Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art that emphasizes the concept of blending with the attack. It has many unique technical features including a particular approach to using body movement, timing, and balance. An example of its uniqueness is that Aikido does not eliminate nor overemphasize strikes, but studies as integrated into techniques as part of a fully connected body movement.
Traditional Aikido is not primarily practiced as a combat discipline. Hence, it’s not about fighting but being aware and responsive, not defensive or reactive. Aikido teaches to work with others and with circumstances, rather than opposing them. Of course, being a martial art a fundamental requirement is that the techniques are effective. Such effectiveness is achieved through the precise use of timing, control of the breath, leverage, momentum, balance, and internal energy, originating from the integrated, coordinated and relaxed use of the body. Its sophisticated techniques take a long time to learn, and one should not expect instant proficiency or street-fighting effectiveness.
It is difficult to say what benefits it will bring until one actually begins for Aikido is an endeavor with many features and consequently the reasons for practicing can vary. Some people want to learn self-defense, others wellness movements; some have heard that Aikido may add some new tricks to their fighting skills. One common theme is that practitioners of Aikido enjoy practice in itself, and the sense of well-being that comes with it, as well as the challenge of learning Aikido’s complex techniques.
Aikido practice is conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and should be pleasant to all students. Partners work together, practicing at a pace and intensity level that will be safe for both. The main point is to execute techniques correctly, and typically that means doing them relatively slowly for some time. Over time, students acquire the ability to maintain precision at higher speeds. Therefore, advanced students may practice with more intensity than beginners, or engage in sparring, but that doesn’t mean that a beginner should feel the need to practice with that level of intensity. Like any kind of physical activity, Aikido training can create some element of pain which is typically muscle soreness but students are encouraged to progress at a comfortable rate they define for themselves.
Our curriculum includes techniques to defend against different types of attack, such as strikes, grabs, and kicks. Techniques are completed using various throws and joint locks/immobilizations or disarming techniques. In addition to unarmed training, Aikido also includes learning how to use weapons such as the bokken (wooden sword), jo (wooden staff) and tanto (wooden knife). Aikido techniques can range widely in intensity, speed and vigor – from smooth, fluid, and circular body movements that redirect an opponent’s momentum with great efficiency, to rapid, linear body movements that intercept an attack and effectively neutralize, throw, or immobilize an aggressor.
Great emphasis is placed upon developing solid foundation, rooted in the study of basic principles. Because a substantial portion of the curriculum consists of throws, the student is shown how to fall and roll safely in the early stages of training. Conditioning is overall focused to develop the balance, flexibility and conditioning, as well as ways to cultivate the body-awareness needed to move their bodies in an connected way. Students learn to sense when the body posture, alignment, balance and internal “connection” are correct for the expression of internal strength. Similarly, because many techniques involve controlling the balance of an opponent through the manipulation of the joints, Aikido students are guided through exercises designed to systematically increase the responsiveness of the body and the mobility and resiliency of the joints.
There are ranks in Aikido. Students start unranked: kids are ranked in 12 kyu and wear colored belts; for the adults white belt ranks go from 5th kyu to 1st kyu. The next rank is shodan (1st dan), or first degree black belt, and then the students progresses to second, third degree, etc. A person’s rank, in a general sense, indicates how much one has trained and how well one knows the basic techniques of Aikido.
One advances in rank by periodically taking tests. Testing will follow the guidelines of the Aikido Osaka Buikukai (Aikikai Foundation). For more information, please ask the instructor for training requirements, fees, and details. Times might varies based on the student's abilities and commitment. Typically, to achieve the rank of shodan (first degree black belt) one must practice steadily and seriously for approximately six years.
The training environment in an Aikido dojo is rigorous, dynamic and focused, yet calm and non-competitive. Instruction is given by means of examples and demonstration. Verbal instruction is kept to a minimum during class, to allow focusing on study the techniques through observation and direct experience. The students then pair off and practice the technique, switching off who is the attacker. In this way they learn how to take a fall, how the technique should feel, and finally how to perform the technique. The instructor observes the students as they practice and gives personal instruction bringing the student’s attention to important points or common mistakes.
Everyone! No previous martial arts experience is necessary, nor does one have to be in top physical condition. Aikido practice will gradually increase one’s strength and flexibility. If you have particular physical problems, you should first talk to your doctor, and then with the Instructor.
Each student is taught in a progressive way and is encouraged to train according to his/her capacity and to improve at his/her own pace. In addition, the non-competitive aspect of Aikido enables men and women of all ranks to train and develop together in a dynamic and harmonious setting.
At the beginning, normal exercise attire (t-shirt and long exercise pants) is recommended. You are encouraged to wear a martial arts uniform (keikogi) as soon as possible, but please wear only white or black belts as appropriate for your rank in Aikido. A uniform is not formally required unless you are testing for rank.
You should practice as often as you can. Aikido is challenging, especially during the first two to three months. It can be hard to truly appreciate Aikido training until you’ve practiced at least this long, and maintaining a certain frequency of practice allows faster learning. Other than that, you make your own schedule.
That being said, when one becomes a member of a dojo (training hall), he or she joins a special community and makes a commitment to being “present” in the dojo, as an active participant. Membership in a dojo should be regarded somewhat differently than one might regard a membership in a gym or fitness club.