independent movement and grace

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I left something out of my last post which I took from the Dan Messisco seminar that I attended a couple weeks back. During the warm ups for the class, Dan had us do rolls very slowly and had us concentrate on having complete control of our bodies throughout the whole movement. Usually during falls, we let momentum take over. Only problem with that is that we’re then at the mercy of the momentum. It’s really a great practice to feel like you’re consciously controlling every fraction of movement to the point where you can change or reverse direction at any time (it’s also a great workout for your lower body and core). During the training, Dan took it even farther to perform each technique with independent movement. He went on to explain that this was a good example of grace. Grace is apparent in a great athlete or dancer where they are living under the same laws of nature as all of us, but they move through the world, from what it seems, independent of those laws. They are obviously not independent of them (this would be impossible, of course), but are actually in absolute harmony with these laws and have tested and pushed the limits of just how much control they actually have within the boundaries of them, and are not at the mercy of them. By working on complete body awareness, Aikido can be a great practice for this.

Think of it this way. Super basic. Go find a table. Rest your hand on the table and fully relax your arm and hand. Now, if someone were to come along and kick that table out from underneath your hand, you’d lose control of your hand and arm and it would fall. Now rest your hand on the table and have the awareness of that action being independent of the table. Your hand is where it is because you want it to be and if the table was kicked out, your hand and arm would remain in the same position. You can practice this when walking. At any moment of any step, you should have complete control and be able to change direction or stop completely. Of course, there is only so much ‘control’ we can have over our bodies since they do have to conform with these laws of nature (momentum, gravity, inertia, etc), but we are way too dependent of them and controlled by them. Especially with ukemi, when we’re taking falls, we get chucked around and lose control completely. We forget we’re still doing Aikido. That changes when we consciously take control of our movement even when taking fast ukemi. I noticed it made my Aikido super balanced and strong when training with this intention. It’s, of course, slow at first. But as you train in this way, I can imagine, if you get really fast at this, your Aikido would be insane. I can’t wait to start playing with this. Our dojo is very basics focused, and I think it would be very powerful to apply this concept to the basics.

We can also take this into incredibly stressful situations in our day to day lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the inertia of the conversation and get swept away by the intensity of the moment, losing ourselves completely. I experienced this recently when dealing with a difficult customer service ‘situation’ at work where my emotions were totally commanding what I was saying. It’s the same feeling as taking ukemi for someone who is just chucking you at a point that’s just way out of your comfort zone. But I stopped and brought awareness back to my body. Here I am, right here. I can move, think, talk, and act completely independent of this abnoxious asshole on the phone right now. He was controlling my mind, dog-gone it! (Yep, I think ‘dog-gone it’ was the term I used too). Now I’m in complete control. I can now take this conversation wherever I want and am not at the whim of his next reptilian brain induced vocal spasm. Yippee! Be independent. Take control. Now.


  1. I like your links, although I am a little disappointed that you didn’t link to my dance video…

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