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Old 04-18-2020, 10:36 AM   #1
jonreading
 
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Athletics in aikido

Since we are all in isolation...

I tried to start this thread yesterday, but couldn't get my thoughts together enough...

One of the things I have noticed about aikido is that many of the movements stray from common athletic movements. I understand that some of the movements are dictated by kata, but I am not sure that is the entirety of the reason and I am curious about what other people think. Bonus question - how does this stray affect the positive effects of training for health?

To create some ground rules... I consider the "athletic position" as the generally held status quo for an athletic posture. We see some variety of this position in most sports and many martial arts. So, I am comparing our posture and movements against the athletic position. I do not expect aikido to be a "all-in-one" solution for body health, but if one of our tenants of aikido is to promote aikido for health, then we should be able to show that in comparison to other activities.

Its only fair that I go first...
I don't like the lack of athleticism in aikido; and, I believe there is a lack of athleticism in aikido. It's always been a problem for me, but I have been fortunate to be around people who shared that perspective. And, I don't mean running around like fools on the mat; I mean the ability to make power and use your body in action. I came to aikido from a sports background and it still makes me cringe to hear an instructor correct a student to stand with a straight back. After being exposed to other arts and and art-related health activities (like yoga), I came to realize that many other arts have an athletic component that I don't see in aikido. Related is the lack of athleticism in our movements - we've all seen/been the heaving nage in the middle of an intense randori because we don't know how to breath. And while I can still hear the side comment, "you do your best randori when you are exhausted," I have never heard a side comment like, "you do your best tennis when you are tired," or "defensive backs are at their best when they are tired." In a similar vein, I think many of our movements focus on using the least amount of energy, rather than the most efficient use of energy. Since athleticism is about making and using power in your body, I don't think there is enough emphasis on it in our training. I am not saying that we all need to add 60 minutes of pushups into class, but I do think we have prejudice against using power in our training that has influenced our curriculum to the point where athleticism is not present in much of our movement. I want to open the spectre of implication that maybe some of our kata and movements have been... modified, and, not for the best from the perspective of athleticism.

For my bonus question... I think activities like aiki training have done wonders to show me just how much you can change your body by slow posture training. Yoga training, too. I am getting too old for the crash and bang aikido of my early days and I want to have all of my knees, shoulders, and back when I am 65. But what do I see in aikido? Lots of broken people who can't sit in seiza or lift a sword, or take a fall. I love aikido; I will love more being able to pick up my grandchildren because I have two working shoulders. I want to see my aikido fall closer to the athleticism I see in aiki training or yoga.

This is what happens when you are trapped in a house with 100 martial arts books and nothing to do for 3 weeks... Also, because 10 years ago I routinely made fun of yoga people, I am sure you can dig up a post that would make me eat crow. Sigh.

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Old 04-18-2020, 07:32 PM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Athletics in aikido

Yes. I entirely agree.

When I started aikido in the late 60s, I was an undergraduate student at a UK university set in a country park. I lived on the campus and so took up the habit of cross-country running, along with my aikido. I mapped out a proper marathon course, which involved a variety of gradients and used a breathing method that I thought would complement the aikido I was practicing: intake and expulsion of breath every four running paces, regardless of the gradient. The advantages of this method are obvious to me, and it also helped that my fellow aikido were healthy and strong undergraduate students. I was also fortunate in having K Chiba as a teacher and my training method fitted his aikido exactly.

After graduation, my next universities did not have a country campus and running round Cambridge Mass., and later, the centre of London, gave me nothing like the same experience as running in Stanmer Park. I also suffered two injuries in the US and I want to stress the importance of this and the effect it had on my aikido. The New England Aikikai in Central Square was not particularly large, but M Kanai in his prime was a magnet and there was no real policy of how to handle large numbers of people doing nage-waza at the same time. So, there were the inevitable collisions, which could have been avoided. Inevitably, also, many people had knee problems, caused by being in the wrong place in the wrong time, because they did not allow an uke to exhibit one aspect of aikido individuality by flying across the mat, regardless of any human obstacles: these 'obstacles' had the responsibility of getting out of the way.

So I agree on the importance of athleticism, but would also tress the importance of good manners on the mat. As a bonus, I am lucky to have been taught by M Saito himself and have a makiwara in my front garden. Actually, I have two: one set in a block of concrete and the other set in wood, and moveable. This provides the foundation of a whole variety of training involving weapons, strikes, correct posture and hip movements,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 04-18-2020 at 07:34 PM.

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Old 04-20-2020, 10:03 AM   #3
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Re: Athletics in aikido

I think there are always safety concerns. The mat in DC had a giant pole in the middle of it. My dojo in Nashville was hardwood for a while (and we still took ukemi). I can still feel myself shaking my head when [Saotome] sensei would have us pull out bokken on a seminar mat that did not support the number of people on the mat. Imagine if our dojos were ever inspected for safety...

But to add to your comments about running... the [lack of] proper breathing instruction is one of the frustrations I can elaborate on. As I eluded in my earlier post, I don't think I was ever taught a proper athletic breathing technique by an aikido instructor. To be fair, I also never got specific instruction from my judo experiences, either. It took several years of training in aikido during which I was exposed to "meditation" breathing in aikido. It did not prepare me for breathing during activity, and in most cases was never explained beyond a breath-holding exercise. After struggling with "aikido" breathing when I played judo and rolled, I finally just reverted back to reverse breathing (the instruction I received playing sports). I have since gotten some additional help understanding my breathing, but I still have conversations all the time with individuals who promote tying breathing to movement, and using breath-holding tricks while in movement.

Was this the fault of my instructors? Maybe. It is probable that they were simply repeating something from another source. What's frustrating most is that the basics that I now use where taught to me at very earlier stages in my athletic endeavors. This is just one example of an instructional comparison that was a loongg way up the mountain, if we are using the whole "we are all heading up the same mountain" thing.

**Imagine this said in the most sarcastic manner ever**
If breathing is important to aikido (and it should be), why isn't it on the 6th kyu test?
Because all the old timers want to laugh at shodan candidates who don't know how to breath in randori. In judo, there was an easy way to fix it, 4 or 5 3-minutes rounds of randori every class.
**End sarcasm**

Another example is our hanmi. I have modified the original hanmi I learned to be more similar to the athletic position. No straight back leg, a much more shallow stance, and a slightly rounded back and arched spine. It gives me greater stability, much more freedom of movement, and much greater ability to generate vertical power. It actually resembles my power position from when I would perform power cleans in strength training. I completely blame aikido for this one. I had to go outside aikido to learn aiki=power and power=whole body vertical power. From there, it was a simple matter to recreate old body postures from athletics. The whole muscle thing is another conversation not for this thread, but my suspicion is that in an effort not to define aiki, there becomes no way in which you can advocate for (or against) how to make aiki. So you can take a simple instruction that we all learned in any sport (push against the ground with your legs), and we turn it into "20 year technique". Ironically, what do you see in many older aikido people... shorter stances with less straight lines.

I know that there are tons of different aikido out there and I am not even arguing that we don't get where we need to go. My baseball coach never told me to relax. My football coach never implied tackling someone would feel like I wasn't doing anything at all. And, my golf coach told me to always push into the ground as I swing through the ball.

Last edited by jonreading : 04-20-2020 at 10:06 AM.

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Old 04-24-2020, 07:30 AM   #4
Craig Moore
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Re: Athletics in aikido

I have an absolute pet hate of the idea that training to the point of exhaustion allows one to finally let go of their strength and start to find efficient body use. It's amazing how the body can hold onto that strength through the physical stress and it gets worse with the loss of coordination and control that accompanies exhaustion. I also had the unpleasant experience of finding out I had a slow relaxation of blood vessels back to normal size when I first started Aikido at 16. Was fine pushing myself under the instruction that it would make me let go, but shortly after we stopped cold my blood pressure fell though the floor, I collapsed and spent half a minute unconscious. As I got a few years older a bit more bulk sorted out that problem, but no one was watching out for anything like that happening including my instructor or myself.

Collision injuries can be nasty. I've been to seminars where there hasn't been care by the participants and witnessed some real close calls. I'm thankful to train at a dojo where Sensei is always safety conscious, especially for on mat collision awareness.

Last edited by Craig Moore : 04-24-2020 at 07:32 AM.
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Old 04-24-2020, 10:47 AM   #5
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Re: Athletics in aikido

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Craig Moore wrote: View Post
I have an absolute pet hate of the idea that training to the point of exhaustion allows one to finally let go of their strength and start to find efficient body use. It's amazing how the body can hold onto that strength through the physical stress and it gets worse with the loss of coordination and control that accompanies exhaustion. I also had the unpleasant experience of finding out I had a slow relaxation of blood vessels back to normal size when I first started Aikido at 16. Was fine pushing myself under the instruction that it would make me let go, but shortly after we stopped cold my blood pressure fell though the floor, I collapsed and spent half a minute unconscious. As I got a few years older a bit more bulk sorted out that problem, but no one was watching out for anything like that happening including my instructor or myself.

Collision injuries can be nasty. I've been to seminars where there hasn't been care by the participants and witnessed some real close calls. I'm thankful to train at a dojo where Sensei is always safety conscious, especially for on mat collision awareness.
Well, I raise the issue of randori because I think we have all had or seen that experience, so it's a commonality which we can discuss. Its an issue for me because it defies every major athletic endeavor we understand, specifically the idea fatigue improves athletic performance. Sometimes we can chalk up physical outliers to kata or a limit to the training system. I find it pretty hard to defend this example, though. The closest answer that I would accept is the the idea that under extreme duress, the body will respond by making whole body power and shutting down the body systems not essential to that endeavor (thus training whole body movement). But I would argue there are safer and more efficient ways to train whole body movement.

Throwing someone into a pool is one way of teaching a person to swim...

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Old 04-26-2020, 12:51 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Smile Re: Athletics in aikido

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Well, I raise the issue of randori because I think we have all had or seen that experience, so it's a commonality which we can discuss. Its an issue for me because it defies every major athletic endeavor we understand, specifically the idea fatigue improves athletic performance. Sometimes we can chalk up physical outliers to kata or a limit to the training system. I find it pretty hard to defend this example, though. The closest answer that I would accept is the the idea that under extreme duress, the body will respond by making whole body power and shutting down the body systems not essential to that endeavor (thus training whole body movement). But I would argue there are safer and more efficient ways to train whole body movement.

Throwing someone into a pool is one way of teaching a person to swim...
...or allowing them to drown

When I took my shodan test in London, I had to do randori against four. The examiner was Yoshimitsu Yamada and the first part consisted of yonin doori, with (1) two-handed grabs against the right and left hand and also (2) ryo-kata doori grabs from front and back. You can divide this up into two-handed attacks and build up to it, but Yamada did not do this. He was visiting and was asked to do the grading test. So he did not know what was expected. I still do this in my own classes and call it Yamada, or Yamaguchi, shukudai (shukudai = work that always needs doing), after s senior 3rd dan student, who hates doing it, but does it rather well. Her two teenage kids also train and can also do it. When you have four ukes coming at you, with no indication of how they will attack (very important), you do not really have time to worry about how tired you are, or wonder whether you are breathing correctly. You also need to use the mat space correctly and not just wait for your attackers to 'get' you.

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Old 04-28-2020, 08:58 AM   #7
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Re: Athletics in aikido

For the sake of my sanity and the thread, I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to the techniques we practice as having a training purpose. Randori allows us to practice some important aspects of training that we don't get in our regular kata training. I am questioning the methodology by which we "teach" randori.

As a continuation of this observation, physical endurance is a critical component of most sports. We run until we get tired. Then we run some more. Then we learn how to move our feet in the proper direction to improve our leg strength and speed. Then we run some. I haven't even mentioned a sport and it doesn't matter because all sports require strong running skills. But, the amount of time I spent running in any of the sports I played was always consistent with it being the most important activity I could do. I might hit in the cages for 20 minutes, but I would run for 45. I might spend 30 minutes at the range, but I spent 60 minutes carrying my bag running stairs. Usually, sports training methodology matches the goals of the coach directing the training.

Randori is one of the exercises we do that is closer to physical exercise than a lot of our kata, so it's a good conversation piece. IF randori is about not caring whether you are tired or not, then our physical fitness should have been trained long in advance of testing whether or not we get tired (and as a continuation of that training). But, I think the evidence is in how we train. I don't think most of us train in such a manner that our physical fitness is demonstrated in randori.

Here is the usual randori timeline:
Sankyu - "Sensei, what's randori?"
Nikyu - "So, zombies chase you and you run away from them until sensei says, 'stop'?"
Ikkyu - "Wait, this is on my test?"
**Seminar**
**Seminar**
**Seminar**
Shodan Test - "Take a breath, we'll continue when you are ready." "Hai, sensei."
Shodan - "Shoot, I need to do this again on my nidan test? Well, I will just bring a bunch of friends to my test and it will be easier..."

Everything can't be the most important. I am critical of things because we have a published doctrine of importance that we test against. Nowhere on any teaching criteria I have ever seen of aikido prioritizes cardiovascular endurance. Yet one thing that always comes up about randori... endurance on the mat. Now, some groups are more fit than others, and I know there are exceptions. I specifically am critical of testing a student for a trait that aikido has otherwise never prioritized in any formal manner.

"Okay, now for the BBQ portion of your nidan test.""Umm. Sensei... what are you talking about?""Guest instructor is from Texas and prioritizes a sloppy red sauce BBQ over smoked meat. Outside is a grill and 20lbs of meat. You have 60 minutes to cook." "But Sensei, we never did this is class." "Well, I am trying to impress our visiting guest, so we will indulge him in this request."

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Old 04-28-2020, 06:41 PM   #8
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Re: Athletics in aikido

The only people I've seen that are good at endurance in randori are those that do some faster paced ukemi practice as an extension after class is finished. In some schools that is a formalised culture where students line up to be thrown by the sensei or a senior until they are 'tired'. In others it's an informal culture where the more fit and enthusiastic students stay fit and enthusiastic by throwing each other for a while after class. When that's done every week it's great at building stamina. It needs to be tailored and inclusive of individual abilities, as not everyone already has a base fitness and not everyone is interested in their Aikido becoming a fitness class. But I totally agree our training needs to line up with our testing, and randori is a great but not the only example of that.
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Old 04-29-2020, 07:46 AM   #9
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Re: Athletics in aikido

Hi from Melbourne. Jon - it has been a very long time since we trained together in Atlanta! I hope you and your family are doing well. Likewise, Peter it has been many decades since we met at a BAF course.
I thought this discussion was very interesting. My questions are for Jon really. I know you are training with some other people who have been very clear that there is an aiki-body which is different from other sorts of movement. How does that fit in with your athletics? Do they relate at all?
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Old 04-30-2020, 05:29 PM   #10
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Re: Athletics in aikido

Hey Guy! OMG, it has been forever!

Yes, aiki body is a specific movement methodology. In my opinion, the training style we use for our IP work is probably more similar to my sports training than my aikido training. Our body work is very goal-oriented with milestone metrics and a pretty defined range of success. I think that is one of the reasons why my brain adopted the training so quickly.

The muscle movement is different, of course. But there are discussions all the time about whether elite athletics are mimicking IP movements. Inasmuch as most athletes train for body power, I think IP training and athletic training have more in common with the goal of producing [whole] body power than aikido and IP do. In my sports, I was told how to make power because our movements have to make power in sports whether I am swinging a golf club, throwing a pitch, or tackling a running back. We don't talk about making power in aikido because power is a dirty word in aikido; it also happens that many [most] people who practice aikido don't know how to make power when they move, so it's convenient that it is not discussed. I give credit to sports programs for their research and training to make powerful athletes, even if they are choosing a different movement methodology.

As for our body work... Again, I feel more powerful in our training positions than I ever felt in my aikido. But, aikido does not focus on training elements that cultivate power, so I wasn't surprised by that observation once we got to that point in our training. Probably the biggest change in the dojo was our health. Less injury, better flexibility, more energy.

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Old 05-03-2020, 07:49 PM   #11
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Re: Athletics in aikido

Hi Jon,
It has been a long time! Nearly 20 years!
I think it is great you are doing IP work and I am interested in your feedback. Much of the early discussion on here was pretty tedious with "we do that", "no you don't" repeat ad nauseam. However, some of the discussion did go into modern athletics and that was sometimes also dismissed. I suppose I felt that when you see what modern athletes can do in various sports and how advanced modern training methods are, I was surprised that there isn't some overlap. I suppose there is a tendency to emphasise the mystical eastern methods. Having said that it is important to remember that however much I love tennis, even when I was younger I was never going to ever be as good as Rodger Federer will be when he is a pensioner!
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Old 05-06-2020, 11:19 AM   #12
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Re: Athletics in aikido

Quote:
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Hi Jon,
It has been a long time! Nearly 20 years!
I think it is great you are doing IP work and I am interested in your feedback. Much of the early discussion on here was pretty tedious with "we do that", "no you don't" repeat ad nauseam. However, some of the discussion did go into modern athletics and that was sometimes also dismissed. I suppose I felt that when you see what modern athletes can do in various sports and how advanced modern training methods are, I was surprised that there isn't some overlap. I suppose there is a tendency to emphasise the mystical eastern methods. Having said that it is important to remember that however much I love tennis, even when I was younger I was never going to ever be as good as Rodger Federer will be when he is a pensioner!
Don't use numbers, Guy. Don't use numbers...

The IP world is very frustrating, on Aikiweb and other sites. For someone seriously looking into IP training, it's hard to find a good source with good details. A lot of good IP people have left Aikiweb for the reasons you describe, and that's a loss for the community.

The athletics thread is a musing on contrasting training methodologies because [I think] our aikido training system has made some [wrong] turns. We are several generations into those instructional decisions, so we can evaluate effectiveness and compare the outcomes against other methodologies. Aikido has the burden of carrying cultural, philosophical, and esoteric aspects within its physical training. Modern athletics doesn't have those burdens... Dunking a basketball is not a 20-year technique.

In my opinion, the single biggest problem with aikido is its success (or lackthereof). We can't play with sister martial artists anymore. There was a time when judo people trained aikido to get better at judo; now, aikido people have difficulty working with sister arts. We used to have weapons; now, aikikai has retired weapons, mostly because it's difficult to work with weapons arts. We used to promote aikido for health; now, has have an older generation of leaders who are broken from their "healthy" aikido training of the 60's, 70's and 80's. There are always exceptions, of course.

Part of the "we do that," "you don't do that," argumentation is that we have gotten to a point where aikido struggles to demonstrate its success in a marketplace of ideas. You can put hands on someone and instantly know whether they have juice. We have all the experience of touching someone and knowing instantly, "you can't do X." IP training is a playground where you can leave your belt behind and workout on a unified goal of making your body work better. This is a scary thought for our emperors who may not have clothes.

For me, athletics is about making the body stronger, its a training tool to improve performance. This is a unique goal and it acts as a general governor for tangent behaviors. For example, in order to get stronger, I need to improve my diet so I eat better. I need to be active so I burn enough calories to keep extra fat off my body. I need to learn new activities to rotate my routine, so I have to become knowledgeable about what I am doing. The tangental aspects unify around a central goal and that goal provides guidance. I think there are personal innovators in aikido who have been able to make heathy dojo communities around centralized goals, but that is a local (personal) experience.

Back to my randori example... If we are looking for endurance in a randori test at shodan level, then the test requirements for shodan, ikkyu, nikkyu, and sankyo should reflect cardiovascular endurance components. They do not, which is why I do not believe endurance is a core component of randori.

What is our unifying goal in aikido? I think no two people would have the same answer. It used to be aiki. Now, you can't even get anyone to define aiki. Its pretty hard to craft a training system around... what?

We can't all have individual goals, but training in a nebulous centralized system. That is a very inefficient teaching methodology that produces the very nebulous and unremarkable skillsets we struggle to hone for 20 years to finally have a decent armbar technique. I think we can learn a lesson from athletics to identify a goal, train to that goal, and evaluate the success to which we met that goal.

I think a tough question that we have to address is... Do we want to have a plan? Honestly, I think many of us are hobbyists - we want to train in a format free of criticism and expectation. We just wanna show up, do something we already know for a little while, talk to our friends, and go home. How many times do you see the same person at a seminar year after year who trains exactly the way he has always trained, regardless of what the instructor is teaching?

Athletics is a way to force change. That why we hire personal trainers... to make us change (even when we don't want to). For my experience in IP, the training forces your body to change. In contrast, I think most aikido rationalize they have aiki because they practice aikido; but, they have no direct knowledge about how their body works, so they can't specifically explain how they have aiki.

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Old 09-22-2020, 02:41 PM   #13
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Re: Athletics in aikido

This has been an interesting yet I am sure unpopular discussion.
I came to Aikido after 3 seasons as a professional athlete. Years of training 6-8 hours a day, plyometrics, weight and strength training, flexibility training and endurance training.
I was rather astounded at what I believed a lack of athletic ability I saw in the dojo's I trained at and visited.
You are right in saying that athletics in Aikido is almost discouraged, and strength is a dirty word, but that is because the word strength and power are understood to be the same thing by those uninitiated in understanding functionality of the physical structure.
A person can have strength, a weightlifter for example can isolate parts of there structure and generate force from bulk. But a great athlete uses the entire structure as a whole, not as a segmented isolated part, to generate power from the root of the structure, the ground, through the structure to an intended point.
Ground reactive force is not new to any athlete that had to develop a high vertical jump (mine was 41inches at my peak), and body shape and alignment as you stated are not foreign to anyone that has spent considerable time doing gym weights work, especially deadlifts.
I still believe the founder encouraged farming in his students to develop these physical skills. Having grown up on a farm, the amount of repetitive lifting, digging, carrying and bending done on a daily basis forces the body to understand how to generate efficient power, and how to repeat such movements without to much duress over long periods of time.
Decades later I still have a weight lifting program I follow, to keep a sense of connected power, and to try to preserve the stabilising muscles that surround knees that have taken a beating from many years of jumping.
I try to encourage such pursuits in my students.
I found it a breath of fresh air to read this post, and I will continue to encourage those that train in Aikido to get a stronger grasp on what in means to live in a proprioceptive, kinaesthetic, strong connected structure. And I support your observations entirety. Thank you.

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Old 09-24-2020, 11:52 AM   #14
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Re: Athletics in aikido

I appreciate the comments. I think this is important for the future of our training. Dojos are closing all over the world because of training restrictions, safety, financial problems related to COVID. That means that we have a lot of aikido people sitting at home now... So where is the training?

***Dripping sarcasm*** As any good student knows, aiki can only happen when two energies meet and work in cooperation. ***End Sarcasm*** Thank you four-legged animal analogy. I can just imagine O Sensei crying out in pain, "I felt a great disturbance in the aiki, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

We have a great opportunity to revisit what we do and why in aikido. Maybe we change, maybe not. Everything I learned in IP work, I can do at home with or without a partner (partner's help, though). Some of what I learned in aikido, I can do outside of a dojo. Why does this matter? I want my aikido training to make me healthy, strong, vibrant, and capable of protecting myself. How did this change? Well, when I was younger/invincible I was already healthy and strong, so my priorities were different. I am more capable of fighting now, but less healthy and strong than when I was 20.

Sometimes, I think there is a gap in understanding between athletes and non-athletes. It wasn't all-too long ago when a good pejorative like "jock" could be used to aptly dismiss an athlete from more...intellectual conversations. Sigh. The 80's movie stereotypes we could reminisce about... But, the problem is those athletes know how to change their bodies. They know how to look at a metric, pick a goal, and craft a training program to accomplish that goal. I used to think aikido was fearful of athletes because of the difficulty in "beating" them on the mat. While I think that fear is both widely held and legitimate, I don't think that is the reason so many athletes do not stay in aikido. After all, its the athletes leaving aikido that's the problem. Rather, I think athletes are not impressed with the training programs in aikido. I have spoken over the years to many athletic people who have left aikido for judo, or karate, or BJJ, or Spartan programs, or just alternative exercise (biking, lifting, etc.). Usually, the conversation bends around the (summarized) disenchanted notion that training aikido was going nowhere. There is a lot to unpack in this disenchantment. Physical accomplishment is one of those things. Are we faster? Stronger? Healthier? Can we play with a wrestler? What about spar with a karateka? What about how we look in our aiki-swimsuits?

I know, the swimsuit comment is too much. But what about telling our doctors we do aikido as an activity? Does she nod and compare your body to someone who bowls on Sunday nights? I guess we can claim our time as "mindfulness" minutes in our fitness app...

I took off daily training in July and August and I feel terrible. I am trying to get back into it now, but I feel terrible. I creak, I crack, I move like I am walking on ice for the first 10 steps of the day. Do I miss aikido? Not really. I miss my training, which is what keeps me healthy. Well, that and bathing in the blood of the innocents...

I am being a little silly because this is a serious issue that affects (and offends) those who train. High level and professional athletes have been used to a [brutally] honest workout program designed improve weak aspects of performance. We were prodded, poked, and observed like a piece of meat at market."Height". "Weight". "What's your bench press?" "hhhmmmmm." "Vertical jump?" "mmmmhhhhmmm." "40?" [no comment]. Follow that with, "Okay, you need a minimum bench press of 2x your body weight and a 6-minute mile to be competitive. Here is our 4-week program to get you up to that metric." We grew up in a culture that promoted pliability to change our bodies, but also some pretty firm guidance to enact that change. Then we did it again. And again. And again. Now, go back to our marketplace of activities with Aikido, BJJ, extreme gym programs, etc. Where is that culture and perspective going to fit? We aren't even talking about doing anything yet, and you can see where I am going with this... I believe Aikido has advantages over its sister arts, and non-martial programs. But, it's awfully hard to get to those arguments when you first have to wade through a culture that is neither kind towards athletes, nor indulgent of those physical aspects athletes bring to training.

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Old 09-27-2020, 08:31 PM   #15
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Re: Athletics in aikido

This is an interesting discussion! I have observed the opposite culture in my sensei's group. In my very narrow, local, and relatively short time in aikido, sensei has pushed to encourage better athleticism. More rolls, keep rolling. Do the technique again, faster, looser, but more power (carefully of course on a more experienced partner)! I cringe at this even as I write this because I am most definitely not an athletic person in any way, but I did very noticeably improved physically just after 1 year of aikido. Better posture, endurance, coordination, and strength for sure. I believe the more athletic members in the group really enjoy that aspect much more than me. To me, it seems like the less athletic members unfortunately tend to not stick around or come as often.

It's interesting you bring up breathing, because I don't remember much about proper breathing other than to breath in when starting (an attack as uke or technique as nage), and breath out when about to fall for ukemi (or ending a technique as nage). I don't want to think if I see an attack coming my way, or blanking out about what to do!

I really miss having aikido practice since March. It was so fun, but also so very good for me physically. Doing seemingly harmless kokyunages at speed can be quite scary but I found those the best when it flows just right with a good partner.

As an encouragement, it was such a nice and warm day out over here that I did 50 rolls outside on the grass today! Forward, backward, sideways, angled, ad nauseam. Maybe it was more than 50 today.....
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Old 09-28-2020, 10:52 AM   #16
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Re: Athletics in aikido

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This is an interesting discussion! I have observed the opposite culture in my sensei's group. In my very narrow, local, and relatively short time in aikido, sensei has pushed to encourage better athleticism. More rolls, keep rolling. Do the technique again, faster, looser, but more power (carefully of course on a more experienced partner)! I cringe at this even as I write this because I am most definitely not an athletic person in any way, but I did very noticeably improved physically just after 1 year of aikido. Better posture, endurance, coordination, and strength for sure. I believe the more athletic members in the group really enjoy that aspect much more than me. To me, it seems like the less athletic members unfortunately tend to not stick around or come as often.

It's interesting you bring up breathing, because I don't remember much about proper breathing other than to breath in when starting (an attack as uke or technique as nage), and breath out when about to fall for ukemi (or ending a technique as nage). I don't want to think if I see an attack coming my way, or blanking out about what to do!

I really miss having aikido practice since March. It was so fun, but also so very good for me physically. Doing seemingly harmless kokyunages at speed can be quite scary but I found those the best when it flows just right with a good partner.

As an encouragement, it was such a nice and warm day out over here that I did 50 rolls outside on the grass today! Forward, backward, sideways, angled, ad nauseam. Maybe it was more than 50 today.....
I am glad to hear about individual success stories. It's tough to balance curriculum within a dojo and dojo cho are consistently changed to balance elements like calisthenics, techniques, and freestyle practice. It's no small feet when a dojo finds a sweet spot amongst the interests, wants, and abilities of its students.

Think about your training... why did you stop in March? Run, stretch, practice your rolls, practice your whole-body exercises. I am not sure how many people will admit it, but probably most of use would not consider calisthenics, stretches, or cardiovascular exercise aikido. I think many of us consider aikido something we do in a dojo with someone else. This is part of my sarcastic commentary in my earlier post. That's not to make fun of people who may study aikido with research outside the dojo, but it is to distinguish those who are able to fluidly shift their training habits from those people who limit their aikido to something they do in a dojo.

As a reply to your comment about less athletic members leaving aikido, I don't disagree. There is an old saying for martial arts that refers to the exclusivity of the art - the number can range from 1 in 10 to about 1 in 20 people stay in a martial art. That gives us a lot of room for attrition for many different reasons. Students with unhealthy lifestyles or limited coordination often have a different set of reasons that discourage training - I would argue physical discomfort is high on the list, but performance usually also gets in there. It's probably a good topic for another thread.

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Old 09-28-2020, 08:20 PM   #17
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Re: Athletics in aikido

I can't comment on the people who left. Everyone has vastly different lives, experiences, priorities, and values.

I don't like to think of aikido "training" unless I am in the dojo. There is simply no one for me to practice with unless sensei organizes it. Aikido is sadly not very popular here so I'm happy that it even exists here. For me, I go to aikido because I have someone to practice with; without that aspect, I would've stopped years ago.

*edit: training stopped since March because of covid19. Dojo has been closed since then. Rules are super strict regarding small gatherings and distancing here. People are very scared to even come together or to visit...... it's a terrible culture of fear bred by the unknown virus and sometimes misunderstandings. I diagressed. Dojo is still closed at least until the New Year to say the least.

I understand your point that aikido is not limited to just the dojo. I do a side roll or forward roll into or out of bed quite often. Rolling is & was the funnest and first skill I learned when I started, and spent so much time refining it. Better yet, why walk around the bed to close the window when I can just roll over the bed, close the window, then roll again towards the door? Little things like that to incorporate parts of aikido into everyday things is what stays with me. It's satisfyingly enjoyable.

As for stretching, I have always have my own set of stretches, even before starting in aikido.
I am most definitely not a runner unless you have a cheeseburger hanging from a fishing rod in front of me, but I am more conscious about moving my body.

Last edited by PuppyDoggie : 09-28-2020 at 08:33 PM. Reason: Forgot to answer question regarding why training stopped since March
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Old 09-29-2020, 09:52 AM   #18
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Re: Athletics in aikido

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...
I don't like to think of aikido "training" unless I am in the dojo. There is simply no one for me to practice with unless sensei organizes it. Aikido is sadly not very popular here so I'm happy that it even exists here. For me, I go to aikido because I have someone to practice with; without that aspect, I would've stopped years ago.
...
.
First, I think there are many aikido people who share your perspective about training in the dojo. As a point of [rhetorical] dialog, why do you have this notion that training is in the dojo?

For me, the aikido culture contains a preconception that interaction is between two (or more) people; this is aiki for many practitioners, and almost by definition exclusive of individual activities (often seen as warm-up exercises only). I have come to take issue with this notion on several levels, one of which is the impact of culture in our training.

When I played sports, my sports culture had a component of skillset training. It also had a component of conditioning, nutrition, lifestyle, and attitude. Catching a baseball was no different than running stairs, lifting in the gym, or eating my protein shakes. This web of culture affected my overall play. Now, we have some apples and oranges here because most of us practice aikido at a hobbyist level, not a competitive one. But, we also have some opportunity for introspection about how we think aikido is supposed to affect our life.

Taiso is the idea of hardening and conditioning our bodies for spontaneous martial movement. Almost laughably, we (aikido people) think about our taiso as 15 minutes of exercises we do before we get to train. What if taiso was instead the culture of making your body ready for spontaneous movement at all times? Eating right, exercising, keeping your body strong and flexible... Early aikido taught that aiki is instant and everywhere. What if I told you that there are taiso exercises in aikido that we should be doing all the time, not just when we are on the mat?

When I played sports, there was always a metric to tell you where you perform compared to others. That metric started at 6 in the morning when you saw who was at the stadium running stairs. It ended with the scoreboard. As a hobbyist, where do we sit in our culture? Is aikido important enough that it spurs you to live a healthy lifestyle? What about getting fit? What about learning about the philosophy of Oomoto Kyo (or Shinto)? What about learning about Daito ryu and the sister arts?

In every movie I ever saw of Chuck Norris, he never stretched prior to fighting the bad guys. Not a single time. If you ever have to fight, you will never have the opportunity to stretch and prepare yourself for spontaneous martial movement (kinda ruins the spontaneous thing). We have had a dumpster fire of a year to sit back and think about these things while our dojos have closed, our friends have lost interest in training, and we have to come to terms with what we are gonna do next.

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Old 09-29-2020, 07:51 PM   #19
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First, I think there are many aikido people who share your perspective about training in the dojo. As a point of [rhetorical] dialog, why do you have this notion that training is in the dojo?
I think this has more to do with wording. I "train" in aikido at the dojo. There is a protocol to follow while "training" in aikido at the dojo: wear a gi (uniform) with the obi (belt), bow in, say certain phrases, bow out, etc. It is quite rigid, fixed, traditional, and not flexible. I choose to incorporate certain aspects of aikido that I find useful into my life, but I do not focus or pay attention to all the individual aikido aspects outside of "training".

My movements are more simply about living my life the way I'd like to. If I happen to "tenkan" to move out of the runner's way on the sidewalk, then I have avoided a collision. I do not think of that as training at all. I guess you could in a way think of it as beyond training, and just living parts of it. You may think of the runner as a training partner, or perhaps a dog, a wasp, a bird, a rock, or branch that just happens to be coming towards me, but regardless, I will most likely "tenkan".

If we're using a baseball analogy, I am equally interested in catching the baseball as well as the environment and the person throwing the baseball to me: i.e. I get to spend time with that person, is that person a friend/family member/stranger/acquaintance? I am not solely focused on just the baseball, there is much more to it than just the baseball, like the air movements/wind, grassy grounds or hard solid ground, other onlookers, etc.

I disagree with you for once; catching a baseball is very different from running the stairs, or lifting in the gym, or nutrition. Based on your answers, your focus is clearly on your own personal development and individual actions, which is great; it's just not my focus. My focus is less about myself because I really like interacting with other things and/or people. The baseball is moving towards or away from me so I can redirect its movement. The stairs do not move, but I run up and down the stairs. I'd much more likely to be lifting at the gym if I had a buddy with me, and nutrition is not just for myself, but for taking care of my family's health too (what i cook affects what they eat too!). If I lifted solo, it'll be for a very short time interval, and you wouldn't see me at the gym solo again afterwards.

I am already well aware of how aikido affects me and is not something I'd like to share publicly on the net, but the aftereffects are generally quite overwhelmingly positive for me.

Taiso can be so rough, and I'm generally not as interested in a hardened/conditioned body. Do 30 minutes of breakfalls with koshinage practice and that's way more than enough for me for a few days. It is useful for sure, but long-term it is not for me. Yes I'm sure there are taiso exercises in aikido that we can do off the mat. I can instantly think of resistance training, but again, I have no interest in solo training of any sort solely for myself anymore.

I think you are getting at a more generalized ("abstract") idea of applying aiki to everything else (outside of the dojo).

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When I played sports, there was always a metric to tell you where you perform compared to others.
I have absolutely zero interest in comparing myself to others. I simply don't care enough to pay attention to that. You are likely way more fit and athletic than myself, and I accept that. Aikido somewhat has a way to compare yourself to others, and that is the ranking system (i.e. 6th kyu, 1st kyu, 1st dan, 3rd dan, 5th dan, etc.)

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As a hobbyist, where do we sit in our culture? Is aikido important enough that it spurs you to live a healthy lifestyle? What about getting fit? What about learning about the philosophy of Oomoto Kyo (or Shinto)? What about learning about Daito ryu and the sister arts?
This is where individual personal values start to differ. As a hobbyist, I chose to be in aikido for fun. Yes it's a martial art, and yes there are others who are more serious about it than me, but I go at my own pace. I chose aikido to continue a particular healthy lifestyle and to stay somewhat fit. I could have chosen many other things to do but aikido in particular suits my philosophical ideals best. Also, for me personally, there are some very good people in our group that I want to continue interacting with.

I have no interest in Oomoto Kyo or Shinto; it is too abstract for me. I do respect the religions, the people who practice them, and the kami and spirits, but I have no need or desire to follow them.

Daito ryu and the sister arts..... hm.... I may consider aiki jujutsu in the future.

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In every movie I ever saw of Chuck Norris, he never stretched prior to fighting the bad guys. Not a single time. If you ever have to fight, you will never have the opportunity to stretch and prepare yourself for spontaneous martial movement (kinda ruins the spontaneous thing). We have had a dumpster fire of a year to sit back and think about these things while our dojos have closed, our friends have lost interest in training, and we have to come to terms with what we are gonna do next.
I've sadly never seen a movie with Chuck Norris in it, so I can't comment on that. Hopefully I will never have to fight for real, otherwise my back might blowout.

I'd be more than happy to return to aikido "training", or even just casual/spontaneous practice. As for what we will do next, I will try to find good people to play/practice/"train" with when the rules loosen up, casually or formally or hardcore seriously. If I can't, then I will have to very unfortunately move on with the modern world and find something else to do with other good people. That is my "aiki way".
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Old 09-30-2020, 09:32 AM   #20
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Re: Athletics in aikido

I think you have some very honest answers in this post. I am trying to stick to the topic of athletics in aikido; I think I am specifically trying to avoid the notion of "aiki" anything in this thread as best I can. It's a good topic for another thread, but I think just being able to identify general athleticism in aikido is complicated enough. I want to pick out some of your comments that I think are great conversation pieces.

First, I think we have a great question, What is training in aikido? What do we think about when we train aikido? Warmups? Techniques? Randori? Cardiovascular exercises? Weight training? I am trying to share my experiences from my sports background to indicate a distinction between what I would consider "training" in aikido. If I am out of breath all the time, is that good training? We have already talked about the notion that a sensei may choose to fail a student for demonstrating poor cardiovascular fitness on a test, and I have seen students fail shodan tests for being too exhausted in their jiyu waza.

I think there is a large number of aikido people who agree that a uniform is a must in the dojo to "train". Is a uniform more important than a working knowledge about the ancestry of aikido and its religious roots? Why? We consider Japanese underwear a critical component of the training experience, but not the spiritual and cultural background of the art...?

I also think there is a large number of people would view aikido as a social exercise. Is the social interaction with others critical to training? Why? Sometimes a training partner is a good support pillar for those occasions when you personally are not motivated to train. But, as COVID has illustrated, self-reliance is pretty important to continuing your training (this has also been complicated by a partner-dependent curriculum instruction). So, without someone to train with, is aikido not important...?

I am appreciative of your answers; I think they are consistent with many perspectives in aikido and your participation to talk about them is great because I think they are great points of discussion. Taiso is difficult, this is generally part of the reason why most people who start a martial art do not stick around. But we still consistently come back to cultural and cognitive differences that complicate our aikido training.

Quote:
Justin Tom wrote: View Post
I think this has more to do with wording. I "train" in aikido at the dojo. There is a protocol to follow while "training" in aikido at the dojo: wear a gi (uniform) with the obi (belt), bow in, say certain phrases, bow out, etc. It is quite rigid, fixed, traditional, and not flexible. I choose to incorporate certain aspects of aikido that I find useful into my life, but I do not focus or pay attention to all the individual aikido aspects outside of "training".

My movements are more simply about living my life the way I'd like to. If I happen to "tenkan" to move out of the runner's way on the sidewalk, then I have avoided a collision. I do not think of that as training at all. I guess you could in a way think of it as beyond training, and just living parts of it. You may think of the runner as a training partner, or perhaps a dog, a wasp, a bird, a rock, or branch that just happens to be coming towards me, but regardless, I will most likely "tenkan".

If we're using a baseball analogy, I am equally interested in catching the baseball as well as the environment and the person throwing the baseball to me: i.e. I get to spend time with that person, is that person a friend/family member/stranger/acquaintance? I am not solely focused on just the baseball, there is much more to it than just the baseball, like the air movements/wind, grassy grounds or hard solid ground, other onlookers, etc.

I disagree with you for once; catching a baseball is very different from running the stairs, or lifting in the gym, or nutrition. Based on your answers, your focus is clearly on your own personal development and individual actions, which is great; it's just not my focus. My focus is less about myself because I really like interacting with other things and/or people. The baseball is moving towards or away from me so I can redirect its movement. The stairs do not move, but I run up and down the stairs. I'd much more likely to be lifting at the gym if I had a buddy with me, and nutrition is not just for myself, but for taking care of my family's health too (what i cook affects what they eat too!). If I lifted solo, it'll be for a very short time interval, and you wouldn't see me at the gym solo again afterwards.

I am already well aware of how aikido affects me and is not something I'd like to share publicly on the net, but the aftereffects are generally quite overwhelmingly positive for me.

Taiso can be so rough, and I'm generally not as interested in a hardened/conditioned body. Do 30 minutes of breakfalls with koshinage practice and that's way more than enough for me for a few days. It is useful for sure, but long-term it is not for me. Yes I'm sure there are taiso exercises in aikido that we can do off the mat. I can instantly think of resistance training, but again, I have no interest in solo training of any sort solely for myself anymore.

I think you are getting at a more generalized ("abstract") idea of applying aiki to everything else (outside of the dojo).

I have absolutely zero interest in comparing myself to others. I simply don't care enough to pay attention to that. You are likely way more fit and athletic than myself, and I accept that. Aikido somewhat has a way to compare yourself to others, and that is the ranking system (i.e. 6th kyu, 1st kyu, 1st dan, 3rd dan, 5th dan, etc.)

This is where individual personal values start to differ. As a hobbyist, I chose to be in aikido for fun. Yes it's a martial art, and yes there are others who are more serious about it than me, but I go at my own pace. I chose aikido to continue a particular healthy lifestyle and to stay somewhat fit. I could have chosen many other things to do but aikido in particular suits my philosophical ideals best. Also, for me personally, there are some very good people in our group that I want to continue interacting with.

I have no interest in Oomoto Kyo or Shinto; it is too abstract for me. I do respect the religions, the people who practice them, and the kami and spirits, but I have no need or desire to follow them.

Daito ryu and the sister arts..... hm.... I may consider aiki jujutsu in the future.

I've sadly never seen a movie with Chuck Norris in it, so I can't comment on that. Hopefully I will never have to fight for real, otherwise my back might blowout.

I'd be more than happy to return to aikido "training", or even just casual/spontaneous practice. As for what we will do next, I will try to find good people to play/practice/"train" with when the rules loosen up, casually or formally or hardcore seriously. If I can't, then I will have to very unfortunately move on with the modern world and find something else to do with other good people. That is my "aiki way".

Jon Reading
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Old 09-30-2020, 08:25 PM   #21
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Post Re: Athletics in aikido

I think training is everything you have listed and mentioned here in our discussion, including weight training in my case because the mats we use are so very heavy...... that I sometimes "cheat" by asking for help to lift them or help someone else lift them together. Randori is somewhat dangerous, especially if ukes cannot keep up, however, it is a great way to encourage athletism: forced faster recoveries after ukemi, more attacks, and no resting or breaks. Randori is a good motivator if it can be handled well.

Being out of breath all the time is not good. Either that means our body is not ready for that level of physicality, or our breathing is really off course. In both cases, that will deteroriate training, and that's not good training to me. However I think being out of breathe some of the time is good so we can push to improve on our limits a little bit. From what I've seen it is generally because of forgetting to breathe :S

I guess it makes sense to expect a certain level of athleticism for shodan tests.

You are asking some interesting thought provoking questions. I don't believe the training uniform to be more important than the religious roots or ancestry. It is just for following traditions so it is part of the rules, otherwise I'd just practice in sweat pants and a thick t shirt or long sleeved shirt. I have little to no experience regarding the spiritual component so I have no comment on that with regards to aikido.

Practice with a partner is critical to me. Aikido itself is important, but is not complete without a partner. I can practice techniques solo, going through the motions super fast or super slow, and ukemi solo, but it is not complete training; I believe it is just half of the training at most. So for complete training, I need to be reliant on myself and on a partner for complete training. I tend to lean more towards relying on partner practice for sure. Just because there is no one to practice right now at this instant does not mean it is not important, we give it importance if we wanted to. If we value its importance, the practice will be there, just sadly not right now.

Taiso practice is, in one word painful for me. It's important, but not what I want to do in every class. It's a good way to see how much I have improved as well. I noticed the first few times I've done breakfalls, just wow, it hurts a lot. A few years later after improving the timing and technical aspects, my body did adapt a bit by hardening itself a little and I have been able to do gentler breakfalls more often. I have yet to get horribly hurt from this. I think a couple people got hurt pushing themselves too much in this particular aspect.

I would be thrilled to get back to full aikido training and practice with everyone, but I don't see that happening until after the new year at the earliest. The virus is still a very real threat and there is a lot of fear associated with it.

I know I lack athletism, and it has always been somewhat in my mind, but it'll be a slow steady progression. I like using aikido as more of a practical exercise while seeing people, kind of like going for a full body exercise instead of just lifting to focus on only the arms. It's very pleasing to experience flowing uninterrupted movements, there's nothing else like that, but I do need better endurance to keep that up, especially if I get an overly enthusiastic partner.

Do you engage in taiso practice and/or encourage students to do so? Do you worry about desensitizing the body to certain aspects? I find that people with conditioned bodies have lost some sensitivites..... overly muscular arms cannot seem to sense some finer details of movement. Or overly strong hands to break out a yonkyo is usually (not always! I know one person who is an exception!) just a super strong squeezing bruise, but a well done yonkyo had been experienced by less than strong conditioned hands more often.

Do you get the students to do randori often? I think it's a great way to build up athletics, even if done somewhat slowly. Eventually going fast will build it up faster of course.

I also appreciate your answers and discussions here on the forums Jon. It's insightful, and likely reveals a lot more about you and myself as people. One of these days if we meet in person, we'll be up all day and night all week with practice followed by discussions

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
First, I think we have a great question, What is training in aikido? What do we think about when we train aikido? Warmups? Techniques? Randori? Cardiovascular exercises? Weight training? I am trying to share my experiences from my sports background to indicate a distinction between what I would consider "training" in aikido. If I am out of breath all the time, is that good training? We have already talked about the notion that a sensei may choose to fail a student for demonstrating poor cardiovascular fitness on a test, and I have seen students fail shodan tests for being too exhausted in their jiyu waza.

I think there is a large number of aikido people who agree that a uniform is a must in the dojo to "train". Is a uniform more important than a working knowledge about the ancestry of aikido and its religious roots? Why? We consider Japanese underwear a critical component of the training experience, but not the spiritual and cultural background of the art...?

I also think there is a large number of people would view aikido as a social exercise. Is the social interaction with others critical to training? Why? Sometimes a training partner is a good support pillar for those occasions when you personally are not motivated to train. But, as COVID has illustrated, self-reliance is pretty important to continuing your training (this has also been complicated by a partner-dependent curriculum instruction). So, without someone to train with, is aikido not important...?

I am appreciative of your answers; I think they are consistent with many perspectives in aikido and your participation to talk about them is great because I think they are great points of discussion. Taiso is difficult, this is generally part of the reason why most people who start a martial art do not stick around. But we still consistently come back to cultural and cognitive differences that complicate our aikido training.
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Old 10-01-2020, 09:26 AM   #22
jonreading
 
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Re: Athletics in aikido

As a preamble... when I started aikido, my sensei was athletic and my early curriculum was stressful and vigorous. He was a multiple-martial artist and felt taiso was important to practice. I played sports all my life until then and also practiced in a few arts by the time I came to aikido. Thinking back, I believe this was one of the reasons why I choose to remain in aikido after my first few classes - my instructor had a dojo culture that was inclusive of my athletic culture and physicality. It also happened that he was skilled in fighting, and was [easily] able to work with me to show how good skills could come from training. That said, we had hard training. Not injurious, but hard. After practicing for many years, I came to realize not every [read "most" here] dojos did not train with the physical focus we had. Honestly speaking, I am not sure I would train in an aikido dojo now if I was starting a new art and I am grateful that I was lucky enough to meet the right instructor and the right time.

After training for a [too] long time, I came to find some very good mentors who shared important perspectives about training, aikido, fighting, and life skills. These perspective helped to bridge the gap between the notion that my chances of actually fighting someone in life is very low, yet the amount of money, effort, and time I put into aikido was very high. Oddly, reaching back to my earlier days of sports training was a big part of my shift back to a [more] useful combination of training to make my body the best tool I could for whatever I was doing.

For me, it is a foreign thought that conditioning is not training. I think for a while my training led me away from that fencepost. We all get enamored with techniques, and weapons work, and all of the precise movements we learn. But then I worked out with some pretty good people who just didn't care what you did, aikido didn't work. That kicked some of my competitive genes into high gear to figure out what they were doing; I was surprised to see the importance of body management at the top of the list and that was something that clicked with me.

History aside, I think I would loosely say that taiso is the single-most important thing you can do to remain a heathy, functioning martial artists for an extended period of time. Athleticism is a multi-faceted gem - physical conditioning is one side, but also competition, but also healthy habits, but cognitive reasoning, but also... We don't have to be fit to be athletic, but rather an idea of habits to take care of our bodies. We don't have to be good at sports to be athletic, but rather an idea of what good competition looks like and an appreciation for the success achieved in that competition.

As an aside here, I know a lot of aikido people who say they are not competitive and don't care about fighting. The well-used and tired argument I point out that person took time to clean their bodies, smell nice, and appear pleasing to the eye. Why? Because we are competing for attention, even at a base level. Not being competitive is different than avoiding the displeasure of 'losing." Mostly, I would argue when someone says they aren't competitive what they really mean is they don't enjoy losing and would rather not participate in an activity that invokes that displeasure. I think athletics is a good place to learn how to learn from losing, even enjoying the competition. Michael Jordan once did an interview shortly after retiring. In the interview he was asked about being the greatest basketball player, with a record number of game-winning shots in his career. In answer, he basically said that he remembered the number of game losing shots he took more than the number of game-winning shots he made. Jordan was considered by many people to be one of the most competitive athletes in modern sports. Yet, losing was one of the best tools in his toolbox to motivate his training.

We can't all be like Michael Jordan (ah, the old commercial jingles that come to mind..). But, I think we can compete against ourselves as a motivational tool. I think a poisonous apple in aikido is the notion that you need a partner to train. I think this for a variety of reasons, but in this thread I think it because eventually you have to train without social reinforcement. If you are not doing aikido for yourself, eventually you will fatigue and lack motivation to continue. Even doing it for yourself does not guarantee success and longevity.

The notion that athletes can't do martial arts because their muscles are too big, or they can't stretch, or whatever is largely false. Bodybuilding (a specific exercise routine to grown defined muscles) is not athletics. The biggest argument for aikido training is that isolated muscle movement [in any capacity] is not whole-body movement and therefore not aiki, by definition. Plenty of us regular people don't lift weights and we'll suck at aikido because we move using muscles in isolation. Training your body to move in unison is both athletic and proper body movement and that is why I say that taiso is aikido. Someday, you won't care how you grip someone's hand because when you move with your whole body it won't matter. So we learn our grips while we train for that moment. This is the concept of using form until you don't need form.

So we train. Discomfort and injury both are painful; discomfort is progress, injury is regression. So, give yourself metrics of success for challenges that can be accomplished safely. Rolling hurts. Why? Poor technique, poor flexibility, poor condition on the body, whatever. How do you prioritize which comes first? Sensei can help, but you can, too. Figure out what hurts and fix it first. Then, figure out what hurts next. Its a ball of string that you need to unravel - enjoy the challenge.

Jon Reading
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Old 10-01-2020, 08:34 PM   #23
PuppyDoggie
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Post Re: Athletics in aikido

Interesting story. It seems you got lucky and found a good matching sensei.

When I started aikido, I knew no one and I was a complete stranger. In the first few classes, two things stood out the most to me: being very direct (which I still sometimes hesitate to do but still working on it!) and flowing movements. I stayed on initially because I loved flowing movements, and ikkyo ura was lovely to do at the time (later progressed to loving kokyunages much more). The directness is something I will always have to work on. My sensei has been very accepting and similarly to you has also shown me the more useful aspects in fighting too. My sensei likes hard training, and I sometimes do as well. Similar to you, not injurious, but hard satisfying training. He had a judo background.

I am sometimes concerned about the effort, energy, and time I have put into aikido, but the biggest concern for me is always injuries and I have done my best to be as aware as possible to prevent them as well as dealing with them.

Yes, there are certain times when aikido just doesn't work. It's not sad or upsetting, but I do think it is imperative to know when certain things work, and when certain things don't. Like everything else I have come across, there are limitations somewhere; we just need to find them.

I somewhat partially disagree regarding taiso being the single-most important thing to remain healthy. I believe habits are the most important things to being healthy. I suppose that if taiso practice is a habit, then that'd be imperative to be healthy.

Interesting thoughts regarding losing. Most people don't like to lose. I also don't like to lose, but I do believe that by losing more, we are able to learn more, and as a result, we eventually improve (assuming we keep trying). The most important thing I've done is to just keep trying, and something will eventually come through; sometimes it won't be what I want or what I'd expect, but something will come. This is why I just keep going for practice; there are many times when I don't "feel like going" but I go anyways. I vaguely remembered Michael Jordan saying what you summarized.

Competing against yourself is a common theme I've seen in non-American shows and movies. It is a good motivational tool for sure. For me, this by itself isn't enough.

You are right regarding the poison apple when training for social reinforcement. I used to have a really great friend to practice regularly together with and for extra "training". When he got too busy and left when "life gets in the way" a few years ago, I was really deeply saddened, and still am. I almost wanted to quit afterwards (I still think about it), but I still wanted to practice flowing movements so I stuck around. So yes, it's not great to solely depend on others, but it's also not great to solely depend on myself entirely either. I need both to make it through.

Social reinforcement can work against me too, because I have been deeply hurt by someone I have considered a friend. It's really sad, but I am willing to stick around and continue living to see how it progresses.

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Training your body to move in unison is both athletic and proper body movement and that is why I say that taiso is aikido. Someday, you won't care how you grip someone's hand because when you move with your whole body it won't matter. So we learn our grips while we train for that moment. This is the concept of using form until you don't need form.
These are super interesting bold statements and I believe to be true, but it took a long time to realize the results! I had the experience of having possibly the strongest man I ever encountered with the strongest grip to try and hold me down; do some aikido, and I was just as shocked as he was that I could still move to eventually lead into a technique.
I never thought of whole body movement in unison as an athletic endeavour. We might be moving away from the traditional definition of "athletics", and I think this is mainly an artificial limitation of words, meaning of words, and language.

To me, pain and discomfort are signals from the body telling you something is wrong and needs immediate attention. You ask the right question, why? It could be anything(s) and should be addressed when what the origins are. Everyone chooses to deal with it differently: fix it, ignore it, or let someone else deal with it. Like you, I really strongly prefer to fix it. Thank goodness for medicine, medical care, and technology to help with that.

Athletics is important, it is great to keep as a habit, and for improving health. For me, I have chosen aikido as one way to keep some athletic abilities as a habit, and hopefully for improving health too despite the relatively high amount of time, energy and effort costs!
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