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Wynand van Dyk
05-23-2005, 09:57 AM
Due to a bad experience with a recent grading I did (I just was not fit enough). I have been using Matt Furey's "Combat Conditioning" exercises for a while now and I cannot really say that they have improved my technique (in terms of making it softer / more subtle) but I definately have more "staying power" on the mat and when play-wrestling with my training partners after a class.

The problem though is that I still tire myself out way too often, especially by trying to either push/pull or grabbing / getting grabbed by my training partner. I know that the solution to this problem would be to not do this anymore but I need some exercises that would condition me to no longer try and go force on force and work too hard at the technique.

Except for doing a bunch more Aikido, is there any exercises I could do that would improve the softness and subtleness of my Aikido technique? I thought about getting the systema instructional DVD and co-opting some of their sensitivity drills, would this be a good idea? How about crosstraining in some chinese martial arts like wing-chun or tai-chi?

Yann Golanski
05-23-2005, 10:05 AM
Do some toshu randori.

That's what I am doing and it makes a world of difference. In case you don't know how it is done: uke attacks tori in whatever. Tori start a technique and uke counters and tori counters and uke counters and etc... till one of you stiffens. In that case either continue the technique till uke's on the floor or break apart and start again. Do very slowly at first and then speed up.

Otherwise, do lots and lots of ukemi. The softer you break fall the less it hurts and the more you can do.

Jeremy Young
05-23-2005, 10:08 AM
Can i make a suggestion? What some of us do in my dojo is use Russian Kettlebells. You can find out about them on any internet search. What i like about them is that it is not like lifting weights. You do not go to failure, which is nice. Also, we usually do about 1/2 hour and are breathing at the end like we have been running. And what i really like is that use a lot of body movement and resistance strength that seems to me to strenghten your connector muscles and tendons. Anyways, that is an excercise system that we use that i have found helps me quite a bit.
jeremy

Abasan
05-23-2005, 10:10 AM
The systema dvds are great but are definitely not going to teach you much of systema. either that, or i'm just a dolt. Anyway, the way things look, you need an instructor to show you how it feels and what exactly needs to be done and when. Just following the video ain't gonna do much, especially if your partner is also trying to learn his part from video.

But for grasping concepts and reinforcing old ones, i think the videos are neat.

A good way to learn sensitivity would be practising with weapons, either weapon to weapon or you holding a weapon and practising taijutsu with it.

rob_liberti
05-23-2005, 10:20 AM
How about the "shin kokyu" exercise where you open (out to the sides) and close your arms while breathing slowly. Try to feel energy in your finger tips, and maybe just in your shoulder blades. Then get that to be automatic, such that you feel yourself opening up and closing more as a function of breath. I'd say that will help a bit. (YMMV) Good luck.

Rob

Stefan Stenudd
05-23-2005, 10:37 AM
Wynand raises a wonderfully interesting question. Thanks, Wynand!

My two cents on the subject:
Too much tension and muscular power in a technique, usually comes from the ambition to succeed with it - especially when meeting with resistance. The ambition becomes a sort of panic, resulting in tension and ineffective muscular work.

What I recommend is to let go of the ambition, give it up, become blank for a moment, like you have suddenly entered into a completely new situation. It helps if you do this together with exhaling.
That can make you relax, and by relaxing you find the way to adapt your technique to the circumstance. You find the smooth way to complete it.

If you once again meet with an obstruction, a strong force, give up anew, exhaling, and you will find the opening, the direction to go without meeting resistance.
You can use this method several times during one single technique, if needed. At length it will teach you to find the smooth way at once.

Empty mind, if you like.

Ron Tisdale
05-23-2005, 11:05 AM
Except for doing a bunch more Aikido, is there any exercises I could do that would improve the softness and subtleness of my Aikido technique?

While I do not have a problem with introducing resistance to aikido practice in some circumstances, this is one area where I believe it can be counter productive. One of the dojo I trained in used resistance from experienced MAists a lot...and it really hurt me in the area of staying soft, relaxing, and proper (at least in my inexperienced eyes) ukemi.

One thing that has helped me revisit this area with some modest sucsess has been to take lots of very relaxed ukemi without any resistance at all...and to do sets of 10 techniques as shite with uke giving no resistance, but staying very connected and following. I still (as shite) had to try to feel the openings and achieve the lock, but by taking all resistance out I was able to do that much better and stay much more relaxed. I'm now trying to add the resistance back in slowly. But I truly believe that too much mixing of the two training modes too early was disasterous in some areas for me at least.

Be clear with your partner what you are training for in a given encounter, and really focus on that (relaxation/resistance) and try to keep the lines clear until you feel more ready to mix them. The style of aikido you do may have a great deal to do with the approaches your school takes. I also found that over emphasising my breathing so that I'm never holding my breath unintentionally helped a lot.

Best,
Ron

ChrisHein
05-23-2005, 11:48 AM
Wynand raises a wonderfully interesting question. Thanks, Wynand!

My two cents on the subject:
Too much tension and muscular power in a technique, usually comes from the ambition to succeed with it - especially when meeting with resistance. The ambition becomes a sort of panic, resulting in tension and ineffective muscular work.


Nicely said!

Honisly there is no trick technique. No easy practice, or magical dust. You must simply deside to stop forceing things. There was a time in my training ( I think around 3rd kyu) when my teacher said "Chris you're becomming very good techniqually, and very strong, but your still missing something, I want you to fall for everything." Now this really pisse me off! I loved to resist in class, I loved to work the techniques as hard as possable, and find out what made them work. Howeve he was my teacher and I would do what he told me. Slowly I started seeing things that I had missed because I was to busy resisting to see them before. I would just relax and let the techniques happen to me, and for this I saw lots and lots about the techniques that I had never seen befor! Eventually I came back to a more normal place, but with all the knowlage I had gained by simply non resisting.

All you have to do, is stop fighting it. Just train, and stop fighting, pulling, and pushing. When you find yourself doing it, say "hey, I don't have to do this, I can find anouther way." Just let go of your ego, and say "I don't have to make this guy fall, lets just exsplore what is happening."

Best of luck to you.
-Chris Hein

Ron Tisdale
05-23-2005, 11:54 AM
I had to do much the same thing Chris. Actually, I started going to a dojo where that was what I had always thought was happening....it turned out that that was an incorrect assesment. By opening myself up to that, I really started to make progress in my home dojo. Funny how stuff like that happens...

Ron

Pauliina Lievonen
05-23-2005, 03:25 PM
I'd say this is the reason for cooperative practice, as unpopular as it is sometimes. :) My experience is the same as Ron's and Chris' , taking ukemi without resisting really has developed my ability to do technique without resisting, so to say...

kvaak
Pauliina

Chuck Clark
05-23-2005, 03:33 PM
The obvious is usually right under our nose...

Our technique becomes subtle when we become subtle. This'll fit in any fortune cookie in any Chinese restaurant.

ChrisHein
05-23-2005, 07:09 PM
No one would listen though! hahah. Ever listen to Yoda, it went right in one ear and out the other, till after I had been training for some time, then I watched empire strikes back, the whole time saying, "did you guys hear that, man how come I didn't hear that before!??

-Chris Hein

maikerus
05-23-2005, 07:37 PM
Except for doing a bunch more Aikido, is there any exercises I could do that would improve the softness and subtleness of my Aikido technique?

Here's a thought...exhaust yourself.

Do 100-200-300 back breakfalls before class so that you can barely stand. Then start doing techniques. You'll find that when you don't have any strength to use...you won't use any and your techniques will become soft and subtle.

An additional bonus is that it takes alot of concentration to do a technique properly when exhausted, so not only are you improving your relaxation during a technique you are also improving your mental focus.

My few yen...

--Michael

aikidoc
05-23-2005, 10:12 PM
Training to have more endurance will not solve your problem. You need to learn how to relax and use your center more effectively. Generally, I notice that students who use too much upper body or strength will tire easily. The solution. Use your hips and legs and center more. Then all you need to do is make sure your legs are in condition. It sounds a little like you are fighting yourself and tiring out because you are muscling things. I'd suggest more emphasis on hip power and finding openings or dead spots. There is always someplace you can move to easily.

DaveO
05-24-2005, 07:20 AM
While I still - and probably always will - have a problem with tension and attempting to use muscle; there is an exercise I found that helps me: walking.
:freaky:
OK now before you set up a rubber room and ask me if I'm feeling alright; let me explain. :D

I practice walking from center - I'll usually put an hour or so in before class; try to get some done every day. Not going out for a walk; but walking as a movement exercise. I start by standing properly; then stepping forward keeping my feet under one-point. I keep the 4 ki principles in mind (extend ki, relax completely, keep weight underside, keep one-point) as I move. Very slow; tai chi slow. Up one side of the mat, down the other. Around the edges, following the lines back and forth etc. I work on staying as relaxed and smooth as possible, keeping my head up and aware. Really, it's sort of a moving meditation I guess. :)
The result is that since my body becomes accustomed to moving in this way; it begins to keep moving in this way - low, relaxed, smooth - during kumi-waza (technique practice).
I suggest you try it - it works wonders. :)

Wynand: I was just curious - what did the test involve that you were not 'fit' enough for? :)

eyrie
05-24-2005, 08:30 AM
Hmmm..... why only practice this on the mat? Why not anywhere, anytime, all the time, everywhere even?

DaveO
05-24-2005, 11:23 AM
Hmmm..... why only practice this on the mat? Why not anywhere, anytime, all the time, everywhere even?

Because on the mat I practice it; off the mat I do it. :D

Wynand van Dyk
05-24-2005, 05:21 PM
Wynand: I was just curious - what did the test involve that you were not 'fit' enough for? :)

It was my 4th kyu test and the grading panel had us do a slew of constant techniques, at 80% - 90% of "real" speed for about 45 minutes with no rest between techniques and constantly switching our uke/nage rolls around. It was very hard work. Both me and my grading partner were gutted afterwards. I think that a big part of the exhaustion was also not breathing in a relaxed and controlled manner, the grading panel were very intimidating, this was not some in-house, grade-from-your-usual-sensei kind of grading.

I was under the impression that my fitness was lacking and after working on it up to a point where I feel happy with it, I realised that I still tire out too easily. I then recognized that it was not realy my fitness levels but rather the fact that I was using too much muscle and working with too much resistance, both meeting my partner's resistance and adding my own to the mix.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, I shall try and put them to the test at my next class.

mj
05-24-2005, 05:42 PM
... the grading panel had us do a slew of constant techniques, at 80% - 90% of "real" speed for about 45 minutes with no rest between techniques....

ahem

giriasis
05-24-2005, 10:04 PM
Nerves also play a role in tests that get us more exhausted than usual. The first thing that came to my mind was than you need to work on your breathing (as others have mentioned).

As far as actual exercises, I found that core stability exercises really helped me learn to move from my center. My aikido improved quite significantly as a result partly to a stronger core, but also partly to the fact that I learned to focus on my center through doing the exercises.

Bronson
05-25-2005, 02:39 AM
You'll find that when you don't have any strength to use...you won't use any and your techniques will become soft and subtle.


Of course "soft and subtle" are relative. What passes for soft in one dojo may be considered stiff in others. Conversely what one place may call soft another might call limp.

What helped me...and you're not going to like this...was to to keep training aikido. When I watch the tapes of my shodan and nidan tests there is a world of difference. On my shodan test I was heaving for breath and generally having a bad time of it. On my nidan test I was sweating (but I always sweat) but I could breath and talk through the whole thing...except maybe the randori :D I didn't do any special exercises or drills I just kept training and improved.

Bronson

ikkitosennomusha
05-25-2005, 08:54 AM
I did not read all the replies to see if this was already recommended but, I feel you should get out in the back yard or a place that is comfortable to you and warm up with tai sabaki movements. Your goal is to be a fluid as possible; like the wind or water flowing. Think gentle, think graceful. Next, try running through your techniques by yourself. To do this you need to visualize a uke attacking you and then run the your technique as you would perform it. Not only will this help you be more fluid and develop subtleness, it will be a good workout as well. Good luck!

Esaemann
05-25-2005, 10:27 AM
If you have the time to try it, Tai Chi and Tui Shou (push hands) have helped me relax with my Aikido. Depending on where you are, it may be difficult to find a teacher of the latter. I believe all the elements needed for relaxing are in Aikido. However, Tai Chi works better for me, because it allows me to focus mostly on following and relaxing.
Good luck and be patient with yourself.

kokyu
05-25-2005, 11:42 AM
If you are nage, I have found that training at a slower pace and with a cooperative uke helps a great deal in making one's movements more relaxed. Your Aikido becomes really flowing and smooth. Training becomes enjoyable.

However, there is a flipside to training with cooperative ukes (this has been discussed many times in many places). Because uke tends to cooperate, you may not have taken his balance in the initial movement. This may lead to sloppy technique. I discovered this the hard way when training with cooperative ukes for a period of time. My technique "looked" fluid and smooth (and I was very relaxed), but when I started to train with beefier guys who resisted, I had to rethink my movements. I guess if one is always aware of balance taking, even when uke is cooperating, this should not be an issue.

As uke, I guess one important thing I learned was to wait for the throw. By using nage's throwing energy (which should come partially from the energy of your initial attack anyway), I use up less energy myself. This gives me greater "staying power" on the mat - useful for those endless kaiten/kokyu nages :D

Charles Hill
05-25-2005, 08:16 PM
In the latest issue of AikiNews (Dou) there is an interview with Endo Seishiro Shihan where he talks about this issue. A number of years ago, he decided that for a period of about 6months he was not going to do anything but shomenuchi ikkyo. He said a big turning point for him was during a three hour practice session in France. He practiced with all the participants and must have done the technique over a thousand times. He said his technique got much softer and he went into a kind of "trance" state. He did not think about whether the technique would work or not. He left the technique up to his body and concentrated his mind on feeling his partner`s "ki." After the 6 months, he would lead practice by showing perhaps shomenuchi iriminage once or twice and then call "free practice." It might be worthwhile to do something similar with a friend before and after regular practice, one technique, high repetitions.

Charles

DaveO
05-25-2005, 10:26 PM
It might be worthwhile to do something similar with a friend before and after regular practice, one technique, high repetitions.

That's how technique should be practiced at all times; IMO. :)