Exploring Aikido: Addressing the Most Common Questions About This Awesome Martial Art
What is aikido?
In essence, Aikido is a comprehensive system of joint-locking, throwing, pinning techniques, and striking, with training in traditional Japanese weapons (knife, staff, and sword) thrown in.
Following his own thorough study of diverse unarmed and armed martial systems, aikido was founded and introduced by Morihei Ueshiba in the early part of the 20th century.
Japanese martial arts is one of the widely practiced budo (or martial way) in the world and with good reason.
Influenced by the meditative and internal disciplines from China and India, Japanese martial arts put tremendous weight and emphasis on the development of both the internal and the physical integrities.
The consummate Japanese warrior, while wielding a life-taking sword, does so with insight and compassion.
He is seen as a model of loyalty, courage, and uprightness—always ready to sacrifice life but never honor, all in the name of duty and principle.
Morihei Ueshiba conceived aikido as more than just a means to vanquish a foe.
More importantly, he wanted aikido to also become a means of cultivating the positive character every warrior should possess.
In a nutshell, aikido is shugyo—an intense spiritual and physical training to develop genuine wisdom and improve human character.
Answers to the Most Common Questions
To say there is more to aikido than meets the eye is an understatement.
It would be safe to assume the student will learn everything there is to know about the discipline in due time.
However, for those who are considering joining an aikido class, below are some of the most prevalent questions and the corresponding answers:
How is Aikido Different from Other Forms of Martial Arts?
Unlike most martial arts, aikido is non-competitive.
In addition, promotions are not gained by besting an opponent.
Rather, rank increases through the demonstration of the understanding of the basic exercises and techniques.
In aikido, students work with a partner and use effective techniques against a realistic attack.
The goal is to redirect the energy back to the attacker.
Techniques used against attacks include punches, strikes, kicks, chokes, single or two-hand grabs (from the rear or front), and attacks using weapons.
Regardless of the techniques employed, the goal is to resolve the conflict in a manner that is non-disruptive, non-lethal, yet effective.
Techniques may also end in immobilizations, joint locks, or dynamic motions where attacker is either thrown backward or forward in the mat.
Aikido also involves pivoting, spiraling, circling, turning, and blending, rather than just primary linear motions.
While it may seem straightforward, aikido is very challenging to learn.
However, the challenge it provides is part and parcel of its charm as it makes learning the art even more rewarding.
Ultimately, aikido brings one into harmony with one’s self and with the world, helping the practitioner create a more complete and integrated version of the self.
Is it Ideal for Self-Defense?
Aikido is a very effective means of self-defense because it not only teaches the student effective techniques to counter a variety of attacks but it also trains the mind and the body at the same time.
And since aikido also helps improve both breathing and posture, it helps the practitioner improve their overall physical and emotional well-being.
The positive state of mind taught in aikido can also help affect how one perceives the self and the world in general.
More importantly, the ability to remain calm and centered can prove beneficial not only in the dojo but even the outside world—at school, at home, in a business meeting, or on the street—especially when stressful situations arise.
Undeniably, most martial arts can help improve one’s balance, reaction, and timing.
However, aikido goes beyond that by also putting weight on the development of the spirit, compassion, awareness, and sense of well-being.
It’s multi-faceted approach makes aikido the perfect choice for those who would like to learn self-defense and would want to become stronger and better individuals more equipped to diffuse negative situations.
How Do I Start Training?
Before one starts training, it is crucial to first find a dojo (place to train) that’s accessible.
Fortunately, nowadays, there’s the Internet, yellow pages, aikido-related magazines, and even street signs to help you out.
If there’s a school you are considering, don’t think twice about visiting.
Paying a prospective aikido school a visit will give you a better insight into what the school, students, instructor, training, and energy in the place is like.
As a general rule of thumb, it would be best to go for a school that gives you a positive, welcoming, and comfortable feeling.
Keep in mind that the energy or the “vibes” the school projects comes from the same people you will be closely working and training with so make sure you choose accordingly.
In addition, opt for a school that is accredited by a national organization, with instructors that have legitimate certifications.
You can also check if the school offers introductory-level classes as it would be a good way to test the waters and find out if aikido is right for you.
Once you’ve found the dojo that’s perfect for you, ensure you attend classes at least twice a week.
While once a week trainings are ideal for basic introduction, learning and retaining knowledge and improving skills will entail you attend as many classes as your schedule and outside commitments will allow.