It seems important to me to give some thought to this important part of the practice in order to insure an injury and a frustration-free practice. What first comes to my mind is this: if we were to practice our art in another place than in the dojo, we would have to move fast and with energy without undergoing the process of preparing our body for action.
I remember a film by Bruce Lee, The way of the dragon; it brings together Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, who, before fighting in the Coliseum, turn their back to each other in a tacit agreement, and apply themselves to warm-up exercises. In a quite opposite way, in the film Nikita by Luc Besson, Anne Parillaud steps on the mat without any form of preparation but easily reverses the situation and takes the advantage over her partner by biting him, thus breaking the rules. This of course induces laughter in the audience but from an ethic point of view, this is contrary to Bushido rules.
Here is another story on warm-ups that seems important to me to understand. It happened in the Lyon subway. A 25 year-old young man faces one of these young people who like to provoke others from time to time. The former has experience in karate but gets beaten by the young thug. When asked why he got beaten, his answer is: “I was waiting for him to bow”.
To me, “Warm-up” means: “being ready for anything: to live, to die, to win and to lose”, “Preparing my body to be in unison with my spirit”. This warm-up time is not only a time for our body to prepare itself for action, but also a time that allows us to adapt to another situation, and to put ourselves in harmony with what we came to do in this place. Warming up allows us to become aware of ourselves, and it is obvious that the more experienced we become, the less important the muscles warm-up gets.
The warm-up allows me to put conscience into my body. Each time I move, I scan my body to know how the different parts react so that I can train it to be ready when action blurs my perception of danger. I usually get injured when my brain does not assimilate the message of danger and cannot transmit to my tissues the right piece of information, and these tissues are what form my muscles and joints, allowing me to find the right reaction. In our practice, it is a rare occurrence to make a movement beyond the unforeseen, but it is quite frequent to undergo a movement beyond the acceptable. The warm-up allows us to bring our senses to a level that we thought they could not reach.
It also often happens that we do the warm-up together with a partner, and the practice is gentle and slow. Our dilemma when practicing Aikido is this: we always train depending on what we feel, never with the purpose of winning a competition. It allows us however to adapt our warm-up depending on the situation. I think that the individual warm-up today should be as demanding as possible. I have to go slowly through the exercises that require the most of me in order to prepare my body to accept any unforeseen effort.
In fact, sometimes, I decide not to warm up so as to put my body into uncertainty and to figure out if my daily training really allows me to be ready for any solicitation from the outside.
In our practice, the warm-up puts us in harmony with our future partner, we are together, and do simple exercises that anyone can achieve. Thus, it is of great importance that we do not do them mechanically, for one day our body might have to pay the price of this lack of attention. We must keep in mind that all the exercises performed during the warm-up session are the same than those we practice with a partner. If during the warm-up they are not perfect, when practicing with a partner they will become dangerous for me and for my partner.
To control my partner”s body, it is imperative that I control my body in a flawless manner. For all these reasons, it is of great importance to go through a perfect warm-up and not to do it as a routine jeopardizing the essence of martial arts.