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Old 06-09-2018, 10:55 AM   #1
ThirdDoctor
Join Date: Jun 2017
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"Just relax"

You know how you're in an aikido class and someone says you need to relax?

Or how tension unintentionally builds up in apparently useless ways in your daily life? Like, you're typing at work, and you notice your back is tense. You're driving, but your shoulders are tense. You're watching TV, but your jaw is tense.

I have seen a lot of different instructors have different approaches to try to get students to relax. Sometimes they say "relax" at you repeatedly. Sometimes they spontaneously massage your shoulders in the middle of class (blech) or slap your back or do that weird thing where they slide their hands down your arms in a frictionful way. There's also the method of just trying to remind myself seventeen thousand times a day not to be scrunching up my face or shoulders or whatever. I haven't found any method that I've encountered to be incredibly successful at instilling this to an instinctive level.

What do you think? Are there other tools out there to learn relaxation as a skill? Are there specific practices for it in Aikido or other arts?

Tangential question: I know that the English word "relax," which in colloquial usage refers to slumping on the couch in sweatpants with a can of pringles, is not what is meant by all the different aikido instructors when they tell me to "relax." What they mean, as far as I can tell, is a state of minimal tension, where maybe certain muscles need to be activated but superfluous muscles are at rest. They also seem to mean specifically activating some muscles e.g. the ones that actively pull your shoulders into a down, connected-to-the-back position. It's more like being ready but not being stressed or wasteful of muscular energy. Sometimes there is a specific Japanese word preserved for concepts that are not otherwise specifically expressed in English (e.g. kuzushi, qi, ukemi). Is there a better word to target the special type of "relaxation" referred to here?
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Old 06-10-2018, 06:29 AM   #2
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: "Just relax"

Have someone hold both of your wrists (ryote tori). Then ask that person to drop them spontaneously when you are not expecting it. Do your arms drop to your sides? If they do great...you are pretty relaxed.

If they stay suspended, try this. When the person is holding your wrists...let your wrists rest in their hands as if you are resting your arms on the table. Let the person have your arms. Then ask them to repeat dropping your wrists when you are not expecting it. If you have let the other person hold up your arms it gives you an experience of being more relaxed that you can work towards.

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Old 06-11-2018, 09:44 AM   #3
jonreading
 
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Re: "Just relax"

Relax is a bad word. Honestly. I am not going to say right or wrong, but this single issue affected my training for about 10 years. I am not a fan of "relax" or the tricks that many instructors use to illustrate the point to students. From holding your hands to touching your body to buying you a nice dinner with a great bottle of wine - the point is wrong because the issue is learning how to move your body in the first place, not about correcting bad movement that already happened.

First, you need muscles to move your body; you just need to understand that, probably, you are not correctly moving your body. Aikido movement is pointless if you move your body wrong, so take a deep breath and get back to basics. Yes, I understand that if your partner is holding you up and you simply go limp, that places a burden of weight on your partner - this is not what we are talking about.

Second, its not a matter of not moving muscles, its a matter of moving the right muscles. You are training your body to fire the correct muscles, while allowing others muscles to remained unused. There is no "relax" because you shouldn't have been firing those bad boys in the first place. Imagine a cable pulley system on a crane and now imagine binding the cables all together to prevent them from pulling - this is what happens to your body when you fire a muscles in the wrong place. So stop doing that and learn to move correctly in the first place.

Third, you can't think about this stuff in waza. You body needs to move this way, naturally. When asked what the stance of aikido was, O Sensei once remarked, "shizen tai" - natural stance. You are [re]training your body to move and it takes a hot minute. Be patient. Eventually, you will move correctly when doing waza and that will have success.

I am saying this a little playfully because training your body this way is frustrating and slow and boring and everything thing else that describes exactly why no one wanted to keep the training in aikido to begin with... It just happens to also be how you are supposed to move.

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Old 06-11-2018, 11:01 AM   #4
RonRagusa
Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
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Re: "Just relax"

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Relax is a bad word.
Relax is just a word, neither good or bad. What gives it meaning is the context of the training environment in which it's used.

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
Yes, I understand that if your partner is holding you up and you simply go limp, that places a burden of weight on your partner - this is not what we are talking about.
Sorry, but you've got the wrong idea. Going limp is not the point. The point of the exercise is developing weight underside. When properly trained weight underside will cause your partner to have her structure compromised at the moment of contact.

To take a page from Dan Harden, do not confuse the training exercise with technique. As he has said, go ask a boxer if shadow boxing and speed bag work are useless exercises.

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
There is no "relax" because you shouldn't have been firing those bad boys in the first place. Imagine a cable pulley system on a crane and now imagine binding the cables all together to prevent them from pulling - this is what happens to your body when you fire a muscles in the wrong place. So stop doing that and learn to move correctly in the first place.
That's great in an ideal situation Jon. But reality presents us, as instructors, with students that come to us wound up tighter than drum heads. For them there is no relax because they just don't know how to and have to be taught.

Ron

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Old 06-17-2018, 07:27 AM   #5
jonreading
 
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Re: "Just relax"

I am not necessarily contesting any of this logic. What I am pointing out is that aikido lost "weight underside" as a basic component of training using tricks like holding hands, or drinking beers, or putting change in your pocket or [fill in the blank with some "relax" exercise you have heard]. Combing hair is also popular...

Relax requires something to fire first. My point is that if you have to "relax", you did something wrong, already (because you used a muscle that now has to "relax"). Why not simply move correctly in the first place?

Start by moving slowly and firing the correct muscles to learn how you body works. Train your body to move this way. If you can't, then train more. What's the use in rushing to move wrong? Go ask a boxer if she started out working a speed bag quickly... The answer will be no. Exercises are great and I am a huge proponent of solo exercises to condition the body. That said, I defy anyone to explain to me how using a trick to correct a student who is continually moving wrong will ever change the movement. It doesn't.

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Old 06-17-2018, 09:30 AM   #6
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: "Just relax"

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
That said, I defy anyone to explain to me how using a trick to correct a student who is continually moving wrong will ever change the movement. It doesn't.
You call it a trick. I call it an exercise to develop correct feeling. A person must be able to identify the feeling in order to be able to utilize it and than make it stronger.

We train in different paradigms. The difference is, Jon, is that I don't have to make you wrong. There are many ways to get stronger. It really depends on what a student is looking for.
I am developing reliable ways to have my mind, body and spirit unified
on and off the mat. I want to be present with what ever is happening. I want to accept what is and move on safely.
I want to relax and relax more.

How about you, Jon, why are you training?

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Old 06-17-2018, 06:25 PM   #7
dps
 
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Re: "Just relax"

Relax is how uke feels how you are not how you feel how you are.

When pushed don't resist, when pulled don't resist. When pushed or pulled go with the push ( by turning ) or pull ( by entering ) and redirect them by repositioning your body ( externally ), redirect them using muscle pathways and connective tissue pathways ( internally ) or both.

Ask uke if they feel resistance.

Resistance is futile.
Osensei was a Borg!!!

dps

Last edited by dps : 06-17-2018 at 06:37 PM.
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:47 PM   #8
asiawide
Location: Seoul
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Re: "Just relax"

Relax is a skill. Someone above wrote about using proper muscles is close. To Relax XXX, somewhere else in your body should take the load which XXX was taking or configure your body to let the load flow to ground. Suburi is a way to force you to find 'somewhere else' or 'another way' since your primary habitual muscles get tired and posture is broken. But mostly people just ends up strengthening the habitual muscles such as 'hey I'm going deep low' or 'I can do this 10000 times!'
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