November/December  2006 




Hold your hand above the wrist. ‘Pump’ your working hand up pressing the palm toward the forearm.
Ikkyo: Step One
Ikkyo: Step Two

Gently stretch back the fingers and palm of your working hand with the palm facing up then outward (not beyond your comfort range). Make an arch out and down, as if stretching over a large ball.
Sankyo: Step One
Sankyo: Step Two

Stretch both arms in front of you with one thumb pointing up and one thumb pointing down. Grab the hand with the thumb down and pull it in, twisting the fingers slightly upward.
Nikyo, Sankyo: Step One
Nikyo, Sankyo: Step Two

Hold your working hand up, hand blade facing your nose. Place your other hand around the back of the working hand with your fingers wrapped around the lower working thumb and the other thumb between the last set of knuckles (under the pinky and ring finger.). Gently lower the working hand pressing your thumb against the base of the pinky.
Kote Gaeshi: Step One
Kote Gaeshi: Step Two

“Energy circulation is similar to any (physical) circulation”, Newens explained. “When it’s blocked we experience physical problems.” According to Newens, this blocked energy hardens the tissue. “Moving and stretching opens and pumps the energy gates.”

With repetitive joint strain a central issue in many professions, a technique taught to massage therapists can be a lifesaver for everyone from editors and bank staff to mail handlers and martial arts aficionados, not to mention fans of computer games. Keesha Standley, C. M. T. and instructor at the Massage Therapy Institute of Davis, CA, teaches her beginning students a series of four important stretching exercises for the hands and wrists designed to prepare them for a day of practice. The purpose of warming up the joints is, of course, to increase flexibility and to reduce the chance of injury, especially from repetitive motion.

When I asked Standley where she gathered her short but extremely effective exercise regime, she arranged for me to meet her friend and teacher Sensei Howard Hoa Newens, chief instructor and co-owner of the Aikido Institute of Davis. Standley and her husband are regulars at the dojo, located close to the downtown area of this pretty university town.

Newens explained the background and purposes of the four wrist exercises to me, using both his and my wrists to demonstrate. “(They) stretch the four different directions of the wrist,” he explains, showing me that, with each exercise, one side of the wrist joint is opened, the other squeezed. He goes on to explain that the cartilage within the joint is like a sponge, and with immobility or abuse, the sponge gets dirty. Like any dirty sponge, you need to clean it by repeatedly soaking and squeezing it. “(These exercises) have a cleansing effect on the joint. They move the toxins out.” Newens also explains how they help with lymphatic drainage. “The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the pulmonary system. These stretches help the lymphatic system to circulate.”

In addition to the physical aspects of health, Newens explains how these stretches move energy around the body. “There are two dimensions to this stretching; the physical dimension and the energetic dimension. In the Chi Gong system (of Chinese medicine), the energy body is superimposed on the physical body. The energy body has a grid. That grid is called the booster station, or energy gates, which are located most often near the joints. When we close and open a joint it is tantamount to closing and opening the energy gates.

“Energy circulation is similar to any (physical) circulation”, Newens explained. “When it’s blocked we experience physical problems.” According to Newens, this blocked energy hardens the tissue. “Moving and stretching opens and pumps the energy gates.”

Why is the wrist so important? “Around the wrist there are a lot of energy gates – eleven of them!” Newens points to four on the front of my wrist, four on the back, two on each side, and one dead center below where the ‘pads’ meet below the palm. The last point is exactly where a friend of mine developed a little swollen disk from carpal tunnel. Wouldn’t you know: stretching exercises made the disk go away!

Newens commented, “The four exercises belong to four Aikido techniques: Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo, and Kote Gaeshi. But don’t feel it’s necessary to be a sensei to use them. “These are warm-up exercises for Aikido, but they can be used by anyone who needs to work their joints.”

My personal opinion regarding their applicability: Does anyone out there NOT use a computer?!

PLEASE NOTE: As with all exercises, never extend your muscles beyond a comfortable range of motion, and always check with a doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise regime.




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