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Old 03-12-2004, 11:19 AM   #1
William Westdyke
Dojo: Aikido at the Center
Location: Tucson, Az
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Press the advantage?

Some of my fellow students and I have an ongoing gentleman's argument and I would like some outside thoughts. The problem is some of us believe muscles don't help in Aikido and some of us believe they do. Is Aikido about using leverage and position or should it not require any strength to execute the moves? Basically put, all other things being equal (skill, speed, size) would a stronger person be a more capable Martial artist and fighter?

Heres my take on it. I believe that being stronger can make you a better practitioner of Aikido. I see Aikido as a MA based on leverage and positioning but a lever still needs energy to move. We use our muscles to move every part of our bodies, why shouldn't strength play a role in how well we move someone else's body.

Do you think it is beneficial to a person's Aikido to lift weights?


William

"You, not anyone else, is 100% responsible for your own happyness and wellbeing." -- David Robertson
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Old 03-13-2004, 04:39 AM   #2
Nick Simpson
Dojo: White Rose Aikido - Durham University
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If you dont use your muscles, then you cant move your body, let alone throw anyone. in my humble opinion aikido does use strength, its just srength focused onto one particular weak point of uke's body to gain maximum effect.

Bigger stronger people generally tend to have an easier time of it too, they can meet an attack head on and go through uke, whereas a smaller lighter tori may have to rely more on unbalancing uke and movement.

In my opinion aikido is easier for men, but women tend to have better technique due to the fact that they cant rely on muscle as much. At least, thats from what I have seen.

They're all screaming about the rock n roll, but I would say that it's getting old. - REFUSED.
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Old 03-13-2004, 08:37 AM   #3
toranaga
Dojo: Aikido Praxis Club (RS)
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Yes, I believe that to be strong is a great help to aikidokas, at least at the begining.

If we have muscles, strengh, we can make the "mistake" of use them more than the "enemy's power". If we aren't strong, we need the tecnique.

This is what happen to women, that usually don't have much strengh.

But I really prefer having some muscles, hehe


"Paciência quer dizer conter-se. Existem sete emoções, neh? Alegria, ira, ansiedade, adoração, pesar, medo e ódio. Se um homem não cede a elas, é paciente."
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Old 03-13-2004, 08:41 AM   #4
paw
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Quote:
Basically put, all other things being equal (skill, speed, size) would a stronger person be a more capable Martial artist and fighter?
With all other things being equal, yes. Absolutely. Not only because of the ability to apply force, but also because of the ability to withstand force.
Quote:
Do you think it is beneficial to a person's Aikido to lift weights?
Yes, absolutely, depending on how one lifts weights. The health benefits of improving strength are numerous and well documented. However, strength training specifically to improve aikido is another matter, and arguably some training methods would be better than others (although any strength program is better than nothing at all).

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-13-2004, 09:25 AM   #5
Brehan Crawford
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I think that ultimately, muscular strength has little or nothing to do with one's ability.

Look at O'Sensei in his later years, or any of the older Shihan now. They certainly weren't/aren't buffed-out bodybuilders but they can do some amazing Aikido.

Internal arts, from what I can tell, are all about using a minimum amount of force to effect your goals. Cheng Man Ching used to talk about using four ounces of strength to move a thousand pounds of oncoming force. I mean, the most basic of Aiki techniques is just to get out of the way and let uke continue where s/he is was going in the first place. That takes nearly no strength at all...just a step and a turn.

As for size and weight lifting... I don't know. Height can give someone an advantage on some throws (iriminage), but being shorter than uke can help out in some cases too (shihonage). If you're doing weights for muscular size I think it would be a hindrance to the softness, flexibility, and inter-connectiveness of your tissues. But if you lift for endurance and flexibility, who knows, it might be helpful.
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Old 03-13-2004, 12:26 PM   #6
Noel
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One of the biggest problems I've found for me is forcing techniques. In other words, if it doesn't work the first time, push it harder and make it work. The drawback is that the mechanics of my techniques aren't nearly as smooth as they could be. Then I get an uke who has more muscle mass, and all of a sudden, my techniques don't work.

I think strength and conditioning are important, but at the beginning when you are first learning, you are better off not being too strong.
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Old 03-13-2004, 09:19 PM   #7
Jessie Brown
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I'm an average size woman and I think it has been an advantage, especially at the beginning. When I first started, I would train a lot after class with my tall, strong guy friend who had started at the same time. It became VERY clear when my technique was wrong. When he would do a technique, however, sometimes it would work because he would muscle it. At higher levels, I wouldn't think it would make a difference. I doubt being 6'3 and 215 would help against the shihans I've met.

(Forgive me for the rant) A side note on this topic: there is nothing I hate more than guys who judge my skill as an aikidoist by my lack of muscle strength. When we have guests or I go to a seminar, there's always that guy who won't give me an honest attack or really throw me. So what if I happen to be a 5'8 blond college student? Steam was coming out of my ears when I heard a sempai at a seminar tell his kohai that his technique should be smoother and gentler with me...because I'm a woman. Grrrr.
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Old 03-13-2004, 09:50 PM   #8
ikkitosennomusha
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Some of the best aikidoka in the world that I ahve seen are from Japan. Japanese women are typically smaller than American women. They have to rely almost solely on technique rather than strength with demonstrates aikido's effectiveness.

However, being stronger is only a plus, you just have to learn to differentiate between when it is your technique doing the throwing and when you are using muscle. Otherwise, you will not hone down your technique. You should use your strength in aikido but you should not find yourself having to muscle you way through a technique. If that is the case, you aren't performing it right.

I am very strong and being strong is an advantage. It is there when you need it. Nothing wrong with that!

Brad Medling
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Old 03-14-2004, 03:49 AM   #9
Josh Bisker
Dojo: Oberlin Aikikai, and Renshinkan London
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Forgive me if any of this sounds naive, but:

I have seen/read/heard/felt aikido expressed as the ideal of nullifying conflict through harmonious movement and precise physical communication, and that because of its ability to deny combat, its practitioners are supposed to be able to protect themselves and their would-be-attackers. The basis here on movement as a method of peaceful communication makes me think that comparative strength is not supposed to manifest as the primary language spoken between your bodies, dig? if you're relying on your arm strength to make shihonage work, then aren't you endangering your uke in a very nonpeaceable way, being combative with your body motion instead of harmonious? my thinking has been that technique is supposed to embody, not simply reflect philosophy. otherwise why would we need to keep training to discover more of it all? in this vain i'm putting forward the idea that a trial of strength between you and your partner is fundamentally a combative, a confrontational physical interaction. i might be full of it or off base, but them's some thought that have been cooking up.

now, there's a difference between being strong and using strength and that's a fair thing to try to dissect, but it doesn't feel like that's what's focal here, and that's ok.

btw, the statement "in my opinion aikido is easier for men, but women tend to have better technique due to the fact that they cant rely on muscle as much" is, of course, an okay thing to say; you mos def said things like "in my opinion" and "at least, thats from what I have seen," and that helps anything come out as more acceptable. But, this seems like it's not really a fair or very realistic or very well-thought-out point of view. before even addressing the gender issue that's here: what does it even mean that it's "easier" for some people vs others having "better technique?" doesn't one connote the other? if my technique is good, shouldn't it all look/feel easier? or did you mean "easier" in terms of a gendered learning curve? your statement contradicts itself in the view it offers on aikido, and also throws out some weird ideas of gender charactersistics. it sounds like you're alluding to a fundamental difference between men and women that just doesn't really seem to be based in anything, or infact necessarily related to how aikido works. i'm not sure if hashing this out is really the direction that this thread should go in, but i think that this kind of thing should not just get left out there either, without being called into some question.

don't mean to be ranting/bitching, sorry bout that if it comes through that way. just my 2p.

Last edited by Josh Bisker : 03-14-2004 at 03:59 AM.
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Old 03-14-2004, 07:09 AM   #10
George S. Ledyard
 
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Strength

Of course it is an advantage to be strong. Smaller folks with less physical power have to be better than their larger stronger counter parts do.

That said, I do think it bears some thought as to what constitutes being strong. I was training recently with Vladimir Vasiliev of the Systema. At the seminar he talked about conditioning and said that it was better to strengthen the ligaments and tendons, the connective tissue, than to strengthen the muscles. These guys are extremely relaxed but are very strong. They don't do weights but they do tons of pushups, situps, and squats, at different speeds, often slowly which is what develops the coonective tissue strength. This makes very good sense to me from an Aikido standpoint.

That said, I think it is good to remember that, according to the accounts of his students, O-Sensei was unbelievably strong in a purely physical sense. Of course there is a time when you can no longer develop that strength and have to use energy differently but conditioning is a part of that I believe. Trying to run energy through a weak structure is like trying to run 20,000 volts through a wire designed to take 12 volts.

Rather than use O-sensei's physical state at 80 yrs. as an excuse to not be as strong as possible at age 40 people should remember that O-sensei went out of his way to be as strong as he could possibly be at ecvery stage of his life.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-15-2004, 11:33 AM   #11
William Westdyke
Dojo: Aikido at the Center
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Go George! I can follow what you're saying about O' Sensei being as strong or as good as he could be at any age. That is such a good example to follow, in any aspect of a persons life.

Ok maybe I should open a new thread for this one but I'm gonna open a can of worms here. Ive been practicing Aikido for 6 years now at 3 different dojos. Needless to say I have practiced with a lot of women some of whom are very accomplished martial artists. (Including my current instructor who is a 5th dan.) BUT...

I practice different with women! I am far less intense, far smoother with my attacks, and I'm far easier to throw. This isn't because I don't respect their abilities. It is because I want to help them have a good practice and don't want to hurt anyone. We all know that accidents happen on the mat. A block is missed or a step, and someone gets hit. I have even hit my sensei on occasion (softly of course). It only takes once for a 200 pound 6 foot guy, giving two black eyes and close to a broken nose to an accomplished female martial artist (who asked for a really committed attack), before you start tempering your attacks. Not only do people start being afraid of someone who can't moderate their attacks for women children and smaller people in general, but they very quickly stop liking them. This leads to being smoother about the attacks. Smooth attacks are much easier to catch and therefor less accidents happen.

I practice different with guys my size because I don't want it to be easy for anyone. I hit harder and faster, and I am less smooth in my attacks, sometimes even letting them "track" my target. This is because I know if I hit one of them they will just shrug it off or worst case scenario walk away for a second then come back for more. I also resist more because they have the ability to counter my strength with their own.

Which leads to resisting women less. I resist much less with women, children and smaller people because often they can't move there bodies into a position to throw me without my consent. There are a few women in my school who are small enough they couldn't tenkan out of a single wrist grab if I didn't want then to. How useful, or perhaps more importantly, how fun would a practice be for them then? Consideration of Nage (ability, strength, safety) is one of the prime concerns for an Uke, just as the opposite is true.

So, let it be said I am much more careful in how I uke for a smaller person. I say smaller person because I don't want it classified as just women. Ok, so the cats out of the bag. Comments?

Ducking under cover,

William

"You, not anyone else, is 100% responsible for your own happyness and wellbeing." -- David Robertson
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Old 03-15-2004, 12:08 PM   #12
ikkitosennomusha
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Great reply George! Makes great sense!

To Josh:

Your reply is a little messy and I am not sure what you a exactly trying to say as I would need to reread it. So I will comment on what I think it is you are saying.

I am not reffering to any type of learning/physical curve between male and female. I am speaking in general terms. I don't really know whats hard to understand about my post as I can't simplify it any further. Again, most women don't have the luxury of relying on extra strength when needed so the technique needs to be applied with careful attention. This applies to weaker males as well. I only chose women in Japan as a fine examply not meaning to single out the gender biased position you are trying to take. Don't be a knuckle head and try to look beyond what I am saying.

So, if I had used weak males as an example would you be barking up a tree because I used weak males as an example?

I now defer you to the excellent reply by George for sentiments I share!

Brad Medling

Last edited by ikkitosennomusha : 03-15-2004 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 03-15-2004, 12:12 PM   #13
ikkitosennomusha
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A good example is koshinage. A weaker person will have to really follow throw with it from start until finish whereas a stronger person can afford to be a litlle more larthargic about it.

Through training with the members, you should learn everyones ability and try to push them but not beyond what they can handle. Everyone has different abilities.

Brad Medling

Last edited by ikkitosennomusha : 03-15-2004 at 12:16 PM.
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Old 03-15-2004, 12:14 PM   #14
George S. Ledyard
 
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Women in Aikido

Quote:
William Westdyke wrote:
Go George! I can follow what you're saying about O' Sensei being as strong or as good as he could be at any age. That is such a good example to follow, in any aspect of a persons life.

Ok maybe I should open a new thread for this one but I'm gonna open a can of worms here. Ive been practicing Aikido for 6 years now at 3 different dojos. Needless to say I have practiced with a lot of women some of whom are very accomplished martial artists. (Including my current instructor who is a 5th dan.) BUT...

I practice different with women! I am far less intense, far smoother with my attacks, and I'm far easier to throw. This isn't because I don't respect their abilities. It is because I want to help them have a good practice and don't want to hurt anyone. We all know that accidents happen on the mat. A block is missed or a step, and someone gets hit. I have even hit my sensei on occasion (softly of course). It only takes once for a 200 pound 6 foot guy, giving two black eyes and close to a broken nose to an accomplished female martial artist (who asked for a really committed attack), before you start tempering your attacks. Not only do people start being afraid of someone who can't moderate their attacks for women children and smaller people in general, but they very quickly stop liking them. This leads to being smoother about the attacks. Smooth attacks are much easier to catch and therefor less accidents happen.

I practice different with guys my size because I don't want it to be easy for anyone. I hit harder and faster, and I am less smooth in my attacks, sometimes even letting them "track" my target. This is because I know if I hit one of them they will just shrug it off or worst case scenario walk away for a second then come back for more. I also resist more because they have the ability to counter my strength with their own.

Which leads to resisting women less. I resist much less with women, children and smaller people because often they can't move there bodies into a position to throw me without my consent. There are a few women in my school who are small enough they couldn't tenkan out of a single wrist grab if I didn't want then to. How useful, or perhaps more importantly, how fun would a practice be for them then? Consideration of Nage (ability, strength, safety) is one of the prime concerns for an Uke, just as the opposite is true.

So, let it be said I am much more careful in how I uke for a smaller person. I say smaller person because I don't want it classified as just women. Ok, so the cats out of the bag. Comments?

Ducking under cover,

William
Sounds like you are being a good uke to me... It is important to be an uke that helps raise the level of the nage. For some that may mean "no mercy", I hit you as fast as I can, and will reverse you if you give me the slightest opening. I expect the same back. In my experience tha number of people that you train with in this fashion is very small. I have maybe a half dozen people scattered around the country that I would train with this way.

Most of the time you adjust what you do to the partner to one degree or another. This can be to protect him, to allow him enough success to progress, or it can even be to protect yourslef because you don't trust the partner enough to really expose yourself.

The issue of women in training is more complex because it all ties into the roles that we have inherited. It's not just as simple as the smaller male issue.

Most of the women I have trained with have had to deal with the "Men don't respect us issue". The problem is what is meant by respect. I had one acquaintance at a summer camp get a very bad repuatation because he was too rough with the women. The problem was, from my standpoint, that he was simply not posessed of any finesse and was training with them the way he trained with everybody.

On the other hand I have also had conversations with my female acquaintances in which they bemoaned the fact that the men wouldn't train seriously with them. I figure if you can solve this problem, then you are ready for Opra and should get rich with the next relationship book because I don't think anyone has solved this one.

Individuals of course do reach their own solutions... One of my closest female Aikido friends said, "I am sick and tired of all these women whining about getting respect on the mat! Throw the sucker on the ground and then he'll respect you." While appreciating her spunk it does need to be appreciated that this solution doesn't work for everybody.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 03-15-2004, 12:22 PM   #15
ikkitosennomusha
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Hi George!

I think ideally, women should not be given special treatment just because on the street, there will be no specail treatment and when they reach time to test for Dan ranks, no special treatment will be given.

I do feel that we should not try to train beyond your partner's ability. If this means going easy on a Lady in the begining, so be it. But I do this with a hope as her training progresses that I can gradually increase the intensity with her, as you would with anyone that is new or weaker.

Having said this, a person needs to be challnged to break current plateaus and to eventually make the transition from beginner to advanced. Any comments?

Brad Medling
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Old 03-15-2004, 04:07 PM   #16
giriasis
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I feel that muscular strength does play a role in one's aikido practice, as it plays a role in our everyday lives. However, relying on strength (i.e. muscling through a technique) to perform our techniques can be a hindrance. I've noticed that when you are stronger than your training partner it is much easier just to "plow" right over them without paying too much attention to using proper technique. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking your technique works when you are stronger. I'm a woman but I'm not a petite woman. But what I've noticed training with smaller woman, and some men (not that many btw), is that I can't feel the technique as well if I'm not paying attention to my partner's energy. A smaller partner gives me less energy and when I'm stronger I try to use that energy versus my own. In order to do this I tend to go slower as I'm looking for connecting with their center, looking for their joints locking, etc. It's not an easy thing to do.

As far as this debate regarding women having to rely more on technique, generally, that is true, but that goes to our body type and the fact that women's bodies do not have the upper body strength of a man of comparable size. Men smaller than me, can easily bear down on their grips much better than I can bear down on theirs. Should you go easier on my because I'm a woman, I hope you only go easier on me because of my skill level and your skill level to find my center and energy. If your only reason to "go easy" on me is because I'm a women, yes, I find that condescending. I just deal with that by asking to be thrown a little harder or by just upping the intensity of my attacks. When I eventually do get thrown the way I like I come up with big smile and with a comment like, "that's the way I like it."

What us smaller and typically more flexible ukes do provide to stronger partners is our ability to stick to you and move with much more agility than our bigger partners. I had one partner comment on how hard it was for him to deal with my flexibility.

Finally, in regards to the weight training question. I also strength train which does aid my ability to do aikido in that it has improved my overall fitness level. It has gotten me in shape so I can train at more intense levels and take breakfalls without feeling like I fell on a pile of bricks. If you incoporate flexibility training with your weights it shouldn't hinder you ability to perform aikido.

Just remember, to not rely on your strength to be effective because eventually you will come across someone who is stronger. It's just us smaller people come across that a lot more, and are forced to focus on technique rather than just making something "work."

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 03-15-2004, 05:27 PM   #17
ikkitosennomusha
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Hi Anne!

Very true conclusion about their is always somone stronger! Very good.

I am big and muscular and I hate being a guest at a dojo because they always use me too much! They say "Ah, he is big, lets use him to see how this works"! Its like they have to try and prove their technique works. It makes me feel uncomfortable when a sensei brings my size to attention. It is refreshing to have genetic diversity to train with but lets not be blatant about it! In fairness, I have to throw them hard for it, hehe!

Brad Medling
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Old 03-15-2004, 05:54 PM   #18
giriasis
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Brad,

I love training with people stronger than me, and most of them love training with me. I have a great working relationship with one particular classmate. He's very muscular and strong. We constantly seek each other out. His challenge with me is figuring out how to control me without muscling me, and my challenge is discovering how to get around his strong attacks. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

I think at least for me and in some ways as a woman I never really thought I could hurt a man, especially you big strong guys. I discovered this with the above mentioned guy when I did nikkyo to him during jiyuwaza. Perhaps these folks don't really realize they can hurt you? It's still a thought I have to realize, that I CAN hurt someone. It's freaky and empowering at the same time.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 03-15-2004, 07:18 PM   #19
ikkitosennomusha
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Quote:
Anne Marie Giri (giriasis) wrote:
Brad,

I love training with people stronger than me, and most of them love training with me. I have a great working relationship with one particular classmate. He's very muscular and strong. We constantly seek each other out. His challenge with me is figuring out how to control me without muscling me, and my challenge is discovering how to get around his strong attacks. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

I think at least for me and in some ways as a woman I never really thought I could hurt a man, especially you big strong guys. I discovered this with the above mentioned guy when I did nikkyo to him during jiyuwaza. Perhaps these folks don't really realize they can hurt you? It's still a thought I have to realize, that I CAN hurt someone. It's freaky and empowering at the same time.
Hi Anne!

I completely agree! I don't know why but at one seminar I went to, I sought this particular female out and she sought me out. For some reason, we worked well with each other. She is an excellent aikidoka and I learned alot from her.

Brad Medling
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