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Candle Training: exercises for soft, smooth, connected power

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."

Solo practice is nothing new to the RainyDaySports folks, who think of training as a means to an end—be it for darts, ping pong, or the martial arts.

During this strongly encouraged self-isolating period, the go-to solo practice for some at the RainyDay office has been candle training, first shown to us by Tye Tonkin, an instructor at YMAA.

Candle Training

The goal with candle training is to develop soft, loose, smooth power, so it can be manifested with speed and direction but without muscle tightness. They sound contradictory…which is exactly why objective feedback is necessary. Hence, the candle flame.

“Putting the flame out” is not the goal but the result of moving properly. Putting the flame out is a check, not the purpose, of the exercise. With that in mind, all kinds of variations can come from a simple exercise and a few candles!

The popular saying “practice makes perfect” is not entirely correct. Repeatedly, blindly, doing something incorrectly will lead to…doing something incorrectly without thinking.

A more accurate phrase would be “Practice makes permanent.” Making small, continuous adjustments to create better outcomes, and reflecting on what the practice is meant to be doing (i.e., what it’s “for”), is key.

The goal of the RainyDaySports’ practice strategy, whether during an unexpected crisis-induced social isolation or not, is to make continuous improvements, so feedback is important. But in solo practice, the question becomes, “how does what we are doing let us know if what we are doing is correct?”

In this training exercise, that answer is “a candle.”


Sending energy all the way out is one of the most valuable benefits I’ve received from this training technique. “Muscling” will NEVER work, so the flame is a clear indicator of “I think I’m doing it right” changing into “Oh…no I am not.”


It is possible to use candle training to develop “power, but it’s a little tricky, because most people tend to try harder/move faster when the candles don’t extinguish simultaneously. That approach will (of course) just make things worse, because harder/faster is not what’s needed.

We had to learn that when we were feeling frustrated and were trying to, overpower, the candles, it was time to stop, take a break, and start again with relaxed, connected, and coordinated movements.


Control was a lot harder to develop than we thought, as witnessed by the end candle going out unintentionally. In fact, for some most of us, it was the hardest of all the variations.

Related Thoughts

Sensei Gleason, in a recent online Shobu Aiki solo practice class, talked about visualizing sending energy to the end of the fingers without tightness.

We found that candle training is a related practice, helpful for our Aiki solo training, because the flame is an objective indicator of us thinking we are being loose and connected when we are really either just flapping around or are completely trying to “muscle it.” The candle will go out, but only if you use soft, loose, smooth power to push the air.

This is what we are doing while we can’t get to the dojo and train. Let us know what you are doing 🙂

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