- What is aikido?
Ah - the tough ones first!
I've only been training in Aikido for around 20 years and I'm not sure if I'm qualified to answer.
Still and all, you are probably only after a quick explanation which probably goes something like this:-
Aikido means the way of harmony with ki (ki = spirit or life-force - may the force be with you!). In action it consists of using body movement to blend with and neutralise an attack followed by various locks and throws to control or destroy an attacker.
- Can I watch a class before trying it out?
Yes, of course. However we do ask that you arrive before the class you intend to watch and ask the instructor's permission first. If you decide to watch a class, please sit quietly and do not disturb the class. If you decide to leave before the end of the class please do so so as not to disturb the class in progress.
- Is aikido good for self-defence?
We do not teach Aikido as a self-defence form - it's a martial-art - please do not confuse the two, despite what you've seen in the movies. Although Aikido is not a self-defence form in itself, we believe that, by teaching Aikido in the way we do, following a set of basic principles, the precepts of self-defence are embodied in the practice. We teach good posture, keeping the head up to be aware of other attackers, moving off the line of an attack rather than fighting etc.
Remember that the important bit of self-defence is not how much you hurt your attacker but how much your attacker doesn't hurt you!
- How fit do I need to be to practice aikido?
The founder once said
If you can lift 3 ounces of bran you can practice Aikido. Whilst this is perhaps going a little far you do not have to be any sort of Olympic athlete to practice Aikido. We have had members of all ages and levels of fitness. It does help to be moderately fit but that's all.
- What will I need to do before my first class?
Fill in the membership form provided and pay any fees. Make sure that you have something suitable to train in. If you have previously practiced some other form of martial art (karate or judo etc.) you may have a keikogi which will be suitable. If you haven't got a keikogi something like track-suit trousers and a tee-shirt are Ok. Please don't wear jeans, they tend to be stiff and difficult to move in and, if they are rivetted, downright dangerous! Remove any jewellery and make sure that your finger and toe nails are cut short. If you have long hair provide some method of tying it up. This is for your own safety as well as that of your training partners. If you have any special medical problems, do make sure that the instructor is aware of them. If you carry an asthma inhaler for instance, bring it into the dojo with you and make sure that someone else knows where it is.
- What does it cost?
There is an annual fee for membership of Shobu Aikido UK and a fee per class.
At the time of writing (July 2009), the annual membership fees are:-
Annual membership fees membership type fee Standard £25.00 Unwaged £15.00 Junior (under 18) £ 10.00
and class fees are £5.00 per class.
In terms of basic equipment you will need a keikogi (training suit) which can cost from £15 to £50 depending on quality and weight and a pair of zori, flip-flops or slippers to wear while walking off the tatami.
At a later date, as you become more serious in your practice, you will need a set of weapons (bokken, jo and tanto) and a bag to carry them in. Reckon on around £50 for a set of weapons.
- Do I have to learn Japanese?
Japanese is the international language of Aikido but we only use a small number of terms so you don't have to learn Japanese! We do use Japanese names for the techniques, attacks and principles. You are not expected to learn all of these straight off. Mind you, since we do only have a fairly limited number of terms, I'd probably be unhappy with someone taking a 1st kyu grading who didn't know the names of basic techniques!
- I don't see any coloured belts - don't you have grades in aikido?
Yes, we do have grades but the only two colours of belt are white and black. There are 6 white belt or kyu grades (7 if you count ungraded!) starting at 6th kyu as the lowest grade and counting down to 1st kyu as the highest kyu grade. Dan grades normally wear a black belt and these grades count up from 1st Dan.
- What are the skirts for and who wears them?
Actually they're not skirts, they're trousers, just very baggy! They are called hakama and are the traditional wear of the Japanese samurai. Hakama are worn by senior students but they are not a badge of rank. They are normally worn by all Dan grades and senior students and provide a way for beginners to recognise seniors to whom they may go to ask questions etc.