Frequently Asked Questions

What is aikido?

Although you can find many descriptions and videos of aikido on the web, the best way to answer this question for yourself is to come to class and try it.

How is aikido different from other martial arts?

Martial arts are studied for self-defense and self-improvement, but aikido differs from other martial arts in that the practitioner seeks to achieve self-defense without injury to attackers. This is accomplished by using techniques that focus more on throws and joint locks rather than strikes and blocks.

What should I wear to my first class?

Wear comfortable clothes such as sweat pants and a t-shirt. Please remove all jewelry prior to class.

How do I put on a gi?

The pants should be worn with the loops in front. The drawstring should be tightened, threaded through the loops, and then tied in a bow in front. For the gi top it is advisable to wear a t-shirt underneath. This will help absorb perspiration and preserve modesty. The gi top itself closes left over right. The right front cord should first be tied to the left side cord and then the left front cord tied to the right side cord. The belt keeps the top closed and should fit twice around, tying in front with a square or similar knot. We train in bare feet, so keep them clean and wear zori (flip-flops) from the changing room to the mat.

What’s with all the bowing?

Bowing shows respect and is Japanese custom. Beginners are not expected to know all the appropriate times to bow. Learn by watching what others do.

What if I have a prior injury or other physical limitation?

Everyone can learn and grow in aikido. Please come and do as much as you can comfortably do. Communicate with your practice partner and the instructor beforehand, and we will work together to find a practice mode which is both appropriate and challenging for everyone. However, keep in mind that studying aikido is a long-term endeavor; for a short-term injury, you will be better off taking the time to heal fully before returning to the mat. In that case, we encourage you to come and simply watch; much can be gained from training your eye.

How can I be confident that the higher belts won’t throw me around and hurt me?

Along with achieving higher belts comes responsibility. It is extremely bad form to hurt a beginner and is frowned upon in the extreme. It is also extremely rare. Usually it is the less experienced students who lack the control and knowledge to protect their partners. No one intentionally hurts another student, so your best defense is communication.

Won’t the other students get frustrated working with clueless white belts like me?

This is a very common concern for beginners. The short answer: NO! The long answer: With the mind open, one can learn as much from the novice as from the advanced student. Our goal is to help you improve in aikido, so that you will be an asset to the class and fun to practice with. We all remember our awkwardness when we started. We remember how patient our partners were with us and how valuable that patience was. We also learn by teaching as well as being taught. Helping new people is our duty, our learning and our pleasure. So relax and greedily absorb all you can. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, try to find them amusing, and allow yourself plenty of time to progress.

But I feel like I’m holding my partners back. Shouldn’t I pick another white belt to work with?

No! It’s much more helpful for one person to know more than the other. Slowing down to help someone helps us too.

How will I remember everything taught in the class?

Good news – you don’t have to. Your body will learn faster than your mind. We are conditioning your subconscious and your muscles to learn and remember over time, by working on material that overlaps and reinforces the previous lessons. We expect your mind to forget much in the beginning. Trust the process to bring it all together later.

Help! The instructor uses Japanese words. Why can’t we just use English?

The answer will become apparent once you see how useless English is in this context. Like everything else you will learn by repetition. What you don’t learn naturally, we will drill into you.

I am a little intimidated by the rolling. How should I handle this?

You should move slowly - it is then much harder to hurt yourself even if you make mistakes. Report any discomfort to the instructor so they can help and have patience and realize that some things take longer to learn than others.

Keep in mind that the ultimate fun of aikido is in flying through the air safely, gracefully, effortlessly. It may seem an impossibility right now, but eventually everybody gets it. It’s worth the patience and the effort.

What if the techniques I need for my first test aren’t shown often enough for me to get them?

Usually they are shown often enough. But if you are still fuzzy on some things and your test date is looming, ask one of the senior students for help preparing. You can also ask the instructor before class if s/he would try to show the technique that gives you trouble. It may or may not fit into the lesson plan, but s/he will try.

How will I know when I am ready to test?

You will be notified when you have nearly completed the minimum requirements for your next test. The expectation is that your training patterns will remain consistent and you will have completed the required material before the next test. On rare occasions a student falls through the cracks. You may ask your sensei about the test requirements. If you feel you have met those requirements, ask why you haven’t been scheduled to test. Testing is regulated through Kokikai International following traditional standards of practice and preparation.

What if I fail?

By and large, tests are a formality. Every day you train, you are proving that you have achieved the necessary requirements for your next rank. By the time you are asked to test, you have basically passed the test. On rare occasions, a student can fail a test by either going completely blank at test time, by doing techniques from some other martial art, by giving up in the middle, or by displaying improper attitude. These scenarios are extremely rare and would result in a rescheduling of your test.

How big a deal is it to be late for class? How should I handle this?

It is preferable to be on time and desirable to get there early enough to warm up beforehand. But we recognize that life happens and lateness is generally not a big deal. If you are consistently late due to a work schedule or something you can’t control, please tell the instructor about it so it won’t be interpreted as disrespect.

When you arrive late, change quickly and quietly step onto the edge of the mat and sit seiza. When the instructor invites you to join the class, just bow, stand and then join in.

FAQ adapted with permission from http://www.philadelphia-aikido.com/