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Why an unbendable arm anyway?

Unbendable arm seems like a pretty cool trick the first time you see it.
But once you stand back and think for a minute, you might think, "So what?"  Why is it a good thing that noone can bend the arm?  How could that help you in a fight? Well, following are three ways that aikido guys use the unbendable arm to good effect...
  • The unbendable arm can be used   as a stiff connector just like a knight would use a lance as a connector between him and the opponent.  In the example of the knight, he stabs the lance into the opponent and hits with the combined mass of horse, rider, and armor.  The lance as a stiff connector allows the knight to hit with much greater effective mass than if he tried to push the lance forward with arm muscles.  Same goes for the aikidoka who learns to apply his mass to the opponent through the unbendable arm.
  • The unbendable arm reduces the use of upper body strength and teaches the aikidoka to use his whole body instead of his relatively weak arm muscles.  Ask yourself - which is easier, to do pushups for 1 minute or to do a yoga plank (pushup position without bending the arms) for 1 minute.  The plank is much easier on the arms, as it makes use of trunk muscles through straight arms to hold you up.  As soon as you let your elbows bend it is no longer just trunk muscles but arm and chest muscles too.  We use unbendable arm to reduce our workload.
  • The unbendable arm can also act as a separator.  When the opponent's body runs into the end of the unbendable arm, if the aikidoka is light on his feet, his body is pushed out of the way by the opponent's force.  This can feel like trying to swat gnats - the passage of the swatter pushes the gnat out of the way.

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Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282
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