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Old 10-27-2000, 02:17 PM   #1
rich
Dojo: maidstone
Location: uk
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Sorry to repeat the thread posted in teaching but I have only just realised that I should have placed it in this sectoin instead.
I need to find an answer to a problem that I have with my training, in that I cannot seem to relax enough. I have been told many times that I am too stiff even though I do not feel so. Could anybody please help me with a tip or advice that may help me get over this problem?

Many Thanks

Rich
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Old 10-27-2000, 05:07 PM   #2
crystalwizard
Dojo: Aikido of Dallas
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ok basic relaxation exercise:

no shoes, comfortable clothes. lay down flat on your back, arms at your sides. Starting at your tose tense every single muscle in your feet. Keep them tensed while you tense your legs, then your stomach, then arms and finaly neck. Stay like that for a few seconds.
now, slowly, again starting at the toes, relax the muscles. let them go totaly limp. slowly work your way up your body in the same order as you tensed. concentrate on how it feels when you release the tension. Not only will this help you train yourself to be able to actualy relax at a moments notice, it's a great thing to do just before fallijng asleep at the end of a long day.
Dont just run through this once though, like anything else you have to repeat the actions enough times that your muscles learn and no longer depend on your brain to tell them what to do.

_______
Kelly
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Old 10-27-2000, 11:08 PM   #3
Erik
Location: Bay Area
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Quote:
crystalwizard wrote:
ok basic relaxation exercise:

no shoes, comfortable clothes. lay down flat on your back, arms at your sides. Starting at your tose tense every single muscle in your feet. Keep them tensed while you tense your legs, then your stomach, then arms and finaly neck. Stay like that for a few seconds.
now, slowly, again starting at the toes, relax the muscles. let them go totaly limp. slowly work your way up your body in the same order as you tensed. concentrate on how it feels when you release the tension. Not only will this help you train yourself to be able to actualy relax at a moments notice, it's a great thing to do just before fallijng asleep at the end of a long day.
Dont just run through this once though, like anything else you have to repeat the actions enough times that your muscles learn and no longer depend on your brain to tell them what to do.

_______
Kelly
I used to do this one and I want to add something to it. After you tense the muscles and move into the relaxing phase say a phrase (mentally is fine) like "relax now". This anchors in the concept of relaxing and gives you something specific to use when you are tensing up. The phrase will bring back the relaxing.

What I do now when I'm getting really tense is a variation of Transcendental Meditation. I go lay down for 15 minutes or so and mentally repeat a phrase over and over. It sometimes produces phenomenal results.
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Old 10-28-2000, 12:20 AM   #4
stratcat
Dojo: Chendokan Aikido, Costa Rica
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Trancendental Meditation

Eric- that sounds like an interesting exercise. Could you please elaborate a little bit? What are the "warm up", "work and peak" and "cool down" phases of the exercise, if any? What are the specifics on breathing during this exercise? What, if any, is the importance of the actual content of the phrase? What would some sample phrases be? What, if any, is the relationship between this exercise, and the phrases used in it with O'Sensei's work on Kototama? Or its relationship with Zen meditation? What are the psychological underpinnings of this exercise? What would a good amount of time be for a beginner in this sort of exercise? Etc.

Gomen Nasai for asking, but it sounds like an interesting exercise that would benefit all of us in reaching a more relaxed state of mind.

Domo Arigato Gozeimashita.

Andy Hertz.
"Standing before me
enemies my mind does not ignore
I take a step forward
and act!"
Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 10-28-2000, 01:57 AM   #5
Erik
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Re: Trancendental Meditation

I'm probably going to disappoint you but here goes.

Quote:
stratcat wrote:
Eric- that sounds like an interesting exercise. Could you please elaborate a little bit? What are the "warm up", "work and peak" and "cool down" phases of the exercise, if any?
Nothing. You can sit in a chair or I usually lay down. Laying down is more dangerous as I sometimes fall asleep. You repeat the phrase for 15 minutes in the morning and in the evening. You can say it out loud or mentally. I usually do it mentally but not always and I just do it when I'm stressing.

Quote:
What are the specifics on breathing during this exercise?
Breath in, breath out. There are no connotations with breath that I know of but I never took the TM course. I adapted from books I read on the subject. Maybe if you spend a lot of money they talk about it. I have tried just following my breath for 15 minutes but the phrase seems to work better.

Quote:
What, if any, is the importance of the actual content of the phrase? What would some sample phrases be?
In theory, for the $400 or so you spend to learn TM they give you a customized phrase to harmonize with your spiritual being (or whatever). The general consensus among the scholars is that it doesn't matter. Mine agrees with that. I've used "Om Mayne Padme Hum" (a real one in theory), "one" (own), and any of numerous positive thinking affirmations. All achieve exactly the same results but I never got the secret one. I'm convinced that repeating "I'm convinced" would work fine.

Quote:
What, if any, is the relationship between this exercise, and the phrases used in it with O'Sensei's work on Kototama? Or its relationship with Zen meditation?
None, it's Indian in origin. A Mahareshi something yogi. It was really big in the 70's. Do a search on Transcendental meditation for more info. I'm sure it's still out there, right along with the Silvas and EST(TM'rs can go to the john after 15 minutes). I will postulate (guess, in other words) that it really is different than either of the two you mentioned. I know very little about the kotodama (other than an occasional run in with it on the mat) but what I know is different. Zen is probably different. TM might be Zen light in a sense when I really get it right but from what I know of Zen it really isn't.

Quote:
What are the psychological underpinnings of this exercise?
Who knows. The TM'rs claim the usual things: Relaxation, better health, etc. I've heard people claim that TM'rs meditating in your area will lower crime. Probably true, because those people aren't out commiting crimes, they're meditating.

For me what happens is that it turns my mind off. Focusing on the phrase provides a lever that neutralizes the nut cycle I get into when stressed. It provides a center for the mind. When I get it right (usually) my body relaxes and my mind relaxes. Another way of putting that is it changes my focus and it works for me.

I hate to say this but it's almost like counting sheep only you don't go to sleep. When you really get it right, it's like sleep but isn't. You probably wind up in kind of an Alpha state (if that term is still used) which is between wakefulness and sleeping. When I get it right I think I get borderline to deeper than that but much deeper and it's sleep time (then we would have to visit lucid dreaming, another fun topic).

Quote:
What would a good amount of time be for a beginner in this sort of exercise? Etc.
15 to 20 minutes. The relaxation usually hits about 8 to 10 minutes in.

I got my comments on the other exercise from a book titled "Sports Psyching" by Thomas Tutko and Umberto Tosi. It's kind of lame in parts (it was really the first of it's kind and it's dated) but the 6 week program had some really interesting results for me in high school. Unfortunately, I could only do it when we were at home as I couldn't find any privacy for road games.
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Old 10-28-2000, 08:01 AM   #6
akiy
 
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One concept that's worked for me is rather than trying to get rid of the tension and such, I try to replace it with a different quality like "softness." This ties in with a question that you can ask like, "What would I be like if I had more softness (or whatever quality you're working on) in my life/technique/etc?" It helps to work on this kind of quality for at least a year...

As far as breathing goes, I've learned that taking a breath through the nose for a count of four, holding it for a count of seven, and releasing it with sound for a count of eight is a relaxation technique. I've also heard that you should have the tip of your tongue on the ridge behind your teeth (the alveolar ridge). I believe this comes from yoga...

-- Jun

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Old 10-30-2000, 02:29 PM   #7
Richard Harnack
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Mid-America
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Square Relax

This is a sneaky five letter word usually found in the dictionary between "recumbent" and "rigor mortis".

In training, if you are not certain how "stiffly" or "tightly" you are grabbing or executing a technique, then ask your partner to tell you. For example, if you are uke and are grabbing with a great amount of force, ask your partner to tell you as you ease back what they feel. The same applies when you are executing a technique. Instead of going directly into the technique, ask your partner for feed-back on how it feels to them and back off until they tell you that they feel off-balance and that you feel "relaxed" to them.

All of the other methods mentioned are excellent for at home, however, in the middle of Shomenuchi Kokyunage or Munetsuki Kotegaeshi, quite possibly a little difficult to do.

Aikido training can help you learn to relax even when you are not sure you are.

Good luck.
Richard
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Old 10-30-2000, 04:53 PM   #8
Erik
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Re: Relax

Quote:
Richard Harnack wrote:
All of the other methods mentioned are excellent for at home, however, in the middle of Shomenuchi Kokyunage or Munetsuki Kotegaeshi, quite possibly a little difficult to do.
Personally, I wouldn't lay down in the middle of a dojo and start meditating either unless I was the only one there.

The relaxation practice first mentioned by CrystalWizard when combined with an anchor phrase is very viable in the dojo. The process was designed for competitive athletes who tighten up when they shoot a free-throw for instance. You go to the line and by saying "relax now" it brings back a bit of that relaxation you have when not in the game or on the mat. A specific example that I could think of would be during a test and things get a bit harried. You pin your partner a second longer and say "relax now" to yourself as an adjunct to getting things a bit less harried. It's the same idea as taking a deep breath to relax only it's an organized conscious practice.
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Old 10-31-2000, 07:25 AM   #9
jvdz
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Ever heard of makoto no kokyu? (true breath) Check "Way of harmony" by John Stevens sensei under the direction of the late Shirata Rinjiro sensei.

Jan van der Zee
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Old 10-31-2000, 09:14 AM   #10
ian
 
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Do you do a lot of weight training Rich? This isn't necessarily bad, but if you haven't done aikido for long your body may be thinking that it takes a lot of force to move something (i.e. your body is reacting to pre-conditioning).

I like to ukemi until I'm kackered - the floor tends to smooth and any tensions in my body. (go forwards, backwards, to the side etc. in quick succesion).

If you don't feel stiff, but people are telling you you are, it may just be the feedback they are getting from your technique.

1. Are you grabbing peoples hands during techniques? Sometimes this is a strong grab which is automatically picked up by uki and causes them to tense. Hold them light enough that you only have to redirect their flow (you may find, as with many people, your index finger detaches from the grab and points in the direction of ki movement).

2. Keep your extension, if your pulling people into yourself too much, uke can feel this as tensing up.

3. remember to keep your shoulders low. If you can't imagine this, do boken cuts, and see how high your shoulders are after the cut.

Alternatively it may be your partner who is causing tension in you (i.e. are they doing the above, or bringing painful techniques on too quickly?).

Ian
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Old 10-31-2000, 12:04 PM   #11
afwen
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Quote:
rich wrote:
I need to find an answer to a problem that I have with my training, in that I cannot seem to relax enough. I have been told many times that I am too stiff even though I do not feel so. Could anybody please help me with a tip or advice that may help me get over this problem?
I sympathize with rich--we're always told to relax more, but if we were really to relax completely then we would collapse in a heap onto the mat, leaving open the possibility only of aiki nage, and it's an iffy possibility at that.

My suspicion is that your partner's perception of stiffness comes primarily from the point of contact. The clearest example of this is when you're holding uke's wrist. Make the contact between your hand and uke's wrist very soft without losing your grip. My instructor describes this as holding a child's hand while crossing the street. Your grip must be completely secure--but as soft as possible.

I'll also pass along something I heard from Kanai Sensei--when your aikido feels as if you're using muscle, it's generally because you're engaging your flexors (e.g. biceps). Relaxed power in aikido comes primarily from using your extensors (e.g triceps).

-Alvin


Life is like a long journey with a heavy load. --Tokugawa Ieyasu
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Old 12-01-2000, 02:18 PM   #12
SeiWhat?!?
Dojo: Long Beach State Univ. Seidokan Aikido Club
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Ai symbol

Boy can I sympathize! Especially when I'm having "one of those days". A technique isn't working, you get frustrated, and tense, and it gets worse.

One way I've found to relax during practice is to smile, laugh, and talk to my uke as I'm doing the technique. Talking helps me shift my attention from the contact point, and instead of doing "steps 1, 2, and 3", it somehow blends together and ends up working the way it should.

Another thing I've had to have pounded in me is to BREATHE! Nice, deep, relaxed breaths timed to the rhythm of the "dance". It's hard to breathe normally when you're tense.

Hope this makes sense and is a bit helpful.

Best advise I've ever received:
"Don't just stand there, do SOMETHING! The fact that you may have failed doesn't matter, it's HOW you failed. Go down swingin'."

Scott Tanaka
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Old 12-02-2000, 04:03 PM   #13
aikilouis
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I'll add that tension often comes from an excessive desire to obtain result from the technique employed. In my case I can decrease it some just by concentrating exactly on every gesture I do (which most of the times means slowing my pace) instead of trying to put uke where I want him to be.

LR Joseph
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Old 12-03-2000, 10:43 AM   #14
Axiom
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TM?

Just regarding TM- I had to do some research for it for Debate(very long story), and some of the information I found was this:
TM doesn't work for everybody. People complain of symptoms from practicing ranging from headaches to seizures to general emotional weirdness.
The important part of TM is not repeating a given mantra- the important part is the stillness and general relaxation. They did a study where they had a bunch of people do TM, and a bunch of people were told that they should think about as many things as possible at one time, and a bunch were told to just sit still. In the end, all groups reported the same positive(and IIRC, negative) phenomenon.
TM won't necessarily make you fly :-). There are actually several lawsuits regarding this in the courts...some people received upwards of $100k.

Anyway, what I find really helps for relaxation is
1. Breathing deeply.
2. Shaking out your limbs. It looks silly, but helps.
3. Learning to notice when you're not relaxed. As you do more aikido, you'll start to notice. For example, do tenkan from kate-tori, and have uke hold tightly onto your wrist- If you aren't relaxed, uke will hurt your wrist, and though it'll tense you up, its a good test of relaxation.

Good luck,
Alex Magidow
6 months and going.
.

_________
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind
-- Gandhi
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Old 12-04-2000, 09:06 PM   #15
Richard Harnack
Dojo: Aikido Institute of Mid-America
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Circle Relaxation during practice

Erik-
My point was that until someone has practiced the various relaxation techniques mentioned, it is difficult for them to utilize them in the middle of training. Most people find it difficult enough to remember to breathe during their rolls, much less in a technique they are learning for the first time.

O'Sensei, in his doka on sword work, spoke of the need to match certain sounds to particular movements. These are fairly tradional concepts and involve exhaling while moving forward.

I all my years of training and teaching, I have never known anyone who relaxed because they were told to. This too is yet one more technique to be practiced.

Take a deep breath, exhale. Repeat as needed.

Yours In Aiki,
Richard Harnack
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Old 12-05-2000, 02:18 AM   #16
Erik
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Re: TM?

Quote:
Axiom wrote:
Just regarding TM- I had to do some research for it for Debate(very long story), and some of the information I found was this:
TM doesn't work for everybody. People complain of symptoms from practicing ranging from headaches to seizures to general emotional weirdness.
The important part of TM is not repeating a given mantra- the important part is the stillness and general relaxation. They did a study where they had a bunch of people do TM, and a bunch of people were told that they should think about as many things as possible at one time, and a bunch were told to just sit still. In the end, all groups reported the same positive(and IIRC, negative) phenomenon.
TM won't necessarily make you fly :-). There are actually several lawsuits regarding this in the courts...some people received upwards of $100k.
Hey, I'm not advocating TM, but my adaptation happens to work for me. I find that focusing on a phrase works to still my very active mind.

As to the flying stuff, I had no idea. When did they start that? I looked into this stuff around 20 years ago so maybe they went off the deep end in the interim? Presumably it's like yogic flying? Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! And if it wasn't for gravity...

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Old 12-05-2000, 03:15 PM   #17
Shipley
Dojo: UBC Okanagan Aikido Club
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OK, this isn't up there with meditation and whatnot, but the thing that has helped me get the difference between strength and stiffness was doing a lot of sword cuts. If you are gripping the sword with the proverbial grip of death it is very hard to manifest the flexiblity needed to do a good sword cut, and you will (or at least I did) wear yourself out in no time at all. Playing around with my grip helped me to learn to relax my grip, my arms, my shoulders, and my hips, so that I could do an effective cut without grunting at the end .

Anyhow, it helped for me, hope it helps for you too,

Paul Shipley
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