Sunday, June 12, 2011

Swimming and Aikido

Some years back my old aikido teacher told me swimming was like aikido. Being the guy I am, I never asked him to explain.

Just now as I was doing some laps whilst holding my breath, I realized that it's quite strenuous. I wondered how all those movies about guys and girls swimming underwater avoiding bullets, bad guys, sharks and zombies could possibly do what they do for a minute or longer when even 20 secs was too long for me.

That got me thinking on how to improve my strokes. Being self taught I have no doubts that my technique is far from ideal. Plus the fact that I kept my body straight to prevent water from going into my ears was probably a factor. Then, I thought about how sometimes swimming felt so effortless that I could have swam forever. I wonder what was it that I was doing wrong.

Then I tried to move in unity. Instead if pulling my downstroke with my arms, I twisted my torso slightly. To my surprise, I wasn't breathless anymore. 20 secs was nothing. My arms no longer burned the oxygen I needed. Using the body turn didn't exert my body at all, and the laps went by easily.

So is this what he meant? Well I guess maybe. Moving your body in unison is not magic, nor is it aikido's secret. Certainly it's right there in basic aikido, we do it everyday. However, moving body in unison is not the end to it all. Knowing what part and how to move those parts in unison is equally important. Take our kihon kosanage ikkyo for example. You need to sink and move your body with your hands and get kuzushi. But just turning on your vertical axis won't get you anything but a punch to your face. There is a need to move from your hara and not the hand, but also to maintain a chain or a link from hara to your hands to your uke. Sinking, you take kuzushi only if there is a connection to uke. An easy way to start will be to sink into uke's corner but not moving forwards whilst doing it.

Other techniques need equal study and how to best move your body. And this is why kihon training is so wonderful. It allows an actual study and development period to practice moving your body in a united fashion. That us why in the first level of aikido, harmonizing with yourself, kihon is absolutely necessary.


  1. free style is indeed strenuous for me in a 50 meters x 25 meters pool..if i want to do 12 laps, i would 'selang seli' in both styles free style n breast stroke...kenot tahan, the hand & shoulder muscles gasping for oxygen..

  2. Aikido is one of the most popular martial arts and is practiced all over the world. Devotees remember its founder as a profound man who transcended the limitations of the technical aspects of martial arts, instead incorporating rigid moral and philosophical elements into his art, which stressed harmony, compassion, and understanding, even in the face of aggression.

    Mr. Martial Arts

  3. Lol...that's like a paragraph of a marketing brochure. Not sure I'd like to be called a devotee either.

    Yeah, maybe Aikido incorporates a lot of spiritual elements in its study. Without which, it be better off being called Daito-ryu 'lite'. In any case, Aikido is foremost a martial art. It is a way to find your true self, through understanding the Natural Law (or harmony as you may call it). Since it is a 'Way', following the path may lead to discovery of your inner self.

    Discovering the inner self is essential in any spiritual pursuit, and is part of any religion of the book. In fact most religious would devote its resources to discover oneself before finding God.

    Becoming your true self, allows you to bypass ego and thus, your actions will reflect the correct natural response. This could be the utter annihilation of an enemy or an embrace to destroy his attack.