Beneficial Tips for the Aikido Beginner
After much deliberation, you have finally chosen the best place where to learn aikido.
You’ve paid the monthly fee and you’re raring to attend your first session.
However, do you have an idea what to expect?
To make the most out of your first session, it would be best to keep the following tips in mind:
When learning new techniques or moves, take your time.
Make it a point to stay relaxed and do things at a pace you are comfortable with.
Pay attention to your breathing.
As you learn how to relax, you can perform actions on the mat more effectively, with better speed and ease.
As each session progresses, you will also observe noticeable improvement in your focus, attentiveness, and flexibility.
Keep in mind that aikido is one martial art that will require your readiness to respond, flexibility, and full attention.
With that in mind, cultivating a new level of sensory attentiveness can help you make the most out of each session. This sensory attentiveness is better facilitated with relaxation.
Relaxing however does not mean you do not push yourself or train hard.
Learning any martial art will often involve challenge, sweat, effort, overcoming, and pleasurable exhaustion.
However, you also need to keep in mind that you are doing something new and mastery of aikido will not happen overnight.
The training uniform worn in aikido is called keikogi or gi.
The belt is called obi.
Traditionally, the belt is an award given by the instructor and will denote one’s level of competence.
Ideally, the training uniform should be washed after two training sessions.
However, if tradition is to be followed, the obi should not be washed.
While on the mat, it is likely for the gi to become disarranged or ruffled.
When rearranging, you should turn toward the wall and away from others.
Don’t bow with the gi in disarray and keep the belt always tightly knotted and in the center.
Observation is not a passive skill but an active one.
Fortunately, it is a skill that can be easily learned through training.
For students of aikido (or any martial arts for that matter), the ability to see clearly as opposed to just look and evaluate a situation or movement is critical.
Much of the teachings of aikido will not be done verbally.
In addition, most martial arts movements are not learned through conceptualizing, philosophizing, or intellectualizing.
It is learned by doing.
The Japanese word for energy, life-force, or spirit is called ki.
When you breathe freely, it is believed that the energy also flows freely so you experience relaxation, extension, and centeredness.
In aikido, there is rarely a moment where there is a need to hold or restrict the breath.
Maintaining a continuation of the breathing process when practicing the movements will also prove beneficial.
In essence, the techniques are easier to carry out when one breathes freely.
This is especially important when taking falls or rolling.
Each aikido technique has its own time and must should be permitted to mature.
When studying the techniques carefully, practitioners will discover that each has a rhythm of its own and the execution cannot be rushed.
Likewise, there is also an interaction between two aikido partners and the universal rhythm can help each practitioner when to flow in and flow out.
When executing the movements, it is important to remain in a relaxed state and not rush.
When one becomes proficient, the speed will come naturally.
When one trains at a speed faster than what is apt for one’s level, mistakes can become more likely.
With constant and careful repetition of the techniques comes speed.
Taking it easy and making sure every movement is carried out precisely is the best way to go.
Grounding and Gravity
One of the first results of consistent training is “grounding.”
Grounding occurs once the body learns how to relax and the chronic tension which was once used to fight gravity is now used as energy for the body to use.
When one is “uptight,” getting fatigued easily becomes likely.
However, once you learn grounding, your muscles relax and each movement becomes easier to carry out.
Grounding can also help you surrender to the earth’s gravitational pull.
Once you are able to give up the fight against gravity, you will be introduced to a whole new world of body experience.
Making gravity work to your advantage can be learned easily when doing your stretches and warm ups and you are not involved with mastering techniques.
When doing your stretches and warm ups, don’t strain and bounce.
Instead, allow yourself to be pulled into the stretch using the earth’s gravitational forces.
Enjoy exploring what your body is capable of doing without any expectations.
Just discover how you can utilize natural forces to work to your advantage.
As a general rule of thumb, always aim to allow your ki to settle naturally in your center (hara).
When movements emanate from the center (sometimes referred to as “base”), it will have surprising grace and power.