12/18/09 f [5s, 18v] I Good group. Several new people. I mentioned the issue of vulnerability and how to respond with centering. We did technique from mirror grasp [ai homni]. Started with basic enter & turn [irimi tenkan] and progressed to an elbow lock and to a shoulder lock [shiho nage]. A number of people are beginning to take a breath and relax to center with out my prompting. Finished with a basic wrist lock and had standing people work with chair bound. Again, great response from people who felt extremely vulnerable because of their physical limitations.
Had my son with me today. He has practiced 16 years, since he was 5. This gave me a chance to begin to show people how to take proper ukemi. After class I asked for his critique. He suggested I work more on how to take ukemi. How a good, firm grasp, flexibility and staying in contact with nage is a way to remain safe and maintain some level of control. I’ll have to try to work on this at least once a week.
NOTE: Met with the program staff after class. I talked about how what and how I am teaching has changed since I first started. I am working more on breathing, relaxing to center and maintaining that relaxation through out a technique. I also mentioned the issue of vulnerability that came out on Wednesday. They thought that this was a major point to work on. The way they described it; with most people 95% of social interactions do not make them feel vulnerable, they may feel vulnerable in 1%, with people with PTSD they may feel vulnerable 95% of the time. Most of what the ward 8 program and the staff does is working with the vets in recognizing and dealing with these feeling of vulnerability.
The emphasis is that feelings of vulnerability may be valid, but that what are needed are ways, techniques for dealing with the situation constructively, not internalizing it, or kneejerking into a habitual, but not necessarily effective response.
Suggestions from the staff were: that I discuss the philosophy, the assertive but non-aggressive nature of Aikido, that I ask them what their feelings are when they are grabbed at the start of a technique and how do those feelings change as they breath/relax/center, and how they feel when they successfully complete a technique, i.e. gain and retain control of a situation in which they were vulnerable.
I explained how some of those things were learned kinesthetically, a very powerful learning process which has a definite, if covert impact on emotional as well as intellectual processes. I agreed, that given the short time vets were in the program, it could be beneficial to reinforce the kinesthetic learning with a bit more verbal explanation. I pointed out that staff could also refer to the basics of Aikido in helping someone to better understand the emotional/intellectual work done in other parts of the program. For example; “If you take a breath and relax to your center, how might it make you feel in this situation of vulnerability?” or “ How could you do an enter and turn to better deal with this?”
I am really glad that so many staff participate in my classes. I think it helps in their relationship with the guys, and wilol hopefully give them usefull tools in working with them in other milieus. I am going to try to get more staff to work directly with the guys, especially the women staff. Their Aikido is getting quite good.
I am beginning to feel like I'm giving the vets something more than a fun bit of exercise. The meeting with the staff, while not a formal evaluation, reenforced this.