I would like to know what peoples idea of what is meant when we are told to "relax" while training.
I remember reading an article where a high level Aikido person said the most important thing he learned from O'Sensei was how to relax.
When I 1st started training I heard it was important to be relaxed while performing techniques and I took that to mean physical relaxation. I tried to train without muscular tension. I also thought this tied into the idea that we are supposed to be able to use little muscular power and still have the technique work.
I found over time however that I had some difficulty as my level increased and consequently attackers stepped up their level of attacks. I find myself perhaps straining more than I would like. It could be a problem with keeping a calm mind and trusting the technique when under pressure.
I am now wondering if relax has far more to do with mental relaxation. Staying calm, etc.
Are you taught to perform techniques with strong body effort or more focus on finding out how to make the technique work with the least body effort possible?
I would appreciate your insights and ideas based on your teachings and experience.
All the best
We are taught that if your straining then your not doing the technique correctly. the idea beind the techniques is that one shouldn't have to strain. Now Im sure there are times when you can toss a little more "Umph" into a technique and get diffrent results. Rexlaing body and mind and using Ki flow is what makes the techniques dynamic.
We are also taught to use our whole body, not just one part of it. So if you use your entire body and entire mind and entire spritual self in a technique the results would be heavenly.
There is more to it than just relaxing your muscles. relax your mind, and extend your ki. I think all Aikidoka strive not to master just the technique, but to master harmony with ones entire being, body, mind, and soul.
This link you may find useful. Check out the unbendable arm as an example.
I have been taught to use the least effort as well. Also when told to relax I am very sure (because they were very specific about it) that it meant muscular relaxation. Here's what I think it comes down to for me and many others I have seen:
we often do things with LOTS of muscles flexing--it feels strong. However it is a little silly to do something like aikido when you are flexing OPPOSING muscles, like biceps and triceps at the same time. The point is to be able to move freely, not to become rigid.
So if you are flexing the correct muscles, your technique will be both very energetically efficient, as well as able to change at a moment's notice in respose to uke. However all the while you will have lots of muscles that are physically relaxed, even while others are flexing strong. That is what is meant by "relax"--loose the unnecessary and counterproductive tension.
My current opinion anyway.
The person in the article you mentioned was Koichi Tohei Sensei. He went on to develop this idea of relax completely into an entire curriculum.
You can read more about it here.
For me muscular tention and mental tention arelinked and can not be separated. Some times while doing a technic my sensei will tell me to relax even though I think I am. Upon stopping and anylizing my tention I usually I find I am tense in the shoulders and subsuquently make myself relax via consious effort. I find when I am relaxed I can feel the ukes energy easier, thus able to blend with and redirect the energy easier.
Not an easy concept to explain but hope it made sense.
Erik's Aikido Dictionary
Relax (verb): Has little meaning, usualy said to a trainingspartner if you cannt figure out why your or his technique isnt working.
Though many would not agree, I think this concept of relaxation has cause many problems in aikido.
I don't think 'relaxation' as it is applied does not mean to not use strength. Yamada sensei talks about using the appropriate muscles (e.g. in extension you want to be using your triceps, but not fighting this by also using the antagonistic biceps).
Also, I think relaxation means to keep the shoulders low (and maintain low centre of gravity). Often the upper body tenses unnecessarily.
Finally, we have to be 'sensetive' to ukes movements so we can blend. To do this we can't just be forcing ahead unthinkingly.
To summarise, instead of thinking relax, think:
1. drop shoulders*
3. be aware and able to respond to a change in ukes movements
to complete the third one you have to be mentally relaxed and 'open' to the situation (i.e. aware of what uke is actually doing, not trying to force them to do something which you want them to do).
*a good exercise for developing shoulder relaxation is 'hugging the tree' or ;holding the balloon' in chi kung. This involves standing with your arms out (as if holding a big balloon) for around 10-20 mins. HOWEVER you need to relax and drop your shoulders so the ligaments take the weight and the shoulder muscles relax.
P.S. I don't think the use of force is necessarily 'wrong' in aikido - it is encountering resistance which is wrong i.e. if soemones balance is broken you can throw them very hard, however if you are just pushing the opposite direction to them, this is conflict of motion and a waste of energy.
I think Ian summed up some of my problems with this whole "relax" business pretty nicely. Its also kind of funny...but some of the people who are real into the internal stuff, and ki, and relaxing, are also some of the stiffest that I've felt. Now...maybe I'm just clueless when it comes to feeling internal strength. But I didn't notice this strange stiffness when working with 5th dans out of the ki society.
Ron (that's entirely possible, that I'm clueless, that is) Tisdale
Thanks for your comments and ideas. I appreciate the feedback.
I have actually done that ballon thing Ian mentioned and found it interesting.
I like the idea of having strength in the appropriate muscles and making sure its a whole body movement.
I have noticed people who I feel move really well feel like they are alive but supple.
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