The Lowdown on Aikido Training
While not everyone may be aware of it, Aikido practice begins the moment one steps inside the dojo (training place).
Regardless if it’s aikido for children or for adults, once inside, observing proper etiquette at all times is expected.
Bowing when entering and leaving the dojo and when coming onto and leaving the mat is also considered proper.
At least 3 to 5 minutes before training starts, everyone is expected to line up and sit in seiza (kneeling position).
To advance in aikido, regular and continued training is required.
While attendance is not mandatory, it is important to keep in mind that practicing at least twice a week is considered ideal.
Training in aikido is more the responsibility of the practitioner and not the instructor.
That being said, it’s not surprising that observing effectively is deemed an integral part of learning the art.
With that in mind, it is recommended that you first figure out the technique on your own and try it on your own before you ask for help.
And the only way you can be proficient is by closely observing how it is done.
However, aikido training will require more than just learning how to properly execute the movements and techniques.
Aikido training will also entail observation and modification of psychological thought patterns and physical behavior.
In other words, you need to pay attention to how you react to the things you experience.
In essence, cultivation of self-awareness is considered crucial in aikido training.
Another important thing one needs to remember: aikido training is cooperative as opposed to competitive.
That means learning techniques is done through a partner and not an opponent.
This also means you are expected to temper the power and speed of your techniques in accordance to your partner’s abilities.
Standard set by the International Aikido Foundation (IAF) indicates there are six ranks below black belt.
These ranks are referred to as “kyu” ranks.
Testing eligibility will depend primarily (albeit not exclusively) upon the accumulation of hours practiced.
Other key factors that might be taken into account include attendance and attitude and respect toward others.
Testing requirements can chance over time and can vary from one organization to another.
Traditionally, all mudansha (below black belt) will wear white belts while black belts are worn by the yudanshas (dan-ranked).
The skirt-like pants that some aikidokas wear is called a hakama.
That hakama is a traditional piece of samurai clothing.
Wearing a hakama is considered part of the tradition by some aikido schools.
In other schools however, only the black belts will wear the hakama.
What if I cannot throw my partner?
This is a question that is often asked in aikido.
There are several answers to this.
However, it would be best to check with the instructor first if you are doing anything incorrectly before considering other likely reasons.
In addition, keep in mind that aikido techniques are merely idealizations.
That means no technique works all the time.
Ideally, techniques should be sensitive to an attack’s specific conditions.
Bear in mind that learning to properly execute aikido techniques will take time.
It would also be a good idea to ask for your partner’s cooperation until you are able to execute the techniques accordingly.
Some dojos hold classes devoted almost entirely to training using the knife (tanto), staff (jo), and sword (bokken)—3 of the principal weapons used in aikido.
Weapons training in aikido is done for several reasons.
First, weapons training is beneficial for learning proper Maai (distancing).
In addition, many advanced techniques used in aikido will involve defenses against weapons.
To ensure those specific techniques are done properly and safely, it is important for practitioners to know how to properly attack using weapons and how to properly defend against those attacks.
Also, some key principles in aikido movement and techniques are better and more easily demonstrated using weapons.
Weapons training is also considered an effective way of promoting better understanding of the general principles of the movements used in aikido.
It also adds an element of intensity to the aikido practice since training with weapons gives aikidokas (aikido practitioners) the opportunity to develop sensitivity and responsiveness to the actions and movements of others.
Training with weapons also makes it easier to eradicate competitive mindsets and give more focus on cognitive development instead.
Finally, weapons training is deemed an effective way to learn and understand principles that govern defense and lines of attack.
All techniques used in aikido starts with the defender moving off the line of attack and creating a new line (in most cases, a non-straight line) in order to apply the technique suitable.