Sunday, April 8, 2012


During warm-ups at the beginning of class, my Sensei, Todd Martin, has often equated fuku shiki kokyu or deep breathing with relaxing energy so that it can flow to our hara or center. When I think of this dynamic in relation to what Ann Frederick, Peter A. Levine say in their book “WAKING THE TIGER”[1997 North Atlantic Books], I realize this can be an enormously powerful technique for enabling Vets with CRPTSD to refocus their internally negative energy; anger, fear, shame, etc. into a source of neutral energy focused in their center/abdomen, with out having to identify or focus on that negativity.

I think this last is very important as one of the frequent effects of therapies which cause someone to identify or focus on this negativity, or the cause of the negativity, is to actually bring about a re-experience, along with all the trauma and its subsequent emotional turmoil.

What I do at the very beginning of class is do several deep breaths utilizing the five areas of inhalation. I then repeat this but having everyone picture their body as full of little pockets and tubules of energy, stressing that stored energy is neutral, potential, neither negative or positive until it is used. [My example is if you plug a light into a socket it illuminates, if you stick a knife in you will get zapped.] We then do a full inhalation, extending the arms as high as possible. Then exhaling as slowly as possible relax the muscles, tendons, ligaments, starting with the fingertips, the hands, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, hair and scalp muscles, the ears and jaw muscles, and so on. As the muscles relax, all those little pockets and tubules relax their energy and allow it to flow downward to be gathered and stored in the abdominal “battery”. If I watch students carefully, I can actually see this process of relaxation move downward.

Then, when we are doing a technique, and someone tenses up, goes off balance, or tries to “muscle” a technique or fight an attack, I can have them pause, relax, and recenter their energy, and they dramatically experience this relaxed, positive energy enabling them to use the technique to gently and safely to control the attack. When I think about what I want the Vets to learn, this way of converting negative, self-destructive PTSD energy in to a constructive force in their lives, this is what I want. I believe that this is what Aikido has given me that helped me deal with who I was, and who I could have become, post-Nam.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Hi Tom,
I am a psych NP in California working for the VA treating Vets w/ PTSD. I also am a very beginner Aikido devotee. I am really interested in hearing more about how you are teaching your class and if there is any research being done on Aikido as therapy for PTSD.
I agree that PTSD teaches the body that conflict means someone is going to be hurt---either you or someone else. I also understand that Aikido, as a physical discipline, teaches the body to respond to conflict with skills to de-escalate it without injury---180degrees from the experiences of PTSD. I’d love the chance to see Aikido as therapy tried in a controlled format.
I'm hoping to do a doctoral program in 3 yrs, and hoping that such a research project here in So Cal could be my dissertation.
Any suggestions, tips, etc?
Thanks for your time.
Anna Davis, NP, MA