Written by Greg Angus Sensei
In a previous post “Aikido – Why do We Practice”, I mentioned the two important things to understand about Aikido: (1) Aikido is complex and it takes time to learn basic movements; and (2) Aikido helps us develop compassion for others.
These two points continue to ring true even during this time when many Aikido dojos around the world, including Toronto, are closed or unable to have close-contact partner practice due to the pandemic. At Naka Ima, we have now been doing online classes for almost a year. It has been a challenging year, but also a valuable one. While having to figure out how to adapt to teaching classes online has put me in a bit of an uncomfortable spot, I have seen the value in doing online classes both for myself and for the students who regularly attend them.
The interesting thing about the solo practice this year is that we’ve had the chance to work on all the small details, about body position, posture, the shapes that you’re making, the feelings that you have, and about what “moving from your centre” means. Aikido can operate on all kinds of different levels, but you need to understand yourself and your body, how things move and how you feel inside. If you don’t understand yourself, you will have a very difficult time feeling what’s coming from your partner.
Fundamental Principles to Focus on During Solo Aikido Practice
Whether you’re a beginner or have been practising Aikido for years, this is a great time to work on refining your movements. Here are some things that we work on during our solo practice and/or online classes:
- Body posture and your centre – Create the proper structure for your body so you can move efficiently and connect to your centre. First, stand in natural stance and locate your center (which is typically found just below the navel). Keep your knees relaxed and not locked, tilt your pelvis up, pull your shoulders back and keep your chin down. When you start moving, pay attention to how your weight is distributed and how it affects your movement. You can also do some center-focused exercises during your warmup.
- Footwork – Create a mental picture between you and your partner and figure out where you have to step, what are the angles, and whether you’re moving too far or not enough. If your position is off because your footwork is bad, then you will not be naturally aligned and then you will resort to muscular force.
- Atemi (Striking) – When attacking or grabbing, make a committed attack. When working on atemi during your solo practice, strike at a medium pace and make sure your movements are originating from your centre and moving through your body in a logical and efficient sequence. Occasionally, practice in a fast and sharp manner, and contrast that with deliberately slow and relaxed movements. This allows you to widen your range of movements and become more aware about how you use your energy.
- Ukemi (Receiving a technique) – During solo practice, play the roles of both uke/attacker and the nage/defender. You don’t necessarily have to take big, hard rolls especially if your space doesn’t allow for it. What is important is to walk through the steps, not just as nake, but as uke as well.
During your solo practice, look for creative ways to study Aikido. You can work on basic Aikido movements as well as more advanced concepts like how to move fluidly from your core. After all, your practice is your own – all a teacher can do is guide. Solo Aikido practice is a great time for you to understand your body and your centre. Once you know the basic techniques and you understand fundamental principles, learn how to move from your centre and put it all together that makes sense for you.
We all look forward to the day when we can get back to regular practice and continue to work on other things like timing and connection, but until then, we can make use of this time to work on the many different aspects of our practice to help us improve our Aikido.
Contact us if you are interested in joining our aikido online classes. Click here to view the online Aikido class schedule at Naka Ima.