“Aikido – 9 Tips to help you safely recover from injuries” by Dunken Francis

Photo credit - http://proactivephysicalhealth.co.uk

“Both of these guys are very dedicated and are
already getting frustrated at missing regular training.”

These first 5 steps are taken from a neat little site “EHow” which seems to have advice on pretty much everything!

Step 1

Place a small strip of red tape on your uniform, over the injured area. A patch of red tape on your shoulder indicates that it’s still healing. Your partners appreciate this courtesy communication to take it easy.

Step 2

Attend the beginner’s class at your dojo, even if you are an intermediate or advanced practitioner of the art. Take this chance to focus on basic techniques at a slow pace to revive your muscle memory. Work joyfully with the people in class who really are just beginning. You carry valuable knowledge, and helping someone else will help you to remember how much you have learned.

Step 3

Take two classes a week for four weeks. Then, add a third class per week. If you like to train more than that, gradually add more classes. Even if you’ve been working hard in your recovery exercises, give your body time to get used to your return to Aikido.

Step 4

Write down on index cards the names and descriptions of attack and response techniques. Carry the cards with you and review them periodically through the week. Visualize your successful execution of these techniques. This will help you remember movements that may feel rusty and awkward.

Step 5

Ask your dojo colleagues to work with you before and after class on any technique that feels hard to get back. Break it down, take a good look at it. Work as if you’re learning it for the first time. This is your opportunity to find things in “forgotten” techniques that you may never have understood before.

I agree with most of these points – obviously there is a slant towards the newer student (esp. step 4) but I also must stress that if your healthcare professional says “rest it for 6 weeks” DO EXACTLY THAT! I have seen so many students of the last few decades put the limits of their rehab in their enthusiasm to get back into training, only to stuff up the original injury and set themselves back even further!!

At my dojo’s we currently have one guys recovering from a knee op (NOT caused by Aikido I might add..) and another from a wrist op (again, not…). Both of these guys are very dedicated and are already getting frustrated at missing regular training.

Here are a few things that you might want to consider – they greatly helped me when I was ‘off the mat” for about 5 months with a snapped achilles back in the 90’s.

1. Read.

Grab every Aikido book you can, even if it means having two or three on the go at once. This will keep your mind active and also help you process the information you have already bouncing around inside your head!

2. Go to training, but just watch

Yes, I realize this can be frustrating but it keeps you in touch with what the instructor is working on and also let’s you sit back and watch how your peers interpret this It can be VERY useful for analyzing the way in which your own interpretation of technique comes about

3. Exercise the parts of you that are still functional.

If your knee is stuffed for a while, work on your upper body. One aspect of training that is often neglected is the self discipline and drive involved to actually get off your butt and go training 3 times a week. A long rehab period, especially if you are laid up in front of the TV can be a slippery slope into lethargy and apathy. Do something! Build the exercise into your routine, even replace your normal “Aiki-time” with it.

4. Aiki Ken, Aiki Jo.

I had a full length plaster on for 4 months after the Achilles op, and as soon as I got the OK to put weight on the leg, I got back into, limited, weapons training. If you can stand you can do something!

If you are currently recovering from an injury or an op, good luck with the rehab!

I’d be interested to hear any other tips as to how people have ‘trained around” injuries.


  1. I do a lot of asotei (single person, open handed practice) anyway. As the range of motion, speed, and power applied is totally under your control, it allows you to do what you can. Be careful, of course, when injured. You might even like it. I think it allows a person to align the body, improve the balance, and smooth out the movement of our forms.

  2. Excellent article. I have suffered a few injuries to my hand and thumbs. During the early parts of my recovery, I would go to class and observe and also read.

    I did however get back on the mat before I was fully healed and worked out with one hand. This helped me in several ways:

    1 – this is a great way to learn self defense and emulates a situation where you may become injured during an attack and have lost the use of your hand/arm

    2 – I found that I was using my hands in my techniques as corrective mechanisms. Based on what I experienced, I learned to correct my movements during my techniques, especially techniques that can be performed with only one hand (although we use two in training).

  3. Students need to understand that it is possible to train injured if you are careful. The main thing we need to remember is that predators don’t take pity on the sick or injured- they take advantage of them. You need to train around you limitations to see how you can still defend yourself if attacked.

  4. roberto magallanes md says:

    If you are injured from the shoulder or elbow or wrist you can still practice your footwork ashi sabaki
    don’t do ukemis but footwork keeps you on the move.

    • I agree entirely Roberto – Also, if the injury permits gentle suburi and kata solo practice can allow one to re examine tai sabaki aspects of training the can sometimes get neglected.

  5. Peta Goodman says:

    If you’re getting back after any surgery your gi can chaff the scar. My surgeon suggested wrapping a silk scarf over the scar to alleviate the problem. It works but make sure it is fastened with tape – not a knot.

  6. Injuries are one of the many life difficulties and challenges that a shugyôsha has to work with. Notwithstanding the fact that it prepares us to handle real encounters, it also helps build discipline/character.

    Advice #2 (Go to training but just watch) or mitorigeiko (practice through observation) if done mindfully helps improve concentration and motivation which results in faster healing. Unfortunately beginners (and even so-called advanced students) tend to fill that free time with other activities, get trapped and never make it back to the dôjô.

    Teachers have to constantly remind students of the benefits of mitori geiko for the benefit of those who are teachable and willing to do what it takes.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience, Mr. Francis. It’s a reminder of what we have to emphasize.

    Patrick Augé

  7. Fully agree. Self healing mechanism get much more from our physical and emotional involvement and use that for healing than from us being lazy, immobile… An injury is just an obstacle to cross. Just a lesson to take. I had my shoulder plastered for 4 weeks and never missed a class!!! Good text, congrats!

  8. I completely agree, and unfortunately I have also had to learn this the hard way.

    I keep a list of all the test techniques with me, and I routinely go through the visualization of performing them. It’s a good habit that gets me through many plane flights and waiting rooms. I also always carried pen and paper for years, now I also carry an iPad and a camera.

    YouTube gives an easy look into other styles. The most developed empty hand solo practice in Aikido is, imho, the Ki Society’s Ki no Taiso. Seeing how other teachers interpreted O Sensei always gets me thinking more about how my own association interprets O Sensei. You mention Aikijo and Aikiken – the Birankai system seems equally complex. Chiba Sensei did more weapons exploration following a back injury when he was Uchi-Deshi (I heard that somewhere, hope it’s true).

    Take pictures. Camera work is about learning to use a tool, to perceive and interact with others in placement and timing through another device. Taking one of those perfect pictures is hard. It is another way of paying attention and reexamining technique.

    Unfortunately, other arts. There is a sad number of people who write that Zazen, Yoga and Tai Chi help their Aikido and injury recovery. Sad, because apparently Aikido as taught to them (and me) and too many others does not offer the health benefits of stretching, kinesthiology, balance improvement, muscle alignment, strength building, meditation – at least not to the degree which other arts and teachers will. O Sensei’s example appears to be that he put much more time and effort into such “peripheral activities” and he was always interested in other martial arts.

  9. Something else I wish I didn’t learn the hard way. You sprain one wrist, you take only falls on one side of your body – your back, shoulder and knees start getting sore and your body gets unbalanced and more likely to get a more serious injury because only half of your body is receiving regular impact. Or, you change how you fall to better accomodate the one wrist being sore, and that changes how your legs impact the ground – for me, the opposite leg takes the brunt of a wrist injury. Or, you only roll on one side and breakfall on the other and you feel like the first scenario. Don’t rush back – get fully healed.

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