A few weeks back, at my beginner class, the teacher put us through a different sort of exercise. We did several blending techniques with either our eyes closed or all the dojo lights turned off.
We started the lesson, as always with tai-no-henko and then to tai-no-henko ki-no-nagare.
After that we did tai-no-henko ki-no-nagare with our eyes closed. We then did some tanto-dori with the lights off. At least half the 1.5 hour lesson was conducted with the eyes being of little or no use.
It was the most incredible thing as my timing was actualy better when I wasn't using my eyes!
I found that the best way to blend with the attacker was to calm the breathing down. In my view, the attacker is calm as he/she knows what is going to happen and when. By being jumpy and concentrating too hard, your breathing gets quicker and it is impossible to blend with the attacker.
At the end of class we turned out the lights again and bowed in the darkness with no visual prompts to help us syncronise.
Has anyone else done these kinds of exercises? I found them really usefull and every lesson now I go in hoping that we will do some more!
Yes, we once did a session with the lights off. It was not completeley dark, you still could see your partner dimly. I noticed that it seemed to be a little bit easier for me as I'm used to see only the motion (I'm really shortsightened and sometimes train without my lenses or glasses) where anyone else seemed to concentrate on the little bit they see...... It worked really fine and I enjoyed the session.
We occasionally did it also with closed eyes, but it was much harder, because I had to direct part of my attention on keeping my eyes shut. I also didn't get the timing, but my breathing was all but relaxed. So next time I'll try to relax my breathing and focus on the moment of contact, maybe that'll help.
Hope you'll have more of this interesting training sessions,
I've done resistance exercises with people with their eyes closed. As someone grabs your wrists and pushes, you move without offering any resistence, but by keeping your centre and moving off centre line. This is then done with the eyes closed. Helps build sensetivity.
lights, darkness, go with it
Since you are practicing a set exercise, it is a bit easier to get used to anticipating your partner, but then again, it should be no different in the light or the dark.
At someplace or sometime, your vision will be impaired or of no use, so getting the feel of bodies in the dark, and being able to sense the movement of those bodies when touched should always be in your mind when training.
Oblique angles are the main entry to every technique your learn ... there is no head on colision of forces, just the oblique entry and redirection in nearly every Aikido technique.
Sometimes, sensing or figuring out where you are to "get the hell out of the way" is the key to actually being proficient in training with your eyes closed.
I kind of like walking through four or more of the class in the dark as they walk across the mat. It adjusts your ability to weave in and out of people without seeing them, and really helps when training in the dark to feel where uke or nage is standing. Position is everything to moving onto a technique.
Gotta love it.
Now, if you video tape your practice with an infrared camera, you will really see some comedy.
I don't know about tainohenko kinonagare with eyes closed.. you are supposed to be moving before they touch, right?.. maybe if you are really good you can start the blend when you feel the wind from their incoming hand or something..
However I have done blindfolded aikido, and it really amazed me too. With vision always being there to take center stage, it is easy to ignore stuff that is really very wonderful:
while blindfolded it is much more obvious that you can feel a lot more of your uke that the surface of their hand or body that is actually touching you. If they are grabbing, then as you both move you can feel their elbow, shoulder, center.. you can feel their legs loose their ability to support uke as you take balance.. you can even get enough of a sense of their body's position to know if the uke's free arm currently has the ability to attack with strikes or more grabs or anything. That's what really amazed
I know feeling into your uke is central to good aikido but it sure is easy to loose sight of that when you are relying on your eyes too much.. (funny how ironic that reads.)
Re: lights, darkness, go with it
But I do like the idea of blindfolds though. :D
Thanks for the replies!
Jonathan - yes and this was the amazing part!
Just go with your instincts! Sure there was quite a bit of turning to soon, too late or not at all but on the whole, it was good. If you close your eyes, after a minute or two, all your other senses become more alive. There is a large part of timing that is handled by the ears (rustle of gi, feet on the mat etc..) but these are no good if you do not harmonise properly by relaxing your breathing and trying to 'feel' the attacker. This was equally important for the tanto-dori, obviously.
On reflection, there was another benefit to the exercise and that was it has now made me see that there is a certain unity to all Aikido principles. The movement without being able to see yourself means that the hip is more in your mind. At least for me!
I am loathe to say such a thing due to the starwars and mystical allusions, but the thing is not to anticipate. "Don't think - feel" as Old Ben Kenobi would say. ahem. It is true though, the anticipation ruins your awarness.
I think O Sensei once said something along the lines of "Do every technique as if for the first time and the last time." This, I suppose can be interpereting in many ways but for me, doing a technique as if it was the first time is to not anticipate too much. Don't have pre-conceptions about the technique or the attack otherwise if something changes then you are lost. As for doing like the last time, I feel that it is telling us to remain calm as whatever happens will happen. Both fundamental to awase I think.
Jeez I ramble on - I will have to restrict my posts from now on!
I am going to try some ken kata in the dark / with my eyes closed at the end of next lesson and see how my awarness of my own body changes.
With a partner? :eek:
No - by myself - I have already tonked someone in paired exercise. (Very lightly mind you!)
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