BelfastAikido

Belfast Aikikai FAQ

This section contains the most common questions that we usually get from newcomers.

What is the safety policy during class?

Respect your partner and be aware of your own limits. If you feel you're being pushed too much let, your partner know. Don't suffer; nobody will have a problem taking the pace back down a notch. Pay attention to others around you, the biggest cause of injury in Aikido is people being thrown or landing on other students training beside them.

How do I know that you are reputable, with properly trained instructors?

The Belfast Aikikai Aikido is governed by the British Aikido Board via the Aikido Research Federation. The BAB ensure all the teachers have the relevant qualifications and the club is fully insured. Secondly, BAA instructors are all have a black belt awarded by the World Aikido Head Quarters in Tokyo (Aikikai Hombu Dojo). Our students and teachers regularly travel all over the world to train with top level instructors.

Do I need to be fit to start Aikido?

Well no, but like any physical exercise it does help. That aside, classes are taken at your pace and comfort. You should never feel it necessary to try to keep up with people who have been training for years. Relax and take it at your own pace. It’s your body and the only one you have so don’t destroy it trying to force it into condition. This will happen gradually and with time. As you continue regular training, the body will begin to relax and become suppler. Many people begin to train in Aikido well into their 50’s and 60’s!

Is grading compulsory?

No, but it would be advised to grade and focus your development on the basics. The Kyu grades are a foundation for advancing your technical knowledge of Aikido. Grading takes place twice a year once in the spring and once in autumn. You will be invited to grade by your instructor.

What kind of grading system is used in Aikido?

Aikido follows the Japanese Kyu and Dan grading system. There are no coloured belts, just white and black. For the first few years of practice all students wear the same uniform with no visible markings of grade. There are 6 kyu rankings to begin with, starting at 6th kyu and working towards 1st kyu. After 3rd kyu has been reached the students are entitled to wear the traditional long flowing trousers known as hakama. After 1st kyu the Dan grade system starts with 1st Dan and goes as high as 10th Dan. Once 1st Dan has been reached the student wears a black belt under the hakama. It takes at least 5 years of regular practise to reach the level of 1st Dan.

What is involved in a typical Aikido Class?

Classes start with a long warm-up and stretching routine. All stretches follow natural lines of the body and are used to increase suppleness, stabilise posture and breathing. All 3 of these combined, are necessary for developing Aikido technique. After the warm up, the instructor demonstrates techniques with a member of the class. In Aikido the role of the defender is called Tori and the attacker is called Uke. After the technique has been shown the class are invited to pair up and try the technique themselves alternating between the roles of Tori and Uke. Due to the nature of Aikido practice it is very important to learn how to receive a technique and fall safely. The art of receiving is called Ukemi. Learning Ukemi is probably the biggest mental block for beginners. It can be quite unnerving to learn to roll forwards and backwards naturally and without fear of hurting oneself. However, over time and with practice falling, rolling and being flipped in techniques will become second nature. Aikido movements also involve a lot of turning and pivoting. The footwork for these turning movements requires constant repetition to become fluid and stable during techniques and is practised extensively during every class. Aikido techniques are also performed from a kneeling posture. In Japanese society this was a formal greeting position and as such, one was vulnerable to attack. Techniques where developed to defend against these attacks. In modern day Aikido we use these techniques to train students to move from their hips. Weapons training are also incorporated into special weapon’s classes. Aikido’s routes are based on Sword and Staff movements of traditional Japanese Ryu. O-Sensei had mastered a number of styles before developing his own martial art and calling it Aikido. Weapons training is used to teach the student how to correct stance and posture and then apply these concepts to unarmed techniques. The sword or ken is substituted for a wooden sword known as a bokken and the staff, which is 4ft. in length, is known as a jo.

What kind of equipment is necessary?

For entry level a T-shirt (preferably long sleeves) and loose fitting bottoms are fine. Once you decide to carry on with the practice purchase of a keikogi (standard judo suit) is strongly advised. In Aikido we use the same suits as judo, preferably bleached white (not blue). Karate suits are not be suitable, as they don’t tend to stand up to the gripping techniques. The judo suits are more durable and hard wearing. Entry level suits cost about £20 and should last 2-4 years. More durable suits start at around £50 and last between 4-8 years.

How much does Aikido cost?

Initially the only cost is an introductory 8 week course which costs £60. After an introductory course, regular classes can cost from £20-£40 per month. By the 3rd month most students have got a keikogi (training suit) which start at about £20. There is currently pay per class option at £5 per class. However, students are encouraged to commit to regular training as this is the most effective way to learn the art. We recommend paying monthly and have various structures to accommodate levels of commitment; discounts are available for quarterly, 6 monthly and yearly payments.

How often would I need to train?

Expecting to train in Aikido once a week after an introductory course is not recommended. To have a good understanding of Aikido requires a lot of concentration and body memory which needs to be learned and relearned over and over. The only way to progress is hard work and strong basics. Minimum amount of classes per week would be 2 and recommended classes are 3+ per week. Introductory courses are designed to prepare you for regular training, you will not be an Aikido expert in 4-6 weeks. Aikido is like learning to play a musical instrument, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing and practise regularly you will not last beyond a few months.

I am new to Aikido and confused what exactly is it?

Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art that deals with aggression and violence by meeting it with compassion and harmonising with the energy of the aggressor. It applies effective martial techniques by using dynamic body movements which blend with an attack to control or neutralize it. As a non-competitive art students practise in a friendly open environment. As well as being an effective self defence aikido focuses on relaxing and freeing the mind and body from stress and tension through natural movements. Regular practise will recharge the body, improve co-ordination, posture, self confidence, concentration and fitness levels.

Now what exactly Aikido is not?

Aikido is not Tai-Chi, yoga, therapy group or dance. Watch the video clips on this website for a better idea of Aikido movement. If it appeals to you, try our introductory course. See you on the mats!

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