Darn! Another injury. Well it IS a martial art. I guess we should just suck it up and expect it as part of our environment.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
At BigRock Aikikai, chief instructor Steve Erickson and the rest of the senior yudansha (black belts) take these mishaps very seriously. When giving instruction, one of the most important objectives is to keep everyone safe. This is not the sole responsibility of the instructor but each individual's as well.
So how do we create a safe learning environment?
It starts with the instruction given to new students. With the influx of a lot of new faces lately we have had to re think how much energy we need to devote to the new participants. Steve Sensei has created a set of drills for new adult students. They introduce a progressive order in which the students can learn to fall properly and do mae ukemi (forward roll) / ushiro ukemi (backward roll).
Personally, I emphasize how important these fundamentals are to keep yourself safe. The added benefit is that it puts you on a faster track to learn future techniques properly.
So what are the responsibilities of the students?
We have often talked about the “contract” between nage (defender) and uke (attacker). Many of us think we have the speed and grace of Sensei's Steve and Kevin, but I have a news flash … We don't! When practicing with someone new, (or experienced for that matter), if you come at them with muscle and speed you will probably be dealt with in the same manner. You all know me. “Slow and steady, steady and slow, that's the way I always go!” I enjoy working with less experienced students because it's a self-check on my own ability, to do the fundamentals properly. I have found no limit on the time I can spend getting comfortable with the basic things that we do. The payoff is that it keeps me safe and injury free while preparing me to practice at a more intense level when that occurs.
So let's all assume responsibility for safe productive training. Remember, Harmony is the way of Aikido. We should all work hard at being proficient at the basics and train at an appropriate intensity for our partner. Then we are heading the right direction towards the principles of Aikido.
Stay Healthy … See you on the Mat.