Jul
23

“Aikido and Hands,” by Bartłomiej Gajowiec

As I stated in my recent article on shoulders in aikido, shoulders are everywhere in the art and so are the hands. From the mechanical point of view, the hands are a very complicated complex of joints, muscles, tendons and sensors that are all connected together for the purpose of controlling the most precise actions ever imagined: sensing with touch, touching itself, grasping, holding, drawing, painting, hitting, pushing, pulling, pinching. Everything we think of, we translate into hand language and make them carry out our every intention. We share our hands with other people, offering them to shake; we heal with our hands; we hurt with our hands; we embrace our children with our hands; we put them to sleep and stroke their heads for comfort; we play piano, violin, sew, hold cups… Our hands seem to act hand with hand with our will.

Aikido is also hands. Our hands are always in front of us. They “welcome” all attacks, blend into them with their softness (and the rest of the body and mind), and respond to them when applying a chosen technique. We direct our ki through our fingers. We finish off every technique with our hands to give it the exact direction according to what we feel, sense, and read in uke.

The hands cooperate with the eyes. The eyes and hands are like a couple that complement each other. The ability of your eyes to track strengthens your actions because of the cooperation of sight with postural muscles, body tension and mobility. Please, check this by placing your fingers gently right under your skull where it meets the neck and look right or left. You will easily feel muscles acting there just when your eyes turn! They rule the rest of the body since those sub-occipital muscles are kings of the spine muscle action kingdom. So looking toward the direction of movement helps your hands because it helps your coordination.

Hands are very strong but very delicate.

Let me be straight with you – v e r y delicate. The fundamentals of hands are wrists that act as arches standing on oblique surfaces of forearm bones. To keep them there and not slide from them they are held in place by strong, short ligaments full of nerve sensors. That is why we must take care of the hands and wrists basically to keep them able to work. With an unstable wrist (ligaments damaged in any way) or painful wrist (unhealed injuries), no hand can function properly. So many techniques involve “locking” wrists in extreme positions (close packed positions) for one simple reason: next move is simply driving our uke or opponent into pain that can be excruciating and signal destruction. That makes the uke follow our technique. Nikyo is the best example. There is no doubt it works more than well when applied well… We all know how convincing this technique is.

When warming up, we must concentrate on gradual warming our hands and wrists. Getting into a dojo and practicing aikido without any attention to the hands is simply stupid. This generates injuries that last for years and confirms the belief that something is wrong with us, that we have bad wrists and hands, and prevents further exercise in a desired manner. It is not simple for the wrists to heel because they are inherent part of our daily activities. Please allow them to heal before treatment is needed.

Please take a close look at your fingers. Let us be honest, they are small in comparison with the rest of the body. Let us recall what they have already been through during our life so far: lifting weights, receiving so many sankyos, twisting screwdrivers, holding hammers, etc. For every single kilo of external mass applied to the tip of our finger, an open hand generates approximately seven times more kilos to the very first finger joint that has to handle the load. That IS a lot. I know fingers are constructed to stand much of the load, but we must be aware of this fact to keep them in good condition for the rest of our life. Without properly functioning hands, we can’t look after ourselves when we enter our golden years. Please keep this in mind.

The hand is usually positioned in the so called working position: pronated (palm facing down and medially) with wrist slightly extended and fingers flexed. This is all due to the muscle balance around the hand. Flexors and extensors do their job in the following way: if, for example, I want to grab something, extensors “close” the wrist in extended position to enable the flexors to execute the grip. In the hand, we observe most the fluidity of opposing muscles. And that is why we need them to be as elastic as possible to keep the wrist and hand working as well as possible. Stretching, stretching and stretching again. In the office, where we spend hours working on a computer (repetitive movements), at home doing gardening and housework Please remember to stretch your hands along with your forearm muscles when in the office, where we spend hours working on a computer (repetitive movements), and at home doing gardening and housework.

This will keep them healthy.

Our hands are the eyes that see the invisible. Aikido blends this “second pair of eyes” with the rest of our body-and-spirit to read the dynamic sphere as precisely as possible, and act within it. Our hands reflect us. In a certain sense, they are us. We should make our hands stable, strong and gentle. To paraphrase a classic saying, “Make them like water.”

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this issue. It gives new insights and makes me reflect on my body, especially the hands.