There is a lot to do in Kamae (stance). It is not passive and you will spend your entire Aikido life rediscovering it. The basic idea is that of a united body working in complete harmony with gravity. Kamae is the basis of how one learns to stand and move in Shioda Aikido. In the early stages, standing in Kamae is difficult and feels unnatural. Possibly you feel unbalanced and heavy in the thighs and shoulders, everyone has an experience unique to how they currently hold their body.
By practicing standing in Kamae for longer periods your body learns how to naturally distribute the weight using the least amount of effort. Eventually you learn how to use the natural flex of your body to store energy and release it.
Here are some general concepts you should familiarize yourself with when practicing Kamae. This is not a full list, unfortunately the learning is in the doing, not the telling. Therefore you will have to practice diligently to increase your understanding.
- A feeling of the head being suspended from a thread, while the weight of the body is dropping
- Head, shoulder and hip in alignment
- Hands like holding a sword in front
- Top hand mentally attached to back foot
- Bottom hand mentally attached to front foot
- Shoulders natural and relaxed
- Chin tucked in slightly
- Hands open softly, just enough to feel the stretch of the muscles
- Allow your front foot to turn to the outside as needed to keep the kips square
- Front knee is not overly pointy
- Weight is slightly forward on the balls of the feet, even better the big toe.
- Arms are extended and supported by the back, not the shoulders. Elbows are natural and soft
- Knees and ankles feel natural and soft
- Weight is distributed through the entire body with an emphasis on the front foot. The entire posture has a slightly forward feeling.
- Imagine being wet and the water dripping down from your limbs to give a feeling of weight down everywhere.
- Project your focus and energy forward, do not withdraw inside yourself.
If you have access to a friend to help, have them push on you in the following ways.
- A soft but increasing push from the front to the chest
- A soft but increasing push holding the wrists
- A soft but increasing push from the upper middle of the back (between the shoulder blades).
Your goal is to stand as natural and unaffected as you can. Over time your skill will increase. If you can practice daily, do so. Your goal is to "become" Kamae and when you are touched to instantly transfer the focus of the body to that spot.
A Note On Training
Enjoy the training! When we are happy and enjoying what we are doing, we are learning more efficiently than when we are anxious. Don't sweat the details, just focus on one thing at a time and when you have that move on to the next. Eventually, you will do all of the above naturally and easily. Be kind to yourself and just be patient.
In the next post I will look at breath and how the body can learn to naturally support itself.
Thanks for reading,