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The House of Pain
The House of Pain
by Niall Matthews
09-27-2012
The House of Pain



http://farm1.staticflickr.com/57/177...4089148d_z.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrasoulov/177696153/
No pain, No gain by M Rasoulov

He has seen but half the universe who never has been shown the house of pain.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals

In the small circle of pain within the skull
You still shall tramp and tread one endless round
Of thought, to justify your action to yourselves
T S Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Out alone in the winter rain,
Intent on giving and taking pain.
Robert Frost, The Thatch

nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness.
Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
Randall Jarrell, 90 North

The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
W H Auden, September 1, 1939

If he is a productive, just, loving person he will react quickly and strongly when he loves, when he is enraged by injustice, and when he is impressed by a new idea. If he is a destructive or sadistic character, he will be quick and strong in his destructiveness or in his cruelty.
Eric Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics

When you think it is your duty to inflict pain, scrutinize your reasons closely.
Bertrand Russell, My Ten Commandments

Pain is not always a bad thing. It's not a good thing either. It's just a thing. It just exists.

Pain can be useful. Pain is a signal that something is not right. Pain helps you recognize and deal with an injury. Or to recognize and deal with a situation that has to be changed. But I don't think pain should be an integral part of any sport. Even a martial art. If pain is a regular part of your training I think there is probably something wrong.

Basically there is no pain in judo. In judo if you are caught in an armlock and you do not submit your elbow breaks. If you feel the pain you have left it too late. In karate or kendo you feel pain if you make a mistake and let yourself get hit.

Good teachers mostly do not use pain. I have trained with many teachers in Japan and I can only think of one good teacher who regularly used pain as a weapon. Masatake Fujita Sensei was an excellent teacher. Even though he used pain frequently. He would instantly put on a fast jujutsu wristlock or armlock. The uke would have tears in his eyes and would be frantically slapping his hand in submission. But I never saw Fujita Sensei cause damage.

I was the uke for Sadateru Arikawa Sensei for many years. It's fair to say that he was a feared teacher. People would ask me how much the techniques hurt. I just laughed. His techniques never hurt. He had perfect control. But my centre was always destroyed from the beginning.

Unfortunately most people and most teachers who use pain do it because they are not capable of doing the techniques without pain. A few people and a few teachers even like using pain. They like controlling with pain. And some are comfortable about also causing damage.

A friend of mine once came to Japan for a month. He was full of enthusiasm for aikido and paid a month's training fee at the Aikikai hombu dojo. On the first day he trained there a teacher did a nikyo wristlock on him. The teacher stopped in the middle of the technique and looked at him. He looked back at the teacher. Then - bam! - the teacher deliberately slammed him down to the mat too fast for him to take the ukemi. I don't know if that teacher was trying to cause damage or not. But he was definitely trying to cause pain.

The wrist was damaged and my friend could not train for a long time. He was angry about the injury. And he was rueful about the hundred dollar fee he had paid for a month's training. But he also became very disillusioned with aikido, aikido teachers and the Aikikai culture that allowed that injury to happen. This leads to a point about trust in the martial arts. I'll come back to that another time.

If you use pain you are giving a choice to the attacker: accept the technique or accept the pain. A strong attacker or an attacker under the influence of alcohol or drugs might not feel pain.

I do the same as Arikawa Sensei and all the best teachers I have known. I don't give the attacker a choice. I always take the attacker's centre. I always break the attacker's balance. So the whole question of pain is just not relevant.

As I said at the beginning pain is not always a bad thing. I especially recommend pain au chocolat.

Niall

Robert Frost, The Thatch
http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/robertfrost/12141

Randall Jarrell, 90 North
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/90-north/

W H Auden, September 1, 1939
http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15545

Bertrand Russell's Ten Commandments http://philebersole.wordpress.com/20...-commandments/

Discussion thread on Painless Techniques and Learning Aikido
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18367

my blog on aikiweb http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/moon-in-the-water-19051/ | my blog on wordpress http://mooninthewater.net/aikido

© niall matthews 2012
Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.
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Old 09-28-2012, 09:40 AM   #2
Susan Dalton
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Re: The House of Pain

Beautifully said. Sometimes my students mistake someone's willingness to inflict pain with prowess. When I start to get irritated, I remember making that same assumption myself. Early on, I was so happy when one of the brown belts would crush me. I thought it was because he thought I was "good" and "I could take it." One of the black belts set me straight. He said, "He doesn't care whether he hurts you or not as long as his technique works. That's a problem, not a compliment."
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Old 09-30-2012, 05:31 AM   #3
SeiserL
 
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Re: The House of Pain

Yes agreed.

Life has suffering/pain.

To avoid it is to avoid the joy of like too.

Accept and appreciate pain and we can accept and appreciate joy and love.

So it goes.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:14 AM   #4
Alex Megann
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Re: The House of Pain

Excellent article, Niall. I agree with you firstly that pain has no place in a teaching situation, and also that aikido techniques should never be dependent on pain (though it could well be an added extra for real situations).

Just one comment:

Good teachers mostly do not use pain. I have trained with many teachers in Japan and I can only think of one good teacher who regularly used pain as a weapon. Masatake Fujita Sensei was an excellent teacher. Even though he used pain frequently. He would instantly put on a fast jujutsu wristlock or armlock. The uke would have tears in his eyes and would be frantically slapping his hand in submission. But I never saw Fujita Sensei cause damage.

I really enjoyed Fujita Sensei's classes - I loved the simplicity and directness of his movement, and also his no-frills teaching (his limited English didn't actually seem to detract much). I remember one class in particular where he used me exclusively as uke for an hour and a half, and I had complete faith that his techniques, even though intensely powerful and quick, would not injure me if I kept mindful and responsive.

All the same, I know of two cases where he injured his partner. He sent Matthew Holland to hospital once with a separated shoulder, and I also remember Kobayashi Sensei from Aikikai Hombu Dojo saying in a class that Fujita Sensei had recently injured his wrist (he only used one hand for the whole warmup routine all week). I can't comment beyond that observation, as I was not present during either incident, and am not aware of the circumstances in each case.

Alex

Last edited by Alex Megann : 10-05-2012 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 10-05-2012, 06:18 AM   #5
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The House of Pain

I've heard it said that Osensei would not award shodan to those who cried out from the pain of nikkyo. The founder often talked of reishutaiju - the concept of the spirit being master of the body. Everything has reishutaiju, including animals, plants, rocks and the universe itself. The manifest body is but a vehicle for the spirit - in the case of all things. The deportment and mastery of that vehicle is imperative: The spirit is the most important, for that is what leads the body, and yet some who claim to practise Osensei's "spiritual" aikido are the first to cave in and become subject to the will and intentions of another through their subservience to, and lack of integration with the mere vehicle in which their spirit resides. Good training modifies the dosage, so that the experience frees us from that paradigm without injury and without just going through motions in which there is nothing to be spiritually (and thus physically) overcome. In fact shugyo (austere training) should be an inoculation against injury, physical or mental/spiritual.

At least that is how I have come to interpret this.

Regards

Carl
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:53 AM   #6
Mario Tobias
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Re: The House of Pain

A lot of people I think have a misguided mindset about aikido practice.

1. Because aikido is a "non-violent, non-confrontational" martial art, the dojo is a safe place to train. Wrong. Aikido is a martial art, period. The dojo IS a dangerous place. For me, I treat driving a car safer than training in aikido. The reason why I say driving is safer is because at least the road has rules, a lot of people don't know the rules while training in aikido (eg always throw outside, assess partner's ukemi, etc).

2. Never trust your partner just because aikido is based on "cooperation". We come across thousands of partners in our aikido careers and later you will gauge who is dangerous, who is prone to accidents, who doesn't care about uke. I've made a decision to avoid these kinds of people or minimize partnering with them. To me, it is not impolite or rude to do this. I always believe accidents are the fault of both parties: The one who caused the accident and the victim. You as a potential victim already have the ability to look for the signs to look for to avoid accidents and injury to yourself; use this ability to avoid accidents and injury.

3. You have a right to complain if you are being roughed up. Some nage's think that because uke's ability to take ukemi is advanced that they have a right to rough up uke. In you being uke, nage is just borrowing your body for him to learn so he needs to respect and appreciate this. Complaining is and setting expectations is a defense mechanism. Nobody's got any right to injure you. You also cannot bring back your body to it's original form with some injuries. A lot of people think that by complaining, you are being a wimp. This isn't the case. Better be a wimp who can train forever, than somebody tolerant who can't train at all.
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Old 10-07-2012, 02:37 PM   #7
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
A lot of people I think have a misguided mindset about aikido practice.

1. Because aikido is a "non-violent, non-confrontational" martial art, the dojo is a safe place to train. Wrong. Aikido is a martial art, period. The dojo IS a dangerous place. For me, I treat driving a car safer than training in aikido. The reason why I say driving is safer is because at least the road has rules, a lot of people don't know the rules while training in aikido (eg always throw outside, assess partner's ukemi, etc).

2. Never trust your partner just because aikido is based on "cooperation". We come across thousands of partners in our aikido careers and later you will gauge who is dangerous, who is prone to accidents, who doesn't care about uke. I've made a decision to avoid these kinds of people or minimize partnering with them. To me, it is not impolite or rude to do this. I always believe accidents are the fault of both parties: The one who caused the accident and the victim. You as a potential victim already have the ability to look for the signs to look for to avoid accidents and injury to yourself; use this ability to avoid accidents and injury.

3. You have a right to complain if you are being roughed up. Some nage's think that because uke's ability to take ukemi is advanced that they have a right to rough up uke. In you being uke, nage is just borrowing your body for him to learn so he needs to respect and appreciate this. Complaining is and setting expectations is a defense mechanism. Nobody's got any right to injure you. You also cannot bring back your body to it's original form with some injuries. A lot of people think that by complaining, you are being a wimp. This isn't the case. Better be a wimp who can train forever, than somebody tolerant who can't train at all.
Dear Mario,
Item 3;Why complain after the damage has been done?If someone roughs you up , its up to you to
take action to protect yourself.No point in being a victim.The saying do unto others what they do to you but do it first seems to fit the bill. Any body who accepts getting deliberately turned over by some guy is stupid in my book.Accidents can and do happen during training, but somebody going out to really injure someone is a different ball game.Cheers, Joe
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Old 10-07-2012, 02:44 PM   #8
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Alex Megann wrote: View Post
Excellent article, Niall. I agree with you firstly that pain has no place in a teaching situation, and also that aikido techniques should never be dependent on pain (though it could well be an added extra for real situations).

Just one comment:

Good teachers mostly do not use pain. I have trained with many teachers in Japan and I can only think of one good teacher who regularly used pain as a weapon. Masatake Fujita Sensei was an excellent teacher. Even though he used pain frequently. He would instantly put on a fast jujutsu wristlock or armlock. The uke would have tears in his eyes and would be frantically slapping his hand in submission. But I never saw Fujita Sensei cause damage.

I really enjoyed Fujita Sensei's classes - I loved the simplicity and directness of his movement, and also his no-frills teaching (his limited English didn't actually seem to detract much). I remember one class in particular where he used me exclusively as uke for an hour and a half, and I had complete faith that his techniques, even though intensely powerful and quick, would not injure me if I kept mindful and responsive.

All the same, I know of two cases where he injured his partner. He sent Matthew Holland to hospital once with a separated shoulder, and I also remember Kobayashi Sensei from Aikikai Hombu Dojo saying in a class that Fujita Sensei had recently injured his wrist (he only used one hand for the whole warmup routine all week). I can't comment beyond that observation, as I was not present during either incident, and am not aware of the circumstances in each case.

Alex
Alex,
To me its a question of intent.Fujita Sensei could and did put guys through the floor [irimi nage ] but was it deliberate or what?Now if Matt Holland ended up in hospital was he responsible for his own situation [bad ukemi etc] or did Fujita Sensei go out of his way to injure him?Cheers, Joe
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Old 10-07-2012, 11:02 PM   #9
Mario Tobias
Join Date: Aug 2006
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Mario,
Item 3;Why complain after the damage has been done?If someone roughs you up , its up to you to
take action to protect yourself.No point in being a victim.The saying do unto others what they do to you but do it first seems to fit the bill. Any body who accepts getting deliberately turned over by some guy is stupid in my book.Accidents can and do happen during training, but somebody going out to really injure someone is a different ball game.Cheers, Joe
Dear Joe,

I am just saying as uke, you have a right to tell nage if it's too much for you to handle or that he is too rough. You do encounter higher belts who are ego trippers who like to show off their techniques but disregard safety of the uke. Often people just clam up and take what is given to them until it's too late. This doesn't work for me since I tell nage to ease up. You only have one body and you need to protect it at all times. I have a different mindset that all accidents are preventable.
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Old 10-08-2012, 03:43 AM   #10
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
Dear Joe,

I am just saying as uke, you have a right to tell nage if it's too much for you to handle or that he is too rough. You do encounter higher belts who are ego trippers who like to show off their techniques but disregard safety of the uke. Often people just clam up and take what is given to them until it's too late. This doesn't work for me since I tell nage to ease up. You only have one body and you need to protect it at all times. I have a different mindset that all accidents are preventable.
Maror, Not all accidents are accidental.Some guys try to injure people. I know its not the right thing to do but it happens. So when this happens do not get angry , get even!!Why be a passive victim? Cheers, Joe.
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:20 AM   #11
Mario Tobias
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Maror, Not all accidents are accidental.Some guys try to injure people. I know its not the right thing to do but it happens. So when this happens do not get angry , get even!!Why be a passive victim? Cheers, Joe.
yup agreed, I do that as well...getting even I mean. However, in 2 decades practice, I have never injured a person, not one. The thing is I can be as rough as I like but it is always controlled.

unfortunately, there are some sempais/kohais that give it to you and you take it, but when it is your turn to give them the same treatment, they complain how rough you are. If they treat you rough and you take it, they'll need to be able to receive the same treatment as well. I've experienced this in almost every dojo I've joined. Have you experienced the same?
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:21 AM   #12
Alex Megann
Dojo: Southampton Aikikai
Location: Southampton
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Alex,
To me its a question of intent.Fujita Sensei could and did put guys through the floor [irimi nage ] but was it deliberate or what?Now if Matt Holland ended up in hospital was he responsible for his own situation [bad ukemi etc] or did Fujita Sensei go out of his way to injure him?Cheers, Joe
Hi Joe,

As I said in my post, I didn't know the details of either occurrence, but yes it would have been interesting to know the circumstance!

As it happens, I have been injured by a Hombu Shihan myself in recent years. He applied sankyo on me just the once while he was walking around the class - I felt something give way in my wrist, and as a result I was unable to lift a full saucepan with my left hand for two or three months afterwards. This is a shihan with powerful, quick technique, and I had already been taken by surprise by his dynamic shihonage finish, although I didn't feel that I was in any danger in that case. I think that on this occasion I was injured partly because I was out of practice receiving this particular (I call it "old-fashioned") way of putting on sankyo. As you say, it is very much a matter of intent - I do feel that a 7th Dan shouldn't be causing injuries simply because his middle-aged uke can't move fast enough.

With the teachers I prefer, this situation is far less likely to happen, since for me sankyo (for example) is primarily a balance control, much less a wrist control. For instance, I have been following Kanetsuka Sensei for thirty years now, and even though his techniques are undoubtably powerful he has never caused me any injury beyond a nosebleed ("Wake up, Alex!").

Alex

Last edited by Alex Megann : 10-08-2012 at 05:28 AM.
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Old 10-09-2012, 12:36 AM   #13
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Re: The House of Pain

Great column - and not just for the subculture of aikido. The ethics of human interaction don't change when we enter the tatami. Mutual responsibility remains.

There's a lot of pain in aikido. More than other martial artists are aware of until they try it. We get used to it, up to a point. Beyond that point is excessive violence, which should never be allowed anywhere. Injury is always beyond that point, although it's often accidental. It raises the need of reform.

Unfortunately, I've seen many aikido practitioners - several of them high-grade teachers - who allow themselves recklessness, sometimes even seeking it willingly. Their uke is not a training partner, but a victim. I see no excuse for it, and I don't see how that can be of benefit for all of us progressing in aikido.

I think of Osensei's rules for training, where he states: "Never force anything unnaturally or unreasonably. If this rule is followed, then even elderly people will not hurt themselves and they can train in a pleasant and joyful atmosphere."

Anything else is not civilized, and definitely not aikido.

That doesn't mean we move around on the tatami like in a porcelain store, nor do we treat each other as delicately as we would nitroglycerin. Training strains the body as well as the mind. But it's for the purpose of mutual benefit. Excessive violence just means that one practitioner stopped caring about the other. If this becomes mutual, aikido will soon be extinct.

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:36 AM   #14
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
yup agreed, I do that as well...getting even I mean. However, in 2 decades practice, I have never injured a person, not one. The thing is I can be as rough as I like but it is always controlled.

unfortunately, there are some sempais/kohais that give it to you and you take it, but when it is your turn to give them the same treatment, they complain how rough you are. If they treat you rough and you take it, they'll need to be able to receive the same treatment as well. I've experienced this in almost every dojo I've joined. Have you experienced the same?
Dear Mario,
Not since I was a bit younger. One or two incidents with some guys.Nowadays I just try and keep smiling.Even outside of the dojo i rarely get phased.I guess just the way I present myself.I try to be benevolent to most people but now and then you someone coming along and the spoil your day.You just have to keep focused and hope for the best. Cheers,Joe.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:42 AM   #15
aikishihan
Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
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Re: The House of Pain

"I do the same as Arikawa Sensei and all the best teachers I have known. I don't give the attacker a choice. I always take the attacker's centre. I always break the attacker's balance. So the whole question of pain is just not relevant."

Excellent synopsis of why your aikido is what it is. I am in total agreement. Congratulations on reaching the essense of Bushi no Nasake. Your students are most fortunate indeed.

I wrote elsewhere that, in a private lesson with Arikawa Sensei, he not only failed to deliver any pain, he relieved me of an elbow misalignment I received from, of all people, Kisshomaru Doshu.

I do believe in pain as a truthful indicator of how the training is progressing, and as a marker to remember against future repetitions of that day. Otherwise, it is to be avoided whenever possible, realizing that it is not always possible. Then, character, and being goal oriented, helps a lot.

Thanks Niall, for delivering great posts on relatively untreated but vital concepts of training, and of life.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:16 AM   #16
oisin bourke
 
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Re: The House of Pain

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
I wrote elsewhere that, in a private lesson with Arikawa Sensei, he not only failed to deliver any pain, he relieved me of an elbow misalignment I received from, of all people, Kisshomaru Doshu.

.
Niall wrote about Arikawa Sensei healing his (Niall's) injured arm by doing techniques on it. It seems that he had a fascinating body of knowledge and skills.
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Old 10-15-2012, 04:53 PM   #17
James Sawers
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Re: The House of Pain

"I don't give the attacker a choice. I always take the attacker's centre. I always break the attacker's balance. So the whole question of pain is just not relevant."

Niall: I like this perspective and I attempt, myself, to not have pain be the focus of my techniques, but with my kohai, I feel that I have to take them to the edge/border of pain, particularly with some techniques that come to mind: nikkyo, sankyo, yonkyu, so that they understand the consequences of non-compliance. Granted, not all of their nages may be that "nice" and take them further into the "house of pain" that is necessary for teaching purposes; but, still, they need to learn, I think, that pain or even injury can happen with some techniques if taken to an extreme, or if they are not responsive enough. Is there another way of doing this? Nage applying a perfect technique each time to an uke, especially a new student, does not seem to be teaching them the "fullness" of each technique. Thanks.....Jim

Last edited by James Sawers : 10-15-2012 at 04:58 PM.
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:28 PM   #18
cprakash
Dojo: Redlands Aikikai
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Re: The House of Pain

On another kind of pain, inevitable concomitant of the "forging of the spirit":

"He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."

Aeschylus
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Old 10-26-2012, 01:02 PM   #19
Russ Q
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Re: The House of Pain

"He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."

That's lovely Chetan!

Russ
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