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Old 01-18-2010, 08:10 PM   #1
Thomas Osborn
Dojo: Aikido of Northampton
Location: Holyoke, MA
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 108
Evaluation To Date

When I started back in September, I set some initial goals for what I wanted to accomplish with this class, and how I intended to go about accomplishing that. After five months, the start of a new year, and a great class, I think it is a good time to review those goals and the trail I have taken to get where we are now.

In September, I set the following, although they weren't structured quite this way:
A. Class will be an enjoyable break from the regular schedule,
B. Give people something positive they can use outside of class, in their regular life, dealing with their real life issues.
C. The physical activity should have an effect on their mental/emotional activity [kinesthetic learning].
It doesn't really matter if they are consciously aware of this. Covert often works better than overt.
D. Based on discussions with the staff and given the time and location realities:
1. Stress the collaborative nature of aikido practice, Nage as teacher, Uke is student.
2. All techniques will end with a standing pin, occasionally a take down. No throws or falls.
3. Concentrate on basic moves and techniques; 1 & 2 hand grabs, shoulder grabs, chop to neck [shomenuchi]. No punching [tsuki] as it could be a bit too risky with this group.
E. Drill on the 5 points of technique
1. welcoming "attack" and relaxing [breathing] to center
2. getting "off the line" and entering
3. blending attacker's [Uke] "center" with defender's [Nage]
4. Nage utilizes technique to move their own body, maintaining relaxed and centered movement,
not focusing on Uke
5. coming to a place where the attacker is secure and both participants are safe [especially Nage]

II. EVALUATION: To evaluate progress/success on these I've come up with the following set of goals;
A. That guys will enjoy the class and keep coming.
There is always a core group that comes regularly. This group changes as the population of the ward changes every 6 weeks or so. Some people try it once, and don't come back, but very few. The guys who don't come regularly, don't usually try it even once. Since this is a voluntary activity, the number who stick is fairly high. This also includes the chair warriors who come and watch regularly and practice when we do chair work.
B. That there will be a good interaction among the various "demographics" of the group and a sense of group will develop.
This seems to be going well. People partner-up pretty freely with each other. I havn't noticed any cliques.
C. Guys will learn and demonstrate an ability to consciously relax and center when "attacked"/stressed.
Most people understand the relaxing to center and will use it during a technique when I cue them. Some guys use it without cueing. One issue that came up during a staff meeting, and working with a couple of the vets is the feeling of vulnerability, and the kneejerk reaction to either withdraw, or respond inappropriately [attack]. I have started to bring up breathing to center and relaxing specifically around the feeling of vulnerability. I'm modifying this question to; when "attacked"/stressed or feeling vulnerable.
D. Staff will have some commonly held language they can use to help Vets in certain situations, i.e. relax, center, breath down.
E. All of these will carry over outside of class.
Evaluating D & E depend on getting feed-back and evaluation from staff. This may take awhile to get established and I'm not exactly sure to get it to happen on a regular basis. I will bring it up to the 3 or 4 staff who regularly attend class.

I also wrote the following, "I should make it clear, I don't necessarily see Aikido as therapy for PTSD. I do believe, and it has been my experience, that Aikido can be therapeutic."
Both my own sense of what I am accomplishing, and the fact that the staff really want this to continue indicate some significant theraputic value. As to how much, or in what ways will require a more structured clinical assessment. It would be nice to get such a study funded.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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