If you are new to Aikido, or martial arts in general, joining a Dojo can seem a bit intimidating. This page should help by answering some of the questions you might be asking.
How do I join?
You can get the information you need about times of classes and prices from the Dojo page. You will also find contact information. It is usually best to contact the instructor in advance, but if you can’t then just turn up at the Dojo. Instructors are usually happy to allow potential students to watch a class, to see if it will be suitable for them.
How much does it cost?
The individual mat fees are given for each Dojo on the relevant page. This will vary from club to club, depending on the cost of hiring the room and so on.
In addition, there is an annual fee payable to the British Ki Society which also includes insurance through the British Aikido Board. Currently the fee is £25.
Is there a minimum age?
The minimum legal age for adult students is 18 years. Below that age students will need their parent’s or guardian’s permission. Not all Dojos are able to offer children’s classes.
Is it dangerous?
All martial art practice is potentially dangerous but Aikido instructors take the safety of their students very seriously. You will not be asked to do anything you are not comfortable doing.
If you have any medical conditions which might affect your ability to practise you should discuss this with your doctor first and inform the instructor before the class.
Aikido can be practised at a number of different levels, from the very gentle to the very demanding. You will be allowed to progress at your own pace and only take part in activities which are within your capability.
What should I wear?
For your first few lessons just wear loose, comfortable clothing such as a T shirt or sweat shirt and jogging trousers. If you decide to continue with Aikido you will need to buy a white suit such as are used in Judo. Your instructor will be able to guide you with this.
Dan grade students (holders of a black belt) wear a black hakama (over-trousers). Women of any grade are also able to wear a hakama if they wish.
What do all the Japanese words mean?
Aikido originated in Japan so that its vocabulary is Japanese. You will soon pick up the meaning of the words used in the regular classes as they become familiar to you. A list of commonly used terms is given in the Glossary.
What happens in a class?
Each instructor will teach Aikido in their own way, but there are certain elements which all instructors will include. However it is unlikely that you will see all of these in a single class. Aikido is not just about techniques, but includes health exercises, breathing exercises, stretching and meditation as well. An outline of the main components of Ki Aikido is given below.
- Kenkotaiso: exercises for health. These are a series of exercises to improve posture and maintain flexibility.
- Kokyuho: breathing exercise. Also called Ki breathing, this practice promotes calmness and improves awareness of your normal breathing.
- Seitaiho: stretching. These exercises help to reduce the risk of injury when practising techniques but also allow the muscles in the body to relax in a harmonious way.
- Aikitaiso: exercises for Aikido. These exercises develop your understanding of certain moves which are common to many Aikido techniques.
- Hitoriwaza: techniques by yourself. Practicing a movement without a partner ensures that you develop a deeper understanding of a technique.
- Kumiwaza: practicing with a partner. This will probably take up the bulk of a typical Aikido class. Working in pairs, one student acts as the attacker (uke) while the other (nage) performs a technique. You then swap around so both students practice both roles. During the lesson you will probably change partners several times.
- Tsuzukiwaza: practicing several techniques in sequence. This is the highest level of Aikido practice. One person (nage) performs several different techniques in response to a single type of attack by uke. The sequence of techniques is determined in advance and nage must be able to change smoothly from one technique to the next. This requires many hours of practice.
Does it involve weapons?
Many Aikido techniques are done against a punch, strike or grab. However, techniques against a knife, staff (jo) or sword are also part of Aikido practice. For safety reasons a wooden practice knife (tanto) and sword (bokken) are used.
Sensei Mike Hayes and Sensei Jayesh Karadia practise a Jo and Bokken Kata
All of the techniques taught in the Aikido class are described in the book All of Aikido, written by Doshu Yoshigasaki.