Frequently Asked Questions About Aikido
So, there are no punches or kicks in Aikido at all?
Well...technically there are incidental "strikes" (called atemi) that occur in the process of executing an Aikido technique. but they are never necessary to perform the maneuver properly and no technique in Aikido ever has striking one's opponent as its sole aim. Kicks are not often used in Aikido, and although specific responses exist, they are not often practiced.
Is Aikido good for children?
Aikido is excellent for children because it a non-violent martial art and does not promote aggressive behavior. It teaches respect for others, as well as how to redirect negative behaviors. To start Aikido training with us, we do ask that children be at least 7 years of age. We do this because learning Aikido requires a certain amount of physical coordination and attention span not normally found in children under 7.
Is Aikido better than karate/judo/any other martial art?
The answer to this question is very subjective. There are many different but equally valid reasons for studying a martial art, such as for self defense, spiritual growth or enlightenment, general physical health, self-confidence etc. Different martial arts, and different styles within a particular martial art, emphasize different aspects. It’s a personal choice.
What other arts compliment aikido?
Depends on what you mean by "compliment?" Tai-Chi, Ba-Gua, Hapkido and Judo are built around very similar energy movement principles, so in that sense they are complimentary. Much of aikido is based upon Japanese sword fighting, so in that sense Kendo and Iaido are complimentary.
Now, if you mean "supplementary" instead (a common mistake) then it depends on what you're trying to add. Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Wado Ryu and Seidokan are all Karate-Do styles that incorporate effective strikes and kicks along with grappling techniques that will look somewhat familiar to an Aikido practitioner. Kobudo uses traditional weapons (bo, sai, nunchaku) that lend themselves to Aikido, but are not part of the core training.
Do you use weapons?
Yes. The three standard weapons of aikido are the sword (bokken), the short staff (jo), and the knife (tanto). Many of Aikido's basic empty-hand movements are patterned off the sword, so sword work is very important. The jo is a good tool for teaching spontaneous movement and creativity in techniques; i.e., "to go with the flow." The tanto is a good tool for perfecting aikido techniques. Very often the dynamics of a blade permit an armed assailant to be a threat where an unarmed assailant would not normally represent a threat.
How long does it take to get a black belt?
There are two belts for adults: white and black. Kids have colored belts. To earn a black belt in Aikido is going to take you maybe six to eight years, depending on how many hours you put in each week. Don’t be in too much of a hurry; there’s a natural growth process that takes unfolds over time.
Are there any physical limitations to practicing Aikido?
Aikido is a strenuous activity. Participants should generally be in good health. If in doubt, you should check with your doctor concerning cardiovascular conditions; neck, knee or back injuries and prior concussions.
What does an Aikido class consist of?
The first 10 minutes of each class consist of stretching and warm up exercises. Then the instructor demonstrates a technique and students take partners and practice the technique. Partners take turns being the attacker and defender. 4 to 6 techniques are practiced in a typical one hour class. Students change partners for each technique. All levels of students work together during class
How is Aikido differerent from other Martial Arts?
Unlike most martial arts, Aikido has no doctrinal strikes or kicks. Aikido is one of what’s called the internal martial arts. Instead of muscle and breaking power, it uses timing, position and - above all - control of your inner energy to neutralize attacks. It’s a martial art, but there’s no fighting. It overcomes aggression through harmony.
Is Aikido practical for self-defense?
Yes. Aikido allows one to re-direct an attack, and pin or throw an opponent without causing injury to the attacker. This is what makes the art so unique. Additionally, Aikido techniques do not require the practitioner to be exceptionally strong, large or forceful in order to work.
Hold on...Aikido, isn't that what Steven Seagal is famous for?
~sigh~ Yes, it is. Steven Seagal really was an Aikido instructor until his movie career took off. He has a rank of seventh dan and has run dojos in Japan and the United States. Most of what you see in the movies, however, is not true Aikido as it is practiced in the dojo, and some might argue that on camera he does techniques that more closely resemble Hapkido than Aikido.
Does Aikido have competitions?
O-Sensei felt that competition was incompatible with Aikido, therefore the majority of Aikido schools do not have any competition. Most Aikido training, even in schools that do participate in competitions, is of a co-operative rather than antagonistic nature, with both thrower (nage) and throwee (uke) working as partners and trying to optimize the experience of the other.
What's with the picture of the old man and why do you bow to it before class?
That is a picture of Morihei Ueshiba (also called O-Sensei), the founder of Aikido. We bow to him as an act of respect to his memory and gratitude for the art that he created and passed on to us. Despite what some fringe bloggers out there might say, we do not worship O-Sensei as a "god" and there is no inherent religious meaning in this practice whatsoever. We bow to each other, to O-Sensei and to the dojo as a sign of respect and politeness.
What’s with the skirts?
It’s called a hakama and is a traditional piece of samurai clothing. The standard gi worn in Aikido as well as in other martial arts such as Judo or Karate is actually considered underclothes. Hakama were originally meant to protect a horse-mounted samurai's legs, much like a cowboy's leather chaps.After the samurai as a class dismounted and became more like foot soldiers, they persisted in wearing hakama because it set them apart and made them easily identifiable.
Do I have to learn Japanese to take Aikido?
No...well, maybe a little, but you'll pick it up as you go. We use Japanese terms for the techniques at our dojo. They may sound strange or confusing at first to an English-speaking ear, but for the most part they are simple technical labels...the Japanese equivalent of things like “reverse rotational throw.” We use the Japanese because it creates a consistent vocabulary wherever in the world you might be practicing. Also, there are some terms that have no equivalent in English. Don't be intimidated...everybody picks up the vocabulary in time.
Can I take a trial class to see if Aikido is right for me?
Visitors are always welcome to stop by and watch a class. If you are interested in trying a class, just show up at least 15 minutes before class starts and ask one of the waiting students or instructors about taking a class. Wear comfortable clothes, keeping in mind that shorts or body-exposing clothing would not be appropriate for training.
What if I don't know how to fall?
Don't panic. New students will be taught the basics of forward and backward falling (ukemi) in a corner of the mat during regular class. Students get practice in taking falls during all classes.
Is Aikido good exercise?
Aikido is excellent exercise. Aikido movements go in the direction the joints naturally move, so it promotes flexibility. Depending on the level of intensity in practice, Aikido can be an excellent aerobic, cardiovascular workout. Students can train at their own pace.
Where can I buy a uniform?
If you're not in a hurry, you can buy one online from KarateDepot, Sakura or e-Bogu, among many others. However, sizing a gi and hakama is far more art than science; that's why we recommend you visit Wolfpack Martial Arts Supply on Busch Blvd. near Chamberlain High School...at leat to buy your first uniform. This way you can try on different company's uniforms and find the size and tayloring that fits you best.