Aikido · cycling

“Trust the technique”: Life lessons from Aikido, #1

So in the drafts folder of this blog I’ve got a post that just keeps getting longer. It was called “Six Things Aikido Taught Me” but then that turned to “Ten Things…” and so on. And it’s also too long. So I’ve broken up the post into series of small posts. Here’s the first one. 

In Bikido I wrote about this odd thing I’d been doing, going straight from a fast 40 km group ride, led by a cycling coach, to Aikido. (By the way, there’s another person blogging about biking, running, and Aikido. See  Run, Bike, Throw.) At the end of the ride, it’s fair to say I was pretty exhausted. If the overall pace hadn’t knocked me  out, the sprint at the end, followed by a Strava segment I’m trying to reclaim, certainly did. Typically once the ride was over I grabbed a sports bar and coasted to Aikido.

Fast outdoor riding is over now but it seems Bikido isn’t over just yet.

Coach Chris is now leading indoor cycling classes on trainers. We all bring our bikes and trainers to his basement and pedal away. Fine. And again it’s straight from there to Aikido.

I’m pretty exhausted when I bow onto the mat but I think it might actually be improving my Aikido.

How could that be?

Well, in many ways Aikido isn’t a particularly athletic activity. The goal is to use your attacker’s energy to disarm them. It’s pretty non violent as self defense goes. And the best Aikido is all about efficient technique.

By temperament, that’s not my way. I’m strong and bouncy and often try to succeed using muscle, not form. But that’s not good Aikido.  I can recognize excellent technique when it’s performed on me. It doesn’t hurt but I have absolutely no choice but to go where my partner is taking me (short of tapping the mat). I notice this especially when I’m working with one of the senior women, who is older and much smaller than me. I could lift her up and carry her off but when we’re working together, she can just throw me around. It’s no surprise that the big men in our club can throw me around but the magic of Aikido is that at half their weight and twenty years their senior she can do it just as well.

When training for my last test, my partner kept reminding me to stop trying to use muscle. His motto for me was “trust the technique.”

Turns out it’s easier to trust the technique when you’re exhausted and power and muscle just aren’t there to rule the day. Exhausted Aikido means my movements are more efficient and I need to concentrate on form to make the techniques work. When my body is tired, my brain takes over and when it comes to Aikido that’s not a bad thing.

It also occurred to me that there might be other areas of life where this is true, where it’s better to trust the process rather than try to muscle your way through.

And hey, if I’m ever attacked after an exhausting bike ride, I’m ready to go.

Aikido is a martial art that doesn't require strength and can be practiced and used far into old age, which is good because it take that long to master.
Aikido is a martial art that doesn’t require strength and can be practiced and used far into old age, which is good because it take that long to master.

One thought on ““Trust the technique”: Life lessons from Aikido, #1

  1. “Trust the technique” is EXACTLY what I hear in ballet class. As a former athlete, I consistently try to muscle my way through and rely on power instead of finesse and technique. It is a lesson I am learning, albeit slowly 🙂 What you said about it coming easier when the body is tired rings true to me as well. I’ve had some of my best classes when was tired, coming off of illness, emotionally drained, or otherwise held back from trying so damn hard. Less is more seems counterintuitive, but it can be true 🙂

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