View Full Version : Body awareness
11-14-2002, 11:31 AM
My difficulties in training, and the mention of this subject in a thread on the VOE forum, made me want to ask if anyone trains to make themselves more aware of their own body. Do you think that aikido training itself is sufficient to increase awareness of one's own body or there exercises that are more effective, or will help speed up awareness? If anyone has found other exercises to be beneficial for this would you be willing to explain what they are? I find that I often have trouble getting my body to do what I want during training and I am wondering what I can do about it. Any thoughts or ideas?:)
11-14-2002, 12:58 PM
For me, this would come under the category of ki development exercises.
Try Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training (http://www.round-earth.com/books.html#AIKEXT). A very comprehensive book.
Because it deals with the internal and body awareness, you'll find many Qi Gong and Tai Chi exercises also helpful.
11-14-2002, 01:39 PM
An exercise my tai chi instructor used to have us do at home was: When lying in bed close your eyes and inhale deeply into the abdomen. When you exhale feel yourself sinking into the bed, feel yourself getting heavier. After a few of these to relax yourself you start "putting your awareness" into different parts of your body. It seemed to me to be easier to start with big things like the left leg. Basically you think about the body part and concentrate on it until it feels different from the other one. Unfortunately I can't explain the difference. Different people felt different things. Sometimes it's just an "awareness" of the one over the other. After you feel the difference you move your awareness to a different body part. It doesn't matter which one or in what order. As I understood it you are teaching yourself what it feels like to just be in your body. This sounds strange but I've seen people who really need this. We have a student in class right now who has to look at her feet to tell you which way they are pointing, and if her hand is next to her ear and you tell her to lower it she is genuinely surprised to find it is that high. She truly is an alien in her own body.
Anyway, after a little practice you start picking more specific parts, the lower leg, the forearm, the hand, the face, the middle toe, the first joint of the right pinky finger, etc. I can't really list the benefits I've gotten from this. It was more of a better sense of my body and what it feels like in a large, general sense.
Hope this helps
I think it's very important to develop a good sense of propriocentric awareness. It's easy for most people, of course, to feel where they are when they're still; but to extend that into movement is a lot more difficult.
It's sometimes interesting to put your awareness into different parts of your body as you do a technique -- even (especially) during some exercises like tenkan (tai no henko) or irimi. Interesting places of my body that have given me some insight (I think) includes the back of my shoulders, my jaw, my lower back, my pelvis, and my back foot.
Also interesting for me was taking the "Awareness through Movement" class offered by a Feldenkrais practitioner. It gave me some interesting thoughts on efficiency of movement and methods of "re-educating" my body in certain ways.
In any case, good question!
11-14-2002, 07:48 PM
I was going to mention Feldenkrais. There are also other methods, apparently also very effective, such as the Alexander Technique and Laban Technique. I, personally, have recently become involved in Contact Improv (which is a form of modern dance) and found it very helpful. It's a comfortable step for me because some of its roots are in AiKiDo. I suspect that many forms of modern dance would be helpful and many of the are currently informed by the study of body awareness techniques of various sorts.
11-14-2002, 09:05 PM
Ted, thanks for pointing out that book to me, it looks good, I will try to buy a copy of it soon. Our sensei does Qi Gong and he's taught us a few exercises.
Thank you Bronson and Jun, I will try the exercises you both mentioned. How often do you usually do these? As for the student you mentioned who has to look at her feet, I've had similar experiences, not too often thankfully. It's rather disconcerting and annoying, to find your body isn't doing what you thought it was.:disgust: I'll have to look Feldenkrais up on the web as I've no idea what it is.
I've never heard any of the things you mentioned either Opher, I think I have a fair bit if researching to do. Thank you for the ideas everyone.:)
11-15-2002, 05:52 AM
I am going to review the three things I have had to address to get my body to do what my mind wants it to do.
As most early training in martial arts, working with hand and eye coordination drills helps to increase speed of movement, but that is a matter of simple dexterity that comes with practice.
The next thing addressed is practicing techniques within the practice of each martial art without straying into the grey areas of introducing another technique from another art. I had quite a lot of freeze up moments that looked like I didn't understand what was being taught, when in reality it was a conflict of mind that, much like a computer, caused a slower running transfer of thought to body. There is always a symbolic 'empty your cup' but once you do that then you are at the mercy of those teaching you, without a backup plan in your back pocket. So, I slogged through the first couple of years trying not to injure anyone with pokes, punches, sweeps, locks, or manipulations beyond the basics taught by the teachers of Aikido. Once in a while, you will a teacher who flashes a punch or kick, but then they too are showing their training in other arts with these signals of " I have other means to protect myself."
So, you should let the practice go the way it goes, and allow time and practice to progress in whatever timeline it progresses.
Now, this type of thought will bring you to the third problem, the mind. The mind does not need superfluous thought in transmitting thoughts to the body. If you have tension, stress, turmoil to resolve, it will inhibit the transmission of thought to body in a clear thought that can be interpreted as movement.
There are many ways to isolate, identify, and deal with the myriad of thoughts that come to mind, some of these are stress relief methods, confronting the things on your mind and finding resolution, or using the many methods of meditation that let these thoughts work out in your conscious and subconscious mind so that the link of body and mind is strong in transmission of thought to movement.
1.) address coordination.
In addressing coordination there is the unconscious confrontation of clearing the mind by letting it think, without additional input, and your subconscious mind is being trained to react from movement you see or sense.
2.) Physical practice.
After coordination, there is conscious practice to master particular techniques on both a physical level, and mental picture which understands the goal of physical practice. You set a goal, you register results, you continue practice to reach that goal.
3.)Clearing the mind.
Resolving turmoil, conflicting thoughts that can not be dealt with in the normal occurance of practice. Some people can do this with meditation, talking to friends, or just by being left alone to resolve turmoil of thoughts that conflict with the conscious mind and deter the clear transfer of thoughts to movement. Others need to seek professional help to identify and find solutions to resolve this problem. Whether you find it with practice, meditation, or professional help, it will make a big difference in your confidence and performance level.
Anyway, that is what works for me in identifying what allows me to improve physical performance verses not knowing why I can progress no further because of mental freezeup or poor reflexes for physical practice.
11-15-2002, 10:17 AM
Contact Improv: http://www.contactimprov.net/
There are all from simple web searches with just a little bit of editorial discretion on my part. They should be a start for each of these methods. You are welcome to e-mail me (email@example.com) for more info if you like.
Another thing which worked amazingly well when I used to row for increasing body awareness is regular video taping. If you get in the habit of video taping yourself once a week and watching it with others in the class, it's amazing what you can see yourself doing that you never would have guessed.
When my wife and I used to teach and train heavily in dance before we moved to Seattle, we became SUPER aware of our bodies. Like being able to have conversations with partners while doing complicated moves and stuff. It became pure instinct, even large quantities of alcohol had no effect ;). Not only that, but you'd sometimes have to shift your weight half way through a move, as well as the follows', to avoid hitting another person on a crowded floor. All without losing the beat, of course :). So, like Aikido, we learned to be aware of not only our own body position, weight, center of gravity, but also our partner's simultaneously. Eventually, your mind becomes clear with practice, you stay relax, and it's just like walking.
So if you'd like a different perspective on body awareness (other than MA training), you might try some dance classes:
Lindy Hop: Teaches connection, fluid movement, staying "centered" in any position
Collegiate Shag: A VERY fast dance, you learn speed and precision under pressure.
Hip Hop/Locking/Popping: You'll find muscles you didn't even know you have! ;)
Breakdancing: Balance, timing and LOTS of joint strength.
Collegiate Shag: A VERY fast dance, you learn speed and precision under pressure.
Huh? Um, er, oh never mind... ;)
All good advice above. Eventually, your aikido practice will develop this as well. Any complex physical activity which involves your mind will do so. I've spoken to experienced professional and amateur athletes who have had the same or similar results. However, YMMV.
Oh, uh, out of context I guess that sounds a little, uh, oh, nevermind....
11-16-2002, 12:17 PM
Hey Opher thanks for the links, haven't been able to do much more than just skim the pages yet but it all sounds really interesting.
Judd those dances sound umm, interesting too ;), not sure if it's quite my thing. Thank you all for your replies, lots of stuff for me to check out, its neat finding out about things I've never heard of before.
I find Qi Gong excercises excellent for aikido, but mainly for relaxing the shoulders and generating power whilst relaxed) particularly holding the balloon/tree - very similar to kokyu nage/sokumen irimi nage).
I think body awareness IS aikido. However I seem to have a different idea of body awareness to many of the above posts. There is a famous chinese saying (Chuang Tzu) which goes something like, you only notice your shoes when they are too tight. i.e. being aware of your body is not the same as being able to utilise it effectively.
For me, fast paired bokken work is excellent for developing body awareness. Also really repetitive aikido where they attack you again and again (but not in the same rythm). Lots of ukemis are also useful, and randori. (I often do randori without techniques, so that people can just concentrate on distance, timing and movement rather than technical bits).
Hope this helps,
11-21-2002, 07:41 PM
Randori, randori, randori.
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