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Old 01-24-2002, 03:33 PM   #1
Keoni Adams
Location: Portland, OR USA
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 2
Big Dude Needs Advice

I've been training for about 4 months and a bit now and I've attempted to execute my various movements through my "center" as sensei instructs.

However, I never feel like I am actually moving through my center. One of my theories on why this is so is that I'm one of the biggest dudes in my class (6'0" (1.8meters) and about 220lbs.(100kg??)) and everyone else is pretty small (at least 50 to 100lbs. lighter). I feel like I'm just pushing them around. Hence, I often ask uke to attack me or grip me as hard as they can. Often this method allows me to feel uke's resistence/strength and focus on my center rather than my own strength/weight.

My question is: is this the best method to train? Without asking uke to push hard, it just never feels like I'm executing through to my center.
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Old 01-24-2002, 04:14 PM   #2
Thalib's Avatar
Dojo: 合気研究会
Location: Jakarta Selatan
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 504
I was the same way once... kinda

When I started Aikido, I was 178cm(5'11") and 115kg(253lbs). But it's a good thing that I have a partner that is about the same built, even bigger. Basically we were paired up together most of the time.

All the people that were smaller in size than me are not to be underestimated. Some of them got a really good center, and no matter how big you are, it's not as easy as you think. This is when I started to explore the concept of center. In almost 4 years of Aikido, I only started to understand the concept of center in the past year.

I try not to tense my muscle in doing a technique. I twisted my right shoulder doing just that recently. One thing for sure that if I use muscle power to do a technique, my shoulder would be hurting for a while.

Try to feel your body calmed and relaxed. Move as if there were no barrier, no challenge. Concentrate on your center, move with your center, keep one mind and body. Your objective now is not the uke, but keeping yourself stabilized, centered. If you feel your muscle tensing, relax again. Try to feel your whole body, are the muscles tensing beyond its needs.

In Aikido, the muscle power you need to do a technique is just the same as in everyday life, that is when you're walking, sitting down, reading, writing, eating, etc. To use more than this, then there is an over-exertion in muscle power. Of course this is in its principles, in its ideal concepts. To reach this, well... you also have to keep centered, one mind and body, and the extension of ki in everyday life. In other words, Aikido is kept being practiced outside the dojo and not in a technical sense.

Now I'm 90kg(198lbs), and if I don't do keep centered and one mind and body doing a technique with the same uke, (we still pair up once in a while... OK... most of the times) I'll be damned if I could even move him (plus, his center is way better than mine).
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Old 01-24-2002, 04:36 PM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 915
I'm thinking that if your sensei likes your training approach it is a good idea...if not, it is a bad idea. I'm a smaller person, but it seems that when uke gives a lot of resistence to a large but relatively inexperienced nage, nage just uses even more muscle (which can be dangerous/painful for uke, and doesn't help nage any).

Some things to consider with smaller ukes: if they are ending up in positions that do not look like what was demonstrated, it is unlikely they got there without you putting them there...consider that feedback. If they attack softly and you send them halfway across the mat, perhaps you are adding a bit into the throw...

One sandan twice my size often has me hold one or two of his fingers rather than grab his wrist in a technique, he says it gives him instant feedback on whether he is using muscle (note: uke grabs YOUR fingers, NOT the other way around). FOr what it is worth from someone half your size...
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Old 01-25-2002, 12:04 AM   #4
Dojo: Jiyushinkan
Location: Mesa, AZ
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 199
Excellent point Colleen. My sensei does a lot of "one finger" aikido, and I use it a lot to demonstrate things to juniors. There is really no way to rely on muscular force with only one finger, the body has to work together as a coordinated unit.
Keoni, dude, keep working. You are not going to get ultra sensitive in 6 months. Just do the best you can to replicate what your teacher is showing you until you get the feeling of working through your center. At your point of training, you need to bring all your usable abilities into focus to do what your teacher is showing you. So what if you are a bit rough around the edges? Keep training and it will happen. Then the one finger training will make more sense.
Hard to show otherwise on a forum. Really good point though Colleen.

Jim Vance

(PS. I am also 6'2", 185 lbs, lanky)
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Old 01-25-2002, 11:32 AM   #5
cconstantine's Avatar
Dojo: Kinokawa Aikido
Location: Pennsylvania USA
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 49
Re: Big Dude Needs Advice

Originally posted by Keoni Adams
I've been training for about 4 months and a bit now and I've attempted to execute my various movements through my "center" as sensei instructs.
I've read the other posts upthread... all of which I agree with completely! I'm 6' and 250+, about the largest aikidoka in our dojo.

Keep at it. The short/light uke are EXCELLENT partners. Treat them with utmost attentiveness and mental focus. As someone else poitned out; Pay close attention to their reaction. (If they flyyyyyyy or SLAM, you're putting too much energy or muscle in.) You need truly NO muscle to move such light uke -- even very early on. So these uke are your opportunity to relax beyond every injury you have ever sustained (mental, physical, etc), to flow, to move, to be free.

Go man go! Stick with it!
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Old 01-25-2002, 03:37 PM   #6
Jim ashby
Dojo: Phoenix Coventry
Location: Coventry, England
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 303
Size isn't everything

Read the signoff. I'm 5'10 and 17 stone (the colonials will have to work this one out for themselves). I've never had to stop myself from using strength, my Sensei shows movement as the key(KI?). Just do it and you will use less and less strength.
Have fun.

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 01-27-2002, 09:03 AM   #7
Location: Western Australia
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 241
Welcome to the wonderful world of aikido. I must say that I am at the other end of the height scale to you - I'm more like knee high to a grasshopper

In some ways I think the larger people have greater challenges in unlearning to use their size and strength advantages with smaller people and then learning to rely on aikido.

On the other hand I have trained with aikidoka and yudanshas that are not much taller than me who have very powerful centres and are very diffult to shift even for large and heavy people.

In terms of specific advice, I concur with a lot of what has already been said. May I add that you practice your technique in a relaxed manner without the reliance on upper body strength. By all means ask your training partners to add resistance but complete your technique slowly and with control instead of "hauling" or "dragging" them around you. In this way you will be concentrating on the fundamentals of aikido and not on your natural advantage of height, size, weight and strength. If you are able to complement those advantages you already have with aikido, you will be an excellent aikidoka.

Keep practicing and all the best for your training.

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Old 01-27-2002, 09:22 AM   #8
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 915
I've thought of something else that MIGHT be of use, but be sure it does not run counter to what is taught at your dojo. There are some places that insist uke resist with all their strength throughout a technique, and so my suggestion cannot be done at such a dojo...

Make your attack sincere when you are uke (ie, plan to hit, grab, etc precisely on target), but once nage begins the technique work more on being balanced and sensitve to what he is doing than necessarily putting every ounce of muscle you have into resisting being moved. One thing I've noticed in really large beginners is they really put a lot into not getting thrown, perhaps because they hurt more when falling, perhaps they think it is more 'realistic', perhaps it is unconcious reaction of someone used to using their muscles mass to their advantage.

But what I see often as a result of this is harder than necessary falls, which makes the bigger guys often more afraid of ukemi and slows their training compared to the smaller ones, and they are so stiff and unsensitive they miss feeling what their more experienced nage is doing to them. In case no one has mentioned it, FEELING what your partner is doing when you are uke is an important part of training. Sometimes nage ends up doing something entirely different because they are worried about throwing such a stiff beginner.

Anyway, just a suggestion, and again, not meant to counter any guidance if your dojo stresses the 'resist at all costs' method.
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Old 01-29-2002, 11:44 AM   #9
Keoni Adams
Location: Portland, OR USA
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 2
Eek! Big Dude Found His Match!

Lo and Behold, a new guy just entered our dojo and he is STRONG!

He was my uke last night and man, It was very enlightening. I think my sensei was amazed at this guys strength as well.

In any case, as a follow up, I found that some of the moves I was doing was making me use my upper body! hence, I started to really think about my center. I didn't feel like I was moving from my center, but it was good to know what NOT MOVING FROM MY CENTER was like.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I enjoyed the strength offered by this guy and that I'll keep working on moving through my center.

Also, thanks for everyone's comments.

P.S. I hope to find a smaller person that is this hard to move as well.
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Old 01-29-2002, 12:21 PM   #10
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 114
I'll throw my slant in on this one. Nothing againts you but, seeing as you've trained for only 4 months, one thing I noticed that wasn't mentioned was leading. In Aikido, in my opinion, usage of strength = bad. A lot of the techinques are flowing, and should not ever come down to a strength vs. strength contest. We have someone who is 6'-7" and 250 or so. Not only does he have an advantage in the power department, he also has a leverage advantage. The main thing is if someone stronger than you is your uke, never let them have their center. Lead them, lead them, lead them. In something even as "simple" as katatekosatori kotagaeshi, don't let them latch on. Of course this is difficult if Sensei makes you start with static technique. Oh how I hate(d) static techinique. Patience Keoni, soon everything will fall into place and the strength issue will start to be less and less of a problem. I know I am stronger than a lot of people in our dojo, and even when I resist a lot, when done properly the "weaker" people can easily make me do what they want.

...then again, that's just me.
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Old 02-24-2002, 10:26 PM   #11
Dojo: University of Chicago Aikido Club
Location: Chicago
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 36
I understand that in Aikido using resistance is a major part in training one to use their center. Also, I agree to some extent that training with a strong Uke really makes one work wisely when it comes to executing technique. I too am a big person (6'2 190) and know that sometimes you want that resistance because it helps you learn what you can improve on. It is good, however, to remember that moving from your center does more than help you execute against strength. Moving from your center means that there is a connection made between uke's and nage's energy. It is this connection that makes Aikido so wonderful because no matter the strength of either uke or nage, the energy becomes one in the technique.

Being a bigger person I often ask (and am still asking) my sensei what I can do to learn about using more or less strength in my techniques. He always reminds me to train with as many people as possible and to attack at different strengths. The different strength levels you find or use in Aikido make training as a big person very exciting and help you understand your center and your technique better.
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Old 02-24-2002, 11:18 PM   #12
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 915
OK, if you stand a few more suggestions from a somewhat smaller person:

Depending on your uke, they may be able to tell you what they felt you do, providing verbal feedback is allowed in your dojo (if not, this can actually be learned by watching what you just did with them, but it more difficult). I can easily tell the difference in feel between being tossed by a much bigger nage via muscle mass, and being moved via his center to mine. The end result is a fall in both cases, but the feel of what is moving me is sooooo different.

As some have said, it is the feeling of connection of your energy to theirs that you need to find. And before you think 'well, how will I know that feel if I've never felt it', you have. This goes back to working on sensitivity while ukefor a smaller nage: if they are moving you, you should be able to feel how they are doing it---that is the feeling you are looking for when moving someone smaller. If you toss them across the mat, but didn't feel the same connection you had when they threw you, there's a good chance that was muscle you just used.
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Old 02-25-2002, 12:03 AM   #13
MikeE's Avatar
Dojo: Midwest Center For Movement & Aikido Bukou Dojos
Location: Hudson, WI
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 407
I also am a pretty good size guy. 6'2" 260lb. I started out being very physical with my technique (as everyone does). It takes time to develop the subtlety necessary to effect waza without strength.

I like to try to not conflict with uke at all. Stay relaxed and try to never feel dissension. For me concentrating on this led to me being able to develop controlled relaxation that works with the smallest of my students up to the biggest (who is incidentally 6'5" 325lbs.)

I guess if I were you, I would take my time and always remember you can be more relaxed.

Mike Ellefson
Midwest Center
For Movement &
Aikido Bukou
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Old 02-27-2002, 12:42 PM   #14
wilson jones
Dojo: Pathway to Harmony
Location: Illinois
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 7
Thumbs down Re: Big Dude Needs Advice

Keep your head up and join the big guy club. I'm 6'4' and 340 lbs. I have learned that there is a differencre between muscle and "Ki". When I use muscle I get tired way too quick. When I'm using "Ki" I last longer. The way I can differienciate between the two is when some one flies across the room and Sensei asks " what did you feel?" When I say I felt nothing that's when I'm using my "Ki". I've learned to follow what Sensei suggests and at every practice pay attention to my body and what I feel. Aikido is an art that doesn't require muscle or brute strength,just "Ki",centering,balance,relaxation. Those of us who choose to use strength won't get the full benefit of the art.

Always teachable
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Old 02-27-2002, 01:17 PM   #15
Randy Pertiet
Dojo: Tohkon Judo Club
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 26
Re: Re: Big Dude Needs Advice

Originally posted by wilson jones
Keep your head up and join the big guy club. I'm 6'4' and 340 lbs. I have learned that there is a differencre between muscle and "Ki". When I use muscle I get tired way too quick. When I'm using "Ki" I last longer. The way I can differienciate between the two is when some one flies across the room and Sensei asks " what did you feel?" When I say I felt nothing that's when I'm using my "Ki". I've learned to follow what Sensei suggests and at every practice pay attention to my body and what I feel. Aikido is an art that doesn't require muscle or brute strength,just "Ki",centering,balance,relaxation. Those of us who choose to use strength won't get the full benefit of the art.

Myself at 6'4" and 300 lbs. I couldn't agree more. With the fact that I'm at least 6" taller than everyone else in the dojo, I get passed around to all the students every class . My Sensi keeps stressing not to use strength, use more hips and be "gentle".
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Old 03-15-2002, 01:21 PM   #16
Bruce Baker
Dojo: LBI Aikikai/LBI ,NJ
Location: Barnegaat, NJ
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 893
Big Dudes

Wow! I am pleased not to be the only big dude at 6 ft tall, 270 lbs.

Most of my difficulty with Aikido training was to break the habit of moving into other techniques because of various grappling and Wally Jay Jujitsu training ... people do not appreciate having a technique changed when the teacher has specified a particular practice? Go figure?

Anyway, bending the knees, horse stance, will lower your center immediately. Learning to move this center is a bit more difficult. With using upper body strength most of your life, it may take a year or so before you use less muscle, and gently ... GENTLY use the movement of your hips which is twice as effective as upper body strength.

Bokken practice is very good for learning how to move your hips. Even holding your hands in front of you, without moving them but using your entire body to move in the direction you wish to move, thinking of all weight moving down and outward will help.

Yamada Sensei of NYC was using a tenkan exercise, this past weekend Seminar at LBI/NJ, to move the entire body in the same manner we used to throw discus, quickly ... in one fluid motion of the entire side of the body pushing a large object as quick as one could turn. We all laughed as we moved quicker, and quicker ... feeling the wind of each movement and the power center turning and rooting/unrooting.

If you can learn to turn the entire body, then centering should be a piece of cake!

The other difficulty I encouter, and work on constantly, is to be gentle and feel the amount of pressure needed to complete a technique without reaching in to well of body strength? Sometimes we do Sticky hands, which is the mirror movement while staying connected to your partner. Sometimes we do this in Aikido without realizing it as we try to feel the motion and energy applied from beginning to end of technique. Attached, but not, flowing with movement with impeding it.

It has taken most of ten years to be GENTLE. To be able to feel the tightness of uke or nage, or even sensei as to know there is a problem of greater or lesser movement needed to maintain control of a technique.

I only had a problem with one Sensei who was so loose he could bend his palm almost totally to touch his inner arm. I remembered an old principle of Jujitsu, if you cannot get the desire result because the uke is too loose, apply a larger base. So I did, and I got a new respect from someone ten years my junior who is a fifth dan?

Strength is not always the key to knowledge. It can be helpful in survival situations, but take your time learning to move, how it works, why it works, and not only will you make the technique your own, you will be able to adapt and change .... gently, with breaking people who will soon become your friends!

So instead of moving your hands, work on moving your entire body with some of the basic Saguri strikes, used in Bokken practice, it will definitely help.
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