There is a substantial amount of weapons criteria in the testing requirements of Shin-Budo Kai Aikido. Bokken and Jo work comprise the majority of the weapons work, with a significantly lesser amount of tanto work required. These requirements reflect the weapons training that Imaizumi Sensei has done throughout his long career in Aikido. Weapons work can be a very beneficial tool to help inform and educate us in our Aikido training. We should always be looking to see how weapons work relates to our Aikido. The easiest way to do this is when we perform techniques against attacks with weapons. We need to push ourselves to find out how the weapons-to-weapons work also relates to how we perform our Aikido techniques in hand-to-hand encounters.
Each type of weapon has it’s own unique feel and “energy” to it. Line up people and take out a tanto, then take out a real dagger, then take out a bokken, then take out a steel sword, take out a practice pistol, then take out a real pistol ….. People can feel changes inside of themselves and the atmosphere of the room depending upon the the weapon drawn. The awareness of this information is important and useful toward providing cues as to the level of threat and the nature of response that a person may need to execute. People also need to learn how to handle a weapon safely while maintaining physical and emotional control of their experiences. People can have a wide range of reactions to handling weapons which can either help or interfere with proper use of weapons. For example, it is not uncommon for women to feel noticeable discomfort in handling weapons, since they typically handle other types of tools. This is akin to placing common kitchen utensils in the hands of men who do not cook. Some men actually become too tense and aggressive when handling weapons, which stands in marked contrast to how the handle themselves without weapons.
Weapons work requires a greater degree of attention and focus to detail than if you were just working with hand-to-hand situations. Getting hit with a fist, or kicked with a foot is very different than getting hit with a piece of wood, or sharpened steel. The importance of timing, distance, and exactness of movements become easily visible when working with weapons. These areas are just as important with hand-to-hand training, but they are not as easily evident as they are when you are working with weapons. The differences in velocity, force and lethality when you use weapons (as opposed to hand-to-hand), highlights the importance of correct movements, timing, and distance. Obviously, the potential consequences of being on the receiving end of a weapon help to maintain the proper focus and concentration that underlie these areas.
We have explored how the body moves most effectively and efficiently when we look to improve the execution of our Aikido techniques. Not surprisingly, the bad habits of improper movement that we struggle with in our Aikido suddenly emerge when we are now working with weapons. Learning how to move the weapons properly help us to further explore and reinforce the most efficient and effective ways to move our bodies. The kata contained within the vast majority of the weapons work help to develop proper movement that is connected to the movements of your partner. The interchange between offense and defense mirror the interchange that takes place when people confront one another without weapons.
The month of April will focus primarily on the weapons work with Shin-Budo Kai testing requirements. We can look at this month as help for upcoming tests, although I would ask that you expand your horizons and use this training to help you develop and execute better Aikido. The Aikido techniques that we do work on will be used to help reinforce the skill and movement sets from the weapons work in order to better highlight this point.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here