It is possible to train alone, with a single partner, or with several….
When you are alone, all you need is a little time and a little space. One way of practising is discussed above 1). It is also possible to practise breathing exercises linked to aikido movements, or suburi, or tanren-uchi. In a forest, you can use the trees as partners. Experiment….
This is the standard training in a dojo. The teacher offers a model [waza], and the practitioners repeat it as many times as they wish. Here we will attempt a more precise analysis of this kind of training:
Practitioners of all skill-levels alternate in repeating the technique offered by the teacher.
This is a way to practise with a more advanced partner, or with the teacher. Let us take as examples ryote-dori-tenchi-nage or the way of positioning yourself for a koshi-nage. The student will start the technique, stopping it just before the throw, and will repeat it right
and left without interruption until she/he runs out of breath. The role of the teacher in this case is to allow the student to become more supple, and to develop precision and speed in their movements.
The a-fore-going method offers the following advantages:
- it helps the student make technical progress
- it improves the student’s breathing
- it improves the student’s bodily movements
- it improves the student’s balance
- it settles ki into the seika-tanden
- it develops kokyu-ryoku
Another form of training by which the more advanced student helps the less advanced student make progress. When the less advanced student uses ineffective or disorganized force, the more advanced student, without blocking, nullifies the effects of that force and simply doesn’t fall. This method aims to correct mistakes and weak-points in a benevolent fashion. When the technique is performed satisfactorily, then all you have to do is fall naturally, in a way that allows a good extension and a relaxed manner, and the possibility of enjoying the experience. If you fall well, you create the conditions for better
understanding and in this way contribute to your partner’s development. And in no case should you practise with a less advanced practitioner in a way that overwhelms them with your strength or knowledge – otherwise you risk stifling in them the germs of progress.
Students and kohai are a mirror to us. All our faults and weak-points are to be found in their movements, too. So it is of the greatest importance to pay the greatest attention and correct yourself.
The less advanced students should accept the advice of the more advanced, in order to correct their technique and improve themselves. The teacher’s and the sempai‘s responsibility is to awaken in beginners a spirit of open-mindedness that is not an a priori critical attitude.
This form is practised amongst people of an equivalent physical and technical capacity. You have to be careful to avoid reciprocal over-compliance, frivolity, and constant obstructionism. In this company it’s best that you study techniques that are taught less often, or are difficult, or, of course, those that pose problems in execution.
Practitioners at the same level take turns to attack without interruption a single practitioner who repeats over and over the technique that is being studied. As there are several uke, they will [maintain their precision and strength], which gives this way of training three additional advantages over those that are listed under uchikomi-geiko:
- development of kiryoku (will-power),
- good exercise for your visual perception,
- refinement of all the senses.
As its name indicates (jyuu = freedom), jyuu-geiko means to train freely: choose the area of study, work at it, and investigate. Jyuu-waza means free technique: in other words you look for the technical form which best responds to a given attack, or even makes that attack impossible. This kind of training places a focus on freedom of movement. There is a
common confusion between jyuu-geiko and jyuu-waza, but it is a good idea to distinguish between the two.
Sometimes it happens that you are physically unable to train – which doesn’t mean to say that it’s impossible to do any work. You can study and make use of these times by watching class: paying attention to both the physical and mental aspect of techniques. You should make use of the distance that comes from being an observer to grasp things that are
difficult to perceive when you are physically involved.
You train in the dojo while imagining a real-life situation – but the dojo has its limitations. So it is useful to get out of the dojo to practise outdoors and to habituate the eyes, feet, hands and body to a different space. Of course, it’s probably unnecessary to point out that nature, as opposed to tatami, has some unevenness! There are hollows, and
protuberances, some kinds of ground are more slippery than others, such as mud or ice, and still others, such as wet sand or clay, stick to your feet. Thick vegetation can hide obstacles. And you must be careful of hard ground – such as rock, concrete or sharp, broken rubble – on which it is easy to injure yourself.
And so you must work at adapting your way of walking, taking small steps and sliding your feet lightly across the ground. The direction of the slope, where the sun is in the sky, which way the wind is blowing, shadow and light, darkness, the surrounding vegetation, trees, branches, thickets are all so many elements to take into account when determining the advantageous position in relation to an adversary. To only take the example of your ukemi, you must think deeply and experiment in order to adapt them to working outdoors.
The choice of weapon should be appropriate to the environment and you must get used to thinking about the criteria that guide this choice. This is why, if you have the time or the space necessary, it is desirable to train outside, in nature, where, unlike in the dojo, you can breath, in the middle of open space, fresh, pure air and in sunlight. This is an exercise that is pleasant, and good for the body. You become impregnated with the ki of earth and sky, which enables a full and relaxed way of practising.
We should go train in beautiful woodlands, next to beautiful, tall trees, and we will all be filled with a vigorous ki!!! Nature affords many possibilities for working alone: ken suburi or jo suburi, tanren uchi… You can also practise kumitachi more freely than inside a dojo. There is also night training, outside in nature, by the light of the full moon – or by the light of the new moon! Let us remember that the Bugei-ju-happan (the 18 branches of the art of war) also included swimming, which allows us to think about training variations that involve an aquatic milieu.
And in conclusion, let’s add that practice varies according to the season. You strengthen the body and the spirit at the hottest time of summer (shochu-geiko) or at the coldest time of winter (kan-geiko).
Etsunen-geiko is the method that is practised at the change of the year. Taking advantage of the holiday season, we all live together [for a week or so] during the time that we do gasshuku-geiko.
1) …the practice of aikido is a shugyo of every moment, which is as much as to say that you should perceive your everyday activities as the study and application of the principles of aikido. There is no point in trying to be complicated about this: it is enough to relax your shoulders, keep your ki in your seika tanden, and have a correct attitude….You can
practise at meal-times, walking, working, in the shower…Even sleeping. If your position and breathing are correct, you can’t NOT sleep well.
– – – Tamura Nobuyoshi Shihan, Aikido, étiquette et transmission pp. 54, 58-63