Unlike the kicking and striking martial arts, the goal of Aikido is not to injure an opponent. Aikido teaches how to resolve conflict as safely and peacefully as possible. Aikido uses graceful but powerful throws, pins, and joint locks to quickly immobilize an attacker. Effective self-defense is then possible without the necessity of inflicting serious injury on the attacker.
Aikido trains students to move out of the way of an attack (avoiding the force of the attack), blend their body movements with those of the attacker, and take the attacker’s balance. With proper training and understanding, a smaller person can effectively handle a larger and stronger opponent.
In an Aikido class, students practice techniques for blending with and neutralizing punches, grabs, and other assaults. Aikido develops balance, flexibility, and coordination, as well as concentration and self-confidence in the face of an attack.
Senior students help train newer students. There are no competitions, tournaments, or full contact sparring. Aikido’s non-competitive philosophy fosters a mutually supportive environment among students of all levels. Much of the learning process in Aikido is based on the commitment of senior students to improving the training experience and techniques of junior students.
Students mark their progress by passing formal tests in which they demonstrate Aikido techniques, calmness under pressure, diligence, and an open attitude to learning. The ultimate goal of Aikido training is to master a calm, alert, and confident approach to conflict… and to life itself.
There are a lot of YouTube videos that make Aikido look like magic. Some videos show effective techniques and some do not. Some videos show exercises and fundamentals in very basic forms. Effective techniques sometimes looks like magic because of the subtleness of the techniques. Sometimes, just the awareness improvements you gain from training is enough to avoid a bad situation.
A few of our students did find it necessary to use Aikido to subdue an attacker. Below are three real examples from our students. Their names have been changed to keep their anonymity. Two of these people were not even a black belt level.
- Alvin was at home and his roommate (who was not in his right mind due to recreational pharmaceuticals) attacked him. Alvin was cornered and there was no hope of talking down his attacker. The only option was to use Aikido to restrain his attacker.
- Bob was at home one evening and he hears a commotion outside. Someone was beating up a woman right outside his home. Bob stepped in to help the woman and restrained the attacker until police arrived.
- Chad works with troubled youth. One patient broke a window and was ready to jump out to commit suicide. Chad restrained the patient and saved his life.
The first example is of self-defense. The second example is of the defense of someone else. The third example is also of the defense of someone else but the attacker and victim are the same person. No one was hurt in these cases. The training our students had gave them confidence and skills to make a difference in a critical incident.
You do not have to be in good physical condition to begin training. As a beginner, most training will be slow, step by step. The pace of your training will increase as your skill increases. Aikido allows us to train at a pace that is appropriate to each skill level and can be adjusted to accommodate the student’s physical condition.
Rank is not the goal of training. Focusing on achieving a rank is often times detrimental to training.
We study Aikido to improve ourselves and rank represents our progress. Aikido Silicon Valley requires a minimum of 450 training days to test for the rank of first degree black belt (shodan, which means “beginning step”). The first degree black belt test is to test the student’s understanding of the fundamentals. Lower ranking students have used Aikido successfully, which you can read about in the Does Aikido really work section. Earning the rank of shodan does not mean you are an Aikido expert; it is just the first of many levels.
No. Students who start training later in life may not train as rigorous as younger students, but there is still a way to train.
It’s recommended to train two to three times a week for beginners. You can adjust your training schedule as you gain more experience. It is important to set a training schedule for yourself and follow it.
No. Beginners are encouraged to train with seniors in order to make fast progress. As a beginner, you may feel like you are holding your partner back, but they are actually learning a lot from you too. Aikido Silicon Valley is fortunate to have many senior students, ranking up to 4th degree black belt, who train regularly with junior students and are happy to help juniors improve.
- Set a training schedule and keep to it. Start with two or three times a week and make adjustments as you see fit.
- It may feel like you aren’t making progress, but you are. Just give it time. It may take three days to feel comfortable or it may take three months, but you will get there if you train properly.
- Ask questions and ask for help. If you have a question, chances are everyone else in the dojo had that same question at one point.
- Pay attention. You can learn a lot by watching what other people do, not just techniques, but how to wear your uniform properly, ettiquite, Japanese words, etc.