Dojo: ASU of Sarasota
Location: Sarasota, Florida
Join Date: Jan 2010
The Problem with Being a Big Guy
Good day to you, folks. As a lurker, I have enjoyed many of the posts on this forum. It thrills me to no end to know that so many share the same enthusiasm for Aikido and training that I do. I have been training for about three years, and I am still suffering with since I began studying the art. To add a little background to myself, I am a large fella. Mid 30's about 6'3" and about 300lb. I played alot of sports when I was younger, and fortunately for me I never grew up and am now just a monsterous kid. At any rate, I am agile for a big guy, and I would be lying if I didn't say I was strong too. I have found both treasure and roadblocks because of my size. Having never studied any martial arts previous studying Aikido, I was awash in questions. The biggest one was always giving an honest attack.
In my own head, which has all kinds of nonsense spinning (I fear I often have no idea what I am talking about, when speaking to people who have worlds more experience) , I have concluded that an honest attack is just that....An honest attack. If the attack is a punch to the face, I am going to punch to the face. If the attack is a cross handed grab, I am going to grab cross handed. This moment is fine, it is after where it all goes downhill for me. After I have attacked and Nage has sucessfully dealt with the attack either by use of atemi or initially breaking my balance and beginning to direct my momentum (I guess sometimes they just get out of the way too, but that isn't so much a problem for me), I end up in this weird kind of limbo, and am never quite sure what to do next.
There are many different people who train in what seem at times to be very different styles of the same art. When I attend seminars, I run into three general types of people. People that are very soft and flowy. People that are as stiff and harsh. And people that seem to have you before you even attacked, and with these people I spend no time in limbo, because size has ceased to be a factor in their training. They never afford you slack to escape thier techniques, and when you take ukemi for them it is perfectly obvious where they are compelling you to go.
I am a big softy, myself. Not that banging around isn't fun, because it is. When I first started all I did was muscle, because that is what you did in every sport I ever played. You used your muscles. Sometime after that, I quit doing that. As uke it was easier to fall being loose. And every teacher I endeavor to copy is loose and relaxed. So, eventually I relaxed. Not that I have any idea what I am doing, but being relaxed certainly makes many of the techniques I attempt easier in my mind. Less friction and much more detail.
But here is the issue, many people do not train in a flowing relaxed style, and I have trained with several people who this works out very well for. I lack the vocabulary to put it into terms that mean what the should for martial arts, but when I say abrupt, terse, hard, and unyielding, I mean them in the best possible sense. The way that you would want them to work if you were nage.
When I train with smooth and flowy people, I can feel where they are directing me, and I try to feel out thier technique, probably being a little more compliant then I should be. When I train with people who are of a "harder" style, most of the time I am just figuring out how to protect myself. This in itself is obviously not a bad thing. The problem comes from the people who know their technique didn't work the way it was supposed to. More often then not, I still will take the fall because that is the way I was being directed. But on more than one occasion, I have been scolded for "just giving it" to a someone. I understand their frustrations, because I want my technique to work too, and if someone was just making it easy for me instead of challenging me I would be irritated as well. But I am a very big, very strong guy and in general I can give most people a hard time.
Which brings up the next issue. Atemi is very, very effective and is often Plan B when Technique A doesn't quite work out. I found this out very quickly. It is great for my training, but it is also a hinderance. When I do give somebody the "strong" attack that they are looking for, and I do actually managed to grab with enough force to interupt their technique, I spend the next moment trying to dodge what is invariably coming next. By this point the original technique is moot, and thank my lucky stars that I am not seeing any stars. In other words, I didn't learn anything about how to do the technique, I just learned how to dodge what may happen as a result of the technique not working.
I assume that this is just part of training, but I can't help but feel like I am missing something along the way. A friend of mine pointed out to me as a result of being so loose, I leave myself vulnerable to those who would crank down, and there is no doubt about the fact that he is right. On the other hand, I do not what to become so rigid I can't move and flow.
Is there a balance for all of this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.