Friday, January 09, 2009

Using relaxation to your advantage in aikido

I generally do lesson plans for my classes by cycling through lists of techniques, principles, and hints one after another. This makes lesson planning easy and ensures that I cover all the material regularly. I have described how I do these aikido lesson plans and judo lesson plans and I have posted a list of hints for tegatana no kata and a list of hints for hanasu no kata as examples of the lists that I cycle through.
As Todd mentioned a few days ago, I have decided this year to add another layer of this type of repetition to my classes. We will be emphasizing a different broad principle in class each month. For instance, the principle of the month for January is Relaxation. We'll still be going through the technique lists as before, but there will be an emphasis on relaxation in every class this month. That's not to say that we didn't already talk about relaxation before or that we're going to toss it out the window in February - we're just paying particular attention to that concept this month.
So far this month we've talked about relaxation in tegatana no kata - working with flaccid arms as a measure of how well controlled your momentum is, visualizing a string pulling the crown of your head upward in order to relax the neck, relaxing the hips and back and legs to improve mobility, relaxing/collapsing into a step, and measuring the relaxation of your steps using the embusen (performance line of the kata). We've also worked on relaxation in hanasu - particularly in techniques #1 and 2. In #2 it is particularly apparent that tori is unable to move directly behind uke if he is tense but it is easy when he is relaxed. Last night we worked on oshitaoshi from release #1 using the exercises in Ichikata - learning to relax and flow around uke's extreme resistance.
I can go on and on with this theme. Look for more on relaxation in upcoming classes and stay tuned for next month's super theme!


  1. An excellent idea. I have been toying with doing a "theme of the month" to give a bit more focus through the year, and your post has inspired me to do so after I re-start my class in February resumption.

    In the past I have had some success by adopting a theme for a few lessons, but I really like the idea of establishing a regular pattern.

    Personally, I intend specify a theme rather than a principle to allow me to occasionally specify a concrete area to focus on as an alternative to deeper principles. For example: Last year I spent a few lessons focussing mainly on the come-along techniques of Jiu-Jitsu -- which aren't usually taught all together -- to good effect. I even made some some notes on come-alongs.

    I look forward to reading more about how you work your monthly principles, and how they pan out. Good luck!

  2. Kushida Sensei would train us with themed practice. We might for example, learn to deal with shomen uchi for a couple of weeks, with all manner of responses. Or we might learn to apply nikajo to all manner of attacks. I felt it that presentation of material made a lot of sense for the students in learning how to put two and two together.

    Speaking of relaxation, take a look at these video clips of Peter Ralston and his martial art, Ching Hsin. It's his combination of Aikido, Taijiquan, and Baguazhang:

  3. My teacher surprized me today. All he said was "You've learned to relax". To a person that doesn't practice martial arts that doesn't mean a whole lot. I never imagined I would ever hear him say that.

  4. Great Idea. This is something I have been working the past couple of months on myself. Part of it is also slowing down. Trying to control the tempo of the situation and forcing de-escalation by relaxation.

  5. Ok: Here's my list of ideas for themes of the month. Clearly this is too long to be wieldy if fairly regular revisiting of themes is an aim. I.e. I need to cut down, combine, and rationalize.

    Also: Concentrating on core principles -- Patrick's approach -- may well hold an advantage in this respect, being smaller in number than the output of my brainstorm.

    Patrick -- without spoiling the suspense of what your future monthly principles are going to be -- will you disclose how many principles you plan to rotate between?

    Also: Do you plan to revisit the principles in fairly strict rotation, or maybe repeat some more often than others, perhaps depending on the needs and level of the class?


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