Posture in Aikido

In just three weeks, Mary Heiny, an amazing and highly respected sensei (teacher), will be visiting my dojo to give a seminar. I’m excited about it!

Mary Heiny Sensei demonstrating kokyu ho throw
Mary Heiny Sensei demonstrating kokyu ho throw

Heiny Sensei has been training for about 40 years. To me, that in itself is impressive enough–to be committed to a martial art is hard work. The training is physically, emotionally, and spiritually intense, so to do it for much of one’s life, is (in my opinion) an extraordinary accomplishment.

What I like most about Heiny Sensei, though, is her…stillness. When I watch her do Aikido, I notice how still her body remains no matter what she is doing or who is attacking her.

Here is a picture of O’Sensei doing the same technique as the picture of Heiny Sensei above. Notice how similar their posture! Both are in control of themselves and their partners.

O'Sensei demonstrating kokyu ho
O’Sensei demonstrating kokyu ho

Watch this brief video of her doing a demonstration:

The guys attacking are quite a bit bigger than her, and yet she doesn’t expend much energy dealing with them. She makes it look easy. Her body is relaxed and still; in fact it seems like she’s barely engaged. The opposite must be happening, though. She has to be totally engaged, in the moment, and completely focused on what is happening in order for it to look so easy. If her focus was elsewhere, I don’t think it would look so effortless.

I also like the way she initiates the movements. I’ve been working on that in my own practice lately, and it’s difficult. How do I initiate the technique without being the aggressor? It’s tricky. Heiny Sensei does it with ease. She makes small movements which draw her attacker in to her space. Once he’s in her space, she can do with him what she will. She’s not rough, because once he’s in her space it is her responsibility to protect him. That’s the aiki way.

The most important part of all of this is her posture. She’s got incredible posture. No matter what she is doing, the integrity of her body stays intact. From the top of her head to her hips, her posture is impeccable. Heiny Sensei doesn’t bend over or sway or get wobbly. She’s always in complete control of her body. That is important in Aikido. If I’m in control of my own body, then I can be in control of my opponents’ body, and that is how we both stay safe.

I can’t wait to experience what Heiny Sensei has to offer us in April!

Do you have a teacher that you admire? What is it you admire about that teacher?

5 thoughts on “Posture in Aikido”

  1. That was very excellent. In T’ai Chi – it’s similar – expend less energy and use theirs – be still – less movement is better – stay grounded, like a tree – soft as cotton/hard as steel….all things I try to think about in my daily movements. I love that it’s just the mechanics of our bodies at work – not any kind of belief system – and what works there works everywhere in the world when it comes to how to move our bodies (or not move them as the case may be).

    My friend, Aleck is an amazing T’ai Chi teacher as was our teacher, Joseph Coppo (sp?) who I’ve lost touch with unfortunately.

    1. kimberlysbarton

      Thanks. There are so many similarities between Aikido and T’ai Chi. Posture is important in every physical endeavor, but it’s something we often overlook.

  2. Wouww! Such a strong person and personality! She is perfectly balanced and her technique is flawless! You guys are so lucky to meet such a Sensei!
    Love, Payam.

    1. kimberlysbarton

      She is amazing, isn’t she? We are very lucky. If we get some pictures or video, I’ll be sure to post them!

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