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James Kelly 11-18-2005 05:17 PM

Slow Aikido
 
So, I've had something of an epiphany recently. It seems to me that the better people get at aikido, the _slower_ they move. You'd think it would be the other way around, but when I look at the Shihan, the faster the attack comes, the slower they seem to go.

I thought this might be particular to aikido, where the emphasis is not on speed and strength, but I've recently started cross training in capoeira, a very fast martial art, in a school where speed is emphasized over just about everything, and when the high levels play, they go slower and slower, even if their opponent is zipping around. They just put themselves in a place where the opponent can't attack. The better they are, the less they have to move to get into that place. It really is amazing to see one guy spinning and twirling like a top and the other, calmly stepping in and out of the way.

This came as a shock to me. For years I've been trying to speed up my techniques. My dojo has a reputation for teaching very slow aikido so when I go to other dojos or a seminar I would try to see if I could play at their speed. By this I thought it meant doing the techniques as fast as they attack. But now I'm trying something different. I'm trying to go as slow as I can, no matter how fast they attack. It's not easy, but I'm kind of grooving on it.

Anyone else make this observation? Have any thoughts on the speed of aikido training? Am I totally off base here? I saw a t-shirt once (from Boulder Aikikai I think), ‘Slow is ok' on the front, ‘but fast is better' on the back (or something like that). Now I'm thinking maybe I should make one just, ‘slow is better'.

Discuss

SeiserL 11-18-2005 07:53 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
IMHO, it isn't a question of slow or fast, but one of timing and correctness.

SteveTrinkle 11-18-2005 08:01 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
My teacher said once that "slow is ok, fast is ok, but suddenly is not so good."

Janet Rosen 11-18-2005 10:20 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Part of how I have always prepared for testing by asking my training partner to attack at full intent but 1/2 speed--which is NOT easy to do!--but working at that speed, you get to really play with posture, timing, position, connection etc at a speed that better lets you feel, observe, find exactly where your openings/problems are.

tedehara 11-19-2005 02:10 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
This is where The Principle of Ten applies.

If you're attacked slowly (3), you should move quickly (7) so the result is 10. If you're attacked quickly (6), you should move slower (4) so the result is 10, but you also have to move earlier.

Think of this as a principle of ma-ai that you can refine through practice.

nekobaka 11-19-2005 04:21 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
I was at boulder aikikai for a few years, and often felt that stamina was just as important as technique. then I came to japan and practiced at a "slow" dojo, where everyone attacked in a heavy way. there was also a lot more personal instruction from the yudansha.I liked it better and feel like I really improved while I was there. then I moved and the dojo I'm at now is a "fast" dojo, where very rarely does anyone attack "heavily". I feel like I've gotten worse instead of better in the last 3 years. I will probably move again in the next year or so, so I hope to find another slow dojo. I think when you do a techinique fast you can fake your way through it, as well as the attack being light, and easy to move the person. with a heavy attack, I really have to move from my center and not use muscle, because most of the people are stronger than I am. that's why I think it makes me improve.

Rupert Atkinson 11-19-2005 04:28 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
In response to the initial post - certain shihan may appear slow, and they may be slow, but what they do will be based on years of fast training. Thus, it would be a mistake to take what they appear to do and train slow.

Lan Powers 11-19-2005 08:06 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Another aspect of the speed of the technique is the nage *may be* setting the speed instead of allowing the uke to control their meeting as a means to gain firmer control overall.
Our sensei often says that the nage sets the pace....no matter how fast uke comes at him, he gets sucked into the technique with balance just out of reach, either before him (faster) or just behind where it is recoverable (slower).
At times it can look like uke charges full blown, into nages solo slow motion tai-chi form. :)
Doing a technique exquisitely slow to reveal a point he is stressing is also MUCH harder than doing it with flow and momentum. Lots of benefits.

Lan

Devon Natario 11-19-2005 09:00 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
My instructor used to tell me that speed was irrelevant to the entire spectrum of things.

He would demonstrate a technique on me doing it very fast, then do the technique relaxed and at half speed. Both time he asked me to reverse it, or to stop the flow of the technique and I could not respond to either.

The brain and the muscles can only respond so fast, and they can not re-react.

Now I learned the re-react from Hanshi Dillman. Let someone do a front hand choke on you and move swiftly and hard all the way to the right, then directly move your head swiftly and hard all the way to the right.

The person choking you can not maintain a grip strong enough to hurt you and it gives you time to take their hands away or walk backward. (This does have to be done rather fast, not too slow otherwise the persons brain will catch up and latch on you).

The lesson was to show that the brain and the muscles can not re-react, they only react quicklly.

If you can think of the many techniques that we do that we change direction, you will understand why it is so hard for our partners to re-react to techniques making speed almost irrelevant. You just barely have to be fast enough to make sure your partners brain doesnt catch up to what's going on.

CNYMike 11-19-2005 04:44 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

James Kelly wrote:
.... Now I'm thinking maybe I should make one just, ‘slow is better'.

Discuss

Slow is better for learning and training safely. My Kali instructor, who also has permission to teach Pentjak Silat Serak, drives this point home constantly. According to him, there's a large body of research to back this up. Thai Boxers, I understand, also spar at a compartively slow pace; there's no way they could do that all day in a hot and humid country and live to talk about it if they didn't. Of course, when they go in the ring, they're full speed ahead, but that's the payoff for going slow.

One reason it's a good idea is as follow: When you go dull speed ahead, your fight-or-flight refelx can kick in, resulting in an "adrenaline bomb" being dumped into your blood stream. So you "dumb down" to moves that don't have a lot of fine motor control. This is why in Karate-Do, kumite doesn't look like kata, bunkai, or ippon kumite -- they're going too fast to have presence of mind to do those beautiful techniques! Of course, there may be perfectly valid reasons why they go full boar out the gate, either from the perspective of attaining mushin no shin or some aspect of Japanese culture. But it has that drawback.

Now, once you get used to doing things slow, of course, then you can ramp it up, from say 1/4 speed to 1/2 and so forth. But it shouldn't feel any different -- just take less time. That's also what my Kali instructor is doing -- sheparding us through ascending levels of "practice sparring" before you get to the real deal.

So in a nutshell, slow is better. And it's best of your sensei agrees with you; otherwise, it's a moot point.

David Yap 11-20-2005 03:44 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

James Kelly wrote:
...You'd think it would be the other way around, but when I look at the Shihan, the faster the attack comes, the slower they seem to go.

I thought this might be particular to aikido, where the emphasis is not on speed and strength, but I've recently started cross training in capoeira, a very fast martial art, in a school where speed is emphasized over just about everything, and when the high levels play, they go slower and slower, even if their opponent is zipping around. They just put themselves in a place where the opponent can't attack. The better they are, the less they have to move to get into that place. It really is amazing to see one guy spinning and twirling like a top and the other, calmly stepping in and out of the way...

Hi James,

Hmmm..I think they call this phenomenon "efficiency" :D

Hi Dr. Seiser,

I'm reading "Aikido Basics". Great work. Congrats to you and Dang sensei.

Best training

David Y

SeiserL 11-20-2005 11:04 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

David Yap wrote:
Hi Dr. Seiser, I'm reading "Aikido Basics". Great work. Congrats to you and Dang sensei.

Thank you.

Amir Krause 11-21-2005 02:54 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Michael Gallagher wrote:
Slow is better for learning and training safely. My Kali instructor, who also has permission to teach Pentjak Silat Serak, drives this point home constantly. According to him, there's a large body of research to back this up. Thai Boxers, I understand, also spar at a compartively slow pace; there's no way they could do that all day in a hot and humid country and live to talk about it if they didn't. Of course, when they go in the ring, they're full speed ahead, but that's the payoff for going slow.

One reason it's a good idea is as follow: When you go dull speed ahead, your fight-or-flight refelx can kick in, resulting in an "adrenaline bomb" being dumped into your blood stream. So you "dumb down" to moves that don't have a lot of fine motor control. This is why in Karate-Do, kumite doesn't look like kata, bunkai, or ippon kumite -- they're going too fast to have presence of mind to do those beautiful techniques! Of course, there may be perfectly valid reasons why they go full boar out the gate, either from the perspective of attaining mushin no shin or some aspect of Japanese culture. But it has that drawback.

Now, once you get used to doing things slow, of course, then you can ramp it up, from say 1/4 speed to 1/2 and so forth. But it shouldn't feel any different -- just take less time. That's also what my Kali instructor is doing -- sheparding us through ascending levels of "practice sparring" before you get to the real deal.

So in a nutshell, slow is better. And it's best of your sensei agrees with you; otherwise, it's a moot point.

Working slower gives one time to realize what he is doing, and make sure everything is done exactly as it should. One should practice more at slower speeds, learning. And practice faster only occasionally, to maintain his ability to accelerate the same movement.

The only issue that should be tested at fast speed is timing, and even then, a great M.A. can be identified as those who seem to move slower than their attacker (good timing and positioning requires less movement).

Amir

Nick Simpson 11-21-2005 04:37 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Timing.

j0nharris 11-21-2005 11:04 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Michael Gallagher wrote:
Now, once you get used to doing things slow, of course, then you can ramp it up, from say 1/4 speed to 1/2 and so forth... .

I agree that moving slowly at first lets us work on correct posture, etc.
The hardest thing I've found, though, especially lately, is getting uke to follow through with their intention, as if, they were going faster to complete the attack.
I'm also reminded of Morihito Saito Sensei's visits to the United States & his insistence that the weapons forms be learned slowly & correctly so that we can do them without strength!

It seems harder to impress on our newer, younger students the importance of the process of start-stop, then awase, then Ki No Nigare so that (hopefully) the form does not break down.

Not that I'm ever guilty of that myself! :D

Bronson 11-21-2005 11:24 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
The phrase "if you can't do the technique slow you've got no business doing it fast" is often heard in my class :D

Bronson

odudog 11-22-2005 09:46 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Bronson Diffin wrote:
The phrase "if you can't do the technique slow you've got no business doing it fast" is often heard in my class :D

Bronson

That's a good saying! Will your Sensei mind if I or anyone else outside of your dojo borrow that? I tell my kohai that they need to go slow so that they can learn what they are supposed to feel, where to feel it, and when to feel it. I have one colleague in my dojo who just passed his 2nd kyu test. When I worked with him to get him ready for the test, I would say "I'm going to do a Rob" and proceed to mimic his technique. I think he is finally starting to understand to move slow for he know sees how his technique looks like because verbally telling him over the past 3 years just didn't have the same affect.

James Davis 11-22-2005 10:20 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, it isn't a question of slow or fast, but one of timing and correctness.

My Sensei calls it "timing and precision", but he still looks fast as all hell!! :D

Neil Mick 11-22-2005 10:27 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

James Kelly wrote:
I've recently started cross training in capoeira, a very fast martial art, in a school where speed is emphasized over just about everything, and when the high levels play, they go slower and slower, even if their opponent is zipping around. They just put themselves in a place where the opponent can't attack. The better they are, the less they have to move to get into that place. It really is amazing to see one guy spinning and twirling like a top and the other, calmly stepping in and out of the way.

Capoeira is also not just about speed. Certain musical tempo's demand a slow roda (game), as well as certain styles such as Angola, in which the participants play almost completely on the floor, demanding a much slower (and more difficult) roda.

bratzo_barrena 11-22-2005 01:41 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Aikido is not a matter of speed, and I mean fast or slow, you shouldn't try to be faster or slower, there's a range of speed in which your body will be able to perform the techniques properly and balanced, faster or slower depending on the situation. Your body will find the appropiate range with practice. But you don't aim to be the faster or the slower just for the sake of it.

xuzen 11-23-2005 08:49 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Hi James,
Quote:

So, I've had something of an epiphany recently. It seems to me that the better people get at aikido, the _slower_ they move. You'd think it would be the other way around, but when I look at the Shihan, the faster the attack comes, the slower they seem to go.
James, a question... when you said fast or slow, are you saying it from the perspective of being the uke or from the perspective of a third party on-looker? When I am being the uke for my sensei, it felt fast because of his sharp tenkan, but when I see him do aikido on other uke, his technique seems of only casual speed to me.

Quote:

I thought this might be particular to aikido, where the emphasis is not on speed and strength, but I've recently started cross training in capoeira, a very fast martial art, in a school where speed is emphasized over just about everything, and when the high levels play, they go slower and slower, even if their opponent is zipping around. They just put themselves in a place where the opponent can't attack. The better they are, the less they have to move to get into that place. It really is amazing to see one guy spinning and twirling like a top and the other, calmly stepping in and out of the way.
Maestro at work.

Quote:

This came as a shock to me. For years I've been trying to speed up my techniques. My dojo has a reputation for teaching very slow aikido so when I go to other dojos or a seminar I would try to see if I could play at their speed. By this I thought it meant doing the techniques as fast as they attack. But now I'm trying something different. I'm trying to go as slow as I can, no matter how fast they attack. It's not easy, but I'm kind of grooving on it.
A quote from Shioda Kancho from his book Total Aikido: The Master Course pg. 187: "If you say that person's technique is fast or that person is slow, you are only seeing the form of that person. You must scrap such thoughts. In blending with the person's energy (timing), at the moment when you are really together with that person, both fast and slow are gone. That is what Ueshiba Sensei called "becoming one with nature".

IMO, slow or fast is not relevant. it is only relative. Being in control throughout is what we aim for. And when you are in control, fast and slow is irrelevant.

Bronson 11-24-2005 12:39 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Xu Wenfung wrote:
IMO, slow or fast is not relevant. it is only relative. Being in control throughout is what we aim for. And when you are in control, fast and slow is irrelevant.

I would agree with this. However, it is much easier to learn control when moving slowly...speed can always be added.

Bronson

Bronson 11-24-2005 12:40 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
Quote:

Mike Braxton wrote:
That's a good saying! Will your Sensei mind if I or anyone else outside of your dojo borrow that?

If it'll help, feel free.

Bronson

Taylor Franklin 11-26-2005 01:40 AM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
I'd have to say its a learned thing, it's not that they're going very slow, it is that they know how to do it at an acceptable pace that is both applicable to the mood of how they want to teach and showy enough to show that it is effective

For example. When you first learned to drive - if you do drive and you can remember the first few times - its very fast paced, its hard to take in everything. After a few rounds and some experience builds things slow down. Now compare back then if you were to drive to the mall from your house, and now. You could do it much safer(hopefully), faster(even if you are not speeding), and more percise if a problem were to arise. The first-timer self would probably have a hesistate, have a wreck, be very nervous, etc. That's how I look at it.

Delvin 12-14-2005 07:46 PM

Re: Slow Aikido
 
It reminds me of golf -- you watch a professional golf player hit the ball.
They don't look like they are trying to hit the ball,
They don't look like they are trying to swing the club,
It looks like they are just letting the club fall -- using gravity, and just hanging on.
Well to get that good they had to: Try to hit the ball and Try to swing the club.
Eventually they understood how the club felt as it moved and how it impacted the ball and they no longer had to try so hard to do it -- become one with the club and the ball and allowed it to work.


I'm new to Aikido but it seams that way too.


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