Contributed by Mark Adachi*
Aikido and chiropractic have much in common, as both involve the correct use of the body center. Chiropractic is devoted largely to the correction of the spine. It is interesting that in Japanese several of the characters meaning "center" - "jiku" and "chushin" refer to "axis" as in an axle. They reflect the fact that center is not one-dimensional but along the entire centerline of the body. This centerline is the spine.
Chiropractic in its highest sense is not about moving bones around but normalizing the input to the brain via the mechanoreceptors, the nerve pathways devoted to movement and the sense of where the body is in space. In chiropractic we use subtle stimulation of these nerve systems in the muscles, ligaments and most of all in the joints, to help the body heal. The greatest number of these pathways exists in the center of the body, the spine. Therefore to be really healthy, the center of the body needs tremendous amounts of proper awareness and feedback.
When people are injured, the brain is often shocked and the body's sense of center is disturbed. For example, people will often keep a slight limp, even though their sprained ankle is completely better. Even though it doesn't need to, the body thinks its center has to shift away from the sprain. Paradoxically, this altered posture makes it easier to re-injure the ankle. How many people do you know that sprains the same ankle over and over? Chiropractic treatment re-educates the body so that its center is back at the center of the body.
The process of treatment in chiropractic was once vividly demonstrated to me by my teacher Dr. Takao Nakagawa D.C. Once a patient came in to the office who was a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. He couldn't feel his body below his neck nor could he move anything but his mouth and face. Yet he was in great pain. He had excruciating lower back pain in a body he couldn't feel! He came to see Dr. Nakagawa and I was observing his treatments at that time. I was thinking to myself, "What could he possibly do to treat him?" Dr. Nakagawa went directly to a pressure point in his lower left leg and stimulated it with strong pressure for about a minute. Then he asked the patient about the pain. It was gone! Even though the patient could not consciously move or feel his body, his body had lost center and expressed that loss of center as a "phantom" pain. Dr. Nakagawa intuitively felt this and used the pressure point as a shortcut to correct his perception of center.
Chiropractic and aikido both help in this re-education process. In treatment by a chiropractor the process is more passive, with the patient receiving the stimulation performed by the chiropractor. In aikido it is more active with uke and nage both trying to maintain center in the interaction of aikido technique. But both test and correct the balancing systems of the body. Both strive to improve the function of the body's center. To my way of thinking they are simply two ends of a continuum. When the body is injured or weakened, passive treatment is more helpful, when a person is strong and healthy and pain-free aikido is more suited. In many cases, they work together, enhancing each other so that the development of center can be maximized.
* Mark, a doctor of chiropractic by profession, is dojo-cho of Glendale Aikikai. http://www.simonpure.net/aikikai/. He maintains a busy chiropractic practice in Glendale,CA.