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Gopher Boy
11-03-2002, 05:36 PM
Hi all,

We have just had a few new beginners start in our class and one is a rather large fellow. I enjoy training with him so far, both challenging myself to get the bugger down and also taking ukemi from him.

My question is this - does anyone have any general guidelines for training with big guys to help them out? He often uses more power than he should and not enough technique. I never fear for my safety or anything like that as the guy is really nice and quite gentle, but I fear that I might hurt him . (You know - the whole bigger they are the harder they fall malarky.)



11-03-2002, 08:04 PM
Hello Phill

I know the feeling very well. I'm only 5'4" tall and about 60kgs and most people in the dojos that In train at are bigger than me. When you get a training partner that's 6'6" tall and built like a brick er...shi...outhouse its a very challenging training session.

As for what I do when I am nage, when the person is a beginner, stick with the basics. Allow the person to find his/her ukemi position and guide the person there as well. These people are wonderful to train with because your technique has to be good to unbalance their posture. That is the only way you are going to shift them. My focus is taking their balance with my body and movement. The subsequent throw then becomes easier and they are usually in the right position to do the ukemi.

As for the person using strength when I am uke, I act as a dead weight neither too compliant nor resistant. Just allowing them to give me the energy to react to as Uke. You will get to feel whether they are using their centre or upper body strength. ITs pretty awesome when their technques come off with a powerful centre, especially if their Uke is small like me :) wheeee...I'm flying :D

All the best for training.

11-04-2002, 02:59 AM

Being vertically challenged myself, know the problem well...

With really strong practitioners who can't come to grips with not using their strength we normally use the "swarm" technique. Take 2-3 little-uns and get them to hold on as a group. Enough of you holding on can get them to feel the difference between using strength (which eventually won't work, or at least will be struggle) and using the technique which should be much easier for them.

Haven't figured out what to do with one-on-one shomens etc. but this works well in randori as long as some of the attackers are willing to act as dead weights in a grapple.

11-04-2002, 03:56 AM
I can only give some advise and experience from the other end of the size scale. Being over 6'5 I cant really claim to be one of the smaller aikidoka, can I? :D

In my experience one thing that can sometimes help big guys to focus more on technique and less on force is to tell them that they are reasponsible for there training partners. Of course unlearning to use your force when you are a big guy can be difficult, but will of course be extra difficult if the big ego cant accept being uke for a small (female) partner. One thing I noticed in our club is that new big guys seem to have far less problems of being uke for me than being uke for my girlfriend (who is about 5'4 and trains as long as I do) :freaky:.

As for being uke for big and strong guys. I use the methode of helping them to find the technique by making the ukemi and if necessary by guiding them through the technique with my ukemi.

11-04-2002, 07:18 AM
Regarding size and physical strength, if you can keep them extended beyond their sphere of power, it'll be a great lesson for them. Anyway, it continues to work on me… Oh yeah, I’m just a little above average in the strength department…..


Fiona D
11-04-2002, 07:31 AM
I've done a lot - in fact, almost all - of my Aikido and Jiu Jitsu training with people bigger than myself. Unsurprising, given that I'm only 5'0" and 46kg! I see 2 main things happening if I'm working with big partners (especially if they're beginners or low grades). First, there's the ones who assume that someone as small as me is REALLY fragile, and truncate all their techniques. It's fairly easy to deal with that; just a quick word in their ear, along the lines of "It's OK, I won't break if you throw me...".

As for using excessive strength, that can be a bit harder to deal with because it's often difficult for them to tell that they are throwing with strength instead of technique. In this case, if they're amenable to it, I let them know that this is happening, get them to relax more and slow the technique right down, and talk them through it - basically telling them not to try the throw until I let them know (if they can't feel it themselves initially) that they have broken my balance. I've found that this method often works very well in helping a big partner realise where the boundary between strength and technique is coming in.

Conversely, being nage for someone much bigger than myself can occasionally be a little frustrating, but in the long run, it's a really good thing - makes sure that the technique is working properly. (And it's immensely satisfying when it does, and an uke twice my size goes flying across the mat....:D ).

Bruce Baker
11-04-2002, 08:30 AM
Often, smaller people training with larger people don't take the time to use the unbalancing forces of Aikido.

You have to use the details that lead to unbalancing your partner, and you must use you entire body, not just your upper body or arms.

If that doesn't work ... a proper shot to the knee will bring them down every time, but sensei might have to discipline you for over agressive behavior.

Take the time to use the details that enhance your size and weight to be three or four times more effective than mere strength.

I am not too big at six foot tall, 275 pounds, but many smaller partners do become amazed when I am thrown easier than some of their equals. It is not because I let them, but because they finally get the details right and I go with the pain.

Learn to create imbalance and pain, and uke must go with the flow or resort to tapping out.

Use your whole body, imbalance, then pain.

Sounds simple, but that is how you get them to move.

Gopher Boy
11-04-2002, 02:50 PM
Thanks for the ideas guys. Must say though, that performing the techniques is not overly difficult. All I really do differently is make sure that my angles are right - much more diagonal. (Seems to work for me.)

The problem is not even being hurt.

When I said 'large fellow', I was being polite. He is not overly tall (we have taller) though taller than my 5'10" frame. The thing is that the guy is large .

Basically my concern comes from his size inhibiting his ability to take ukemi. Sure, all beginners have difficulty (as I do) but I am worried that I may hurt him quite badly. I find that, depending on the technique, it can be hard to perform correctly with a big guy if you are not really going at realistic speed. Using the momentum seems to be one of the keys to effective technique and technique really needs to be refined to throw bigger guys!

Thus, I feel I am stuck between not letting him feel the techniques properly and risking hurting him. :(


11-04-2002, 04:41 PM
I am that bigger partner you talk about at 6'4", 220 lbs. IMHO, don't focus on the size because your energy will stop there. Big guys tend to respond to more force, so give them less. Smaller people tend to want to give me too much. Work on getting off the line and taking their balance.

Until again,


Deb Fisher
11-04-2002, 05:45 PM
Gopher Boy wrote:

"When I said 'large fellow', I was being polite. He is not overly tall (we have taller) though taller than my 5'10" frame. The thing is that the guy is large .

Basically my concern comes from his size inhibiting his ability to take ukemi. Sure, all beginners have difficulty (as I do) but I am worried that I may hurt him quite badly. I find that, depending on the technique, it can be hard to perform correctly with a big guy if you are not really going at realistic speed. Using the momentum seems to be one of the keys to effective technique and technique really needs to be refined to throw bigger guys!"

Question: When you say 'large', are you implying that he is fat?

If you just mean that he's a big guy, then I have nothing to add, but if you're thinking he's fragile because he's fat, then I am reminded of a good judoka friend who is 4'11" and weighs 190 lbs.

This woman is incredible - in better shape than I am, she swims a mile every other day, trains regularly, rides a bicycle, eats consciously (although certainly without starving herself). Now, even though she is using her body very effectively every day and has a great heart rate, etc, her doctor is on her case about her weight alone, makes a visit about a broken arm into a discussion about weight, assumes that she is very unhealthy even though she is honest with him about her lifestyle, and basically thinks that she could just keel over and die at any minute because she's fat.

This woman kicks ass and has great control of herself on the mat (as you could imagine with such a low center of gravity), is happy and comfortable within her body (when not getting a hard time from her doctor), and can fall really, really well.

She is also weary because everybody always assumes that she is lazy and out of shape.

If this is about fatness, maybe it's a good idea to judge this guy on his actual skills and presence? Maybe that's a good place to start?

And well, if this isn't about fatness, well it's still a good story.

11-04-2002, 05:51 PM
I think I know what you're talking about. I'm 6'0, 235 lbs, but not really a "big" guy, meaning it's quite easy to throw me all over and whatnot. However, I have trained with people who do not have to imagine their bodies are spherical when trying to roll. It sounds as if this is what you're talking about.

Any martial art requires a certain amount of athleticism. I've found that most people who let themselves become entirely unable to perform everyday movements don't last long. In my experience, most people get the idea that maybe it'd be better to start getting in shape before performing martial arts.

But to your post, I'd say just work at their level. Either their level will rise and your worries will go away, or they wont last too long and your worries will still be gone.

Gopher Boy
11-04-2002, 07:31 PM
Ok, it seems that my post has been taken at the worst. Why people get so defensive I don't know. No, this guy is not fit. No he does not swim a mile every day or cycle all the time. He is, to be brutally honest, obese and very much out of shape. He is unfit and loses his breath after every technique. How can I say something like that? I must be a horrible person. Well, I'm not. I say it with confidence becuase he is honest about it himself. He realises how much he needs to change his life-style. He admits to being overly lazy and eating poorly. I, of course only applaud him for that. He now goes to the gym regularly. (But, only since starting Aikido and realising the problems his physical condition is giving him.) He is, however, a very nice guy and I like him a lot.

I am not judging him and in fact try to work with him as often as possible becuase I see others getting frustrated with him.

Deb, I know quite a few people like that - a good friend of mine at work is 5ft nothing and weighted similarly and is a very proficient in both Karate and Judo - excercising regularly. I know people who, in public views would be deemed "healthy" but in reality are very unfit. I did not automatically make the assumption that becuase this guy is big, he is also unfit. I know he is unfit because I have worked with him and he has told me.

As I mentioned, he is a beginner. Further to that, he is very un-athletic and finds all the techniques very hard due to that. I know, once again, becuase he has told me.

The main problem is that due to his lack of athletecism and a bad back caused by his weight, he is at risk of hurting himself quite badly if he falls in a bad way. And, being a beginner, he has not yet learned how to fall properly. While it may not be such a problem for a skinnier person who lacks fitness and athletecism to take less than stunning ukemi, for someone carrying a lot of weight, a bad fall can be very painful. He has hurt both his legs and his back in this way.

In a poll on this website, the majority of people said that you had to take ukemi to properly learn aikido. I agree wholeheartedly so that is why I like to work with him - I want to help him experience that crucial role.

It is not in frustration of my technique being ineffective. If that is the case then I am even more glad that I get to work with him so that I can rectify it. The same way people like to work with me for my flexibility.

I suppose that is really it. I just want some advice on any ways that I can let him experience the technique without stopping short at the end or breaking the guy's back.


p.s. - I apologise if it seems like I am getting really defensive of my post, I just should have made all this clear at the outset.

G DiPierro
11-04-2002, 08:45 PM
I just want some advice on any ways that I can let him experience the technique without stopping short at the end or breaking the guy's back.The only way he will be able to experience the technique is for him to first improve his ukemi. Incidentally, that's one reason why it is important to learn ukemi skills. Without them, one is not able to safely receive a technique executed at full power. There's no way you can do your best technique on someone who can't take the ukemi for it without injuring that person. So if you really want him to experience this, then you will have to work with him to improve his ukemi first. It sounds like it might take a while, though.

11-04-2002, 09:35 PM
I agree with Mr. Di Pierro. Guiding him by improving his ukemi will help him to experience the technique. You can do the techniques gently on him first, but one thing I experience training with bigger guys is that they tend to resist to a technique. If this should happen, give them atemi. This way they will also learn the importance of cooperation in aikido and that aikido technique can be changed depending on the situation.

11-05-2002, 12:08 AM
Hello Phil

How did you go at the Melbourne Cup...I got a big fat zip in the Office Sweep. Oh well there is always next year :rolleyes:

I agree with Giancarlo and to an extent with Sanosuke. IMHO I'd leave out the atemi though. By all accounts this person you train with is keen to learn aikido and improve his fitness and aikido. From what you have posted, its not a about him being resistant, but a matter of performing techniques that are safe for him and allow him to practice his ukemi safely. Please correct me if I have misinterpreted or missed the point.

I trained with a with a large person (I guess everyone is large when you're knee high to a grasshopper) who was a beginner, wanting to lose some weight, inflexible and unfit. He was about 6' tall and probably about 120 to 150 kgs. What I did when training with him was take his posture and then continue with the technique slowly and with commitment and centre. This allowed him to get into position to practice his ukemi. Now he wasnt resistant but at the same time wasnt compliant. He just provided consistent energy for the attack at a speed that he felt he could still keep in control to perform the ukemi safely. An absolute joy and privilege to train with for a variety of reasons. I know that Sensei took him under his wing for a while to help him with his Ukemi and basic footwork to help build his confidence and to educate him in providing energy in a committed attack. A when we were doing paired work, Sensei would keep an eye on him and give him a little more of his time, especially for the first 4/5 months.

I'm not sure this helps but please feel free to private message me if you want to discuss some ideas.

All the best and happy training :)

Bruce Baker
11-05-2002, 10:02 AM
Yep .... You really have to get larger people accustomed to Aikido, and it may take a while to do just that.

On the other hand, it is excellent practice for you to get the feeling of just how much pressure, and force to use to make a technique work.

Many people think they need to be brutally physical to make karate or Aikido work, but that is not so. The more proficient you become ... the less force is needed.

The only way you get a feeling to using correct force, pressure for an application is to sometimes practice on those who are slow to learn, or having a hard time acquiring basic skills.

Don' t consider it a penalty from sensei, but an opportunity to learn an important part of your Aikido training.

11-05-2002, 12:51 PM
Just take a look at this one.....

(from this year's Shishiya Sensei's seminar at Munich)


Gopher Boy
11-05-2002, 02:45 PM
Thanks yet again!

Mayland - no, me neither. I run the damn thing and even put in a last place prize just to accommodate people like me. Run 3 sweeps and what do I get? zip as well. (Oh, and you have interpreted the situation perfectly.)

I must say, Bruce, that I love training with beginners. Many people find that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Thus I find myself learning more about a technique when I have to try to explain it as opposed to just blindly copying sensei. Especially when I have to re-evaluate my technique for a larger person.

I suppose it is now a matter of learning to alter my techniques so that I can guide him into the safest possible landing. As his flexibility and athletecism improve I am sure that his ukemi will as well and from there we can build it up to more speed and realism.

Patience is the key I think.


11-05-2002, 08:47 PM
Just take a look at this one.....

Hello Anne

Very cute :) It looked like they were having a lot of fun at the seminar. Its wonderful to see that aikido is open to all.

All the best for training.

11-07-2002, 04:54 AM
:D It was a very nice evening (the kids attended only one class)with Sensei having the most fun of all :D


Deb Fisher
11-07-2002, 10:46 PM
Hello, I just want to clarify that I understand that there are fat people who got fat because they ate too much and/or didn't exercise...

I just wanted to understand what we were talking about without being euphamistic, that's all. I didn't mean to put you on the spot, it just felt like we were talking around your problem.

I have just enough experience to be afraid to train with people who can't take good ukemi - the situation you describe is kind of scary to me because I still struggle a lot with control. I like Mayland's POV - she's highlighting control, not speed or power. This means that your training friend will have to learn enough control to play along.

Sorry if my post provoked defensiveness... not intended.


11-11-2002, 08:51 PM

Judging by your post I'm guessing you are a lower kyu rank. If so, then perhaps you should watch how your Sempai, in particular the Yudansha, train with him and then do as they do.


11-11-2002, 11:30 PM
I'm new to Aikido. Tall, awkward and thumbling. I hate having my height slow down my reaction times, my length make training with shorter partners strange. And I've come to the conclusion that any person smaller than me can kick my butt.

any 'problems' i've had training have only ever been related to people who have used force, (no matter what height/size they are)when technique would have been more effective.

I've come into classes thinking that practice was just that. Enabling each to learn from the other. Perhaps its the pacifist in me, or the fact that I'm very new.