I’m recovering. Over the weekend I was pushed to the floor (also practised falling to the floor by myself!), pinned there and had my arm twisted until I called out “Mercy!” Then it was my turn…
I’ve done karate as a kid, and tai chi a few years ago when I lived in England. Karate was defined as self-defence, but its style was straight forward combat: hit the opponent ( a bit more to it than that, but that’s the general jist). Tai chi was interesting, its own style, similar to aikido in that it doesn’t require strength but uses the strength and momentum of the opponent against them. But what I learnt was a “form”, a series of movements. But I never really learnt to apply these movements as a martial art, just as an exercise that helps practice patience, coordination and balance.
The aikido I did over the weekend – a workshop that took place at the Earth Sanctuary – was somewhere in between. What we were doing was somewhere in between what I’ve done with karate and tai chi: it was a practice of self-defence (and only self-defence) with a similar “flowing” philosophy as tai chi.
The techniques, when done well, are effortless; the damage to the opponent practically nil, as long as the opponent doesn’t struggle too much. It’s very difficult to train, or rather “untrain”, the body to not use strength in its defence, and just flow with the opponent’s momentum. There’s a lot of coordination going on between where to put the feet, the best place to grip the opponent and positioning.
Right now my body is so unused to the exercise that I have stiff muscles, but I look forward to it again. In the meantime I think I’ll take the tatami out and practice falling!
If you want information on aikido just look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido