I have done 4 classes at the PTSD ward of the local VA hospital. They have changed their structure a bit. Before there were up to 6 new people rotating in every week, which gave me a constant turnover of people. We also held classes mornings, right after morning meeting, in the ward. While this meant more restricted space it gave me the chance to lure in guys who were just sitting around, which actually happened quite frequently.
Now there is one group every 6 weeks, no rotation. This should give me a more consistent group for the 6 week period. Class is scheduled at a gym all the way across the hospital grounds, in the afternoon during "free time". This makes recruiting and attendance problematic. However, a recreation specialist is assigned to work with me which helps. She attends the classes, and as she is doing a grad program focusing on recreation and PTSD she has a particular interest in my approach and maybe sees a thesis paper out of this.
As I figured, recruiting and attendance is a problem. I had 4 guys the first class, 2 for the second, no one showed up for the third, and 2 for the fourth. However, the second and fourth classes were outside on the lawn in front of the ward and I managed to entice 2 guys to join in the second class, one of whom came back for the fourth class, along with 1 from the first class. If this sound a bit confusing, it is! Rather than get caught up in the attendance problems, I've decided my commitment is to show up for every class, conduct class if even one vet shows up, doing simple, basic techniques with the emphasis on being centered, relaxed and balanced throughout and focusing on the fuku shiki kokyu, or deep breathing process of transferring stress/energy to the hara. If it is anything I want to offer to these vets, it is this ability to control the negative energy of CRPTSD they are so fearful of, and convert it in to potential, positive energy.
One of the biggest root causes of CRPTSD can arise from the fact that during a traumatic event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may have witnessed people being injured or dying, or you may have been physically harmed yourself. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening around you, no way to deal. Worse, you may have no control of yourself. And feeling unable to deal with your self can be the most frightening feeling possible.
Quote from a former MidEast warrior, emphasis mine. "Sometimes in my day-to-day life something, sometimes some little thing, would come up and I couldn't deal with it. I'd get confused, frustrated. I would just lock up. Then I completely lose control, and it's not safe for me and it's not safe for other people. I'm not aware of where I am, what's happening or what I'm doing. And that's when my combat training would take over. Like when I first got out, I was constantly getting in to fights, for no reason, and somebody would have to stop me. Then I realized I knew how to kill and sometime no one is going to be there to stop me, and I'm going to kill somebody. I was so afraid of myself."
One of the comments made during the debrief at the end of the first class was that some of the standing pins were "kind of painful". I felt they shouldn't be, until I realized I needed to teach uke how to take ukemi safely. To do this, uke has to give up their balance in order retain as much control over themselves as possible. This sounds contradictory, but if you do not give up your balance and remain solid and static the flow of a technique will place stress and pain on joints, if you "give up" your balance, you should be able to retain enough control to move within the flow of the technique to that safe and secure place which is the goal of a standing pin. For this reason, it is as important for uke to be as centered and relaxed as tori, and as essential to practice ukemi as it is to practice technique. This is something I need to teach in every class, as a part of every technique.
(Original blog post may be found here