“… I could feel my legs going numb. Just let them go numb, everyone said, remember the secret to seiza is not moving. Once you move the blood starts flowing and then you’re in pain,” Twigger, Robert (1997:108).
When doing aikido, practise expanding your peripheral vision. By taking in your surroundings you become more aware. You learn to notice each movement your opponent makes.
If you focus too juch on one point, you will be easier to distract. Your ki will be easier to take off balance.
Learning to gaze works hand in hand with increasing your field of vision. You give your eyes something to look at, but not truly focus on. Once your eyes are steady you will be able to take in your surroundings via your peripheral.
The image above shows the way we practised using our peripheral vision. At first we kept mi between ourselves while walking up and down the mat with our opponent. Having our hands up like the above picture gave us something to focus our peripheral vision on.
Next we would hone in our focus onto one point of our opponent and see how tunnel vision can effect our pursuit of the other person. It was a lot easier to get off balance without the opponent even trying to distract you. Even getting your feeling was difficult, I nearly tripped over my own feet in this variant of the activity.
Thirdly we were to practise keeping our mi by simply having our hands out as if we were holding a blade. The aikido stance. Ready to attack. Focusing on the peripheral definitely made this easier to do. My partner was good to practise with as he would change the pace he was moving without warning, ensuring I was correctly adjusting my speed to ensure our distance was maintained.
Throughout my somewhat short aikido experience, I have always been told the art was taught in a different order. Originally people would learn weapon arts, kneeling arts, and then to stand. It makes sense, when we learn bokken katas, why weapon arts was taught first. The way you hold yourself and your hands is the same with open handed attacks.
Yesterday I was introduced to the Free Wielding Sword kata. I love weapon arts. I have so much fun doing them! To spend most of the two-hour session on the bokken was like a form of Heaven to me. The best thing about it? Today I woke up and my shoulders weren’t sore. That indicates I must have been using the bokken correctly yesterday! Too much tension in weapon arts can be a strain on your muscles. At least I know I can relax when it comes to weapons. Now to make sure I can stay relaxed when it comes to open-handed techniques!
“They swim as if they will collide, but never do. Humans, on the other hand, often have a need to ‘show’ that they won’t collide by giving a wider than necessary berth to someone moving towards them. Overreaction is as bad as under-reaction – it spoils the organic nature of a conflict, breaking your connection to your opponent, inserting ‘thought’ where your best guide is instinct.” (Twigger, R. 1997:96)
This year I intend to go to the international aikido seminar in Hobart in October. From my understanding, this consists of three days of aikido-filled torture.* Because of this, I’ve started to go into my normal aikido classes with the mindset of “never stop unless you’re told to stop (or you feel like you’re about to die.”
Saturday was my first true attempt at this. It was as if sensei read my mind. He introduced the class with two rules to follow: no redo’s (don’t start over when you’re halfway through a technique) and no talking. This meant even more non-stop exercise.**
It was interesting never stopping. When we practise our rolling (I swear I’m the slowest one in the class for this) I would turn back the other direction almost instantly. Don’t talk, he said. So I won’t stop. No point in stopping if I can’t talk, right?
Man, it gets exhausting. But it’s definitely good practise if I want to prepare for four hour days (which doesn’t sound like much when I’m reading Angry White Pajamas, but as Twigger said – pain (and I want to add in here exhaustion) is subjective.
*Torture may or may not be included.
**Exercise is one of my asthma triggers, so I do actually have to pace myself to some extent.
Tonight we focused on ryokatadori in a sanningake (three attackers) situation. While it’s intimidating, because more than one person is attacking you within a one minute window, it’s definitely insightful.
My issue with aikido is that I’m very analytical. If things don’t go my way in the first instance, I stop halfway and analyse.
“I didn’t move my feet right.”
“I grabbed instead of blended.”
So when we’re being attacked nonstop, I have to stop thinking. Mistakes happen. They happen a lot. But that’s a part of the learning process. And, I suppose, it’s a part of the reality. What attacker will let you stop and analyse. “Hang on, you were meant to land face first there, let me try again.”
Assume there’s always more than one attacker. There’s a pin we do that’s purely martial. It’s called the sankyo pin (see image below). Sensei reminds us of this each time we practise it. We practise it because it’s a part of a lot of the junior level gradings. In reality, you shouldn’t stop to put the sankyo pin on. Get the attacker to the ground and face the next person; there’s always more than one attacker, and if you focused on that pin, he’d knock you over the head.
I’m currently reading Angry White Pajamas by Robert Twigger. While I haven’t read too far into the book, I feel I have picked up one thing: pain is subjective. Twigger mentions that while one person may never need pain relief when suffering a headache, the same person may find a papercut unbearable. On the surface, both pains could be considered small and bearable. It’s not like breaking a leg. Yet, the same person can consider one more painful than another.
Not only is pain subjective, but it’s felt at different levels for different people. That’s why talking about a high pain threshold might not be worth it.
I have a tattoo. It’s on my shoulder blade. To me, the process didn’t hurt. It felt like a constant deep scratch. The only noteworthy moment was when the needle got closer to the bone on top of your shoulder. Other than that, it felt fine.
But I did need to stop halfway through the 15 minutes it took to apply. While the pain itself was bearable, my mind told me it wasn’t. I started to feel dizzy and needed a breather. The tattoo artist told me I had to finish a can of coke before going on. Apparently, my sugar levels were low and it was causing some form of an adrenaline rush. The pain was fine, but my body was still reacting to the uncommon sensation occurring.
Other people tell me their experience was painful. It hurt for them. But they never once felt dizzy like I did. Pain, therefore, is felt differently and at different levels. Comparing one’s pain to another’s is a waste of energy.
“If I show pain, I feel a different kind of pain, a kind of pain that tells me to stop. But if I keep a clear face then the pain is not so bad. We called it ‘the face of Kannon,’ a face like the Buddha.” Sato in Twigger (1997), page 88.
I need to practise the face of Kannon.