I learned a new expression today about Aikido. All that bending and folding of people. It is like origami.
I usually think of Aikido as throwing and pinning people but today our dojo was too hot for throwing. We were sweaty just standing around and so no one wanted to move much. Instead we worked on joint locks to move people around and pins for when we got them to the mat.
As usual I start out pretty stiff and have to work to relax into the pins. By the end of the class I’m a lot more bendy and flexible. My shoulders are the worst. Luckily I got to work with people who are about as flexible as me and we each gradually applied the pins giving our partner plenty of time to work with it before tapping. Likewise, when taking a pin off, you take the pressure off gradually. It’s like a good, painful, massage.
For some of the joint locks there’s no pain involved. When it’s properly applied you go where your training partner wants you to go. It’s like magic–painless but somehow inevitable.
Yes, you could resist but as they joke, resistance is futile. You’d risk breaking something or hurting a joint and there’s little temptation to try. There are times in Aikido when it makes sense to resist a bit, to make sure your partner actually has your balance for example but joint locks aren’t one of those times. We like our wrists, elbows, and shoulders, thank you very much.
But the pins? They can be painful. And some of them are painful no matter what. There’s one that involves holding a person’s hand such that they are looking at their own palm. Each time, and the joke never gets old, Sensei says “Oh, look I see pain in your future.”
We joke about being masochists but really it’s no joke. You have to find a way to get comfortable with pain. Yes, you tap. Of course, you tap. But some of the pins hurt from the moment they’re applied and you want to be a good training partner and allow your partner to see what it feels like to have someone in the pin when it’s applied properly.
I like being able to pin people with one arm so that, in real life, the other arm is free to get out a phone to call for help. Doesn’t do you much good pinning someone in an empty parking garage, for example, if you have no way of getting help. It could be a long night.
As the recipient of a painful pin, you learn to relax into it, to breathe, not to panic, and to trust your training partner. Once you know you won’t actually get hurt, it’s just sensation, and you can learn to deal with it. It’s a good life skill to have.
Here’s me, below, smiling before doing some origami with people.