Many people when starting Aikido, find the techniques extremely painful. Techniques like Nikkyo, Sankyo and Yonkyo apply pressure directly into the nervous system. They cause submission through pain compliance.
But what if it is the teacher who is applying these painful techniques to the student?
The sensei’s role is to ensure that every student is able to learn in a safe environment, with due consideration for each individual’s age, infirmity, injury and ability. When the teacher applies a painful technique to a student he does it understanding the level of application of a technique that creates pain as opposed to damage. But the student can feel betrayed, that someone who is there to help them, is instead hurting them.
The teacher has to strike a balance between protecting the student from harm and hurt, and encouraging the student’s development by moving them along the path beyond where they would choose to remain.
Painful or not, no techniques should ever be performed with malice. And that is the key.
Training in martial arts is severe, it has to be to strengthen the spirit. But it should always be done with loving kindness not to cause injury.
Ultimately, O’Sensei’s Aikido is a martial art (budo) and people who enter the dojo to join in its practice must confront their fears in a real and painful way and gain strength through overcoming their own limitations (real or imagined). Little by little they will find that they can grow stronger as the technique is applied. It still hurts, but they are able to feel calm not frightened, knowing that the technique is applied to benefit them not to damage them.
This is the unique relationship between a student and the sensei.
The student has to find the teacher that is right for them and trust them with their lives. Only the teacher knows where they are leading the student and the student has to give up something of themselves to follow. Or put another way – give something of themselves to the teacher in trust.
It is with that respect and understanding that we bow to each other.