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Amendes
09-27-2005, 01:27 PM
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.

For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed. And when I don't try I think I am almost as bad.

I find i'm getting so frustrated.

I can't win! :crazy:

akiy
09-27-2005, 01:41 PM
Hi Andrew,

Interesting topic. I feel and recognize your pain...

I have to say that I've come to the conclusion that telling someone to "relax" in and of itself is often a useless and sometimes counterproductive approach to trying to help that someone to improve. As you (and probably many, many others) have found, hearing "just relax!" doesn't help and, unfortunately, often leads one astray from that noble but elusive (to me, at least) quality.

One of my teachers have said that, for her, hearing someone tell her to "relax" just gave her an empty feeling. She thought about this for a while and came up with something that worked for her; rather than "taking away" that which made her un-relaxed, she "put into" her body that which made her "relaxed" -- for example, she sometimes told herself, "fill my body with softness."

Chuck Clark has told me something that has carried over in my aikido training for many years that is related to this kind of thing. For him, for example, the arms (or, I take it, whatever is contacting my partner) is a "connector" and the hips/legs/center is the "affector." I've taken this to mean that I have the minimal amount of "activity" between the contact point with my partner and my hips/legs/center thereby using "minimum effort, maximum efficiency." This lets me get rid of unnecessary tension in my body which, to me, is one aspect of "being relaxed."

I sometimes ask people to feel in their body certian sensations I know they've felt. For example, I may tell someone whom I know has sang for a living to embody the feeling of singing; another person, I may ask to embody what they feel when they're using a paint brush on the outside of the houses he paints. Oftentimes, by linking to a physical activity which they've "mastered" (ie they can do effectively so without much effort), it gives them an embodied reference point.

So, do other folks here have any "alternative" methods of "relaxing" that you've used in your aikido training which doesn't involve telling yourself to "relax"?

-- Jun

Hogan
09-27-2005, 02:19 PM
Practicing zen meditation / breathing helps tremendously in 'relaxing' in in understanding 'how to' relax. A simple thing like breathing correctly goes along way, and when you practice this or another breathing technique you will be surprised on how little you knew of correct breathing up until then.

aikidoc
09-27-2005, 03:11 PM
You might try feeling the energy rather than worrying about relaxing. Feeling makes you relax since you cannot be tense and feel at the same time. It's like energy going in opposing directions.

MikeE
09-27-2005, 03:14 PM
Jeez John,

What if I "feel tense"?

Mark Jakabcsin
09-27-2005, 03:48 PM
I
I can't win! :crazy:

Andrew,
While I feel your frustration I have to point out the above attitude might be part of the problem. Attempting to win generally increases tension. You might be thinking to yourself that I am only picking on a few words in your post that don't really reflect who you are. Which may be true, but more likely than not these few words bubbled up through your sub-conscious and express a real feeling.

My suggestion is to focus solely on your breathing while working technique. Inhale and exhale very slowly and in rythm with your motion, i.e. you should likewise be moving very slowly. Any time you feel tense or your partner feels your tension you are moving too fast! If you do this properly you won't be able to think about winning or doing the perfect technique, you will simply be breathing and your body will be moving.

This won't work as well for brand new students since they don't know the techniques but since you have been training for awhile you should be letting go of the technique and focusing inward.

Take care,

Mark J.

Ron Tisdale
09-27-2005, 03:53 PM
Good advice Mark! (I owe you an email)

I've been trying the breath method (ha!) for some time now, and it helps the relaxation a lot. Still got more to go though. I'm also trying to work on my posture (again) as I've found some serious flaws. Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?

One thing that seems to be having good effect is to kind of close the space between my shoulder blades, and open my chest area, if you know what I mean.

Best,
Ron

Mark Jakabcsin
09-27-2005, 04:24 PM
Ron,
Good to hear from you. I'm glad the breathing/motion drills are helping you become Gumbie, it's healthier. :)

I guess I'm not very observant because I don't recall any big posture problems with you. As I remember you are a fairly upright dude. I will look more closely the next time we meet. Take care.

MJ

Rupert Atkinson
09-27-2005, 04:44 PM
If you can't think of relaxing - think of extending your arms, legs, and body instead.

James Davis
09-27-2005, 05:07 PM
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.

For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed. And when I don't try I think I am almost as bad.

I find i'm getting so frustrated.

I can't win! :crazy:
Don't worry about how relaxed you appear. Don't worry about making your technique look good. Don't worry about "making your technique work". Don't worry about what's expected of you at all. :cool: If your technique doesn't work, or it isn't pretty, NO BIGGIE!! :D Just let the person attack you again, and you'll get your second chance. Don't hurt anybody, and don't let anybody hurt you. ;) You are in a training environment, not the octagon. :p Have FUN!! :D

Larry Feldman
09-27-2005, 05:33 PM
A couple of ideas, one is to work out very hard to the point of exhaustion before class. In other words take away your strength.

Another is more mental. Try practicing with someone so physically inferior to you (a child, a petite female) that you recognize intellectually that you don't need strength, and it is silly to use it.

Some of your problem may be confidence in your technique or movements, at some point you should just 'let go' and don't care so much if 'it works'. Try focusing on the movements and not the throw, the throw will follow naturally from proper movement.

Larry Feldman
09-27-2005, 05:35 PM
One of my students used to wiggle his fingers before he did a technique where his arm was grabbed. The arm couldn't be tense if he could wiggle the fingers - just be careful it doesn't become a habit.

Pauliina Lievonen
09-27-2005, 06:03 PM
Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?
Well, I'm an Alexander Technique teacher. One thing I consistently get compliments about in aikido is my posture. :D

One thing that seems to be having good effect is to kind of close the space between my shoulder blades, and open my chest area, if you know what I mean.
This sounds like something a few people I've come across do to "pull" themselves upright. The reason usually is that they don't know how to let their spines support their uprightness, so to say, so they feel the need to do something with the bigger back muscles. Of course without meeting you I have no idea if that's what you are actually doing. :)

Oh yes, wanted to add - I'm perfectly capable of wiggling my fingers and tensing my arm at the same time... :freaky:
kvaak
Pauliina

Janet Rosen
09-27-2005, 06:39 PM
I've been trying the breath method (ha!) for some time now, and it helps the relaxation a lot. Still got more to go though. I'm also trying to work on my posture (again) as I've found some serious flaws. Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?
Yep.My reply to Jun's query would be "breath and center" and by center really what I mean is settling into what my Pilates rehab person taught me as neutral posture.
Some folks like chiropractors, but frankly I think for the type of kinetic issues we face in aikido that things like feldenkrais and pilates are more helpful as they teach us ongoing selfcare.

Zato Ichi
09-27-2005, 07:59 PM
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?
Try having some hot sake before class. If that doesn't help you relax, nothing will. :D

PeterR
09-27-2005, 09:25 PM
Relax is just a word they use when they can't think of anything else to say.

cserrit
09-27-2005, 09:35 PM
Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.


Andrew,

I understand what you are saying here. When my sensei told me I was too tense (he could tell by my shoulders) and to relax, I would go too far in the opposite direction.

During a test, rather than telling me to "relax" during my jiyu waza, he told me to "play" with the uke. This triggered a different response, mentally, for me and was something I could identify with in terms of maintaining a equal state of energy...

...It was a cool jiyu waza ;)

-Christy

Amendes
09-27-2005, 10:28 PM
Thank you everyone for your advice.

I'm gonna see what I can do about breathing and "filling my body with softness."

I defiantly have to stop caring some much if I can get my technique to work as well.

:)

Saji Jamakin
09-27-2005, 10:56 PM
I defiantly have to stop caring some much if I can get my technique to work as well.

:)

Exactly, In randori against freestyle tanto attacks it was hard to relax until I decided that I didn't have to do the perfect technique. I still have trouble relaxing in that situation and usually I'm completely out of breath. In my better randori sessions however I focus on blending with the attack rather than doing a perfect Oshi Taoshi.
;)

Mark Uttech
09-27-2005, 11:03 PM
The secret of relaxation is pretty simple: Don't care so much.

PeterR
09-27-2005, 11:26 PM
Probably better to care about different things.

I want to see a level of precision in the execution of a technique in addition to relaxation.

Find a balance but not caring - just means sloppy.

Ian Upstone
09-28-2005, 03:09 AM
I'm not a fan of telling people to relax.

I don't know about anyone else here, but I associate the word "relax" with being in a stressfull situation. We're often told to relax before something unpleasant happens!

A bit like being told not to think of a polar bear. Doesn't work. :)

Ron Tisdale
09-28-2005, 07:04 AM
This sounds like something a few people I've come across do to "pull" themselves upright. The reason usually is that they don't know how to let their spines support their uprightness, so to say, so they feel the need to do something with the bigger back muscles. Of course without meeting you I have no idea if that's what you are actually doing.

I've got a problem with losing some of the natural curves in my spine, especially in the neck area. I've been meaning to check out some of the other systems described above, but haven't made it happen yet. First some realignment.

Best,
Ron

Michael Meister
09-28-2005, 08:03 AM
Did you ever realize, how much your face influences your body. Sometimes, when I get the feeling, that I am really tense, I just start relaxing my face. It's like someones telling you to put on a smile, when you're really down. If you do it after a while you just can't help feeling a bit better.

Amelia Smith
09-28-2005, 08:25 AM
Very interesting observation, Michael!

I usually go with "exhale." If someone tells me to "relax" that makes me really anxious and tense. "Relax, this'll only hurt for a minute!" Sometimes it also helps if your uke/nage lightens up while you get the feel for a technique.

tedehara
09-28-2005, 12:58 PM
Learning to relax is what ki development is all about. It is a process, not a destination.

SeiserL
09-28-2005, 01:24 PM
IMHO, relax is a "let", not a "make". You relax naturally when you "let" go of what you do to "make" yourself tense. The mind-body connection would suggest that you may have some thoughts, fearful or restrictive (as in "I CANNOT") which is interfering.

Perhaps you are taking the whole thing too seriously and too personally. Stop trying to "make" yourself relax and have a good time. Relaxation is a natural by-product of having a good time.

Remember that where ever the head goes, the body tends to follow.

Goetz Taubert
09-28-2005, 03:32 PM
If you want to learn about s systematic approach to relaxation try out Autogenic Training (german: "Autogenes Training") invented by Schultz in 1920. In America it is often called self-hypnosis.
By focusing on body phenomena like heaviness, warm skin, beat of the heart/pulse, breathing, warmth deep in the belly (solar plexus), gentle coolness on the forehead one learns to systematically switch from sympathetic activation to parasypathetic activation.
This is a good way to learn about relaxation and recreation.
If practiced correctly you can learn the different aspects in about half a year (3 times a day practice for 4 minutes) and deepen your understanding in the next half year.
Attention: The method is often changed in unlogic or ineffective way, so you have to look around to get good literature (i.e. First and only english edition 1959, I. H. Schultz, title unknown, Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart is the publishing company in germany).

For your training the command "relax" is definitely not enough to make you overcome the current problems. Many problems stem from the following points: wrong positioning of the feet, weight not equal on both feet, hipps not low enough, pelvis and (lower) back stretched backward (a hollow back won't allow you performing a 180 degree turn at the place), position not upright enough, shoulders too high, movements/gestures too excentric and so on and so on. Your sensei should analyze where to help you to create a base where from relaxation can be build up.

Good luck Goetz

bogglefreak20
09-28-2005, 04:20 PM
IMHO, relax is a "let", not a "make"....
Perhaps you are taking the whole thing too seriously and too personally. Stop trying to "make" yourself relax and have a good time. Relaxation is a natural by-product of having a good time.

Remember that where ever the head goes, the body tends to follow.

I couldn't agree more. I works that way for me. At the begining of my aikido training I went home sometimes more and sometimes less tense. :freaky: Yes, you read it correctly. Then, slowly and for the bigger part on its own, this feeling shifted (and still is shifting) more and more towards being more or less relaxed, not only in training but throughout the day. :cool:

If you want to learn about s systematic approach to relaxation try out Autogenic Training (german: "Autogenes Training") invented by Schultz in 1920. In America it is often called self-hypnosis...

Good of you to mention AT. I must say I'm using it as a relaxation technique on and off for about 8 years. It all began for me in my 1st year of high-school when my grades dropped drastically due to the change in the enviroment, hence I got nervous up to a point I could hardly write a math exam without braking a pencil - literally! :dead:

After a couple of months of regular 15-min-once-a-day-before-bed-time practice of AT I managed to achieve such a level of relaxation that sometimes my mind wandered off during a test in english (which I was rather comfortable with from the begining) and I could get through a math test without too much trouble.

So I got from total stress-out to a state that our sensei refers to as negative relaxation (when you're oblivious to the world around you).

And now, years after, I'm discovering something called positive relaxation, natural movement, awareness without stress etc. All of the afore mentioned experience offer good guidance. As is true, IMHO, for anyone - your experience shape you, form you, mold you. And that is probably why there's never a single answer to a question.

I suppose everyone has to find his own way to relax (now, wasn't that deep). :rolleyes: :D

Best wishes to all!
M

Dante
09-28-2005, 05:06 PM
Hello all - I'm not sure if Andrew means he can't relax during the entire session, for parts of it, or just for some techniques/exercises. I go through this as well. While I do catch myself relaxing more and more, there are some techniques (from both an uke and nage point of view) that immediately make me tighten up. For example, when we're practicing tenchi nage, and I'm on the receiving end, I can't help but become rigid - which is probably the worst thing I can possibly do (except perhaps to not draw my head in to protect my neck.)

Luckily, as we continue to practice the heaven/earth throw, I also practice relaxing while being uke in tenchi nage. It's still not instinctive - and I suppose it never will be - but at least I now end up thinking about relaxing when needed in this specific situation.

Now if I can only do the same for all the other instances...

Cheers.

Nito
09-28-2005, 07:55 PM
When I have a problem with a technique (always) in relaxation, body placement, balance... I like to feel how a beginner (er, those few who have less experience than I) does the technique. This will usually give me plenty of ideas on how I am doing it wrong, and ways to suck just a little bit less.I think that sometimes if someone who really has their stuff together does the movement, there is 'too much' going on for me to grasp a specific problem that I am working on. Make sense? probably not, but I hope it helps...

Karen Wolek
09-29-2005, 08:42 AM
This is an interesting aricle about how your face influences how relaxed you are:

http://www.litchfieldaikido.com/litchfieldaikikai/articles/change_your_expression.shtml

charron
09-29-2005, 09:12 AM
I find, that sometimes when doing a specific drill or working with specific indivduals, and am trying to make something work, that the reasons that I fail is twofold. First , I trying to make something work, which adds tension. Second, my mind gets in the way, keeping me from relaxing. When I recognize these two symptons, I switch my focus, from trying to control every aspect of the exercise, and just let the body do it. Most of the time, when you stop thinking and trust that the body knows, then you become more relaxed, and it works like a charm.

Amendes
09-29-2005, 11:04 AM
This is an interesting aricle about how your face influences how relaxed you are:

http://www.litchfieldaikido.com/litchfieldaikikai/articles/change_your_expression.shtml

Won't work for me :( Dead link..

CNYMike
09-29-2005, 02:35 PM
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.

For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed. And when I don't try I think I am almost as bad.

I find i'm getting so frustrated.

I can't win! :crazy:

<R. Lee Ermey Voice> TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND CALM DOWN, MAGGOT!!!! JUST RELAX!!!! DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT!!!! </R. Lee Ermey Voice> :) Sorry, couldn't resist. :o Serioulsy, relaxation is the hardest part of all martial arts, not just Aikido. My karate sensei pointed it out to me seven years ago. I'm still trying to learn to relax my shoulders, but even when I think they're relaxed, someone else notes how tense they are.

One time, while driving home from Aikido, I felt the muscles in my shoulders melt. Then they tensed up again. So the CAN relax, but I don't as yet have conscious voluntary control over it.

So I hear what you're saying, but try not to let it frustrate you too much; that will only make it worse. There are people, I know, who can just melt every muscle in their bodies at a thought. Then there are the rest of us mere mortals who have to work at relaxing .... if that makes any sense.

emma.mason15
09-29-2005, 06:19 PM
gonna ask an obvious one here ....
but ever tried meditating???
learning top relax muscles outside the dojo may help you .... i find i can zone out at pretty much any time at will now ....
em

ikkitosennomusha
09-29-2005, 06:51 PM
Hi Andrew!

I would recommend that you truely learn the meaning of "no mind". Read some articles on it, learn how to achieve it. It took me a couple of years but when I was able to have no mind, I suddenly became more aware of my surrondings as if everything moved in slow motion. Actually, someone mentioned zazen. This is a grat place to start. Read the philospohical methodology on how to clear your mind.

Having no mind is being able to see everything.

rob_liberti
09-29-2005, 10:01 PM
Many problems stem from the following points: wrong positioning of the feet, weight not equal on both feet, hipps not low enough, pelvis and (lower) back stretched backward (a hollow back won't allow you performing a 180 degree turn at the place), position not upright enough, shoulders too high, movements/gestures too excentric and so on and so on. Your sensei should analyze where to help you to create a base where from relaxation can be build up.

Good luck Goetz

Weight not equal on both feet? How do you move?!!! I'm not sure I would sacrifce my ability to take a step. Can't you remain relaxed and be able to shift your weight from foot to foot in an instant?

Rob

Michael Meister
09-30-2005, 08:12 AM
This is an interesting aricle about how your face influences how relaxed you are:

http://www.litchfieldaikido.com/litchfieldaikikai/articles/change_your_expression.shtml

That's exactely what I meant. Btw suwari waza kokyo ho is a very good technique to test it. At least it was for me.

guest89739
10-08-2005, 09:14 AM
andrew,

i know exactly what you mean... :crazy:
my sensei keeps shaking me to "loosen me up" it drives me nuts!!
but i think maybe the" face relaxation thing" is a good idea :)

cheers, marieluise

Carol Shifflett
10-08-2005, 12:34 PM
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now. I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?
Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.
For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed.

That's what ki exercises are for; they show the difference. ;-)Howevever, to avoid starting a ki war, I will suggest something even more heretical -- biofeedback. I've been looking at this ever since I discovered that a $9.95 Radio Shack was a good predictor of passing or failing a ki test. Ki testing IS biofeedback, with your partner serving as a human sensor.

OTOH ELECTRONIC biofeedback is getting more and more attention. There is even a biofeedback game on the market "Into the Wild Divine." In order to play the game . . .

-- you MUST learn to relax, and know when you're relaxing and when you're not.

-- you MUST learn to ramp back up when necessary, alternating between what looks to me like "alpha" relaxation vs. "beta" relaxation.

-- you MUST learn to breathe, and realize that the physiological changes are very real and not mere imagination or party line.

The game comes with sensors for skin conductance, muscle tension, heart rate, etc.

Recently I attended a certification class for biofeedback where I watched attendees walk away with thousands of dollars worth of equipment that in my opinion, doesn't offer a whole lot more than Wild Divine for $160 (except of course, FDA certification for treating tension and Inability to Relax) ;-)

You can purchase the Grapher Expansion Pack which reveals the physiology behind the game. Watch your blood pressure or heart rate changing, under your control, in real time. See for yourself the effects of breathing and relaxation. Do Ki exercises while hooked to the Wild Divine sensors -- and watch what happens!

Yeah, OK, so "RELAX!!"-- but this lets you learn what that really means!

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett