View Full Version : The nescessity of pain for progression in Aikido

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Guillaume Erard
11-21-2012, 12:41 AM
http://www.guillaumeerard.com/images/stories/aikido/articles/gouttard/gouttard-shihonage.jpg (http://www.guillaumeerard.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=108:the-nescessity-of-pain-for-progression-in-aikido&catid=10:articles&Itemid=110)This sensation that we call pain in Aikido is something that has always been a source of intellectual interest to me. Indeed, why are putting ourselves through that suffering? Why do we spend hours falling, rolling, getting our wrists twisted in all directions, and receiving shocks from a partner who is supposedly a "friend"? We assume that pain is necessary to progress in the Way. This pain is our limit, it is what allows us to know and to understand. Without it we are nothing. The real difficulty is not if we should sustain it but how far can we go in the acceptance of pain. More importantly perhaps, is to assess when does it become just plain stupidity?

(Original blog post may be found here (http://www.guillaumeerard.com/aikido/articles/108-the-nescessity-of-pain-for-progression-in-aikido).)

Krystal Locke
11-21-2012, 01:33 AM
Falling and rolling, at least, shouldn't hurt much at all. Discomfort is just a sign that the fall or roll is not yet correct. And we have the tool of tapping out of techniques, so really, training shouldn't hurt much at all unless I want it to, for some odd reason. Tap early and often out of a technique done correctly, tap if something is going wrong, and there's nothing wrong with tapping before the hurt comes on, if you dont want to feel pain.

I can go pretty far in accepting pain in some situations, self defense, bouncing, some of my other work.... Training isn't really one of those situations. I do aikido because it feels good, not bad.

Any discomfort is my own, and is usually caused by me. The discomfort of having bad knees, the discomfort of taking a decade off and losing a bunch of my ukemi, the discomfort of trying to move through a class with a couple twenty extra pounds....

11-21-2012, 03:45 AM
You mean the emotional and mental pain? I think that's part of the process of finding aikido's stillness. The same stillness of a tea ceremony or of making a beeline through a crowd. The mindset for training seems (to me) to need just constancy and wholehearted, simplistic dedication and willingness. It occurs to me that if we didn't develop this, then if a situation occurred where we'd need to use our training, we'd get caught up in defeating the other beyond the necessary and proving unequivocally that we're top dog. Rather than just dealing with things as they reach you, with no superfluous energy wasted elsewhere.

I dunno, does this make any sense??

Edit: I re-read the original post and it seems to me that it is actually speaking about physical pain. In that case, If I hurt another, or another hurts me, isn't it all just a sign that we're not as synced with eachother's ability/tolerance/headspace as we could/should be? It's definitely possible to give a realistic attack or defence without causing or receiving pain. And vice versa too.

11-21-2012, 05:51 AM
I think pain is a varying element - not a constant. When I have new students they start out by feeling what they very often think is pain. It is just their body gearing up to meet the challenges of training. This will pass with time.

Next level is the locks and falls. When our body is not able to give a good attack and haven't learnt to relax during ukemi, then we feel pain from the locks that become a little too hard and the falls that we are not ready for. This will pass with time also.

There is of course the pain that we get from the odd mistake - an atemi that get's too close or a fall due to loosing balance in the wrong way. This - and the fact that some times you just meet stupid people that don't care if they hurt their uke - will become less frequent as we learn more and more.

The pain from knees and other parts of our body loosing their flexibility and ability to stand a two hours keiko.. well this will become more frequent as we grow older. But during the same time we learn to listen to our body and understand when pain is just at sign of our bodies being used, a warning signal or a body part crying out for help and relief... And we hopefully listen and comply to our situaion.

In some budo's / MA's you learn to ignore pain. In Aikido - the whole mental pain issue aside - I think we become pain-afficinados. We learn to understand a larger variety of pain and assess the 'quality' of a bodily sensaition, and we learn to deal with it, expect it and even welcome it as we link thousands of yonkyos (and other techniques) with the good feeling of training and the rush of endorphines that our joyfull activity gives us.

We are a rare bread indeed. Pain is only neccesary to the least possible extend, but getting to know the way your body experiences these inputs that will feel like pain for the first (many) years is a core concept of learning Aikido.

As one of my students say: Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional :) It's not completely true, but it's not completely wrong either.


11-21-2012, 06:46 AM
IMO, the term: "No Pain, No Gain" is absolute BS. Pain is a signal to the body that something is not right and it should be avoided and not sought after. If Nage cannot control Uke's center without pain, then Nage is not doing something right.


11-21-2012, 08:16 AM
"Pain" is another of those words (like "power", being discussed in another thread) that has so many meanings that it needs additional clarification if you want to discuss whether it's good or bad, useful or harmful. When asking patients to assess their pain level, medical professionals commonly ask them to state it on a scale for 1 to 10, where 1 is almost nothing and 10 is "the worst pain you can imagine". Right off the bat, you can see that my 10 and your 10 are different. One person's pain is another person's discomfort, and when people live in situations where they can largely opt out of discomfort, they may lose the ability to distinguish between the two. Consider someone who lives in a cold climate, but who lives in a comfortable, centrally heated house. When they go to work, they walk into their heated garage, get into their car, drive to work, and get perhaps 30 feet of exposure to the climate as they walk into the office. Then one cold winter day, they don't have access to their car for some reason. This person now has to walk several blocks to the bus stop, wait for the bus in the cold, sit (or stand) on the bus (which is either way too hot or way too cold), and then walk several blocks to the office from the bus stop. Other people who ride the bus every day throw on an extra layer to stay warm, but this person, rather than adapting strategies to tolerate the discomfort, labels it "pain" and externalizes the problem, complaining incessantly: oh my god it's so cold, oh my god this bus is so overheated, dammit it's hard to stand up on this bus, and so crowded, these people take up too much room, why did that woman have to bring a stroller during rush hour, etc.

Discomfort happens; it's part of life. Heat, cold, body aches, sickness, injuries, exposure to new and challenging ideas, death of a loved one, attitude from a barista, loss of a job, a chewing-out by your boss...they're all somewhere on the discomfort scale, and we'll all probably experience all of them at some point. At one extreme, you can view them all as harmful and to be avoided; at the other extreme, there's a rather fatuous pollyanna-esque tendency to try to see them all as potential gateways to enlightenment or self-improvement or what have you. I tend to think that the good-bad scale is just not an appropriate one: discomfort/pain has more than one single dimension, so trying to see it as a continuum doesn't make sense. On the one hand, you can probably learn something from any discomfort -- ideally, you can learn compassion; minimally, you can learn how to take care of yourself better, or strategies for endurance -- but on the other hand, it may be something you already know. If you already know the lesson and have the opportunity to opt out of a repeat, why wouldn't you?

Janet Rosen
11-21-2012, 09:43 AM
We are a rare breed indeed. .

I disagree. Athletes, acrobats, dancers all experience way more pain than most aikidoka do as part of their routine training.

Fred Little
11-21-2012, 01:32 PM
I disagree. Athletes, acrobats, dancers all experience way more pain than most aikidoka do as part of their routine training.


11-21-2012, 10:36 PM
I think pain is a varying element - not a constant.

We learn to understand a larger variety of pain and assess the 'quality' of a bodily sensaition...

That's a fascinating take on the topic - pain simply as pressure that we're unacustomed to...

11-22-2012, 06:32 AM
Thank's Selin. I think Mary also stated it quite nicely in her post above with a very real and concrete example.

To Janet: I agree that those people have much more pain in their daily training regime than we do. I like to consider Aikido ka as another subspecies in the pain-afficinado family tree, but on the same main branch as those people you mention. I still think however that we are different than 'the common person' (whatever that signifies).

Also the way we learn to accept and work with pain that arises from working with other persons and their technique seem to me to put us in a different category than most others. In boxing or other offensive MA's / sports the pain is inflicted upon us by others. In dancing and athletics etc it will happen as a result from pushing your self to - and sometimes beyond - your limits.

In Aikido however I think the 'quality' of pain that we work with has similarities to a good debate. We learn to accept the other persons activities and absorb and adapt to the pain and potential pain being present between us. This - in my line of thought - distinguish what we do from what those other types of athletes do.


11-22-2012, 02:51 PM
(Yep, cheers Mary, that was what prompted me to re-read this thread in that other light. ;) )

Janet Rosen
11-22-2012, 10:50 PM
Jørgen, I think I understand the differentiation you are making. Thank you for taking the time to articulate it.

11-23-2012, 03:14 AM
Janet: my pleasure :) and keep in mind that my students may argue that my actions are not equal to my words... ;)

Great day to everyone.

Jørgen Jakob