Can I practise Aikido?
Will I be expected to do Aikido as hard and fast as the senior students? 
How are the techniques done safely? 
Will there be jumps and throws? 
Are there weapons in Aikido?
Is it necessary to learn Japanese? 
There seems to be religious aspects to Aikido?

More FAQ answers here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can I practise Aikido?

All ages can practise Aikido.

In Japan, senior people regular train into their 80s or 90s. Some are senior instructors who have been practising all there lives. Others are normal students who are obviously practising more for fitness. I have practised with such senior students and been impressed at their ability. The founder of Aikido himself continued to instruct into his 80s until a few months until his death.

Children can also learn Aikido. I was most impressed by the children learning Aikido in Singapore.

Will I be expected to do Aikido as hard and fast as the senior students?

The policy of this school is that students proceed at the pace they feel comfortable. Students should practise at the speed they feel will most benefit their ability to learn.

Senior students are there to support junior students learn and will not pressure junior students to do techniques faster or evade the technique simply because it is being done slowly.

How are the techniques done safely?

There are several ways to ensure safety. One common method is to do the technique slowly. Another is to have senior student receive the technique – they will be expected to look after themselves!

A major part of Aikido is learning how to receive techniques safely. This generally involves learning a number of rolls or breakfalls. Becoming ‘soft’ is also an important part of ensuring techniques are performed safely.

Will there be jumps and throws?

There are no jumping techniques in Aikido

There are, however, throws. Beginners will not be expected to, andare not required to, do throws. Throws are taught in a safe manner – starting with a ‘non-throw’ version where the technique is taught without a throw. Only when the student feels able to do the technique – and is judged capable of doing the technique by the instructor – will throws be attempted. The person being thrown will initially be a senior student or instructor.

Are there weapons in Aikido?

This is a complex question. It is possible to learn Aikido without learning weapons and many clubs now do not cover weapons techniques. The reason given is that the weapons are anarcharstic and/or the techniques are not very practical. That said, it must be recognised that many Aikido techniques are descended from weapons (sword and staff) techniques.

Aikido originally had about 5 weapons – sword, staff (short and long), musket with bayonet, and knife. By the 1950s this had been slimmed to just the sword, staff, and knife. The weapons techniques came from a number of traditional Japanese martial arts including Yagyu-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu, Katori Shinto-ryu, and Kashima-ryu. Ueshiba-sensei also sent his students to study other traditional arts (for instance Chiba-sensei was instructed to study Muso Shinden Ryu).

Ueshiba-senesi seems to have explored these traditional arts to find useful movements and strategies. He would then teach these findings as separate variations to his techniques. He himself never produced a compendium of techniques. It has been his students, notably Saito-sensei, who have developed formal patterns and techniques. Other students returned to the original weapon martial arts seeking inspiration.

I take the view that weapons techniques are studied to improve our understanding of the empty-handed techniques. In my time, I have learned parts of several Korean and Japanese weapon martial arts. Now I just teach those parts where I see relevance to empty-handed techniques.

Although, one is unlikely to be attacked by someone wielding a sword, staff techniques would seem relevant against snooker queues and baseball bats. I also feel that given the propensity of knife attacks, more attention should be given to the knife counters and strategies.

Is it necessary to learn Japanese?

No. The techniques will be explained in English and most techniques have English names.

Japanese terms will be introduced because techniques will be called in Japanese during gradings.

I have found it extremely beneficial to be able to speak some Japanese. It has resulted in some good friendships and helped build relationships with Japanese instructors. Therefore, those students who are interested in learning a little Japanese will be encouraged to do so.

There seems to be religious aspects to Aikido?

It should be recognised that Ueshiba-sensei was a deeply religious man. He followed a new revivalist religion which synthasised various western and eastern religious philosophies. These philosophies deeply influenced him and led him to increasingly emphasise Aikido as a way of peacefully neutralising a conflict situation. I think that this aspect of recognising  the futility of physical conflict needs to be retained in these troubled times.

Ueshiba-sensei never required his students to follow the religion he believed in and few adopted his religious beliefs.  Therefore, all I require in this club is a respect for everyone’s religious beliefs even if they are not your cup-of-tea.

In many clubs, students will bow to a picture of the Ueshiba-sensei, the founder of Aikido. This is not a religious action but a cultural action. In Japan (and Korea and China) it is polite to bow to revered people. In my case, I bow to the picture to recognise that there are people who can do Aikido better than me, i.e. that I am still a student and have much to learn

 

What’s in a Name?

 

Often, Aikido clubs will be have a name in Japanese. These are either created by the club instructor or bestowed by the main association instructor. The name often reflects some aspect of the martial art, the instructor, or references some event in Japanese history or aspect of the Japanese psyche. The names are traditionally composed of 3 Chinese characters.

Bingley and Keighley Aikido Club has the following name:

AnEiKan

The first character means peace or harmony and is represented by a house with a woman inside it.

The last character means house or hall

The middle character requires some explanation. It literally means ‘grass’. However, when the Europeans arrived at the Chinese court in the 17th century, they posed a problem. China saw itself as the centre of the world and wanted to demonstrate, at least to itself, that the Europeans with their swagger and disrespect to Chinese court protocols were still inferior in spite of their superior technology. Thus, the Chinese court, as it had done for all other foreign callers, assigned a ‘weak’ Chinese character to the foreigners that it disliked. The English got ‘Grass; because it is soft and easily trampled.

Therefore, the name of the dojo can be read as House of the Peaceful Englishman or House of the Peaceful Grass. Both seem to work since, in the Aikido context, the Aikido martial artist is supposed to be soft and flexible (though not easily crushed 🙂