Can a person on the wheel chair practice Aikido too?

by Kevin Jones

I think the answer is yes, although you have to work to make it possible.

I've taught Shin-shin Toitsudo (the ki development exercise part of our style of Aikido) to people with quite severe disabilities. The wheel chair is no problem as far as understanding principles goes, but it does require adaptation to some of the movements in the exercises.

Aikido technique can also be practiced from a wheel chair, or any other chair for that matter - I had to do this myself for a while when I couldn't walk when recovering from surgery - but there are some problems. Some are mundane, like how do you allow the wheelchair onto the mat without either damaging the surface or running the risk of it becoming a hazard to other students. Others are more interesting like how to you get a good movement and correct direction from a person whose physical mobility is limited in this way. All can be solved.

Depending on the reason for the confinement to a chair, I suggest the following possibilities:

  1. if the person can get out of the chair and sit in a stable seiza, then they can practice quite reasonably from this posture doing technique in a form similar to hanmi-handachi, albeit with no lower body movement.
  2. place a stable chair on the mat and let the person practice technique from this chair. This is slightly more difficult than seiza and uke will have to adjust as necessary but it can be rewarding practice.
  3. allow the wheelchair onto the mat, probably limiting the area used, and try the technique from there. This has the advantage of more mobility and the drawbacks of the chair itself and the lack of a controlled base in most cases.

Teaching a person in a wheelchair requires some effort but can be done if one is prepared to adapt. For styles that only teach Aikido-waza there isn't the same gentle introduction that ki classes allow me to use, so the initial period might be a little difficult.

There's a gentleman in one of the Berkeley dojos who has MS and is not only confined to a wheelchair but also has little control of his limbs in general. He's been practicing for a number of years now and I believe was awarded shodan. People like this show that most limitations can be overcome by effort and have my sincere admiration.