A physiotherapist’s view: “Aikido and Injuries,” by Bartłomiej Gajowiec


“Warm-ups are not just a waste of time. They are absolutely necessary
during class in order to prepare your body and mind for a good practice.”

I would like to believe that all injuries in dojos are caused by accidental events like catching toes between mats, bad falls, or strikes that reach their mark. I’m afraid the truth is that this is just wishful thinking.

I have a number of observations on the subjects of injuries that follow:

Lack of proper warm-ups

The first and most serious is the lack of proper warm-ups. Warm-ups are not just a waste of time, nor can they be replaced merely by training. Warm-ups are absolutely necessary during class in order to prepare your body and mind for a good practice. Warm-ups that engage the entire body are necessary for everyone regardless of how skilled they may be. Good warm-ups include aerobic exercises mixed with stretches and endurance training. A moment of silence while seated in seiza to aid in concentration is often skipped over. We should leave behind all of the cares and worries of everyday life that can spoil our training in the dojo. Breathing exercises should be regarded as essential.

Forceful application of techniques

The next reason for injuries is the forceful application of techniques. This affects all of us in different ways. Some of us use force more than others, but there is always the temptation to solve a problem with force if the technique is not performed correctly. This coupled with a lack of warm-ups leaves us wide open to injury. By the forceful application of technique, I mean forcing uke’s joints beyond their normal range of movement. This limits their capacity to bear pressure and results in pain. If the body tissues cannot bear the pressure, injury is the result. I would like to sternly warn against such reckless and egotistical behavior in the dojo.

Past and current injuries

Prior and current injuries and illnesses should not be ignored. Our physical and mental history determines our behavior in the dojo. Our agility, skills, degree of caution, and tissue memory of past injuries all affect our practice. Our body contains many areas that are naturally less resistant to mechanical loads. With time, their number increases. This greatly weakens our “mechanical” bodies.

Accidents and injuries

Accidents are the most frequent causes of injuries. Bad falls can result in shoulder and wrist dislocations, and ligament and muscle strains. Twisting can produce knee strains, and ankle and wrist injuries. Falls can also sometimes result in fractures.

I am absolutely certain that all of these kinds of accidents are avoidable. I have pointed out the need for warm-ups above. Logic, analysis, and intent can enable us to avoid injuries. Concentration during training, avoiding a party-like atmosphere while training, and finally an understanding of human anatomy, the mechanics of the locomotor system and physiology can assure a safe and pain-free class. Your body deserves this!

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author. Read the original text here.


  1. Excellent points and agreed.

    Now, I propose that joint and muscular sorts of injuries result from fairly primitive technique. The use of force can usually produce a “winning result” at least at some point along the technique. That use of force I think, should be considered a measure of the practitioner’s ignorance. Ignorance, btw, is fine as long as it is appreciated for what it is, a level of knowledge which can be improved. That force is perceptibly applied has to be from coming against some physical structure which resists it.

    Now, what about “ki”? There’s a book out there called “Anatomy Trains”. What’s interesting is the subtle connections of various parts of the body. They’re almost footnotes to our normal lives because they usually don’t have a perceptible contribution to the workings of our bodies. They can, however, be sources of either strength or weakness, depending. I think they are the structural component of what we often call ki.

    Using “ki” as nage can be very powerful. Using the complementary ki in uke’s body can be dangerous. It bypasses all the natural points of strength. “Resistance is futile”. Even getting a fall off might only be possible if nage shows mercy.

  2. Dear Bartlomiej,
    Yes it is important to prepare mind and body for practicing Budo and sports generally.

    Anyway, there is a big difference between Japonese Budo and sports. In my opinion, when we are making a warming up by sport, in Budo we are already doing, for example, Ex Aikido or Kenjutsu, exercices for developing mind and body,as well as a martial art structure.We should not to ” get warm” to be ready and the big difference beetween Sport and Budo, is in another way of using of Body.

    For example, the use of hips is very important in many sports, but the use of the center is something different in Budo. he rotations of hips don’t bring a lot of effective power in martial arts, they push more than they can be sharp. The hips are well connected the bottom with the top of the body, but we stay in a normal way of coordination that we are training in Sport. In Aikido, the unity of body results from the breathing process. To unify mind and body on one point, for example, the seika tanden, gives you the possibility of Aiki: the union of energies. We use our potential in his totality as one ,while sport uses power of coordination of different muscular groups .well we add up, it is not Unity…
    I hope that I helped you a little bit for your working!


    Philippe Orban

  3. We glorify the final step of throwing. Many of us use force to achieve what we think is the most important part “throwing”. We use force to throw when we did not achieve Kuzushi or the taking of Uke’s balance. It’s a big mistake. Teachers should deemphasize the final throwing step and stress the first part, which is achieving the taking of Uke’s balance. Then very little is needed for the throw. Many of us just snap the wrist or shoulder; we do not keep full safe control all the way. All what I want to say is : “it is forceful application that causes accidents. This is what Pranin Sensei keeps stressing: Kuzushi !


  4. A great reminder, particularly for senior students. I remember when going thru the early stages of my training how important the warmup and particularly uke I was to get my body in training mode. We can become a little lax on this part of training in later years and it is important to maintain core strength by performing a good warmup and practicing ukemi. We don’t meditate any more. Might have to put that back in…cheers for the thoughts all.

  5. Really agree with Pierre. As I’ve got older I have stressed more and more the importance of an early irimi using relaxed extension/atemi to break uke’s posture. The finish is largely irrelevant if uke’s posture has already been broken – to then apply a forceful finish is to indulge the ego. Uke is already heading to the floor so why accelerate his movement and risk injury. As uke’s posture breaks a “technique” will present itself for those mindful of the opportunities and in this process nage and uke become one and flow to the completion. It is always easy to generate more energy for a more martial finish if required in a budo sense. It is more demanding to maintain relaxation and consideration to the end. However one good reason to practice with stronger moves is to give the student the opportunity to learn to protect themselves under duress – sometimes caused by them being asked to perform as an uke for a demonstrating sensei who may assume a level of skill in ukemi that they may not have.

  6. John Hillson says:

    I do not agree with Mr Orban.

    Yes, as part of my training I should be able to fall and mitigate the chance of injury if I slip on ice. I will not be able to plan my next mugging either. Budo should affect my daily life in that I walk better, keep my balance more effectively, and stay more integrated in my movements. This is not the same as saying I can receive Koshinage for an hour completely cold.

    I have been in classes where a non-medical professional took these little factoids and decided to run a class with no warmups. A student who spent the day hunched over a computer writing a paper, not a Yudansha yet, stiff and sore, got a full power and full speed technique and was immediately out for a month. This instructor was quite ready to lecture (while he stood and others were in seiza), throw or pin other people when he was cold; he never agreed to have someone throw or pin him, and he never took ukemi.

    Some expensive teachers will try to cut the costs to the school they are visiting for seminars by not running warm-ups. This is not the same as saying these teachers themselves are walking on the mat cold!

    Kawahara Sensei would have different assistant instructors running the seminar warmups, and by the time he arrived on the mat, he expected Katate Dori Tenkan and Morote Dori Kokyu Ho and limber warmed up bodies. This was a definite test for the teachers.

    Sometimes I would be told by others Sensei knew “secrets.” He kept most of them out in the open. For the summer camps I attended, he taught the first classes himself with extensive warm ups. Questions on certain skills, abilities, techniques – often he answered with suggestions for supplemental exercises.

    I was shown to warm up, and then sit in seiza quietly before techniques. Now I see dojo doing seiza for a few minutes before starting class, but I think this needs warm up done first to be healthy.

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