View Full Version : Be more relaxed?

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12-15-2002, 03:54 PM
I have recently joined a dojo and have been training for around 3 weeks now. Sensei is constantly telling me that I need to relax, but I am not quite sure what he means. I can see the higher ranking students move with incredible fluidity and can tell my movements are still choppy.
How would I go about being more relaxed with my training. I don't resist the technique (atleast to my knowledge) and I am not afraid to take the fall. Should I basically act as a ragdoll that is applying energy as uke, or should I try to remain as balanced as possible without resisting the throw?

How can I be more relaxed?

12-15-2002, 04:29 PM
A lot of Aikido works on the joints and if a joint is stiffened then the movements will work against this resistance. A relaxed joint will give and allow a responce without pain or injury.

Then also, relavent to locks and throws, think of the football goal-keeper. If he stands tense, he must first relax to move, but if he is relaxed he can just move. The same is true for Uke.

Don't worry about all this though. After just 3 weeks, no-one should be expecting you to Uke anything that needs you to be relaxed as to prevent injury. You should train to your level. This all comes with time.

Aikido training is all about learning. This is why Uke should be yealding. You cannot learn the movement when Uke is blocking you. Plus, in a practical situation, the attacker will not know how to resist (as he doesn't know what you are doing), so neither should Uke.

As for how to relax. Push out all your breath. Also, please talk to your Sensei. He can help you better in person that a teacher in a foreign country over the internet. :)

Best wishes

Kevin Wilbanks
12-15-2002, 08:36 PM

I can understand where you are coming from. If you are very literal or analytical-minded, being told to relax can be confusing. As you say, if you were to relax completely, you would go limp like a ragdoll and collapse in a heap.

I believe teachers keep repeating the 'relax' mantra because they hope it will push you in the right direction. If they were to be more precise, they might say something like "only use the muscles you need to move and hold yourself up, and relax all the others". What we refer to as tension in Aikido is actually self-resistance brought about by keeping muscles on both or all sides of a joint active - this makes for immobility, slowness, lack of power, and jerky, staccato movements.

As far as how you learn to move and hold the body in a more 'relaxed' fashion, that gets into a very difficult area, which is at the heart of why I am fascinated with Aikido, which is a problem of knowledge and experience: if you don't know what the thing you are seeking "looks like", how will you know it when you find it? How do we open ourselves up to experiential knowledge which is beyond what we currently have?

First of all, it takes plenty of time and feedback from partners and teachers. More importantly, I think it takes dilligent effort in continually trying to set aside what you think you know and be receptive to something new and different happening. I've seen people who were either unwilling or unaware of the value of trying to cultivate this kind of openness to change who seem to get very little out of Aikido over time. However, who knows? Maybe for them it's a lot. But, I digress.

I suggest experimenting with that feeling you are describing as 'rag doll' for starters. I think moving from there toward putting just enough energy into things to give the body shape and movement is better than the other way around. As far as ukemi goes, ask your seniors what the purpose of each attack is. You want to make an earnest, energetic effort to achieve the given goal to start, then loosen up and follow as soon as nage starts 'doing something to you'.

Just some starter hints...

12-15-2002, 08:56 PM
The most hated word in all Aikido - relax.

No matter how relaxed you get - there will always be someone who feels the need to use the word even if they are notoriously less relaxed then you.

Sempai can't come up with something to say - well there's always relax. If you do Aikido get used to it.

I always had a difficult time performing technique with vigour and being relaxed - it always seem counter intuitive. Slowly getting past that but yes, last practice, once again, RELAXXXXXX.


12-16-2002, 08:04 AM
I liked Kevin's description. Here is a different way of looking at it, though, that may also be helpful.

Pretend 'relaxation' as a completely new term that you have no prior experience of. Imagine that sensei is speaking a foreign language and what they mean when they say that word is just totally different (not better or worse, just not the same thing). Using this 'blank slate' as a starting point, go ahead and explore the term. Try lots of different things and see if some of them get more positive feedback and some less. Over time, you will develop a sense for what sensei means when they use that word, and you can decide for yourself whether it means anything like what you would normally use the word for.

The hardest thing (at least for me) in AiKiDo is constantly letting go of the feeling that we 'know' something and opening up our minds to the possibility that something is going to surprise us.

Matt Whyte
12-16-2002, 08:31 AM
Hi All.

My interpretation of when your sensei tells you to relax, is to use your Ki or breath, and not your strength. Instead of relying on just brute force to execute the techniques, use your ki and extend with your breath. this may help to make you relax. Also, with your ukemi, try to remain lightfooted. Dont anticipate: Just feel.

Hope this helps. Pleasant training.

Fiona D
12-16-2002, 08:51 AM
Based on my jiu jitsu experience and my rather limited (about 3 months) aikido experience, I think part of the relaxation thing is getting continuity into the technique, when acting as nage. In the dojo where I train, the techniques are demonstrated fluidly once or twice, then they are broken down into their constituent movements for more detailed explanation by the instructor. It can be easy to fall into a 'blocky' way of moving when subsequently trying the technique out with a partner - you know: move left foot - stop - move uke's arm sideways - stop ..... At each stop there is a tendency to tense up while trying to remember what happens next. I know I can be as guilty as anyone else of that.

What I like to try out sometimes (and I warn my training partner that I'm going to do it, because it does require extra cooperation from the uke) is to slow the technique right down but, at the same time, try to do it without stopping at any point until the technique is complete. It'll be a snail's pace but, with a cooperative uke, it can be very instructive for keeping the movements relaxed and fluid. Don't know what more experienced people might think of this method, but I find it quite useful from time to time.

12-16-2002, 09:48 AM
When ever someone places some sort of force upon you, your natural reaction is to tense up. The problem with this is that when a technique is applied it will hurt more. This is also noticable when doing ukemi. The more relaxed you are the less it will hurt (especially in jumping back breakfalls).

Also, the more relaxed you are the better you can feel a technique being applied to you or you applying it on someone else. This is really important in jiyu waza since you dont know what technique will be applied, you need to adapt quickly to it, and you wont get as tired.

One of the best ways to feel what its like to be relaxed is through the following exercise: Get a partner. Stick out your arm, tense up your muscles, and have him/her grab your wrist fairly lightly with no intention to pull or push. You should feel nothing. Now relax or untense your muscles in the arm. You should be able to feel a slight pull or push from your partner. You can only feel it when you're relaxed.

You can feel the same thing in the "unbendable arm". When your arm is relaxed in kamae you cant bend it. The more tense your muscles are the weaker you become.

So there are 2 important parts of being relaxed. 1. you are able to feel the technique better thus allowing you to adapt to the situation and prevent injury, 2. the more relaxed you are the stronger you become.

A major problem area for relaxation is in the shoulders. I think everyone has this problem. I believe the best way to keep them relaxed is to picture your arms as being very heavy which should help cause your lats to close. This helps keep your shoulders lowered and your body in proper balance.

12-17-2002, 01:14 AM
How can I be more relaxed?
Hi Dustin,

You might try this, it helps alot and will give you an understanding perhaps of the "relaxed" state......

Stand with your arms at your sides, feet about shoulder width apart, now take in a deep breath through your nose, filling up your lungs, letting the chest expand fully.

When you can take no more air in, hold it for about 5 seconds, then blow the air out your mouth, kinda like a big fast 'sigh', NOT like blowing on hot soup!!

Right at the point when all that air has left you, right before you take that next breath and resume normal breathing, that is a feeling to remember, when everything is "relaxed". Practice it over a few days, or a couple of times each class, just remember that feeling, of being totally breathless, nothing in, nothing out,total relaxation!!

Also helps during those times when you are stuffed!!

May or may not work for you, but worth a shot.

Oh, and remember not to do this in succession or you may hyperventilate, not pretty!!

Someone telling you to relax is not derogatory at all so don't worry too much, they just may be more sensitive to tension.

just my 2 bits!!



12-17-2002, 01:38 AM
This sounds dumb but it's something that we all have experience with so I use it. Ever have to pee real bad? I mean you have to pee so bad it actually hurts? Then you finally get to a urinal and pee and you feel your whole body sink and the tension just melts out your feet? Get and keep that feeling :D


12-17-2002, 01:44 AM
This sounds dumb but it's something that we all have experience with so I use it. Ever have to pee real bad? I mean you have to pee so bad it actually hurts? Then you finally get to a urinal and pee and you feel your whole body sink and the tension just melts out your feet? Get and keep that feeling :D

Now THAT is relaxation!!!

:D ;)

kung fu hamster
12-17-2002, 07:41 AM
I've never peed at a urinal, can you think of another analogy? ;)

12-17-2002, 01:36 PM
I've never peed at a urinal, can you think of another analogy?

Yeah, but I don't think I can put it on a public forum :blush:

Bronson ;)

Jeff Tibbetts
12-17-2002, 03:23 PM
this is a seriously funny thread, think it should move to humor? No really, this is a problem for me, too© I've only been at this for about 3 and a half months, and I used to get "relax your shoulders" alot© I don't so much now, but I think they just got sick of saying it©©© One thing that I think is relevent, when the comment about being relaxed to the point of a ragdoll came up, I think that we all see the problem if more people interpret "relax" that way© I was always told that, as uke, you are still practicing Aikido, and you have to concentrate on making sure you're still safe as the technique comes out, so you do certain things that may seem like cooperating too much© This always confuses beginners, like me© When we first did certain techniques where you are moved around nage, I always resisted, and after a while I realised that it's a much better outcome to go with the technique completely „their made to not hurt „much¤¤ than try and fight it© Sometimes it may look like we're running around them even when they haven't moved us yet, but that's because we know it's coming and we better get our arm twisting before they rip it off! Anyway, I think that part of relaxation is when you know what's happening and kind of "go along with it" unless you know it is weak or isn't moving you, but that's a whole other thread©

kung fu hamster
12-17-2002, 03:40 PM
"Yeah, but I don't think I can put it on a public forum "

Hey Bronson,

I think rolling over and snoring might be considered a little TOO relaxed...