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Kathy Park
03-12-2002, 01:07 PM
As a teacher, I am always interested in finding new ways, sometimes bizarre ways, to help students get into their bodies, learn to move from their hips, and become more present. Here are two I've found very useful: Industrial size hula hoops!! They're 16 feet in circumference made from one inch diameter irrigation pipe and decorated with colorful duct tape. What a way to learn how to move your hips! Try tenkan with the hoop. Try shikko walking. Try two, then three at a time. We're up to five. You really have to lower your center in order to stabilize five, especially when they go into chaos. Try playing catch while hula-hooping!
That leads me to my second training aid - a soccer sized rubber ball. I'm tired of telling my students to keep their backs straight and their eyes in the room, so instead, after demonstrating a technique, I walk around the mat throwing the ball to each nage at the completion of their throw. A good nage catches the ball!!
What are your bizarre training aids and techniques?:p

03-12-2002, 03:45 PM
Obstacle courses for ukemi and knee walking practice. I got the idea when I saw a bunch of cones in the dojo. I would set up some cones and have people knee walk around them (forward and backward). I would also include forward rolls over elevated jo's, rolls over 2 jo's for distance, rolling between 2 jo's for tight rolls, include backward/forward rolls (both low and high) and if I were feeling in the mood I'd hold a jo and move it as someone came to roll somewhere in the course. Basically anything to mess with people's patterns. I'd get up to 10 different drills. I miss those cones.

Another thing I did, not terribly weird though, was to set people up in a circle and have people attack while nage threw them at the people standing in the circle. The idea was to keep people awake and aware of other people throwing around them. I have mixed feelings about this. People tended to nap on it and things sometimes got more interesting than I'd hoped but then the idea was to wake people up.

I like the ball idea. You should throw it at uke too so they don't sleep during and after a roll.

03-12-2002, 04:38 PM
Hmm, having poor peripheral vision I am not so sure I'd like dodge ball-cum-Aikido...:confused:

My last sensei would take a piece of cloth or small towel, tie a knot in it and sit in seiza across the mat from us. Then one at a time from a single file line we'd run towards him; he'd toss the cloth, and our goal was to catch it (preferably on the fly), finish the roll, and toss it back as we rejoined the line. Not nearly as bizarre as hula hoops, but it was a lot of fun, kept us alert/flexible to change in direction and good ukemi practice. And a lot of funbb:D

03-12-2002, 04:46 PM

This isn't necessarily a physical training aid, but rather a means to illustrate a point.

On my way home from a seminar recently, my wife and I stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. While waiting to be seated, we browsed around the store. I happened upon this display of iron puzzles, I'm sure you've seen them before. Anywho, one of the puzzles was called the nail puzzle. Two simple nails bent in such fashion that they are looped together. The goal is to separate the nails from one another, it's a really simple puzzle.

While working the puzzle and figuring out how to separate the nails I thought about how this puzzle relates to Aikido. You see, in order to separate the nails, you must effectively "blend" the two nails together in a sort of irmi to tenkan movement. I bought two puzzles ($.99 each) and took them to my next class.

At the beginning of class I passed the puzzles around and gave each student 10 seconds to solve it. Nobody figured it out. We worked on Shomenuchi Iriminage that night, and throughout class I talked about "blending" and redirection. At the end of class I passed the puzzles around again (after a quick explanation of how to solve it by blending) and several students figured it out.

By showing how one nail is uke and the other nail is nage, I was able to elaborate on a very simple but often hard to grasp concept in Aikido - blending.

And the class thought it was fun :)

Liz Baron
03-12-2002, 05:27 PM
Learn to juggle!

Long before I took to Aikido, I learned the basic three-ball cascade. Amongst other things it requires good centring, lower body stability, upper body fluidity, arm and wrist flexibility, gestalt vision, and helps me promote concentration, relaxation, good breathing and posture. It's a great stress reliever, and I have used it as a form of meditation too.

It's an infinite test because there's no end to the variations, and it has the bonus of being enormous fun.

Just don't try eggs until you're quite good :freaky:


03-12-2002, 05:53 PM
One thing our senior student does to let people "feel" how to remain connected and to move from their hips is he gets two people and puts a jo between them, one end on one person's obi and the other end on the other person's obi. The jo shouldn't be pressing hard into neither person's stomach but, basically, should be "balanced" on their respective obi. One of the pair is then designated for a short time as the "leader" and walks forward and back in a slow pace while the other person tries to keep up in both directions. The trick here, of course, is to move without letting the jo drop or poke oneself in the stomach.

We also have little stuffed, red crabs dolls in our dojo, presumably for the children's class. I've used this during a few of the beginners classes I've lead and placed them on people's heads and asked them to do a technique like iriminage (as nage!). Wonder of wonders, it sure helps their postures...

I also see that Bu Jin Design (http://www.bujindesign.com) has recently come out with a weight vest (http://www.bujindesign.com/blkdogi.html#vest) that'll allow people to train (again, as nage!) with up to 40 pounds of weights on their body. The vest is supposed to get people to move from their center, keep good posture, and generally develop more efficient movements. I've felt my teacher with one of these things on (with, I think, 20 pounds?) to demonstrate it's quite possible to move around quite well with such; of course, it just made him feel like he weighed 520 pounds rather than the usual 500 pounds that he feels like when he's throwing me!

-- Jun

03-12-2002, 05:54 PM
My sensei used the following method once:

In futari gake, the uke attack using morote dori. Both of the uke at the same time held the nage, sometimes pulling sideways and sometimes pulling the nage to the back. Basically constricting the move of the arms.

There is a third person whose job is to throw the nage a plastic cup. The objective is, the nage must not let that plastic cup fall to the ground. It starts with dropping the cup right in front of the nage, the it develops to throwing the cup short, making the nage move in order to save the cup.

The point of this exercise is focus power. If one keeps focus (100%) at what one is doing (in this case, saving the cup), without having the mental burden of being constricted, that task can and will be done. This focus and mental training is fit for everyday life as well as in any Aikido techniques.

03-12-2002, 09:11 PM
How about trying to do high breakfalls while holding a full pint of beer, whithout spilling a drop? Or Uke trying to take the pint from Nage, who tries to do tenkan?

For real Aikidoka (Japanese meaning: obsessed beer drinkers), no one can get near their beer.


03-13-2002, 02:40 AM
I like to take one of those cloth balls you can get in the toy store that will say things when dropped or have an impact with something, and play catch. The point of the exercise is to blend with the throw, catch the ball without it making a noise and re-throw it all without stopping your motion. The better you get the harder the throw.

Sometimes we'll play ukemi tag. It's basically just tag but the only way you're allowed to move is forward/backward rolling and shikko. It's really a pretty good workout.

My first instructor also used to do "the washing machine". We would all stand in a tight circle, one person would stand in the middle with hands together at their chest with elbows tucked in tight. The rest would then begin to push and spin the person in the circle. It really did help to teach awareness of center and to keep your shoulders over your hips.

While my students are doing backwards rolls I'll stand at the other end of the room and hold up fingers. I then ask one of them how many fingers I was holding up. I'm trying to get them to pay attention to there surroundings even while rolling.

One I've started doing lately is "blind" randori. Nage stands with eyes closed and the uke attack slowly with grabs only. It forces nage to feel the direction of the "attack" without getting all wrapped up in what they see or think they see.

There are some really good training aid ideas in C.M. Shifflett's book "Aikido exercises for teaching and training"

Fun thread, thanks

03-13-2002, 03:52 AM
We've just had a 5 day gasshuku with Masuda Shihan (and a few other visiting Japanese senseis, all of whom were amazing)and he (Masuda Shihan) attached a golf glove to the end of a bokken to show us how we could practice taking uke's hand for nikyo.

Unusual, but it was easier to see than when he was demonstrating on uke. Don't know if I'll be practicing that way myself...

Also had one sensei who brought in platic soft drink bottles to try to hit each other over the head with - missed that one unfortunately. Sounds like fun.

Jim ashby
03-13-2002, 04:01 AM
We use the plastic bottles regularly, One of the best training aids I've seen used was a towel. Used as the only connection between Nage and Uke in a form of Kokyu Nage, it showed the necessity to have a positive lead, if the towel went slack, the connection was lost. Worked a treat.

03-13-2002, 04:59 AM
One comment on Bronson's idea of "blind" randori:
I love this training form, but I'd suggest not to close the eyes but use blindfolds instead. Closing the eyes changes the brain waves patterns to sleep mode, and thus changes your ability to use your senses / coordinate you body. Have you ever seen a blind person running around with closed eyes? You could think it makes no difference, but it surely does!
One more suggestion: while in the beginning only nage uses the blindfolds (so uke can guide the pair away from walls), at a later stage you could try both with blindfolds, or secretly sneek in a different uke, or...
Have fun with it!

03-13-2002, 08:03 AM
I have tried a couple of things that have seemed to work well.

The first is an old bowling ball. You have the person hold the ball next to their hara and practice tenkan movements.

The second is plastic golf tubes. These are the tubes used in a golf bag to protect the handles and shafts of the clubs. They are very lightweight and make a nice "bonk" noise when you hit someone without causing any damage. These are great for working with a beginner for iremi practice. They are also good for paired bokken practice where you can really try to hit someone without worrying about hurting them.

Finally, one of the best tools that I have found for paired weapons is my patented "no tools at all" method. Have the students try doing the paired weapons kata without the bokken or jo and make sure they pay attention to spacing, timing, etc....just as if they were holding a real bokken or jo. For some reason this really improves timing and distance because uke and nage tend to concentrate on their partner rather than the weapon they would typically have in their hand.

Kathy Park
03-13-2002, 12:39 PM
This is so fun to hear so many great ideas from all over the globe. I have to say this is my first experience with starting a thread and I think this is SO COOL.
Another game we need to play more in our dojo is invisible nage and invisible uke. My favorite is invisible nage, because uke gets to attack and be thrown by an invisible force (and doesn't life feel that way sometimes). But you really learn what's happening when you portray only half the interaction.
I love the blindfold work as well. Some of my best times as nage are when I'm blindfolded. Something great comes through.
Thanks for giving me an expanded sense of the Aikido community!!

03-13-2002, 02:37 PM
We usually stand in a circle and play a Russian ethnic game called "Dogoni Menya Kirpich'". :p

03-13-2002, 03:01 PM
Originally posted by shihonage
We usually stand in a circle and play a Russian ethnic game called "Dogoni Menya Kirpich'". :p

While waiting for the other shoe to drop...

Following up on an image Ikeda used to offer for teaching kokyu ho, I brought a large (6" diameter) plastic jar to class and had nage open/close it as an heuristic for the motion of kokyu.

At a recent seminar, George Ledyard offered something Frank Doran has done to enhance nage's awareness of the openings in his defense: All nage's place a dollar in their belts/hakamas. If uke can get them, nage, er, foots the bill (and understands that it was a cheaper lesson than getting knifed...)

There's also shiko dodge ball.

03-14-2002, 06:52 AM
There was a time in our dojo that my sensei asked me to hop on his back while he did tenchi-nage and to my surprise his movement was very smooth and flawless compared to the other nages I jumped on, I guess it has a similar concept to the weight vest that Jun mentioned.

But my favorite was this time that one of our senseis stressed the importance of evasion and irimi, so he made us put our hands behind our backs and he'd get a bokken and do either tsuki, shomen-uchi or yokomen-uchi and we'd have to evade and if we weren't able to dodge his attack then...sorry! :eek:


03-27-2002, 05:09 AM
As a teacher, I am always interested in finding new ways, sometimes bizarre ways,...

Had fun with one tonight. Befor class I typed up a list of our basic attacks, techniques and modifiers (tenkan, irimi,...)
I cut them up and placed each type into a seperate hat. The students got in groups and would pick one attack, one modifer, and one technique. They then had to try and figure out how to make it work using all of the things they had. I was really pretty amazed at some of the stuff they came up with. Not to mention some of the weird combinations you can come up with (ganmentsuki choyaku yonkyo comes to mind). After they had a decent handle on their "new" technique I had them demonstrate it to the class and then we'd all practice what they had come up with. It was a lot of fun and seemed to get the students thinking.