The benefits and requirements of training
WHAT AIKIDO TRAINING CAN DO FOR YOU
The warm up routine and the actual practising of technique, which may involve constant attacking, throwing and being thrown can be an intensive aerobic exercise which will deliver improved fitness.
Taking falls, responding flexibly to attacks and some of the stretching exercises during warm-up can help to improve flexibility.
Warm-up exercises will improve core strength. Movement routines focus on correct movement and integrated movement from the core. These all help to improve posture.
A key element of aikido techniques is to unbalance and control your partner while maintaining stable posture. Aikido training therefore can help to improve balance.
Practitioners of aikido need to be aware of how they are using their bodies at any moment (Where is their weight? Are they using force? Are they stable? Is their posture good? Are they holding their breath? Are their shoulders tight? ). These requirements encourage a state of mindfulness.
To fully engage in aikido practice you will have to learn to fall safely (ie to safely accept a technique being applied to you). These techniques may help you to avoid injury in the event that you take an accidental fall outside the training environment. The process of learning to fall safely (usually a forward or backward roll from a standing position) can present a challenge, especially for those who take up aikido later in life. Although we teach these techniques in a gradual way at some stage you will have to face any fears you may have about throwing yourself forward towards the ground and safely rolling up to a standing position. Facing and overcoming your fears is an integral part of progressing through aikido training, which is why we “up the ante” by using weapons as well as making attacks more realistic as you progress through the grades.
Aikido techniques work best when applied with focus and relaxation. Training to be relaxed in the face of incoming aggression encourages calmness both in the dojo and when dealing with stressful situations in everyday life.
The practice of an art which helps to defend against aggression supports the development of self-confidence.
Aikido techniques work best with a committed attack. Initially these attacks are formalised (for example a wrist grab) but they later evolve into more realistic punches, strikes and the like. Learning a range of effective attacking techniques is therefore required to enable you to practice with a training partner. Although some would disagree I believe strikes are an integral part of aikido. They are used to unbalance an opponent both physically and psychologically rather than to do harm. Aikido techniques work very easily on an unbalanced opponent. Learning to attack effectively will add to your ability to defend yourself. Moreover, responding to effective attacks requires the development of awareness and reaction speed.
The mutually supportive environment of an aikido dojo fosters friendship and trust in others. And the focus on training in the dojo helps us to forget everyday problems and contributes to stress relief.
Aikido, like physical activity of any sort, can be a strong antidote to depression.
WHAT AIKIDO WILL DEMAND OF YOU
Aikido is, at heart, a simple art but it does requires re-programming the body's natural physiological response to aggression and the development of relaxed, integrated movement. You should be under no illusion that these changes can be achieved easily. Ideally you should train at every available opportunity and as a beginner certainly at least once a week on a very regular basis. Occasionally turning up at class will be a waste of your and the teacher's time. So aikido demands the self-discipline required to commit to regular training.
Aikido is based largely on battlefield ju-jitsu techniques but applied such as to avoid injury if possible. In the dojo it is of course paramount to avoid injuring your training partner. This also requires mindfulness, self-discipline and respect for your training partner who, after all, is loaning you their body for you to practice.
In the event of a real attack with multiple opponents, and even though aikido is a non-aggressive art, you may have to use strikes and more aggressive techniques to protect yourself. I believe this is an essential element of aikido training that reflects its martial roots. We strive to take a moral decision not to do damage to an aggressor, but we retain the right and the ability to do so if necessary to protect ourselves. For this you will need to develop a martial frame of mind.
No matter how good your teacher is he or she can only show you aikido and explain its principles. To make it yours requires diligent practice, careful listening and observation, thoughtfulness and the desire to improve. You will not advance by simply and mindlessly copying what you think you have seen. Nor will you improve if you constantly and negatively criticise yourself. Aikido training therefore strengthens a positive mind-set. Your life in aikido will be occasionally frustrating but should always be enjoyable.
A key element in the aikido mind-set is respect. You should respect the founder, your teacher, the training hall and your training partners. In the wider context the founder of aikido taught that respect for everyone and everything that surrounds us is a critical part of living a fruitful and rewarding life. If you find a teacher that you do not respect, first look carefully at your own reasons for this judgment. If you find your judgment valid, then consider seeking an explanation from the teacher for the actions that caused your disaffection. However, if you remain uncomfortable, seek another teacher..