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Old 12-13-2003, 05:34 AM   #26
John Boswell
John Boswell's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland, Texas
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 597
Patrick, I've had many friends in your situation that were constantly stiff due to various reasons. I've read up on accupuncture/accupressure techniques and if you think that is something you wish to try, I would highly encourage it.

Nothing will ever take the place of 1) Stretching before AND after class (as well as throughout the day) 2) Massage Therapy, though that must remain regular and is long term and not cheap. 3) Hot showers or better yet a hot bath/hot tub. 4) Meditation time. Sensei Riggs picked up early on, on my use of meditation around test time and set aside a few minutes for us (me) to just sit and relax and clear the mind of anything and everything.

But lastly, I have given much consideration to your point of accupuncture. (no pun intended) Finding someone that knows it and will work on you is often hard. I've considered taking classes in the future just to fill the niche. I have no doubt of its ability to help.

Okay... one last recommendation to help and then I'll shuddup: When all else fails, encourage the opposite and laugh about it. Rachel... when you see Patrick being tense, put on your "stern" face and tell him how he's TOO relaxed and he needs to tense up!! I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts he'll immediately pick up on what your saying... LAUGH... and lighten up and relax. It's like walking up to a serious person and saying over and over "don't smile." Sooner or later, they're gonna smile. Humor is a good thing.

Good luck in the adventure!

And Patrick... keep going! Aikido will have a lot more benefit for you in the long run. Aikido, like stretching, doesn't truely manifest is days or weeks... it's a 'journey thing.'

Last edited by John Boswell : 12-13-2003 at 05:36 AM.

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Old 12-13-2003, 09:15 AM   #27
Patrick O'Reilly
Dojo: ,Mi.
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 15
As far as finding out where my stiffness begins and ends, I can hardly tell the difference, I was thinking of a test to find out what is stiffness and what is proper "resistance". I mean resistance say in blocking a strike. I have been pondering this question since I started Aikido a few months ago. I know Aikido is supposed to be soft and flowing instead of hard like say Karate (I did Karate first), that's one of the reasons I train in Aikido. But say for instance in Shomen-uche Ikkyo, omote and ura, you have to "block" (I might not have the right term here but I think you know what I mean) the downward strike even if it's only for a second or two. So my question/theory is, not just because of stiffness but for efficiency of energy, how do you find where the right amount of block ends and stiffness/muscling begins? As I mentioned before the word "softness" has worked the best for me.

I was thinking of a test/drill to do that would help any one really to learn how not to muscle a block like this and others. My idea was to pair up, both people put their arms up like the Shomen-uche strike, put forearm to forearm, take turns pushing and resisting to find where muscling begins and ends, to get a soft touch.

I am not that strong physiclly (except for my vise-like grip, ask Rachel about that) so I find myself automatically stiffening up to have enough strength to counter others' strength. It hasn't been until the last couple of weeks that I have started to get to not muscling and do things softly.

So I guess we could go back Rachel's original guestion about not being stiff. How do you in the AikiWeb world relate the "softness" aspect of training to your students? It's not some thing I've found in any of the Aikido books I've read and think it would make an interesting subject.
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Old 12-13-2003, 11:09 AM   #28
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 522
When we're studying for ki tests, we often do the Three Bears. First the test or technique is done deliberately tense and stiff. Then it's done floppy as a wet noodle. Then in-between, hopefully with good ki projection. The person assisting with the test is supposed to be able to tell which is which--you can even vary the order and ask them if they can tell the difference.

I think going all the way to "floppy" helps make the difference more clear. It's also helpful to practice being tester as well as testee; sometimes things are easier to see when done by another person.

It can also help to practice a single move for a relatively long period of time with a single partner. In my dojo we often do several different throws in the course of one class, changing partners every time, which is great for intellectual engagement. But I think I have learned the most about flowing form from the occasional times when two of us have been left alone for 40 minutes to work on just one throw. You can stop thinking about the mechanics of how it's done, which leaves more attention for softness and timing. (Pick a throw where the ukemi doesn't hurt when you do it, because 40 minutes of something even slightly painful will add up to a lot of pain, definitely not what you need.)

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-13-2003, 01:35 PM   #29
Goetz Taubert
Location: Germany
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 40
How to deal with stiffness?

What is stiffness? Let‘s define it as tension of muscles and/or inflexibility of tendons/sinew

How can unnatural stiffness emerge?

a) bad coordination of the body or lack of physical ability can cause stiffnes (i.e. stiffness as compensation for a hypotonic muscle tonus in certain parts of the body)

b) high muscle tonus as a persons basic muscle tonus (i.e. as inability to become smooth; as a personal pattern for feeling save, strong or effective)

In this respect my experience is, that people differ very much in their basic stiffness and - sometimes - there is even an extrem difference between different parts of the body in one Person.

What can you do?

Physical level:

a) Stretching and improving coordination step by step

b) Correcting the posture in training (again and again and again), showing that technique can only be done effectively when done without muscular force

c) Showing the person how to attack and hold on to the attacking force without stiffening the muscles and without intention to block the partner

d) Starting and evolving the aikido-gestures from the hipps

Emotional level (here it‘s the person itself):

a) accepting the aches and demanding experience of beeing stretched in the technique while receiving the technique (while upholding the attacking spirit).

b) accepting the aches and demanding experience of getting in the correct posture and movement direction to do the technique effortless.

c) get step by step comfortable with the principles of „not beeing open", „not watching" (the attacker) and „not awaiting" (the attack) and their emotional (spiritual) demands (Training principles in tradition of Hikitsuchi Sensei).


If there is a logic of „using force oder muscular strength" in technique or even „causing pain" there is a natural reason for unresolved or unnecessary stiffness.
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Old 12-13-2003, 05:04 PM   #30
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
Location: Oceanside, California
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,243

I'm in a similar boat - too stiff. What is working for me is breathing during techniques and ukemi and working on relaxing my face and neck. I have a cultural history of maintaining a very erect and stiff posture, along with a host of rodeo injuries and just doing those two things helped me immeasureably as a new aikido student with another ten years on you. I'm still not going to be recruited for the ballet, but everything has gotten much smoother and easier for me. I hope something this simple will help you as well. Good luck.

"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 12-13-2003, 10:36 PM   #31
Jeanne Shepard
Jeanne Shepard's Avatar
Dojo: Puget Sound Aikikai
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 351
I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again... Pilates helps your back, lumbar, thoracic and cervical. Can't say enough good stuff about it, you get strong, AND get stretched.

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Old 12-13-2003, 11:34 PM   #32
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 1,652

I have a good understanding of your stiffness. One of my stiffest patients is a welder (oil rig equipment). Your doorway stretch is a good one (keep the arms at 45 degrees to get the pec minor which if tight will cause thoracic outlet syndrome).

You have a tough challenge since many of your postural problems are due to using muscles abnormally and your body has adapted over time. you probably have a lot of muscles which are shortened and others very weak. A good physical rehab program would probably help you correct some of your postural weaknesses.

The "softening" suggestion is a good one. When I first started training in aikido I was with a Ki society dojo. We used to do an exercise to make us relax by having someone squeeze the arm while trying to make your arm less and less (smaller and smaller). This forced one to relax. The squeezer would eventually get tired since therewas nothing to squeeze.
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Old 12-14-2003, 11:10 AM   #33
Dojo: Aikido Kenkyukai International
Location: Ambler, Pennsylvania
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 232
For stiffness: Take ukemi until exhausted. Take more ukemi. Repeat.

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Old 12-15-2003, 09:41 PM   #34
Bronson's Avatar
Dojo: Seiwa Dojo and Southside Dojo
Location: Battle Creek & Kalamazoo, MI
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,677
Patrick don't give up. When I first started I could barely tilt my head to the side because it would send shooting pains down my back. It went away as the relaxing started to make more sense to my body.

I know a lot of people say the unbendable arm exercise is nothing but a cheap parlor trick but to me it is a great example of relaxed strength. It can illustrate how you can be strong by relaxing the muscles you don't need and thereby concentrating your focus in the needed muscles. If Rachel hasn't shown it to you yet I'm sure she can.

I find doing jo kata to bring out a very flowing feeling. I don't know if you guys do any weapons work but if you do it could be worth a try.

You said that when Rachel said to be soft it clicked better than when she said to not be tense. This makes sense. Back in my tai chi days my instructor was very specific about how he wanted his assistants to teach it. He wanted us to avoid negatives if at all possible. He said that people don't don't

If you tell someone "don't think of an elephant" first they must think of an elephant then they "don't it". Instead if you don't want them to think of an elephant you give them a concrete alternative (think of a zebra). So when you were told "don't be tense" first, somewhere in your brain you had to think of tensing then you had to negate that thought. When she instead said "be soft" the idea of tensing was never introduced.

One thing I've used with some people that when it works it works pretty good is this analogy (it's a little off the wall ):

Have you ever had to pee so bad it hurt? It hurts deep down inside and then when you finally get to pee your whole body sinks and settles and relaxes? Get that feeling and keep it (the relaxed feeling not the painful-have-to-pee feeling).

You could also try taking it to the other extreme. Tense yourself up as tight as you can. Squeeze yourself into a quivering ball of welder muscle. Then take a deep breath and let it all go. Let it all drain out your feet. Do it a couple times, each time trying to relax just a little bit more. After you are relatively relaxed start moving in some slow exercises or techniques that you know how to do and just try to maintain the level of relaxation you've achieved.

Alternately you could just tell me to shut my pie hole and mind my own business

Wow, I've really blathered on here.

I'm shutting my pie hole now.



"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 12-16-2003, 12:01 AM   #35
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 8
I am with Stephen on this one. Ukemi until exhaustion works wonders especially if you proceed to serious practice afterwards.


barring serious medical condition that Patrick might experience, try this -

put your class in the forward leaning rest position and do 20-30 fast push-ups, rest a bit and do 2-3 very very slow ones, counting to 20 on the way down, and again to 20 on the way up. Until the body realizes that it is the legs that should do most of the work during the throw, stretching/yoga/breathing will have minimal effect. Strive for exhausting muscular strength of the upper torso and proceed to strenuous practice with lihter than usual contact. As soon as they recover and start stiffing up, it's the way down and again, slow slow push-ups. They'll love it but I recommend leading it
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Old 12-16-2003, 06:35 AM   #36
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
Location: Somerset Michigan
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 794
put your class in the forward leaning rest position and do 20-30 fast push-ups, rest a bit and do 2-3 very very slow ones, counting to 20 on the way down, and again to 20 on the way up.
Good idea! Okay, I know a bunch of my students are out there reading this, guess whats coming soon

...Along with Miranda-sans excellent advice.

it is going to be a fun week
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Old 12-16-2003, 11:10 AM   #37
Location: Indonesia
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 245
Hah! I love Pavel's idea. While you're at it, Rachel, why don't you have your students do the BUD/S preparatory workout, category I and II, in their spare time (when you hit that page, scroll down a ways):


Hmmm...I think I'll cut back on the aikido, and do that workout myself...
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Old 12-16-2003, 02:03 PM   #38
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 495
Hi Rachel,

keep it simple..

drink plenty of water & stretch lightly as often as possible. Use static stretching instead of bouncing. Rest when needed.
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Old 12-17-2003, 03:07 AM   #39
Dojo: Aiki Shoshinkan, Aiki Kenkyukai
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 813
Thai massage monthly... that'll teach him to be stiff!

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 01-13-2004, 07:38 PM   #40
Deb Fisher
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 145
You mentioned acupuncture for your neck pain--it's very effective on all kinds of pain. Great idea. I have done acupuncture for sinus headaches and found quite a lot of relief.

Go acupuncture!


Deb Fisher
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