Warm ups in Kokikai Aikido have two phases: general warm-ups and ki exercises.
I’ll get to ki exercises some other time–it’s a broad topic that just about any Kokikai practitioner has thought through any number of times. Today I’m thinking more about warm-ups. In our dojo, our warm-ups start with some ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretches are essentially stretches with movement. We warm up the back and the hamstrings, the spine, and the arms. We then do a few static stretches, focusing on the sides, the calves, and the lower back. Every dojo has a slightly different take on how to do the warm-ups, but the general pattern is about the same.
The same, but is that necessarily correct?
I’ve been starting to do a lot more cardiovascular workouts and weight training. When I do these workouts, the pattern of warm-ups has some simple, but perhaps important differences. The primary difference is that these workouts start with actual warm-ups. Running in place, jumping jacks, and so on. The idea is to get the blood moving, to ease the body into realizing that it’s about to work. Then come the ballistic stretches, followed by a couple of static stretches. These warm-ups feel really good to me–by the time I get to the stretches, my body is, as you might expect, warmed up and ready to go.
Another difference is that, in our dojo warm-ups, we typically count to 10 or so for each movement. I’ve heard it said that this helps everyone learn timing. The students use the count to match the timing of the instructor, which later helps them understand timing during technique. That may be true, but the downside is that a given dojo has a variety of students, with a variety of body types, levels of physical fitness, and levels of flexibility. In my non-dojo workouts, there is very little to no counting. Instead, the warm-ups are done for 30 seconds to a minute, with the idea that each participant do as many or as few as they feel is best for their body, and at a pace that makes sense for them.
So, armed with these thoughts in my head, I changed the way we did warm-ups at the dojo. It felt almost sacrilegious, which is funny considering how Kokikai is known for constantly re-evaluating our techniques. We started off by doing some simple warm-ups to get the blood moving (although I held off from running in place, for some reason). Then we did the same stretches we normally did, but I had everyone do them for 30 seconds at a time. We followed these with static versions of the same movements, so we could try to work on our flexibility a little bit.
As we moved into ki exercises, we reverted back to our usual methodologies. But, as I said, that’s a topic for another time.