Injury as a Learning Tool
It occurs to me that I haven't written a Latest Bit of Goofiness in a while; so here it is.
For anyone who has ever trained with Sensei Tony, you'll know that getting injured is part of the Dojo experience. (Hee hee - a cheap shot I'm REALLY going to pay for the next time he sees me! Can you say...sankyo?)
Anyway; while I still have all my fingers unbroken; let's continue:
Injury is a very real possibility when training in Aikido; but for someone like myself for whom such a condition is normal; this does not necessarily have to be a Bad Thing. Indeed; I have found that injury can be very helpful in Aikido training. When one is injured; one does not want to experience any more pain in the affected part than is already present; nor does he/she wish to aggravate the condition. Depending on the part that is injured; this can make the practicioner very aware of his body position, movement, etc. Therefore; while the person is injured; he has an absolutely brilliant opportunity to practice moving properly; using ki instead of strength, etc.
So it may be said that us total klutzes have a distinct advantage in learning Aikido.
For everyone else; those who do not walk into doors or fall down stairs; I have prepared a training plan to help you to level the playing field. The plan is called Injury As A Learning Tool.
INJURY AS A LEARNING TOOL
Part one: Identifying the Problem.
Perhaps you're having trouble completing your techniques. Perhaps they don't seem to be working right. What is wrong? If you are a newcomer like myself, chances are; while your technique may be good; your ki extension and/or body movement suck rocks. IAALT can work wonders for you. The key is to identify the area in which you need to improve the most; and to injure yourself in such a way that that area is isolated and exercised while you whimper your way through daily practice. Is Ikkyo not working for you? You may be trying to muscle your way through the technique. When doing Ki exercises, do you topple over in a light breeze? You may be too stiff in the legs. Does your kokyunage look like some bizzare stork mating ritual? You may need help with your footwork. Here are a few sample training techniques that may help.
Part Two: IAALT training techniques.
1) Learning to use Ki instead of muscle:
This is one of the harder lessons for newcomers to learn; but it doesn't have to be. Developing good ki is a simple, three-step process:
Step 1: Practice ukemi.
Specifically; practice your three-point landings; using a gymnastics mat to cushion your fall. Aim to land right on the edge of the mat so you don't have to scramble out of the thing.
Step 2: Miss.
You should now be in the proper physical condition to learn to use Ki. Ensure you have a bruise that covers at least fifty per cent of your back; accompanied by suspicious red marks and soft spots where the spine should be. If this is not the case; repeat steps 1 and 2 with a higher initial jump.
Step 3: Practice Ikkyo.
Over and over again. Preferrably with a uke that outmasses you by at leat 2 to 1. As you perform the technique; you will notice that attempting to use the least amount of strength will result in collapsing to the floor, calling for Mommy. This is the result you wish to obtain; the reinforcement of good habits by discouraging bad habits with extreme prejudice. This holds true for all techniques, of course. It should be noted here that being strapped to a spineboard is an added bonus; as it encourages - indeed forces - you to keep your back straight, using your legs instead of stooping.
2) Proper arm use:
Students like me have trouble learning to use our arms properly; keeping the shoulders tense, letting the elbows drift up, keeping them tense. This technique addresses that.
Step 1: Act as uke for a newer student doing shihonage for the first time.
Step 2: Encourage nage to go as fast as possible; in order to 'minimize mistakes'.
Step 3: Take a big step away from uke as he attempts shihonage to give him plenty of room.
Your arm should now have the same rigidity as an octopus's tentacle.
You will quickly find that since none of the tendons that attach the arm's muscles to the bone are actually attached anymore; keeping a tense arm will be impossible. Your elbows will stay low due to gravity. As a special bonus; if the bonehead...er, I mean uke...took your wrist out with the rest of your arm, you'll have the option of performing some remarkable variations as uke during randori. Yokomenuchi will prove especially interesting as your boneless arm wraps itself several times around nage's wrist when he tries to throw you.
Footwork is challenging to develop; especially if you're like me and can't learn to line-dance without toppling at least a dozen rednecks like dominos.
Step 1: Practice a forward roll.
Step 2: Keep the leg that hits the mat first straight.
Knees aren't generally supposed to bend sideways, if it does; you've performed the technique correctly for our purposes. Staggering around during a technique like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz is very stressful on the knees; this condition will correct that bad habit quite effectively. There is one downside to this; you will not be able to practice shikko for at least six weeks.
Ummm....did I just call that a DOWNSIDE?
4) Using the hips.
It has been said; "Every throw is a hip throw". For those that have trouble grasping this concept, try the following:
Step 1: Act as uke during zenpo-nage tenkan.
Step 2: Have nage start the technique five feet from the wall.
Step 3: Aim to collide with your shoulders.
You can't use the shoulders when your rotator cuff is implanted in your ear. Doing so will result in the kind of pained girly squeak not heard since the last time Tony demonstrated Sankyo on me. (Does anyone get the idea I'm a major sucker for punishment? I am SO dead!) By isolating the shoulders in this fashion; you will be forced to use the hips in an effort to complete the technique.
Relaxing during a technique is challenging to many; so try this:
Step 1: Act as uke during kaiten-nage. Or koshinage.
Step 2: Don't roll.
The resulting extended stay in hospital; with the attendant spinal surgery, morphine, valium etc. combined with copious amounts of beer consumed during convalescence at home will give plenty of practice in total, complete relaxation. Obviously; this technique is not for the weak-minded; it should only be used as a last resort when all other relaxation techniques fail. (As an alternate method to this technique; I strongly recommend having sex while stoned just before going to the Dojo. Works wonders for stress.)
Part Three: Conclusion.
When reading or attempting to use IAALT, remember that these techniques are suggestions only. There are 206 bones in the human body; thousands of muscles. The variety of combinations one can use to hurt oneself are literally infinite; use your imagination! I haven't even touched on all the wonderfully painful possibilities jo and bokken bring; whatever your training problem, be assured there's an injury to suit your every need!
Yours in weirdness;
David R. Organ