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Old 06-14-2008, 04:05 AM   #1
Lauren Walsh
Lauren Walsh's Avatar
Dojo: Perth
Location: Western Australia
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 8
Back Pain From Bokken

I'm finding that whenever I start doing any bokken training, I get a really sore lower back. I spoke to my instructor and he explained that there are a couple of muscles running either side of the spine which are virtually "dead" in most people as we are hardly ever required to use them. He said that by developing these muscles and making them stronger actually strengthens the lower back (especially around the kidneys - where I get most pain). Just curious to know whether other people experience this sort of complaint when training with bokken, and whether there is much to be done to remedy such?

"The warrior's ultimate ideal is for when the sword resides not in the hand, but in the heart."
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Old 06-14-2008, 05:50 AM   #2
Dojo: Sho Shin Aikido Dojo
Location: Amsterdam
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 27
Re: Back Pain From Bokken

I used to have the backpains, especially after doing shomens for long periods of time. A yogi who also practices aikido at my dojo told us that it's good to practice to close the anus sphincter (not to tight) while swinging the bokken down, at the same time tighten the lower abdomen, this way you strengthen the abdomen. By tightening the abdomen they help absorb the forces when swining you bokken. An thing that happens automatically when tightening the sphincter and lower abdomen is that the perineum contracts aswell, don't panic, this is perfectly normal as these three muscles are connected to each other. My sensei also told us the same thing and at a iaido seminar I heard the same words from the instructor. So that's three disciplines, although more or less related, they where telling the same thing.

Just keep on training, a bit of pain is normal, especially if you haven't used certain muscles groups before, but do listen to your body. Probably best to go to a physician if the pain doesn't go away. Could be a vertebrae pushing a gainst a muscle or nerve.
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Old 06-16-2008, 04:34 AM   #3
Martin Goodyear
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13
United Kingdom
Re: Back Pain From Bokken

I have a similar problem, and sympathise.

The lower back is like the keystone of the body. When it is weak or unstable, the whole system is compromised. When doing aikido, it is not so much of a problem if we are successfully leading Uke's mind, but when we are a bit off, then we need to be able to receive Uke's force efficiently through our body. Also, lower back pain often becomes a chronic condition that limits our range of movement (which means your aikido has to be very very good for this to not be a problem). When Uke-ing, lower back pain can cause one to hold back and be overly cautious, thus compromising one's development.

The trouble with the bokken is that a weak lower back arches when one raises to cut, then returns as you cut, possibly straightening at the end of a deep cut (though I'm not sure if this last one is a problem or a natural movement). But the lower back arching as you raise, I think, is a problem, and means that the spine is not stable.

I would recommend Pilates, and I really ought to find more time to follow my own advice - maybe I will now. The problem with trying to correct this sort of thing when doing bokken work is that your mind is no longer on cutting, and it is easy to put more tension into your body, possibly exacerbating the problem.

By strengthening core muscles through Pilates, bokken technique will naturally improve. You may notice a tightening of the core muscles as you raise to cut, but you will not have to DO anything other than refine your technique. This may simply be a necessary adjunct to aikido training for the likes of you and I, for it would be ironic and sad if aikido were to exacerbate rather than help a health problem.

Hope this helps,

P.S. Pilates can also be viewed as a mindfulness practice, which may be a bit of a motivator. And like aikido, it's not always easy to get right.
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Old 06-18-2008, 01:35 AM   #4
Stefan Stenudd
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Dojo: Enighet Malmo Sweden
Location: Malmo
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 531
How to cut

Another aspect is how the actual cutting move with the bokken is done. If you put emphasis on the end of the cut, at chudankamae level - as if working an axe - then the strain on your lower back increases.
Try to do the cutting movement with the most of acceleration and force at head level of the imaginary opponent.

Also, when stopping the bokken at chudan level, it is important not to try to hold back the bokken with your arm muscles. Instead, make the bokken stop by extending your arms and keeping your grip firm. Because of your two-hand grip, the bokken will stop without any muscular strain on you. That, too, spares the back.

Sorry for being boring, if you already knew the above.

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 06-18-2008, 10:05 PM   #5
Lauren Walsh
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Dojo: Perth
Location: Western Australia
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 8
Re: Back Pain From Bokken

Thank you very much for your responses. I will certainly try to employ all advice given, and see what comes of it.

"The warrior's ultimate ideal is for when the sword resides not in the hand, but in the heart."
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