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Paula Lydon
12-19-2002, 10:21 PM
~~How important do you think the study of anatomy is in understanding the practicality and effectiveness of movemant and techniques?:ai: :D :ki:

12-19-2002, 10:39 PM
I don't think it would help at all in terms of a MARTIAL understanding of the practicality. In other words I don't think a person who knows anatomy would have a better appreciation for how well a certain movement works in an aikido situation. Also I don't even think they would have a better sense of what novel movement to invent in a novel situation--wouldn't your mind and understanding of human anatomy are too slow to help?
But I bet anatomically-educated people can appreciate and understand the movements on a completely different level than the rest of us, as they relax and sip some coffee after class.
Kind of like how knowledge of acoustics can make music and sound itself very intellectually entertaining, even if it doesn't improve my music making skills one bit.

12-19-2002, 11:04 PM
I hate to disagree Jonathan but... I do.

Yoshimitsu Minamoto (circa 1100 a.d.) dissected corpses to understand the anatomy of the locks and positions we use in Aikido today.

I have a Masters in Biology, and understanding the anatomy of what I am effecting allows me to see secondary and tertiary effects of technique. I think it helps me with my understanding of the physicality of the art.

12-19-2002, 11:33 PM
I hate to disagree Jonathan but... I do.

I have a Masters in Biology, and understanding the anatomy of what I am effecting allows me to see secondary and tertiary effects of technique. I think it helps me with my understanding of the physicality of the art.
Yeah, I think that's actually exactly what I was trying to say! You understand a lot more than most aikido practitioners I am sure.

See I am reading The Spirit of Aikido by U. Kisshomaru. Some of the text in there displays a tremendous lack of scientific biological knowledge. On the other hand, I think he understands, in terms of a second-nature grasp of the meaning of aikido movements, a lot more than either of us. And I think we could both stop training now and learn more anatomy and we would know way more than him about what he is physically doing, but still that wouldn't bring us closer to his kind of understanding of the movements. On the other hand without learning anatomy, but with his amount and intensity of training, we conceivably could get close to his kind of first-hand understanding.

What I am saying is I think there is the artistic and spiritual (non-intellectual) understanding that is instrumental in performing the art, and then the intellectual, academic understanding that allows a much greater, more specific understanding of any of the movements (but it might not make you better at doing ikkyo).

I don't know. I guess it's all just an impression that I actually have just inferred, not personally experienced--you are the first-hand authority.

Darrell Aquino
12-20-2002, 01:32 AM
I have to agree with Michael... I studied exercise physiology to enhance the martial art training. Not only do you understand movement but also you begin to understand what you specific technique is doing to your opponent. Also for healing aspects of your opponent after you've injured him.


Paula Lydon
12-20-2002, 08:11 AM
~~I have to agree with Michael, as well. I've studied anatomy on my own (no academic classes) to enhance the martial viability of techniques. To utilize a pressure point you must know what you're seeking and how to address the spot; different types of joints lock up differently. To catch someone's center isn't a 'magical touch', it's--as always--the timing and positioning of both parties that can lock up uke from pinky finger to center, but it helps to understand the path; to arrive at a destination you need to know where you want to go.

Kevin Wilbanks
12-20-2002, 08:34 AM
Aside from the pressure points issue, which I don't get into, I don't think the study of anatomy is all that important to Aikido. If we're talking gross anatomy. I've worked with dissected corpses, piles of bones... been a teaching assistant in an anatomy lab. I've examined bones and skeletal structures in infinitessimal detail as part of my art. I've also studied muscular structures and actions fairly exensively in connection with my fitness training endeavors. I really don't see that much of a connection to the actual practice of Aikido. If you know where the wrist, elbow, knee, etc... is, and you are capable of getting practical knowledge from trial and error, I don't think any kind of taxonomical/academic study is going to help much.

12-20-2002, 07:16 PM
actual practice of Aikido. If you know where the wrist, elbow, knee, etc... is, and you are capable of getting practical knowledge from trial and error, I don't think any kind of taxonomical/academic study is going to help much.
There you go!! Well said. We all have a crude understanding of anatomy just because we have human bodies. If that sounds contraversial.. well it's true, we all know roughly where a person's wrist is and which way it bends, etc. We know the VERY basics of anatomy from personal experience. And that I feel is the amount of knowledge in anatomy that is applicable in performing aikido. I am glad that SOMEONE with experience in anatomy can agree with me! Again, I am not denying that knowing more about anatomy would enable you to better UNDERSTAND what is going on in aikido. But in terms of improving your on-the-mat SKILL I think it is a different story.

Kevin Wilbanks
12-20-2002, 10:11 PM
I don't think it's all that controversial. Complex systems have many levels or hierarchies of organization which often can be understood separately, and may even operate by entirely independent rules from one another. This is something that we take for granted with many technological systems as well as our bodies.

Take computers as an example. How many computer programmers know how to build a microchip? How many graphic designers know how to program in C+? Mix and match as you wish. While lower levels of organization may seem logically prior, and may be necessary prerequisites for the existence of higher levels, knowledge of them isn't.

Paula Lydon
12-21-2002, 08:26 AM
~~I agree that soon into Aikido training we all know where a wrist is, but do you know what sort of joint it is? The directions where it has freeplay and where it locks up? For me this learning has been very useful (perhaps my Jujitsu background). Well, to each their own pursuits. Thanks for the feedback. :)

12-21-2002, 08:59 AM
IMHO, understanding the correct structural anatomical alignment is important for effective and efficient execution. It also helps in breaking Uke's stuctural support and balance. The study of anatomy will never replace physical training, but the correct information and education can help align the body and the mind.

Until again,


Kevin Wilbanks
12-21-2002, 09:52 AM
I think y'all are talking about a pretty rudimentary level of anatomical knowledge that almost anyone 'knows'.

For instance, what 'sort of joint the wrist is' for the purposes of Aikido is fine. But if you look at the structures we manipulate more technically, it's much more complicated than that. First of all, what you call the wrist is actually several different joints of different types: the radioulnar joint in the forearm, which is a uniaxial pivot joint - rotates, the wrist proper (radiocarpal) which is biaxial - flexion/extension and abduction/adduction. In many techniques, hand joints come into play, like the intercarpals - gliding plane joints, and carpometacarpals - one is a uniaxial saddle joint and the rest are gliding plane joints.

'Which way it moves and which way it locks up' probably isn't even accurate by layman's standards. Aikido 'joint locks' usually function through a combination of locking joints at the end of their natural ROM and torquing them in around an axis or axes about which little or no motion is possible.

Take a technique like nikkyo for instance - it involves flexion at the elbow, extreme pronation of the radioulnar, flexion at the wrist, as well as binding of some of the intercarpal and carpometacarpal joint at the extremes of their sliding or oppositional ranges... THEN, what really makes the technique "work" is when one attempts to forcibly pronate the radiocarpal (wrist) - a direction in which the joint is not supposed to move.

Do Aikidoka really need to know this?

Darrell Aquino
12-21-2002, 10:48 AM
Nothing wrong with "learning all things".

12-21-2002, 01:30 PM
The previous comment is one of the wisest I've heard in the past few discussions. I too don't believe there is anything wrong with learning new things or reframing old ideas.

The physiology of Aikido is as important as the rest of the triangle of mind, and spirit in that it allows us to observe the tools be which we are able to train. Moreover, it gives us the ability to understand not only the interlocking mechanisms of the human body, but the ability to study the expansion of energy throughout our lives. I'm not necessarily saying we should all be looking at the physiological aspects of Aikido to become better students and teachers. Rather, it seems that in some aspects of training we may come across questions that can be reviewed or reframed using anatomical analysis.

Currently I have begun to work on earning my MA in aiki physiology and am seeking to further my study into a doctorate. To be honest my interest began when I was amazed at the potential movements and control that primates, including humans, had over their bodies. Eg. how humans have their center (1 point) located near their abdomen, and gorillas have theirs at the chest level. Observations such as these are incredible in understanding the physiology of human beings.

Another application I see is the ability to see how restrictive points and areas can be ulitized in the effort to seek out training potential. By this I mean it would be interesting to see how persons suffering from physical injury or inability could perhaps find their potential in another form or technique.

To reiterate again though, the body is only one part of the trangle life. It deserves as much attention and study as the spiritual and mental forms of aikido.

Kevin Wilbanks
12-21-2002, 01:47 PM
Well, you might want to start with learning the vocabulary. Physiology is the study of smaller-scale elements of the body and chemical processes - cells, organs, tissues, etc... As opposed to anatomy, which generally refers to larger-scale structures and mechanical processes.

As far as the quote goes, I think there certainly is something wrong with "learning all things". Learning all things would be an infinite task that would consume an infinite amount of time. Since we are finite beings with an extremely limited tenure on earth, I don't think indiscriminate use of what resources we have is desireable at all. In fact, due to the explosion of media and information sources, selectivity about what we pay attention to is necessary if we want the quality of our lives to rise above the Wal-Mart level.

Given the examples of the fruits of 'study' presented here, it sounds to me like we're talking more about associating a very superficial level of knowledge with grand pretentious pronouncements of affiliation with these disciplines, rather than actually studying them. I don't think you have any idea of the level of knowledge required to receive a masters or PhD in Anatomy & Physiology.

12-22-2002, 07:36 AM
~~How important do you think the study of anatomy is in understanding the practicality and effectiveness of movemant and techniques?:ai: :D :ki:
Seeing anatomy and movement are my bread and butter, I'm naturally biased... for me they are important.

I would say an empirical understanding of anatomy would be useful. More so of movement.

Certainly I know of several sources that focus on this, though only a few that are directly martial in p.o.v.

Eg -


Having said that, I don't see how the "average" egg head who knows all abt kinematics and A&P is automatically better at aikido. Sure, they can understand things to a greater depth, maybe even work out a few tricks (if they specifically apply their knowledge), but straight out of the box...no.



a&p + aikido + a brain = even better

Darrell Aquino
12-22-2002, 11:12 AM
A lot of people train for different reasons. My reason to train is to be of service to others. Aikido helps me to center myself. Studying things like anatomy/exercise physiology helps me know what's going on inside of me. If self defense about protecting oneself against an intruder, think about all the different intrusions that we have. Keeping oneself healthy is self defense.

Someone once said:

"If you don't know your opponent and you don't know yourself you will lose all the time. If you know your opponent and you don't know yourself you will lose half the time. If you know your opponent and you know yourself you will win all the time."

As I stated earlier, nothing wrong in "learning all things".

12-22-2002, 05:44 PM
Someone once said:
(Comic Book Guy from simpsons voice ON)

I *believe* it was Sun Tzu.

Do I *win* a Scoobie snack? ;-)


(Comic Book Guy from simpsons voice OFF)

;-) ;-)

henry brown
01-03-2003, 09:13 AM
Well, I have a PhD in Anatomy & Cell Biology, and an MD, and I would have to say that there are some much better aikido practcitioners out there than myself. All that time in school didn't give me time to practice aikido!

What does anatomical training do for you as a martial artist? Now I have an obscure latin-greek vocabulary to match up with an obscure japanese one! When I am teaching someone a technique, I do not say "pronate your arm" or "dorsiflex your foot", I say, "move your arm this way", or "put your foot here", etc.

01-10-2003, 03:03 PM
I would like to add that I feel not only some anatomy knowledge but from my perspective some knowledge of biomechanics helps with understanding a technique. When studying human movement and joint locking a rudimentary knowledge of biomechanics help me understand why the technique works and sometimes helps me make it work better.

01-10-2003, 05:13 PM
Whatīs to understand? If you take uke out of balance (kozushi) the techniques work, If you donīt, uke wonīt be moved.

02-07-2003, 11:38 AM
I agree that if you take balance the technique works to a certain extent. I just prefer to understand why it works biomechanically and it helps me be able to teach it to my students in a way that makes sense.

Bryan Webb
02-07-2003, 03:05 PM
I think that it is important. One of our instructors is an RN and a massage therapist. Her insight on how the joints work and where nerves and muscle groups are has improved technique in the class and the understanding of beginners. Say for ikkyo, it has been very informative to understand how the shoulder rotates and will move, and the easiest way to cause the shoudler to rotate.It has also been helpful in stressing to beginners just how easy it is to damage a joint. Not to mention when someone has a nick or ding, she can suggest exercises to work out the problem.

02-12-2003, 08:43 PM

I think we all have a different investment in what we want out of Aikido (I know, stating the obvious).

Some want to defend themselves successfully and that's the limit of their investment. Others want to work on understanding their body more and how it moves. Still others want to reach beyond that and find the spiritual path in aikido. Maybe some of you want a little of all of these things. Whether anatomy is important depends on what you want out of your training.

Personally, I'm obsessed. I love looking at the kinesthetics, I love the physiology, the neurology, the biomecahnics, and the anatomy. I have a perticular passion for balance and locomotion, so my big interest in Aikido (though I like looking at it all) is learning curves for that new way to locomote we call the forward roll, and what happens to neuro-vestibular redistribution in children versus adults. Even the effects of aikido in somatic amnesia. It's all good.

I must say however that I sometimes hear people mis-speak with authority and I want to mention something, but I understand that it might be uncouth, so I say nothing.

Yes, having a rudimentary understanding of anatomy is good for all, and this is easy. Writing a book, giving a seminar, or even correcting a kohai might require that one understand what is behind the words used, or the the parts for that matter.

Just my 2 cents