Random Aikido Exercises

:: ki aikido, aikido

I came up with a little program when I was training students for their 3rd Dan gradings at Bloomsbury Ki Club. I think it does a very good job of keeping the fitness of both “trainees” and Ukes at an appropriately high level. I’ve converted it to a web-page thingy, so you can use and tailor it for your own purposes.

Potted History

While I was training my 2nd Dans up for their 3rd Dan gradings, there came a point where I needed to:

  • Find out what they did or did not know
  • Train them mentally for recalling exercises
  • Train them physically for practicing the exercises
  • Train the Ukes physically to keep them fit to make Ukemi

To this end I experimented with various tools like a Deck of Cards which could be shuffled then drawn from at the side of the mat: this kinda worked, but left a mess of cards at the edge of the mat (137 exercises is more than two paling card decks’ worth). Drawing the cards also broke the flow of practice.1

But in principle it seemed to work. So I took the idea of generating random exercises and just sticking them on a list for the students to read. A couple of iterations later I had something that could be plopped on the side of the mat; and read easily by a Uke (who might be able to neither read through the sweat pouring off his brow, nor perform other high level functions like breathing).


I have included the following in the lists’ design and generation:

  1. The same form or technique will not be called out twice in succession
    In fact, the same form or exercise will not be called within 2 exercises of each other.
  2. Sankyo and Nikkyo are treated the same with respect to the above
    This has two benefits. Firstly: two lots of immobilisations tends to take the pace out of the exercise. Secondly: it spaces breathers for the Uke around the list. “You’re too kind, Tim!”, I hear you say. I think that too, sometimes: so there is an option to switch that off (you cruel, cruel individual!)
  3. Only two exercises are included for 15th form
    As per the [Ki Federation] syllabus.
  4. Space is made available for a Name and Description…
    … so the student can feel like these random exercises were selected by the computer personally, just for her or him!
  5. Space is made by each exercise for a “Mark”
    As part of finding out what students themselves feel they need to improve, there is a space by each exercise to allow them to place a mark if there is an issue. This can be done quickly, and marks can be revisited after a full run through.
  6. Each exercise is numbered
    This gives some sense of progression through the list — as well as a number, there is a slowly increasing letter which also groups the exercises. This goes from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and wraps around again. These batches can either be used allow students to take turns “in the middle”, and can also be used as a quick guide as to whether you are reading from a previously used leaf of paper (which happens).

There are various things that have not been taken into account, which you will need to come up with “house rules” for:

  1. multiple kokyunages
  2. weapons, ki tests, non-“aikido exercises”
  3. “basic” exercises for forms 9th and above that can now be required as basic during an examination (although there is an option that might be used for that).

My Experience

(by which I mean “The Experience of my Students Subjected to ‘The List’”)

At Bloomsbury, we used these generated lists quite a bit. The following suggestions might help you get the most out of them.


All lessons below include a period of:

  • warm up
  • Ki for Health exercises
  • Ki Development exercises
  • A tea break, which is usually started “at the end of a page”

So a “full lesson” is something like an hour and a half.

The first time I gave a 2nd Dan a run through, with an unsuspecting Uke; there are two or three exercises left after a full lesson. After three or four run throughs, there was often quarter of an hour to spare… so it markedly improved the recall of a Nage and physical stamina of the Uke.

Marking the List

The list has room so student can make a mark if there is some issue with an exercise. Issue could mean anything from a simple query to completely not having been taught the exercise. We found that just putting an ✗ or something was good enough to remind the student that something had to be done about the exercise; and the run through of all the exercises could continue.

At the end, we browsed the list for marks, to see what the issues were. Usually, they could figure out why the ✗ was put there from memory. And if not, trying to do the exercise again would be an adequate reminder.

On a practical note — it was the Uke who made the mark (at the student’s request) since the Uke has to go back and refer to the paper for the next exercise anyway. It was “bad form” for the Uke to put marks of his or her own on the list — although a knowing cough might prompt the student to reconsider whether a mark was needed or not.

As a teacher, I might see something that needed a bit of polish and make a mark: but frankly, the students were aware of when attention was needed, and I very rarely added my own marks to the list.

Hints for Generating the List

Here are some “technical” hints for generating the list. For the most part you should be able to click the “Give Me a List” button and be done with it. But if you’re more interested, then read on…

The list is generated by the: cards.rkt script. And it should be good enough for you to just put that in. But it takes a few options as described below. The descriptions include a default behaviour, which I (at least) think is sensible.

Flag Summary Default Notes
`minimum-form-separation` Minimum distance between forms 2 The same form ... will not be called out twice in succession
In fact, the same form will not be called within 2 (unless customised) exercises of each other. Since there are only 16 forms (and one of them only has two techniques), don't ask for a value of more than half of this (8). People won't have that long a memory anyway, so a big gap isn't needed here
`minimum-technique-separation` Minimum distance between techniques 2 The same ... technique will not be called out twice in succession
In fact, the same technique will not be called within 2 (unless customised) exercises of each other. Since there are only 9 techniques (and `treat-nikkyo-and-sankyo-the-same` makes the choice even smaller), I would reccommend against changing this up.
`treat-nikkyo-and-sankyo-the-same` Keep Sankyo and Nikkyo `minimum-technique-separation` from each other true _Sankyo_ and _Nikkyo_ are treated the same with respect to the above
If "true", then Sankyo and Nikkyo will be kept apart. If "false", then they will be drawn independently of each other
`description` A description of the draw NO DESCRIPTION You can give a description to the "draw"; it might be helpful to put the student's name on it -- something like that.
`club-name` The club name NO CLUB Somewhere to put your club branding (or yet more description). Good for when your student is called Tim Brown, and you can't tell which club (s)he's from.
`seed` Random seed _something random!_ If you want the same list of exercises -- choose the same `seed`.
In order to be able to reproduce the same order of exercises, you can choose your own random number generator _seed_. The random number generator is the software that chooses random numbers (and therefore the exercises). It's not really random, though - it's a long list of jumbled numbers. If you choose the same point in the list of jumbled numbers to start from, you'll end up with the same "randomness".
`algorithm` How the exercises are chosen 1 In the future, I may choose the cards using a different process (e.g. take from the bottom of the deck rather than the top). But, if I do this, then I will keep the old choice methods available. So, to get the same deck (in the future), you will need to supply the same `seed` (what random numbers are chosen) and `algorithm` (what is done with the random numbers).
Currently there are two algorithms... `1` is the random drawing that you will come to know and love; and `0` which will not shuffle the exercises for you. I might be able to get a sylesheet together to present the whole (unshuffled) syllabus as 90x50mm cards, in which case you won't necessarily want them shuffled. But that's for a later day.
`letter-group-size` The size of the letter group blocks 6 Each exercise is numbered
This gives some sense of progression through the list -- as well as a number per exercise, there is a slowly increasing letter which also groups the exercises. This goes from 'A' to 'Z' and wraps around again. `letter-group-size` changes how many exercises are in a group... if you leave it at 6, then all the letters will be used once.
`style-sheet-location` Where to find the CSS stylesheet `/css/cards.css` If you want to style the generated page yourself, then choose a new `style-sheet-location`. This will just be put into the web page, and doesn't really care about any "cross-site" issues; if you encounter them, then let me know.
If you come up with a splendid style sheet (or at least one that's better than the cureent one), or you need support within the web page (new classes, wrapping `div` etc.) then let me know.
  • TODO “Basic exerise” block at the beginning of the list

Well, there we are… my first proper blog entry on my new Frog Blog!

Ki Federation

1 That said, I’ll dig up the code that generated the Deck of Cards, since they might be useful for Flash Card style revision.