Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.
I mentioned on several occasions the importance of the mind during Aikido training. Training or exercising is not always done during the training hours provided in the dojo. Exercise is also possible in the park, at the seaside or in a place where you can do your workout. This may include solo training or practicing with a partner. Whenever and wherever that is possible.
I like to start the day with about 30/40 minutes exercises.
- Warming up – 7 minutes
- Kiko/qigong – 15 minutes
- Ritsuzen/zhanzuang – 10/15 minutes
The morning workout is before breakfast, but after a few major things… Obviously, you can’t practise with a full bladder…
It’s important to practice before reading your social media messages or email messages in your mailbox. The mind is free from good sleep and ready to practice.
Exercise in the morning prior to breakfast became a routine. However, do not be frustrated if you can not do your morning routine. You may have time by day or evening.
Focus on what your are doing
You should feel how your body moves during warm-up. Never do it with power, just let the body do the movements and act as an observer.
Start to breath
Kiko or qigong are practised by breathing much. You need to sense how the diaphragm works. You may feel the fresh air in the morning. All the good things of fresh morning air are absorbed through the body. During your sleep, all the waste is stored somewhere and ready to be expelled when you breathe out.
Move your body without moving
Now it is time to move your body with moving. If someone else watching you, that persons doesn’t see any movement. But within your body, there is a lot going on. Ritsuzen (Japanese) or Zhanzuang (Chinese) is practiced with the mind. You create “dynamic” pictures in your mind and your inner body will react to these pictures. My favourite pictures while “standing” are:
- You are somerwhere peaceful. Perhaps by the sea. Standing with a natural posture (shizentai). Allow gravity to help you with relaxing mind and body.
- Standing in the seawater with a big balloon in your arms. The water is at “kyokotsu” height.
- The water pushes you at the back forward and when the rebound arrives, the water pushes to the rear
- The water is pushing you alternately onto the right side of the body and the left side.
- Push the balloon down and let the balloon go back up. Keep the balloon in your arms.
- The balloon transforms into a big heavy ball. Lift the ball up and let the ball fall down. Keep the balloon in your arms.
- Finish with “shizentai” posture, image you have a heavy kettlebell in your hands.
The mind game and the influence on your body
Does your mind has an influence on your body?
Where the mind goes the body will follow.Arnold Schwarzenegger
Heart rate control is used to see how it affects your body during practice. Ritsuzen/zhanzuang has certainly an impact on heart rate. If you use a dynamic image in your mind with a heavy charge, the heart rate is raised. The example below, shows during ritsuzen/zhanzuang a change in the heart rate when the load of the image is changing. A low impact gives a heart rate of about 89 bpm, a medium impact gives a heart rate of about 100 bpm.
Heart rate will vary according age, gender and condition. The example above:
- Age: 73 yrs
- Gender: male
- Resting heart beat: 56 bpm
- Condition between 46-50: We use cardio fitness score in combination with gender and age to calculate cardio fitness level. 15 – 30 signifies a low cardio fitness level, A score between 30 – 38 is considered average cardio fitness. Anything above 40 qualifies as a high cardio fitness level.
In “The search of Wu” a book written by Dr. Yu Yong Nian, some clinical experiments are described.
Before training and in resting conditions your heart rate is 74 bpm and respiration rate is 19 pm, now assume ZZ and bend your knees so that your total height is 3cm less that in ordinary standing (straight knees) after 40 minutes you will reach 106 bpm heart rate and 30 bpm respiration rate. So by just tuning your bending knee angle and the time of standing position, it results clear responses from your heart and respiration: external conditioning has been changed into internal conditioning which I call qualitative changes.Dr. Yu Yong Nian
The description by Dr. Yu gives an indication about the influence of a standing exercise on your body. Many more experiments are described and are documented with a lot of data.
There is another interesting item in this book.
Physiologic changes appearing during non-moving exercises are differing completely with moving ones.Dr. Yu Yong Nian
During the non-moving exercise, although heart rate is growing up, the increase is steady and can be maintained even during a certain time, but also very important fact is that the respiration rate is never irregular so that suffocation/oxygen debt is avoid, no surplus of carbon dioxide, in a word all internal metabolism is running harmoniously well and adapting hand in hand with the physical effort. How come the body can reach this high level of compensation in front of growing physical demands? We explain it as the harmony in the mental and the Qi.
Here is talking about oxygen debt during physical exertion.
In post standing you can control precisely the amount of physical effort, set it up according to each physical condition and maintain during a long period a steady increase of Heart rate during exercise. But according to our experimentation in most of the case you cannot exceed the double of resting HR. Because when the amount of physical effort is exceed this value, muscles and tendons will feel like a painful electric shock contraction and cannot but stop any physical exertion.We can finally say that in ZZ you will progressively reach the maximum amount of physical effort you can bear: regular increase of HR, but without any oxygen debt or out of breath situation common to conventional sports as described previously.Dr. Yu Yong Nian
As a last item about visualization (imaging).
Using visualization during ZZ exercise refers here to Imagination activity or Recall activity, it is involving high brain functions from the Cerebral Cortex such as memory, attention… so that the practitioner can benefit a faster internal control/monitoring.Dr. Yu Yong Nian
The result of modeling in your training.
While most studies are focusing on the benefits of physical training on the mind, using the mind to improve physical performance is a field of study mostly for top athletes.
A study quoted in Verkhoshansky and Siff’s book Supertraining , showed a group of athletes who were instructed to lift an empty barbell while visualizing or imagining they were lifting the maximal weight they could lift for that movement. When retested they showed an increase in strength for that lift despite doing no other training for that lift.
Skill training can be more efficient with “modeling”. Some studies have been carried out with a positive result. For example, a study in 1985 took thirty college students of equal (perceived) skill and gave them a putting challenge, telling one group to imagine the ball going in the hole, another group to imagine the ball missing the hole, and giving a third group (the control group) no mental task (Woolfolk et. Al., 1985). As you would expect the group imagining a successful shot saw skill improvement overtime with the control also showing improvement, though not as large as the visualization group.
But even beginners can have the benefits of imaging during the physical training.
Using the mind in your Aikido training
Modeling is the application of nonhuman phenomena as a template for improving your performance. Examples of nonhuman phenomena include earth, wind, fire, water… It is up to your creativity to use images to create a model within your brain.
As a matter of fact, a person can also be a role model for improving your performance. “Sensei” may be regarded as a model.
The model that we create in our mind has a tremendous impact on the functioning of our body. In the beginning, when you start using images, your conscious mind is the manager of your behavior.
After sufficient training, your conscious mind will act as an observer and your subconscious mind will take control of the operation of your behavior. Of course, it only works positively if the entry was right. When the entry is wrong your programming may crash your behavior.
Martial Arts examples
Te-kagami – hand mirror technique
Tenchi-nage – Heaven and earth throw
Toraissoku – Tiger’s footwork
Oroshi – Wind blowing down a mountain
Uroko-gaeshi – Turning fish
Nami-gaeshi – Returning wave
Taki-otoshi – Waterfall
The final Image
After all, Aikido is the way to harmonize the “ki” or life energy among people and the environment.