NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

The Push Up

By Jonathan Wilson

24 March 2015

It is safe to say, fitness is expected, and necessary in the fighting arts. I believe aikido to be no exception.


I like the NGA style warm up for this reason.  Modeled right out of the US Army fitness manuals of the late 50s and early 60s, the NGA warm up, while a bit old school military, is completely functional in its intended purpose.  


In my mind, perhaps the most functional aspect of the NGA warm up may be the push up.  The army recognized the value of the push up because it stresses an all important notion that transfers somewhat regularly into aikido ~ namely the necessity to push yourself off the ground and move deeper into the fight.  This push up action is something you do over and over on the battlefield.  


With the idea of moving forward and not getting shot as your motivation, consider the following chant that runs through the head of every infantryman in training and combat over open terrain.  “I’m up!  He sees me!  I’m down.”   While in the prone position, you push yourself up off the ground, and begin moving forward as quickly as possible for 2 - 3 seconds.  Then you hit the dirt ~ allowing your rifle’s buttstock to absorb the brunt of the falling energy.  Once on the ground, you roll to the right or left so that you do not reappear in the same place you went down when you repeat the process.  Ever moving forward, this is considered the best way to quickly advance your position in the open field, and minimize the potential of getting targeted by the enemy in the process.    


Regardless of whether or not you ever end up in a fire fight and need to implement the 3-5 second Buddy Rush, there is some thing to be said for being able to knock out 25 pushups (which is the implied skill in this exercise).  AS aikidoka, we are constantly getting up off the mat in training ~ so being able to do push ups well and quickly is very important for Pace of Play in training to ensure maximum reps and the quickest development in your abilities.  


So in the interest of improving our own training experiences, we should take pride in doing the push up well.  That said, some times, I look down the line of aikidoka, and see many people (beginning students and senior rank holders alike) who look like they are suffering from the advanced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning (muscles twitching on areas of exposed skin) when they are doing pushups.


Rather than do an actual push up, they only twitch their elbows, and perform something that looks like a horizontal body spasm rather than an actual pushup.


In a push up, you must actually bend the elbows completely so that the chest rests just above the mat, and then straighten the elbows so that they return to the locked out plank position.  


Worse yet, the horizontal body spasm crowd never seems to improve on their push up abilities.  Now, why do you think that is?


Listen, I could understand if they were injured and had a condition that prohibited their proper performance, but most of the culprits in the full body spasm crowd are not injured.  They are just weak!  Of course, if they did the push ups correctly (even if they could only do 3 or 4 correctly), the next week they could strive to improve that number ~ and in this way, they could eventually work up to 25 proper reps ~ but they cheat themselves out of the improvement we all seek.  


Guys and gals, we have this thing called the internet.  Goggle “How to do a proper push-up” and watch one of the videos like the one to the left.  You embarrass yourself (and our art when you cheat like that).  


I’ve seen many a dojo guest express a degree of disgust when the call for 25 pushups is made ~ and he then sees a class full of people doing some heresy of this valuable training exercise.  We should endeavor to do it correctly, or we should drop it from the warm up all together.


Too Direct?  Possibly.  What say ye?


Want to add to the discussion?  Post your comments in the comment box below!

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Master Nara says, “I threw up a little in my mouth as I watched your lousy excuse for push ups.”

Descent enough video on how to do it.....  Note that if you “flare” your elbows, you’re doing the pushup incorrectly ~ as you place your shoulder in a compromising position.  The video also contains ideas to strengthen the aikidokai’s ability utilizing partial reps.

Full Body Spasm Push Ups ~~~~ I hope you’re not doing them.....

(Mute volume in video)

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