How Safe is Your Training?

How safe is your aikido training?Every year, Ikazuchi Dojo compiles operating metrics to get a numerical snapshot of the dojo. We are fortunate to have enough aikido students and infrastructure to collect a meaningful amount of data.

There are many important things in a dojo that can’t be measured with numbers. But many can.

One thing that can, and should be measured, is injury rates. We think it’s important because with high injury rates, a dojo will face massive attrition or will be forced to water down its training. We don’t like either option.

Our Dojo

Ikazuchi Dojo students have fun and train in a lighthearted way. However, almost all of them take their development pretty seriously. Our average age is 37 and we have a number of students in their 50’s and 60’s. These people can really move and they can really throw.

If our injury rates were high, these students would never be able to develop in this manner. Recovery time from injuries is a major training setback and the perception of a high risk of injury inhibits trust and committed training.

Bringing Clarity to Injury Rates

 

Ikazuchi Dojo Injury Rates for Aikido PracticeInjuries do happen at Ikazuchi Dojo, but how risky is our training really? For years after our founding, we had no clue. Now we track injury rates and quantify them using the standard metric employed in professional sports – number of injuries per 1,000 hours of training.

As a benefit of using this metric, we can not only compare against our own historical data, but we can see how we compare against other activities.

We’ve been able to get our injury rates down to around 1.5 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. Riding a stationary bike at the gym has an average injury rate of 2 per 1,000 hours. Basketball is 14.

Benefits of Tracking

Since we started tracking these metrics, we’ve been able to test different training methods and instructional strategies and objectively see if they improve safety without compromising the integrity of the practice. We also get insight into any correlations between injuries and specific students, instructors, techniques, or practice formats.

Additionally, we now have the benefit of being able to quantify risk to dojo members and prospective students. Training in the martial arts does have inherent risk, but that risk can vary greatly from art to art and school to school.

Those with a dream of becoming a marital artist often hesitate to begin training due to preconceived ideas about how much and how often they’ll get hurt. This is especially true for doctors, professional athletes, musicians, and other individuals whose livelihood depends on optimal use of their bodies. Now we can offer objective metrics to everyone so they can make informed training decisions.

Let’s Learn from Each Other

We’d love it if you share this post with other martial arts schools. We seek to learn more about what others are doing to track injury rates and reduce training risk without removing the martial effectiveness of their training methods.

Our systems and metrics are far from perfect. We know there are things we can do to improve our success in this area.

Also, please let us know if you’d like to learn more about how we’ve implemented our injury tracking system. If there’s interest, we’d be happy to share how we track, analyze, and respond to our metrics.

 

Special thanks to Aikido Journal for co-publishing this post.

6 Comments On “How Safe is Your Training?”

  1. Hello,

    I’ve been training since 1984 but had to stop in 2014 due to injuries sustanined due aikido training.
    I would like to share with you some of the injury risks many aikido dojo fail to avoid during thru the years.

    1) mat construction. You should build a giving foundation of semi hard foam rubber on which to place and frame if possible, your quality mats (Schwain or similar type).The old canvas covered on top of foam rubber on top of cement or woodflooring just won’t do.

    2) Seminars,

    I know these are a big funds generator for many dojo but there should be limits on how many guests to invite because on most cases you can’t get in a good safe Keiko on a crowded mat.

    Yours,

    Bob Molerio
    Iwama ryu Aikido

    Reply

    • Thanks for sharing Bob. We agree with you about the mats. We prefer the Swain / Zebra type mats and find them to be an excellent training surface (as long as they are set up so they don’t develop gaps between mats where toes can get stuck).

      Good point about mat space at larger seminars as well. It’s great to hear from you and welcome you to the dialogue.

      Reply

  2. Since aikido focuses on many joints that are relatively easy to injure it takes care and patience to bring students to a level where they can train hard but be safe. Not requiring students to take something they are not ready for is important to a successful dojo.knowing when that time is I think is part of the art of aikido.Sounds like Ikazuchi is doing it right. Looking forward to the new communication and learning much from Ikazuchi Dojo. Greg Bham Alabama

    Reply

    • Greg

      We agree that gradually ramping up intensity and complexity of technical training is an excellent approach. You’re right that one of the benefits of the non-competitive nature of aikido is that it lends itself well to this kind of training method.

      Thank you for contributing. It’s great to connect with you digitally.

      Reply

  3. Very good post, Josh! Thanks for sharing! I’m definitely very curious as to how do you record all those numbers. Sometimes is hard to keep track of students and/or what technique was practiced this or that day.

    Would also love to see the breakdown of the injuries by technique 😀

    Amazing job you guys are doing!! Keep it coming!

    Reply

    • Alex – good to hear from you! Based on the response we’ve gotten, we will write a follow up post that outlines one possible method of collecting and performing analysis on these metrics.

      In our case, at least in 2015, we didn’t have a strong correlation between injuries and a specific technique. If we did, it would have made for a much more straightforward solution set. We found most injuries related to randori training and sub-optimal movement patterns (twisting and compression in the knee when performing tenkan or ukemi for example).

      Anyway, more to come in a follow up post and thank you for the feedback and encouragement!

      Reply

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