Last night at Genryukan dojo, we tried a new training method inspired by the Yoshinkan, which proved very popular with the students. If you have read Robert Twigger’s account of the Yoshinkan Senshusei course in his book Angry White Pyjamas, then you may recall the intense training they call “hajime” sessions. As you no doubt know hajime is the Japanese word for “begin”.
In Yoshinkan aikido, “hajime” sessions are generally where one technique is performed repeatedly, without a break for periods of up to an hour. Twigger’s book tells of participants passing out and vomiting with instructors sometimes dishing out punishments to trainees if they feel they are not pushing themselves enough, including rounds of push-ups, sit-ups and the notorious usagi tobi (bunny hops).
Now we don’t put our students through the intensity of the Senshusei training mentioned above, but we can take inspiration from the spirit demonstrated and hope to replicate a little of the ramped up intensity experienced in hajime sessions. At the very least we borrowed the name for our new training method, as the term is shouted over and over again throughout the exercise.
The thinking behind adoption of this training is “mushin” or “no mind”. The methodology, to increase the repetitive nature of the techniques whereby the students get into a rhythm, and stop worrying about the intricacies of the techniques themselves.
Students pair up, starting uke and tori roles are assigned, plus techniques to be worked on are established. On the shout of “hajime!”, the technique begins. At the precise moment the pair who are last to finish the technique return to their starting positions, the next “hajime” is called.
In a similar way to the military adopted beep fitness test, this means whoever is last, gets the smallest rest period between techniques. Kamae is alternated so every technique is trained on both sides. Then roles are swapped, and everything repeated and so on.
There is an aesthetically pleasing synchronicity to the hajime exercise, as students perform the techniques and this is a definite benefit for coaches as is it is easier to view what is happening, and students’ timing getting out of step for whatever reason is very obvious.
Last night we did a solid 15 minutes as a trial to start with, and it appeared to work exactly as intended. It is very easy to see who is thinking too hard, and do not remain relaxed throughout the exercise as they use up considerably more energy. For those students they will find the exercise will get much easier over time as they adapt and learn to relax.
On the whole I was extremely pleased with how it turned out, and even more so when students said afterwards “I like that, can we do more of that please?”
We will therefore investigate this further over the coming sessions…..