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Warm-up Exercises

Warm-up Exercises

Warm-up exercises are important to reduce the possibility and severity of injuries that, whilst rare, may occur. As with all exercise, the body should not be pushed beyond what is safe and comfortable for the individual. We are all different! Naturally there are variations depending on the sensei but the Aikido warm-up exercises are fairly standard and generally reflect moves used in the throws. Most sets are done to a count of: “One two / three four / five six / seven eight”, usually repeated twice. When not part of the movement, loose hands rest on the hip/thigh. The fundamental 10 health exercises (Kenko-taiso) (needed for Ki test) are below with additional exercises after that. They can be viewed in an 19 minute video at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJbDeGM3g1w


1. Raise arms above head, palms up to stretch lower arm muscle, twist body first to the left, one, two and then right three, four. Repeat for count of 5 to 8 then repeat whole sequence 1-8. OR, alternatively: Brush both hands alternately to right and left side of body; swinging arms to turn and stretch the trunk of body. 2. Keeping arms in same position over head, lean sideways to stretch the side of the body. To the left, one, two, then right, three, four. Etc. 3. Bend forward and down pushing hands through open legs, one two, then arch back and with loosely clenched hands over and above head, three four. 4. Shoulder blade exercise. Lightly grasp or touch fingers and jab elbows alternately to left and right sides of body whilst facing forwards. Keep elbows up but not so high that the shoulders become raised. 5. Nod head down, one two, then up, three four (return to straight ahead between nods). 6. Turn head to left side, one two, then right side, three four (return to straight ahead between turns). 7. Bend knees, one two, rising to toes for three four. Make the movement between two and three flow as one movement. 8. Stretching the knee. Keeping feet apart with right foot facing forward, turn to the left so left foot is facing to the left (keep head facing forwards). Left leg straight-ish on heel, right leg bent. Hands on thighs. 1, 2. Repeat to the right 3, 4. 9. Repeat circling both arms at same time, down into body in ‘hugging’ motion for 4 then reverse direction for 4. Bend knees in time with circling. 10. Shake out the hands; downwards with hands to the side of the body.

Breathing and Stretching Exercises

Additional warm-up exercises can be incorporated into or after the above. For example, circling each arm in turn in front of body for 4, reversing direction for 4, repeating with other arm (this is the old way it used to be done) before exercise 9 above. Other exercises include: Breathing exercises (sensei will explain how). These are an important part of the practice; they usually follow Kenko-taiso. Sitting down, legs extended in front, touch and hold toes (as far as possible). From sitting, left leg straight, right foot tucked into groin, hold. Stretch from waist left hand to left foot. Then turn right leg so right foot out to the side facing backwards, ie knee still bent. Stretch from waist right hand to left foot. Repeat on other side. Open legs. Stretch first to left by touching left toes with left hand. Hold. Repeat to right. Then both hands to both toes. Repeat above but with right hand to left toes – supported by left hand to the side. Then other side. Keeping legs apart, gentle ‘paw’ the ground directly in front with one hand then the other. Bring the feet in, soles touching. Move the knees up and down to open the hips. Gently push each knee down with hand towards the floor for extra stretch. From this position, paw the ground in front as above. Change to the kneeling position; from here, leaving one knee on the ground, open the other to one side. Return and repeat for the other side. Repeat several times. Stretch the toes and ankles. Then lay back as far as is comfortable from the kneeling position. Hips between feet. Hold. Roll out to side to release. Wrist exercises (undo) in sankyo, nikyo and kote-oroshi positions (count to 4 for each hand). Rolls. Sit, right leg under, left out to front. Roll back down one side of the spine, returning down the other side. Change legs as doing so, so left leg is tucked under. Repeat 4 times. (Variation is to roll back to kneeling or even standing before going back down again). Avoid rolling directly down the spine; roll to one side. Repeat above rolling out; then walking forward on knees (Shikko). Alternate sides. Don’t roll back over your head or you may hurt your neck; your sensei will show how to roll safely.

Exercises Related to Moves and Techniques

Rowing exercise. From standing with alternate legs forward; extended hands tip back and then, led by the hips coming back, are drawn back to the hip. Soften the hands, lift up about 20 cm then with the hips leading, push forward to the starting position. Cycle 4 times then repeat with right foot forward. Turn both feet out, then both feet in. With one foot facing forward, turn the other out; reverse and repeat. From standing with alternate legs forward; both hand come up to end in front of face (but away from it) in a defensive posture. Repeat to a count of 4 with each leg forward. (Ikkyo Undo). Hands are open in front of face and loosely clenched by hips. Hand movements are accompanied by the hips also going forward and back. Exercise starts in the neutral position which is with hands just in front of hips and then moving back, with the hips, before going forward – to give momentum. Repeat but in two directions. ‘One two’, one way then ‘three four’ in the other direction. (Zengo Undo) Step forward, bringing rear leg up behind calf of lead foot. Return rear foot, drawing in front foot to the shin of the rear foot. Repeat each side. Repeat foot movements above and bring the arms up in the defensive posture described above. Repeat above in eight directions. (Happo Undo) With legs apart sway to the left, arms swing in front of body to their full extent then stop (count one) and settle (count two; arms come down and in slightly and weight settles into the legs increasing the ‘sway’). (Sayu Undo) Repeat above with a sideways step; moving foot crosses behind the static foot. (Sayu Choyaku Undo) From static standing position and keeping body facing forwards, swing arms to each side in turn (just once, unlike in the main Kenko-taiso above). Lead hand moves with a cutting action. Movement should be with Ki, with a force behind it - enough to move someone if they stood alongside. (Ude- furi Undo) Along a straight imaginary line in front, step forward and turn whole self 180°, letting the arms swing out as you rotate to face the other direction. Lead hand leads with ki.) Repeat 4 times then change the leading foot and repeat again. (Udefuri Choyaku Undo). Can be repeated with 2 turns, ie 540°. Facing forward, one foot in front of the other and same arm in front (other extended behind so looking forward but body twisted about 30° off centre to the side. Swing the arms to change position, turning the lead foot out to maintain balance; heel of rear foot naturally lifting. The body naturally changes position to be offset the other side of the centre line. Repeat above with a step and 180° rotation. Imagining a bear-hug from behind, lift the arms to the side, step one foot forward whilst rotating the arms – hand on same side as lead foot going down to about knee height (still extended) and other arm extended rearwards. Body twists to accommodate move but remains in balance and in line, ie no bums sticking out! (Ushiro-tori undo) From similar start position to above, step one foot forwards, bring both arms up and then forward as body bends forward from the waist. Repeat with each foot forwards (Ushiro tekubi-tori zenshin undo). Very similar to above except two steps are taken to the rear (Ushiro tekubi-tori koshin undo).

Hitori-waza (Solo practise techniques)

Notes: Hitori-waza – ‘alone techniques’ – ie practising by one’s self – solo techniques. Kumi-waza – ‘couple techniques’ – ie two people practising together. Tsuzuki-waza – ‘continuity techniques’ ie techniques woven together one after another. Undo’ means exercise and is used here but sometimes seen as waza, meaning technique. Broadly relates to Kyu syllabus that follows but does not match exactly and not yet found descriptions for all exercises:

5th Kyu – Yellow Belt

Jo Kenko Taiso – The kenko-taiso health exercises holding the jo. Not all the exercises are possible and the first exercise is done with arms raised above head and turning trunk. Ude-furi Undo – swing arms, one behind, one in front, about waist height. One side then the other. The rear arm ‘cuts’ with ki – enough to move an opponent standing alongside. Ude-furi Choyaku Undo – lift and step with front foot, turn through 180°, bring front foot back. Arms swing naturally out. Tenshin Undo – Extend one arm (and foot on same side); leaving hand in same position, turn body to alongside, facing other direction. Alternate sides. Sayu Undo – feet apart, weight swings onto one foot as arms swing up to the side into ‘here you are’ pose. Weight settles onto that foot and arms settle at same time (keep lower hand at groin, upper hand extended at shoulder level, look forwards). Sayu Choyaku Undo – As above but with a step behind before settling. Ushiro Ukemi Undo – gentle half roll backwards to SE and then SW (4 each side). Zempo Kaiten Undo – forward roll from kneeling (4 each side).

4th Kyu – Orange Belt

Jo Aiki Taiso: Funakogi Undo – hold Jo horizontal at waist height, one foot forward. Push Jo forwards then bring back to solar plexus level, push down to waist level and repeat (‘rowing’ exercise).  The next 3 exercises can be done as described or with the Jo (making the description, Jo Aiki Taiso: Ikkyo Undo for example) Ikkyo Undo – swing both arms forward from hip starting position, elbow bent, open hand at head height; bend front knee to rock forward. Tenshin Undo – Ikkyo waza technique but in 2 directions. Zengo Undo – Similar to Ikkyo Undo except a step forward is taken on the front forward diagonal; rear foot is brought up to behind the leading foot ankle (no weight on it). Repeat on other diagonal. Happo Undo – Ikkyo waza technique but in 8 directions. Mae Ukemi and Ushiro Ukemi – 3 forward and 3 backward rolls from standing on left and right sides.

3rd Kyu – Green Belt

Kote-oroshi Undo – Wrist exercise Sankyo Undo – Wrist exercise Nikyo Undo – Wrist exercise Tekubi-kosa Undo – Swing hands up in front to waist height, crossing the wrists Tekubi-kosa Undo – Repeat above but bring hands to head height Hami-Guaku-hanmi Undo = posture, reverse posture (the posture is one arm outstretched with same foot leading and the other arm and leg behind). Exercise is then repeated with a step and 180 deg turn. Ushiro-tori Undo – Step forward with one foot extending arms to side; then twist upper body and dip slightly extending leading foot hand forward and other hand to rear (coal shute). Ushiro tekubi-tori Zenshin Undo – Step forward with one step raising arms up front; then bring hands and body down as if to throw opponent. Ushiro tekubi-tori Koshin Undo – Similar to above except first take small step to the side as arms are raised in front and then large step to rear as arms and body brought down and forward. Shikko – knee walk for 4 steps forward and 4 backwards.