I just wrote a long email to an old friend and thought it was worth posting here.
You write "I am older, out of shape and my fibromyalgia is kicking my butt. I have not attended an Aikido class in months, even the easy ones, because of this. It breaks my heart, because Aikido is so close to my heart, mainly because of my Aikido friends. Your videos have given me hope that I might be able to get back on the mat."
What I want to say is, you CAN get on the mat ANYtime if you redefine how you train and accept unconditionally that what you can do any given class is what you will do.
You do not have to fall or roll. Nope. Not even the safe soft ones in my videos for falling for non-martial artists. Not. At. All. In fact, you don't have to throw your partner either, if that's hard. Whichever role, just go to balance-taking. That's the important part anyhow, and learning to have control of uke to that point and stop is great.
You do not have to have a firm grip on your partner's wrist. You can use tegatana and similar cutting movements if thumbs hurt or grip is weak.
You do not have to do suwariwaza. Whatever they are doing, either take it as your resting time, or do a standing version.
You do not have to do a seated pin. If your hands permit it, do a standing pin instead (standing sankyo pin almost always "fits
. If grip is too difficult, just go to taking balance or do a soft projection.
You do not have to do every technique that a given class is covering. It's ok to sit out.
If people can train in wheelchairs, or without arms, or without sight, there is no reason for anybody to stop training except that the voice in his or her head says so.
In my experience these internal voices fall into three categories:
1. People who cling to a romantic ideal of the aikido they did twenty years ago. I see this all the time, They come back to the dojo as dinged up middle aged folks. They don't heed our advice to pace themselves, to maybe sit out part of the class as needed, to maybe skip a technique or some ukemi. They train full tilt for one class, the next day are in terrible pain, and they disappear again for a couple of years....then try it again. They cannot get their head around another model of being on the mat.
2. People who have a limited vision of aikido, who view it mostly as a collection of techniques to be done athletically even if they give lip service to the "spiritual side." The don't understand that the real "meat" of the art is the slow and subtle stuff, working on structure and breath and aiki, not the making people fall down stuff.
3. People who do not fully accept themselves as they are, which allows one to integrate whatever disability exists and then focus solely on what abilities exist. This is the one that hung me up for many years. I didn't want to be treated as a second class citizen on the mat, but I treated myself as one. I was apologetic, hung out on the fringes, wouldn't go to seminars, etc. If this is the issue, it does help and maybe it is necessary to have a really inclusive and supportive dojo culture to train in until one gets confidence in ability.
This is the best way I can say it, with an open heart from one friend to another, from one damaged body to another.