Aikido, a Holistic Approach?

Many groups are advertising Aikido as a holistic training method. A way of Life. There is a danger of putting the mental and technical side to the foreground and the physical aspect is sometimes almost forgotten. The “Ki” or life force is only needed to perform. Nothing is less true.

Aikido and holistic training

Holistic: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis and dissection into parts

Age-appropriate facets of physical training, understanding of technical, tactical, physical and mental factors are needed to develop efficient training methods. These factors are deeply interdependent.

Some tactical information is needed to perform with excellence during fighting and competing, and is according the ethical rule we like to integrate in our methods.

A mental factor in training has to be integrated by using some forms of meditation or other program to boost mental activity during training.

Physical Training

As most of us will notice, a heap of the older practitioners, instructors included are overweight. The cause of this unhealthy situation is a lack of efficient physical training and unhealthy food. We will focus on conditioning the body (and mind).

First, we wish to bring forward some “knowledge” from Wikipedia, Heart Org and Fitbit.com. Afterward, we will discuss this in the context of our Aikido training.

Intensity Levels

The metabolic equivalent of task (MET) is the objective measure of the ratio of the rate at which a person expends energy, relative to the mass of that person, while performing some specific physical activity compared to a reference, set by convention at 3.5 mL of oxygen per kilogram per minute, which is roughly equivalent to the energy expended when sitting quietly.

Only… This is quite complicated, but if we use a formula, it becomes more clear.

The formula using MET: (MET x bodyweight x 3,5) x 200 = Kcal/min

The problem arises with the value of MET. Which one we have to use? A source of information can be found at “Compendium of physical activities”.

Using Heart Rate

Another method to measure the efficiency of the training is by using the heart rate. This is typically used as a measure of exercise intensity by using a device around the wrist or with a chest band. It is an indicator of the challenge to the cardiovascular system that the exercise represents.

The target zone?

When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you to get max benefit from every movement you make. Knowing your heart rate (or pulse) can help you track your physical level.

First Things First: Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. 

For most of us, between 50 and 90 beats per minute (bpm) is normal.

Maximum and Target Heart Rate

This table shows target heart rate zones for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. This is just a rule of thumb and is not very useful when you enter the level of professional top sport.

Target Heart Rate Zone is divided into 4 to 6 zones depending on the purpose of the training and the goal to reach.

The Heart Rate Zones

By using 4 heart rate zones:

Rest ↘︎40% of heartbeat reserve+ heart resting beat
Fat burning40%-59% of heartbeat reserve + heart resting beat
Cardio60%-84% of heartbeat reserve + heart resting beat
Peak↗︎85% of heartbeat reserve + heart resting beat

Heartbeat reserve is your max heartbeat minus the heart resting beat.

Example : age 30 yrs and resting heartbeat of 60 / max BPM 220-30=190 / Heartbeat reserve= 190-60=130 / 40% of 130=52 / 52+60=112 BPM starting fat burning

How to conform our Aikido techniques and/or movements is a crucial question for our training method. Many fitness and power training exercises have a great value for our health. But are those exercises functional for our martial art?

4 training goals for Aikido

Heart Rate Zones give an indication how intense we can practice the different functional components of the Aikido syllabus without losing the technical correctness of the techniques. Fundamentally, we can distinguish 4 different goals in our training.

  1. Mental and physical preparation, creating a martial body
  2. Healthy movement adapted to develop efficient techniques and/or movements
  3. Developing cardiovascular system to develop physical stamina to endure efficient training performances
  4. Peak performances needed for combat and/or competition

These training zones don’t need to be executed in this order.

Aikido exercises and/or techniques can be used for any of the 4 mentioned training Aikido goals and can conform to the directives of the Heart Rate training zones. Depending on the choice made by a practitioner, training has to be guided by the goal of the practitioner. This is a real challenge for the instructor. Creativity is one of the basic requirements of a good instructor.

Mental and physical preparation, creating a martial body

A martial body can be seen as “a holistic” concept how the body is functioning during training and daily life. Synchronising all the parts of the body is the main purpose of this training method. Posture training and moving posture are the main components together with martial art techniques.

Healthy movement adapted to develop efficient techniques and/or movements

If the movements are executed in a wrong manner, it becomes unhealthy, and can create serious physical problems when we get older. Using the body with a holistic concept can avoid physical problems in the future. On the other hand, the martial aspect cannot be forgotten and must be included in the training method.

Movements like tandoku undo unsoku & tegatana dosa are used as an exercise to develop a link between the 3 body parts. During posture training we become aware of these 3 parts

Developing cardiovascular system to develop physical stamina to endure efficient training performances

By controlling the speed of the exercise, we have an impact on the heart beat. Monitoring the heartbeat with a device (Apple watch, Fitbit, Polar, Garmin,…..) is very helpful. During partner training a watch is lesser convenient, but there are different methods to avoid the problems

Peak performances needed for combat and/or competition

Peak performances cannot be forgotten for those practitioners involving into randori or shiai. Without a firm stamina, people cannot enjoy peak moments in dojo or other places. This has nothing to do with winning or losing, it is about enjoying the art of the moving body and mind.

Personal training scheme example

This scheme is based upon a person – 72yrs/87kg/180cm/resting heart rate 58/heart rate zones – fat burning 93-109 – cardio 110-131 – peak 132+

Training goal (solo training during Corona pandemic)

Keeping body and mind synchronised and in a good shape. Martial art aspect is integrated by using functional exercises.

  • Warming-up: ballistic exercise, kiko (qigong) hachidanken (baduanjin)
  • Posture training: shizentai (central line), gedan (moving koshi-pelvis), chudan (kyokotsu open/close), unstable standing (image=wooden platform in water)
  • Moving posture training: unsoku – tsuri ashi (gedan posture) – ayumi ashi (jodan posture)
  • Tandoku undo – tegatana dosa (static) 1-3
  • Tandoku undo – tegatana dosa (dynamic) 1-7
  • Tandoku undo – flowing – ki no nagare
  • Cooling down – closing the energy posture

Find here 2 examples of heart rate evolution during a 1hr session. It gives an indication of the heart rate zones. By doing “tandoku undo” with a higher speed, the effect is visible. Example 1 is rather slow (bpm 115) and example 2 is more cardio oriented thanks to the speed increase of the tandoku undo (bpm 130). The overal bpm is around 100-110bpm.

Heart rate example 1
Heart rate example 2

An example of heart rate zones

The peak moment in the beginning is an exercise called “pendulum” and is a preparation to take up with Kiko-hachidanken, breathing exercises synchronized with the movements. By doing the pendulum at the beginning, the intake of oxygen during Kiko is more effective.

About shobukaidojo

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

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