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I practice Aikido Iwama Ryu which has a strong weapons emphasis.

I often have trouble centering as I get too tense and I suppose I try too hard. Anyway I love weapons and was wondering if Iaido can help me in relaxation, centering, and ki extension.

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  • Welcome to the site. I edited your question a little. I am unsure what you mean by "ki extension" as ki has no real definition, could you clarify? I also added a iwama tag, since you practice it and if you wished, consider editing it to add more information. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 19 '17 at 7:12
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It will not help

You will get the same problems in relaxation, centring, and breathing1 in Iaido as you get in Aikido. In addition, Iaido will confuse your Aikido weapon work unless you keep them very separate.

Ueshiba trained in lots of different arts that influenced his Aikido. Most of his weapon work was done when he was a young man in his prime. Iwama is the final evolution of Aikido as an old man. Of course, this does not mean it is only for old men or ineffective. However, it does mean that the weapon work was influenced by decades of Aikido, not weapons. The weapon work is an extension of Aikido, not the other way round. Weapon kata help you practice and understand ideas behind techniques. On the other hand, Iaido is 100% pure weapon without any consideration to CQC whatsoever.

What would help?

Go slow, even slower…

As for relaxing, I tend to just shake myself between techniques: loosen up those muscles and let the tension ebb away. Looks silly but it helps.

If you do a technique slowly, you will remember to breath. Hence, you will not get tensed because your body is craving sweet sweet oxygen! You can even speak while doing the technique if that helps: speak what you want your body to do. It might drive your partner crazy, so it might be best done when you do solo practice.

Practice makes permanent, not perfect. You need time for your brain to learn new skills this is why doing the move slowly, concentrating on centring the weapon (constantly checking), and breathing in and out then making sure you get the right breath out as you strike.

Too many people see sensei and senior grades do things at lightning speed and think that more speed is what needed. Nope. They are fast because they spend the time to learn slowly, then increased the speed till they could do it fast, then trained for ages doing it fast.


1: I am going to assume that "ki extension" here means correct breathing and not the mythical force that allows one to cast fireballs…

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It did help me.

The problem is not so much whether the art itself helps, but whether the teacher teaches it in a way that helps.

More specifically, when I started out with Aikido, my first sensei taught the Nishio style. You can look it up on Youtube, there is a full DVD with the original Nishio guy to be found there. The specialty of Nishio is that he includes sword work in the usual training, a lot.

We did not actually do that part, i.e., regular training was usually without katanas. But we did a lot of katana and stick work on the side. Sometimes katas, sometimes partner exercises.

The katana partner exercises were often frustrating, as it was hard to get a sense of "would this really work" or "would this be tactically sound", and I did not really feel that it transfered much, anyways. But I loved the katas (which are very similar to Iaido, if not exactly the same). Our teacher really went all out stressing the timing issues around the longer katas - when to be quick, and when to be slow; when to relax, how to breathe and such; and was very detailled on exact execution of the movements.

The katas, especially the long ones, have little to do with actual Aikido exercises, but it helped with getting the mindset of really listening to the whole body; balance, not extending yourself, being in control of your own motion. I apply that a lot during regular training these days (I am not with that sensei anymore, and at a dojo which does another style). Also, in many exercises, there are instances where being able to imagine doing a sword strike really helps the correct movement (i.e., most 45° spiraling downwards movements are so simply done by imagining a yokomenuchi katana movement that is being pulled through - people who do not have that mental image can struggle a lot).

So give it a try, by all means.

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