What is a modern martial art versus an old martial art? Aikido is considered by many people to be a modern martial art. What does this mean? Many older martial arts are referred to as koryu. In many koryu students learn a prescribed set of movements or martial techniques known as kata. These movements are performed in a very specific manner, and are used to control, injure, or kill an opponent. Much of aikido has its roots in these koryu; however, aikido emphasizes the preservation of life and relaxed natural movement as part of training.
How long does it take to get good at aikido? It depends on the person. It depends on your age. It depends on your experience. I have known professional dancers whose experience on the dance floor made them excellent martial artists. It depends on how often you train. People who are on the mat every single class are going to progress more rapidly. However, some people have wives, husbands, careers, children, and numerous other responsibilities which preclude them from training all the time. This is fine. It is often important to consider the quality of training versus the quantity. Different people bring different tools to the table. Younger people are often vigorous and like to train hard. Older people bring a maturity and patience that is vital to the development of good martial arts.
Is aikido a passive or defensive martial art? At the most basic level, the purpose of martial arts training is to learn how to defend yourself against one or more attackers and this can often require “passive” or “defensive” responses as well as “aggressive” and “offensive” ones. Aikido is no different in this respect. Aikido is also a martial art that requires a calm state of mind – and this is no different from other martial disciplines. Additionally, specific techniques such as strikes, pins, joint locks, and throws are all part of aikido. These very same techniques can be found in karate, judo, jujutsu, and most other martial arts.
What sets aikido apart from other martial arts is the underlying philosophy of preserving life — even that of an attacker. Doing so requires both “passive” and “aggressive” techniques, as well as an ability to escalate or de-escalate the application of those techniques. The idea is to redirect and resolve a conflict while preventing as much harm as possible…for all concerned.
Is aikido a spiritual practice? One of the best metaphors for aikido training is that it is like a mirror. Like most things, people tend to bring to aikido what they want or need out of it. Some people want physical exercise and they train solely for the purpose of getting or staying in shape. Other people are drawn to aikido for the mental or philosophical side of aikido.
Can I stop and start my training?
Yes. We all live complicated lives. Sometimes it is difficult to keep with training. The Japanese have a saying “Nanakorobi yaoki” which literally means “Fall seven times and stand up eight”.
Can I train in other martial arts too? Certainly
Should I be worried about getting hurt? Students are taught how to roll and fall in order to prevent any injuries. Learning how to fall down properly is paramount to learning aikido and keeping yourself and your training partners safe. That said, aikido is a martial art and a physical activity like football or basketball. It is perfectly reasonable to expect rare accidental injuries to occur.
It is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure that students are being safe at all times and treating each other with respect. Students are not to engage in competition or be physically aggressive on the mat. This does not mean that people cannot train vigorously. Rather, the instructors strive to maintain an atmosphere of excellent martial arts training and mutual respect for our training partners.
How is this practical for my daily life? The question of “When have you actually used aikido in your life?” is perfectly valid. Some people have stressful lives. Aikido training is useful in helping people to remain calm in the midst of stressful situations. Also, the physical skills learned by rolling and falling are invaluable for when you slip on icy sidewalks, trip on the sidewalk, or fall off your child’s scooter. Practicing to pull yourself into a ball and tuck your chin as you fall will come in handy when you least expect it.