Sunday 25 March 2012

Aikido in the dark

At last week’s aikido class in Bucks Cross we did about ten minutes of practice in the dark! Some sort of strange punishment for my students? Nope, a power cut.

In the wilds of North Devon, power cuts are fairly regular occurrences. You learn to live with them. When one happened half way through our class we had two choices – either struggle to stack the mats away in the dark, or just carry on. We opted for the latter. There was a very dim emergency light still in operation so we could just about see where people were, but not much more than that. And, surprisingly, the absence of light was no obstacle to our practice. On the contrary, in fact. It was my impression that, if anything, the techniques were executed more smoothly in the darkness than when the hall was fully lit.

By chance, I happened to be reading a book called “Aikido exercises for teaching and training” by C. M. Shifflett this morning (a great book, by the way, which has much to offer to students as well as to teachers) in which there is a discussion of the problems of relying too much in aikido on what we see rather than what we feel or hear. What you see is obviously vitally important. On the other hand, sometimes, if an attacker is punching (for example), it is all too easy to concentrate too much on the hand rather than on the whole body. In darkness, that’s not an option.

I was struck by this observation from Shifflett’s book:
“To decrease the emphasis on the visual, simply turning out the lights and practicing in the dark can change everything. Classes held during power failures have been some of our most memorable experiences. Awareness of surroundings actually improves when students must rely on alternate senses.”
I’m tempted to practise ‘aikido in the dark’ more often in future. You have been warned!

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