, I was pretty much balanced, because I was limping from both legs. In spite of that, I did have a captivating class.
Aikido is fun!

12-09-2008, 02:19 PM
As long the pain is not become injuries, it can make us more healthy. However, many injuries occurs because of the 'excessive' actions from both Nage/Shite and Uke. It usually comes from the 'Ego' to "Show' something in mind... :) However it is could be good for 'enlightment'.
Long times ago, I still depend on 'twisting' uke's arm/wrist to execute shihonage and sankyo, etc. As the times go by, i learned more how to 'Put-Down' the Uke without Pain at least 'Less Pain'... How to ':ai: ' with the Uke and avoid the risks of injuries,. Ego, we must control the"Ego'... :)

Hopefully Useful. :ai:

Walter Martindale
12-09-2008, 11:44 PM
Two types of pain I register are:
The discomfort in the lungs, muscles, and spirit when the training load overwhelms the muscles and
The acute pain of an injury. One says rest and go again, the other says stop, heal up, and don't do that again...

Tony Wagstaffe
12-10-2008, 07:52 AM
Quietly :straightf

Nathan Wallace
12-10-2008, 07:57 AM
Quietly :straightf


12-10-2008, 10:07 AM
I say "ow" so that they know that they are hurting me or about to - if it really hurts then I bow away for a second to make sure I'm okay to keep practising. So far I've also been fortunate enough not to have been injured! </knocks on wood>

12-10-2008, 11:14 AM
I knew a fellow who got a broken forearm bone from dai-yonkyo. He wasn't reacting at all to the yonkyo pressure being applied to him until his bone made a very brief, soft, crunching sound. At the time, he didn't suffer much pain and continued to practice. Next day, though, he showed up to class in a cast. Pain can be an odd thing sometimes. The serious stuff can be quite painless at first.

And on that light and happy thought I shall end my comments.


Lan Powers
12-10-2008, 01:13 PM
Now THAT is a yonkyo to be reckoned with!!

Marc Abrams
12-10-2008, 02:15 PM
Now THAT is a yonkyo to be reckoned with!!

Pain is a signal event that has a VERY IMPORTANT evolutionary component to it. Training yourself to become inured to a pain signal is dangerous and any person who advocates that should receive a Darwin Award. If somebody does not pay attention to a pain signal to the point of serious injury (eg.broken bone from a Yonkyo), then I consider that simply foolish.

I train my body to become acutely sensitive to information from the environment (internal and external). I can then evaluate the information received and act accordingly. Pain is just one IMPORTANT piece of information that should NEVER be ignored. Just because somebody feels pain, this does not equate with "not being tough enough", giving-up, or any other negative connotation. It is information to use to survive and remain alive.

Marc Abrams

12-10-2008, 05:43 PM
Depends....My training background in the Military stresses Mission Accomplishment in spite of any pain or hardship Thats one side of an extreme reaction to pain and I am used to it.... so years later on the mat.... I ignore most pain until the next day when I turn into a cranky whiny little baby who needs his momma. :D

I swear they got this quote from my Ranger Instructor but Viggo the Master Chief in that Demi Moore SEAL movie "G.I. Jane" said it best. It starts out as

"Master Chief John Urgayle: Pain is your friend, your ally, it will tell you when you are seriously injured, it will keep you awake and angry, and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain?
Lt. Jordan O'Neil: Don't know!
Master Chief John Urgayle: It lets you know you're not dead yet!"

William Hazen

C. David Henderson
12-11-2008, 06:27 PM
I'm oddly comforted; oh, wait, no, sorry, my mistake. No, I'm not. But it is nicely stated.


Stefan Hultberg
12-13-2008, 09:09 AM
A very interesting point I think. Myself, I'm afraid, am much hampered by pain in my training, it's a barrier I would wish to overcome. There are some things that just don't seem to hurt me, yonkyo for example. On the other hand - nikkyo and sankyo reeeeaaaaalllllyyy hurt! As a very old man my arms are a bit stiff and arthritic to start with, and the ruptured biceps tendon (kokyunage) and subsequent surgery + cast doesn't help, but it would be so much better if I could relax more into the pain so to speak. As soon as sensei says the "s" in sankyo my whole body tenses up and my respiration rate goes ballistic. My training buddies are great, they know the limits, and sometimes we do the locks really slowly together to help me relax more. When I do the pain is so much reduced and suddenly I no longer huff and puff like the hurricane Cathrina.

Fear, I suppose, the ultimative barrier. Hopefully, when it comes to my pain and my fear of pain I will experience "self victory, victory right here, right now".

All the best wishes


C. David Henderson
12-13-2008, 01:17 PM

To me, it sounds like you've worked out a reasonable approach to overcoming your perceived reaction to pain, and I think you're right to focus on slowing down and trying to relax into it.

I also sometimes do the wrist warm-up exercises slowly, and try to observe how the tension in my wrist, elbow, and shoulder are connected to my core and, ultimately, my legs.

And, especially when I'm recovering from a strain in a particular joint, I find it helpful to do those exercises very gently with high repetitions, focusing on fluidity.

I injured my wrists and elbows a number of times when I was relatively new to Aikido; some of those injuries are still with me. But my tendons and joints also have increased flexibility and resilience. And, equally important, I can move much better in a way that lessens the odds of a technique doing serious damage.

I think when you aren't afraid in your body that you will be hurt, it's much easier not to have the kind of reaction you describe. And, as I bet you already understand, when you don't tense up, you have a much better chance of avoiding injury.

But it's a chicken-and-egg kind of dynamic when you're experiencing the reaction you describe. You know you need to relax; and that knowledge tends to make you more tense.

Still, it sounds like you're picking your way through the problem in a way that makes sense. FWIW.



Håkan Hagström
12-18-2008, 01:43 AM
For me it depends on the type of pain. I haven't trained for so long, so I haven't experienced anything really bad yet. If I fall hard or have a sore muscle I might go "ouch" or something, but then there's arthritic pain...

It's probably pretty stupid of me, but I haven't told anyone in class about me having arthritis. I'm afraid that they might start going easy on me, or avoid me as a training partner because they are afraid of hurting me. My doctor told me that the arthritis doesn't increase the risk of my joints getting hurt from exercise even if they hurt like heck. It's just pain, nothing more, he tells me. So I try to not show that it hurts. Just last class we started training nikkyo, and nage was telling me that I need to relax my arm when he's performing the technique, but it was very hard to do. So I guess that's how I react to arthritic pain; by tensing up. I guess I'll try to take a pill before next class...

12-18-2008, 09:19 PM
If its a super-duper-white belt, and there technique is close'ish to what it should be then i just tap; but if it is horribly wrong and i fear for one of my joints then i stop them and tell them what they are doing wrong, or i just shout, such as "shoulder!!" in the case of a poorly executed shiho-nage.

Or if its the type of random pain you mentioned, i just exept it and sit down if i need to, haha.

Or, such as when we were practicing palm-strikes as an atemi for some technique that we were doing and a girl of the same rank as me slammed a great one directly into my solar-plex, i dropped to the mat and laid there until i could breathe again:p

C. David Henderson
12-18-2008, 09:30 PM
I find doing a break-fall from shiho nage usually startles my partner enough to leave space for a brief discussion on safety... and its good practice should I be out of position when Sensei is demonstrating.

Guilty Spark
12-20-2008, 06:06 AM
Pain is a great teacher, just not many wanna attend his class.

Diane Stevenson
12-20-2008, 10:01 AM
An enthusiastic "yup to all above.

Sometimes when asked, "Oh, I hope I didn't hurt you!" My response is a cheerful, "No if that happens I'll yell real loud, trust me."

I know it's important to train smart, and not exacerbate a real injury, but usually my mantra is, "I'll hurt when I get home." If I can keep going, I do.

12-20-2008, 09:05 PM
I've noticed students in my class apologizing when they do the technique properly.

I've started a new rule. If your partner does not need a ride to the emergency room, then you better not be apologizing. :D

12-21-2008, 05:43 AM
I've noticed students in my class apologizing when they do the technique properly.

I've started a new rule. If your partner does not need a ride to the emergency room, then you better not be apologizing. :D So if they can drive themselves to the emergency room it's okay... jeez, you all are rough!

12-21-2008, 02:35 PM
So if they can drive themselves to the emergency room it's okay... jeez, you all are rough!

Obviously we don't want anyone to get hurt. But the motto is working and the students are starting to realize that they can be a lot rougher then they previously imagined. The techniques are starting to come together now the way they are suppose to.

But it is possible to get out of hand. A few days ago in bjj practice our coach stopped the class to remind us that sparing does not mean 'dominate your partner over and over for 5 minutes'. At first I thought he was just talking to the white belts, but then I realized I had been laying it on kinda thick on a kid half my size. It made me feel like a jerk.

12-21-2008, 03:13 PM
Obviously we don't want anyone to get hurt. But the motto is working and the students are starting to realize that they can be a lot rougher then they previously imagined. The techniques are starting to come together now the way they are suppose to.I know what you mean - sometimes doing a technique, having all that force and momentum coming at me really makes it click! And then it works so much better even when we're practising more slowly later, since I know what it feels like harder. If only they would invent disposable uke! (Just kidding - I'd feel weird beating up a robot, too, I guess...):rolleyes:

Andrew S
01-28-2009, 01:48 PM
"I am the pain"

Seriously though, you can train yourself to be more flexible and "absorb" more pain in some techniques. Try doing nikyo ura very slowly and going to the point where you can't endure it any more. Repeat. You will stretch the tendons so that it becomes harder to get a good nikyo on you.
A tip from Arai Sensei.

01-29-2009, 11:21 AM
im usually numb in class maybe its adrenaline but usally after class im really sore so i take the o'sensei approch HOTT BATH :D

Lyle Bogin
02-08-2009, 09:56 PM
The trick in this game is that some martial traditions that build the spirit also tend to destroy the body.

It's a fine line between mind over matter and 8 weeks on the couch.