One of the most amazing things about Kokikai Aikido is that we have a very low rate of injuries. In fact, in my 10 years of teaching, we have only had 5 serious injuries that occurred on the mat–a record that I doubt many other martial art styles can match.
That said, we do have our share of students who get injured off the mat. When that happens, I count myself lucky when a student actually asks me how they can continue to train without aggraviting their injury further. I’m lucky, because another great aspect of Kokikai Aikido is that we can easily modify training to account for a wide variety of injuries–all the student needs to do is ask! Here, I’ve put together a list of ways you can continue to effectively study Kokikai Aikido even when on the “injured list.”
Before I begin, we should make one thing clear: any time someone tells me they are injured, I ask them if they’ve seen a doctor or taken any action to discover the cause and correct resolution of the issue. Aikido is great, but it doesn’t have an answer to a frozen shoulder or a sprained ankle! Seeking proper medical advice is not only common sense, it is critical to safe training.
Common injuries most students (and people!) experience include things like a tweaked back or a swollen knee. These injuries typically existed before the student ever started training. In a lot of cases, the solution is simple: stop taking ukemi (falls). There is no rule that says you have to be both uke and nage every time you train. By focusing on being the nage, you can often train quite effectively, contribute to the dojo, and significantly reduce the risk of aggravating the injury.
Often, students balk at this option, because they think that if they don’t take falls, they’re reducing the training opportunities for their partner. This is absolutely not true. For one thing, there are always a few people who could use a little more ukemi in their training. For another, it is very common to find a group of three at any classs–by becoming the “third” person, the fact that you cant fall becomes almost irrelevant. This option works well if the injury is mild or relates to the back or arms–it’s not the best option if you injured your leg, because many techniques still require some twists and turns that are hard to do carefully.
One risk with training while recovering from an injury is that your training partner may not fully understand what you can and can’t do. For this reason alone. weapons training is a fantastic option. There are a couple of advantages. First, you can move at your own pace–whether you need to move at a glacial pace or one more akin to molasses, you are in complete control. Another advantage: the weight of a jo staff or a bokken is often just enough to help build back some muscle strength, without being unduly taxing.
Often, students in Kokikai Aikido skip over weapons training because, to be honest, weapons are not a primary focus in Kokikai. However, most dojos have enough open space that it’s easy to carve out a section for a student or two to work on weapons while everyone else students open-hand technique. I know this is true in our dojo–if you’re not sure about yours, just ask!
Another phenomenal training method is to focus solely on ki development exercises. These can range from the typical eight to ten exercises we use during warm ups, to a variety of exercises that improve your understanding of unliftable body, unbendable arm, and so on. Recently, I spent an hour on ki exercises, and we barely got through about four of them. The best thing about ki exercises is that they require very little physical movement, so you can avoid aggravating any knee, leg, or back injuries.
Should you go this route you can train with minimal disruption of class. Simply choose a training partner. Instead of working on whatever technique the instructor requests, ask that instructor what the corresponding ki exercises are and work on those. I promise you, you’ll not only help yourself, but your partner as well. Ki exercises are often overlooked, because they aren’t very flashy. But they improve your technique in ways you cannot possibly imagine.
When all else fails, you can always train your eye. Come to the dojo and observe what you see. Ask your instructor what you should look at, or ask questions about what you see. This training is essential–most instructors don’t bother to explain what they do, they require you to catch it by observation and experimentation. Best of all, training your eye requires only that you can get to the dojo and find a place to sit–that makes it open to just about everyone!
Again, it is so important to take care of yourself, both on and off the mat. That said, I hope these ideas can help you when you find that you’re not able to train the way you’d like.