Thursday, July 29, 2010

TOO ANGRY AND TOO OLD

7/29/10 w [0s, 3v] B Small group. All new people, although four guys made it a point to see me before class to let me know they had some kind of appointment or an injury really bothering them, but they would be at the next class.
Of the three new people, two expressed doubts about taking the class as they had real problems with anger and reacted “badly” in stressful situations. One vet said he “was a real bull in a china shop”. I told them that I thought that Aikido could give them a very viable way to use that anger as a source of energy to deal effectively, but non-violently with stressful situations. I only asked them to be aware of when they initially began to sense those feelings and use the relaxing to center technique I would be showing them, or to let me know when they began to feel they might be losing control. At the end of class, one of them said that he thought this might actually help him. He’ll see at the end of the six weeks.
The other vet said he didn’t know if he could do it as he was pretty old, 65 [a mere youth]. I talked about moving smoothly, doing warmups, not stretches, and how relaxing to center allows you to be more sensitiva to your own body, as well as partners energy. At the end of the class he said, “I love this stuff. Can I do it when I go back home?” Since he lives in Framingham, I will direct him to Framingham Aikikai, Halprin Sensei’s dojo.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"MAKE YOUR AIKIDO YOUR OWN"

7/22/10 w [5v] These five vets have been pretty consistent for the last six weeks. This means two things; I will loose them after this week, I will have a whole new group next week. It has been nice to have some consistency in the group and be able to move them from the absolute basic techniques to more complex moves.
I started them with basic two hand grab to the shoulders. One of the vets asked if I could repeat the nikyo from a cross hand grab. I had them work on this a bit, then decided to try something different. I talked about breathing and relaxing to center, joining partners center to their center and moving smoothly. I then invited them to experiment with the cross hand grab, and see what they could do while maintaining those basic points. They really got into this and while there were some interesting variations, they mostly re-invented existing techniques. All I did was work with them on being relaxed, centered and smooth, and left them to play with technique.
After class, one of the guys came up to me and thanked me, “I think I learned more in this class than before”. I think this is a fairly accurate way to evaluate wether or not I am being successful in teaching what I think is most important. As Satome says, “You must make your Aikido your own”. But if I am not giving a solid grounding in the basics, they have no solid foundation to base “their own” on.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CHANGES IN EVALUATIVE CRITERIA

7/15/10 Note: Changes in my evaluative criteria. Way back at the beginning of this blog, I tried to lay out what I wanted to accomplish for and with the vets, how I wanted to do that, and some ways to tell if I was being successful. These were;
GOALS: While I want the class to be an enjoyable break from their regular schedule, I really want to give people something positive they can use outside of class, in their regular life, dealing with their real life issues. Properly taught, the physical activity should have an effect on their mental/emotional activity [kinesthetic learning]. It doesn’t really matter if they are consciously aware of this. Covert can often work better than overt.
Based on discussions with the staff and given the time and location realities:
1. Stress the collaborative nature of aikido practice, Nage as teacher, Uke is student.
2. All techniques will end with a standing pin, occasionally a take down. No throws or falls.
3. Concentrate on basic moves and techniques; 1 & 2 hand grabs, shoulder grabs, shomenuchi.
No tsuki [punch] as it could be a bit too risky with this group.
4. Drill on the 5 points of technique
A. welcoming “attack” and relaxing to center
B. getting “off the line” and entering
C. blending attacker’s [Uke] “center” with defender’s [Nage]
D. Nage utilizes technique to move their own body, maintaining relaxed and centered movement and not focusing on Uke
E. coming to a place where the attacker is secure and both participants are safe
[especially Nage]

EVALUATION: To evaluate progress/success on these I’ve come up with the following set of goals;
1. That guys will enjoy the class and keep coming
2. That there will be a good interaction among the various “demographics” of the group and a sense of group will develop
3. Guys will learn and demonstrate an ability to consciously relax and center when “attacked”/stressed
4. Staff will have some commonly held language they can use to help Vets in certain situations, i.e. relax, center, breath down
5. All of these will carry over outside of class.

I’ve been able to look at these every once in a while to help keep myself on track and to keep changing things appropriately. At this point I can up-date a couple of things;
Under GOALS;
A. welcoming “attack” and relaxing to center when feeling vulnerable, and utilizing that “vulnerability” as a strength
D. Nage utilizes technique to move their own body, maintaining relaxed, balanced and centered movement and not focusing on Uke
Under EVALUATION;
2. Eliminate.
Insert after 3 [as 4] “People will exhibit more centered, relaxed and balanced movement.
5. Vets will feel/evidence an ability to deal more confidently with situations of vulnerability outside of class.

These aren’t major changes. Eliminating #2 was just a recognition that these guys are a pretty tight group based on their common military background and the fact that the PTSD gives them a lot in common. Changes and additions are focused on mainly dealing more, and more effectively, with the issue of vulnerability, and using the basics of Aikido to cope. This is based on Staff feedback, discussions with the guys, and my own experiences. I have to find more and better ways to include this issue throughout my program.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Manual In Progress

7/9/10 I have had basically the same group of 4 - 6 guys for a while now, although a couple of the guys have been actively recruiting among new people so there were two new people and 3 guys returning for their three week “refresher” this morning. While I am not doing many new techniques, I am able to focus more on the basics of breathing to center and relaxing, turning vulnerability into a strength, and moving smoothly and in balance.

NOTE: I have spoken with three aikidoka over the last while who are interested in starting a similar program in their area. In response to this I have been working on writing a manual based in part on this blog, your comments and suggestions and some of my own mind trash. I will keep you posted.
I have come across a blog that is proving to be very useful, www.ptsdcombat.blogspot.com I would recommend it.