Monday, 31 January 2011

Aikido resolutions.

Below is a blog post that I wrote for my club's aikido website.

Training has began again with the dedicated few who have not disappeared for a long summer holiday.
This time of the year people often think about their goals for the year so I'm going to take the time to think about what I want out of my training this year. I will talk about one aspect of my training for each blog.

Resolution 1.
I wish to put some fire into my training. I would like to establish a senior training session where not only the physical attributes of the aikidoist is challenged but also the psychological aspects. It is widely known that when someone is involved in a violent, aggressive encounter, the fear associated with the moment can cause some people to freeze, cower, shut down and so on. All your techniques are next to useless as you lose fine motor control in that moment. 

So what can be done about this. You get together with people you trust and you push your limits. I have recently been reading an article from Toby Threadgill, a practitioner of a koryu (traditional Japanese Fighting Art) and this is what he suggests:
Increase the power and speed of the attacks to a level which is higher than you are comfortable with. Function at a purely defensive mode, use taisabaki, parrying and blocking to protect yourself but forget about techniques just now. You should get hit often during this exercise if the attacks are at the right level. You should be experiencing the adrenaline dump and finding things hard-going. However, over time you should find that the attacks have to be faster and stronger to throw you off your game.
The next level of training is where you start attempting technique against the aggressive attacks. This can be dangerous for uke as there is a higher risk of injury to him or her while you are in that fight or flight response mode. Protective gear would be useful. Keep the techniques limited to simple, safer techniques to protect uke. You are attempting to develop a calm mind during this process despite the violence placed upon you.

Obviously I am looking at this at a senior level. I'm not expecting a beginner to be exposed to this as I could see it being counter-productive. However, if we truly want to protect ourselves with what we are learning, at some stage in our training we must find out what we can handle. I did play around with this idea a while back with one of the other yudansha, We would choose an attack and a technique to deal with it so we had some parameters of safety, then one of us would attack the other as fast as we could, adding yelling as well to try and overwhelm the other person. It was insightful. At first we would hesitate, or muck up the technique but very quickly I found we could ignore all the noise and focus on meeting the speed and power of the attack.

Well, that is resolution one for 2011.

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