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Aikido, Karate, and the Feldenkrais Method

By Paul Linden, Ph.D., G.C.F.P.

Awareness Through Movement®d working with the Feldenkrais Method®, I had an experience which brought home to me how valuable Feldenkrais® could be for my martial arts training. I had gone out on the lawn to practice my karate kata. I started to do a punch. I remember it quite clearly. I started the movement of a punch, but I couldn’t tell where to end the movement. I suddenly realized that I had normally put a lot of needless tension into every movement I made. It didn’t accomplish anything useful. It just wasted energy, but I judged how far I had moved by how much effort I had expended. All of a sudden it took so little effort to execute the punch that all my habitual movement cues were irrelevant, and so my punch just kept going. I had to watch my fist to see when it had gone far enough. Over the course of the next few months, my body recalibrated itself so that moving with much less effort became normal.

Later on with more Feldenkrais work, my sense of movement sequencing in my body began to improve as well. In the slow, introspective movements of the Feldenkrais lessons, I learned more clearly how to start movements in one part of my body and transmit the motion in smooth, sequential spirals from joint to joint to joint through the rest of my body. Many of the movements in Aikido and Karate depend on just this kind of action. Rather than moving the body in rigid chunks, power is built up and delivered through sequencing, the way a whip generates and magnifies power.

This same movement sequencing is the foundation for Aikido joint locks as well. For example, when I do the Aikido elbow/shoulder control technique (ikkyo), I have to be able to control the attacker’s pelvis and legs by sending movement from the wrist and elbow to the shoulder, through the spinal column and to the pelvis.

Moshe Feldenkrais was himself an accomplished Judo practitioner, and the martial way of moving has been preserved in his body awareness lessons. The Feldenkrais Method offers martial artists a new and more specific way of studying a crucial element in movement coordination that is part of all martial art traditions.

Paul Linden holds a fourth degree black belt in Aikido and a first degree black belt in Karate.

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