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Old 09-27-2005, 12:27 PM   #1
Amendes
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I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.

For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed. And when I don't try I think I am almost as bad.

I find i'm getting so frustrated.

I can't win!
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Old 09-27-2005, 12:41 PM   #2
akiy
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Hi Andrew,

Interesting topic. I feel and recognize your pain...

I have to say that I've come to the conclusion that telling someone to "relax" in and of itself is often a useless and sometimes counterproductive approach to trying to help that someone to improve. As you (and probably many, many others) have found, hearing "just relax!" doesn't help and, unfortunately, often leads one astray from that noble but elusive (to me, at least) quality.

One of my teachers have said that, for her, hearing someone tell her to "relax" just gave her an empty feeling. She thought about this for a while and came up with something that worked for her; rather than "taking away" that which made her un-relaxed, she "put into" her body that which made her "relaxed" -- for example, she sometimes told herself, "fill my body with softness."

Chuck Clark has told me something that has carried over in my aikido training for many years that is related to this kind of thing. For him, for example, the arms (or, I take it, whatever is contacting my partner) is a "connector" and the hips/legs/center is the "affector." I've taken this to mean that I have the minimal amount of "activity" between the contact point with my partner and my hips/legs/center thereby using "minimum effort, maximum efficiency." This lets me get rid of unnecessary tension in my body which, to me, is one aspect of "being relaxed."

I sometimes ask people to feel in their body certian sensations I know they've felt. For example, I may tell someone whom I know has sang for a living to embody the feeling of singing; another person, I may ask to embody what they feel when they're using a paint brush on the outside of the houses he paints. Oftentimes, by linking to a physical activity which they've "mastered" (ie they can do effectively so without much effort), it gives them an embodied reference point.

So, do other folks here have any "alternative" methods of "relaxing" that you've used in your aikido training which doesn't involve telling yourself to "relax"?

-- Jun

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Old 09-27-2005, 01:19 PM   #3
Hogan
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Practicing zen meditation / breathing helps tremendously in 'relaxing' in in understanding 'how to' relax. A simple thing like breathing correctly goes along way, and when you practice this or another breathing technique you will be surprised on how little you knew of correct breathing up until then.
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:11 PM   #4
aikidoc
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

You might try feeling the energy rather than worrying about relaxing. Feeling makes you relax since you cannot be tense and feel at the same time. It's like energy going in opposing directions.
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:14 PM   #5
MikeE
 
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Wink Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Jeez John,

What if I "feel tense"?

Mike Ellefson
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:48 PM   #6
Mark Jakabcsin
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:
I
I can't win!
Andrew,
While I feel your frustration I have to point out the above attitude might be part of the problem. Attempting to win generally increases tension. You might be thinking to yourself that I am only picking on a few words in your post that don't really reflect who you are. Which may be true, but more likely than not these few words bubbled up through your sub-conscious and express a real feeling.

My suggestion is to focus solely on your breathing while working technique. Inhale and exhale very slowly and in rythm with your motion, i.e. you should likewise be moving very slowly. Any time you feel tense or your partner feels your tension you are moving too fast! If you do this properly you won't be able to think about winning or doing the perfect technique, you will simply be breathing and your body will be moving.

This won't work as well for brand new students since they don't know the techniques but since you have been training for awhile you should be letting go of the technique and focusing inward.

Take care,

Mark J.
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Old 09-27-2005, 02:53 PM   #7
Ron Tisdale
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Good advice Mark! (I owe you an email)

I've been trying the breath method (ha!) for some time now, and it helps the relaxation a lot. Still got more to go though. I'm also trying to work on my posture (again) as I've found some serious flaws. Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?

One thing that seems to be having good effect is to kind of close the space between my shoulder blades, and open my chest area, if you know what I mean.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 09-27-2005, 03:24 PM   #8
Mark Jakabcsin
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Ron,
Good to hear from you. I'm glad the breathing/motion drills are helping you become Gumbie, it's healthier.

I guess I'm not very observant because I don't recall any big posture problems with you. As I remember you are a fairly upright dude. I will look more closely the next time we meet. Take care.

MJ
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Old 09-27-2005, 03:44 PM   #9
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

If you can't think of relaxing - think of extending your arms, legs, and body instead.

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Old 09-27-2005, 04:07 PM   #10
James Davis
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.

For the Love of God I try so hard to relax that I actually get less relaxed. And when I don't try I think I am almost as bad.

I find i'm getting so frustrated.

I can't win!
Don't worry about how relaxed you appear. Don't worry about making your technique look good. Don't worry about "making your technique work". Don't worry about what's expected of you at all. If your technique doesn't work, or it isn't pretty, NO BIGGIE!! Just let the person attack you again, and you'll get your second chance. Don't hurt anybody, and don't let anybody hurt you. You are in a training environment, not the octagon. Have FUN!!

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:33 PM   #11
Larry Feldman
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

A couple of ideas, one is to work out very hard to the point of exhaustion before class. In other words take away your strength.

Another is more mental. Try practicing with someone so physically inferior to you (a child, a petite female) that you recognize intellectually that you don't need strength, and it is silly to use it.

Some of your problem may be confidence in your technique or movements, at some point you should just 'let go' and don't care so much if 'it works'. Try focusing on the movements and not the throw, the throw will follow naturally from proper movement.
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:35 PM   #12
Larry Feldman
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

One of my students used to wiggle his fingers before he did a technique where his arm was grabbed. The arm couldn't be tense if he could wiggle the fingers - just be careful it doesn't become a habit.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:03 PM   #13
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?
Well, I'm an Alexander Technique teacher. One thing I consistently get compliments about in aikido is my posture.

Quote:
One thing that seems to be having good effect is to kind of close the space between my shoulder blades, and open my chest area, if you know what I mean.
This sounds like something a few people I've come across do to "pull" themselves upright. The reason usually is that they don't know how to let their spines support their uprightness, so to say, so they feel the need to do something with the bigger back muscles. Of course without meeting you I have no idea if that's what you are actually doing.

Oh yes, wanted to add - I'm perfectly capable of wiggling my fingers and tensing my arm at the same time...
kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:39 PM   #14
Janet Rosen
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
I've been trying the breath method (ha!) for some time now, and it helps the relaxation a lot. Still got more to go though. I'm also trying to work on my posture (again) as I've found some serious flaws. Has anyone worked with a chiropractor or movement specialist type of person to help with that?
Yep.My reply to Jun's query would be "breath and center" and by center really what I mean is settling into what my Pilates rehab person taught me as neutral posture.
Some folks like chiropractors, but frankly I think for the type of kinetic issues we face in aikido that things like feldenkrais and pilates are more helpful as they teach us ongoing selfcare.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:59 PM   #15
Zato Ichi
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:
I have been doing Aikido about 5 1/2 years now.
I still haven't figure out how to relax. Any hints?
Try having some hot sake before class. If that doesn't help you relax, nothing will.
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Old 09-27-2005, 08:25 PM   #16
PeterR
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Relax is just a word they use when they can't think of anything else to say.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 09-27-2005, 08:35 PM   #17
cserrit
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:

Last Friday I wasn't relaxed enough. (I thought I was until our instructor said I wasn't.) And last night I was too relaxed.
Andrew,

I understand what you are saying here. When my sensei told me I was too tense (he could tell by my shoulders) and to relax, I would go too far in the opposite direction.

During a test, rather than telling me to "relax" during my jiyu waza, he told me to "play" with the uke. This triggered a different response, mentally, for me and was something I could identify with in terms of maintaining a equal state of energy...

...It was a cool jiyu waza

-Christy
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Old 09-27-2005, 09:28 PM   #18
Amendes
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Thank you everyone for your advice.

I'm gonna see what I can do about breathing and "filling my body with softness."

I defiantly have to stop caring some much if I can get my technique to work as well.

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Old 09-27-2005, 09:56 PM   #19
Saji Jamakin
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:
I defiantly have to stop caring some much if I can get my technique to work as well.

Exactly, In randori against freestyle tanto attacks it was hard to relax until I decided that I didn't have to do the perfect technique. I still have trouble relaxing in that situation and usually I'm completely out of breath. In my better randori sessions however I focus on blending with the attack rather than doing a perfect Oshi Taoshi.
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Old 09-27-2005, 10:03 PM   #20
Mark Uttech
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

The secret of relaxation is pretty simple: Don't care so much.
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Old 09-27-2005, 10:26 PM   #21
PeterR
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Probably better to care about different things.

I want to see a level of precision in the execution of a technique in addition to relaxation.

Find a balance but not caring - just means sloppy.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 09-28-2005, 02:09 AM   #22
Ian Upstone
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

I'm not a fan of telling people to relax.

I don't know about anyone else here, but I associate the word "relax" with being in a stressfull situation. We're often told to relax before something unpleasant happens!

A bit like being told not to think of a polar bear. Doesn't work.
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Old 09-28-2005, 06:04 AM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Quote:
This sounds like something a few people I've come across do to "pull" themselves upright. The reason usually is that they don't know how to let their spines support their uprightness, so to say, so they feel the need to do something with the bigger back muscles. Of course without meeting you I have no idea if that's what you are actually doing.
I've got a problem with losing some of the natural curves in my spine, especially in the neck area. I've been meaning to check out some of the other systems described above, but haven't made it happen yet. First some realignment.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 09-28-2005, 07:03 AM   #24
Michael Meister
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Did you ever realize, how much your face influences your body. Sometimes, when I get the feeling, that I am really tense, I just start relaxing my face. It's like someones telling you to put on a smile, when you're really down. If you do it after a while you just can't help feeling a bit better.
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Old 09-28-2005, 07:25 AM   #25
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: I can't Take It Anymore! I CANNOT RELAX!

Very interesting observation, Michael!

I usually go with "exhale." If someone tells me to "relax" that makes me really anxious and tense. "Relax, this'll only hurt for a minute!" Sometimes it also helps if your uke/nage lightens up while you get the feel for a technique.
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