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Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Aikido look so choreographed?

Aikido can be a devastatingly effective martial art. Therefore, in the early stages it is necessary to simply follow the movement in order to train safely and learn. At an early stage Aikido can look like a poorly staged fight scene. Aikido looks more "real" in the middle levels. Here students are likely to use some coordination and some strength and resist each others' techniques, unavoidably creating genuine conflict. High levels of Aikido once again look choreographed as uke and nage effortlessly follow the flow of Ki.

What grade is Sensei?

It is considered bad manners to ask a senior aikidoka, particularly a teacher, what grade they are. "How long have you been doing Aikido?" is a better question and perfectly acceptable. If you train regularly for a few months or years you will no doubt discover what grades your training partners are (even Sensei) and how long they have been training. However, since a black belt in Aikido signifies only that someone has learnt the basics, what difference does it make? The best question to ask is "Am I learning as much as I can from this teacher, and am I learning the things that only he or she can teach me?".

How long does it take to get a black belt?

Of course, it is the way you travel that is important, not how far you get or how quickly. You can expect to train at least four to five years before you get a black belt. Your training partners will respect your good attitude much more than your grade.

How many times a week should I train?

When you begin training, once or twice a week is good. Soon, however, most people find training only once a week is not enough to maintain progress. Training twice a week means you maintain your level and make steady progress. If you regularly train three times a week you will make excellent progress. This is probably the ideal for most people.

What do the black pants mean? Are they all black belts?

Hakama, traditional Japanese trousers, are generally worn by senior students. In some dojos they are worn only by the black belts. In others they are not associated with a particular grade but more with a level of commitment. In some dojos, women can wear hakama from the very beginning levels. In the Australian Aikido Ki Society dojos, senior students are 2nd kyu and above and this is indicated by wearing the hakama.

What does a technique prove? Why practise it? What's it good for?

A technique proves nothing. O-sensei said that we should learn techniques and then forget them. The essence of Aikido is to remain calm, centred and able to act effectively in any situation. Techniques give us the opportunity to practise this skill in the dojo so we can apply the principles of Aikido in our daily lives.

How long will it take me to be able to defend myself?

You will be able to defend yourself better against different attacks (physical, verbal, emotional) the more you learn to relax and unify your mind and body. And the longer you train the less likely it is that you will be attacked. Remember, the best defence against serious physical attack is not to be where it can happen.

Can Aikido be used for self-defence?

"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win". Yes, Aikido can be a very effective form of self-defence. However, it can take considerable time and effort before Aikido (or any martial art) can be used effectively in a self-defence situation.

Does Aikido take a longer time to master and apply than other Martial Arts?

"If you knew the time it took me to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful." - Michelangelo

The simple answer is "yes". A year in Karate / Tae Kwon Do / Kempo and you can probably fight much better than before.

It takes well over a year before you start feeling comfortable enough with Aikido techniques to imagine using them in "real life". The complex answer is "no"; in the sense that I don't think anyone ever feels like they have "mastered" an art. If they do then they've stopped growing, or the art is too simple. In Funakoshi's autobiography you definitely get the feeling that he doesn't feel like a "master" and is bemused to be considered one.

An old story might tell you some of the mind set you ought to apply when studying martial arts:

A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo he was given an audience by the sensei.

"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.
"I wish to be your student and become the finest karete-ka in the land," the boy replied.
"How long must I study?"
"Ten years at least, the master answered.
"Ten years is a long time, said the boy.
"What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?"
"Twenty years," replied the master.
"Twenty years! What if I practice day and night with all my effort?"
"Thirty years," was the master's reply.
"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the boy asked.
"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way."

Is Aikido better than Karate/Judo or any other Martial Art?

Though there are many paths at the foot of the mountain. All those who reach the top see the same moon.

This is an extremely controversial question and has generated much heated debate in forums such as the recreational martial-arts news group (see Aikido FAQ Forums for more info on this topic). The answer to this question is very subjective - students of any particular martial art tend to favour that one over any other (otherwise they would probably be studying the other martial art).

There are many different but equally valid reasons for studying any martial art, such as for self defence, for spiritual growth or enlightenment, for general physical health, for self-confidence and more. Different martial arts, and even different styles within a particular martial art, emphasise different aspects.

Hence 'better' really depends on what it is you want out of a martial art. Even given this distinction, it is still a very subjective question so perhaps a better one would be, is Aikido better than any other martial art "for me"?'

The individual asking the question can only answer this. The rest of this FAQ may help you in some way towards finding that answer.

An alternative way to answer this question is to simply say, 'No, Aikido is not 'better' or 'worse' than any other martial art. It is simply different.'

Can I train an additional martial art while training Aikido?

Many people do "cross train" believing that they can learn more by doing more, or apply two different styles to create their own style. This does tend to lead to confusion and you never really get the opportunity to understand the true essence of the art you are studying.

An old saying says, "That the man who goes hunting for two rabbits comes home with none".

If you are considering doing a second art while still training in your own style, consider this. You will not be doing justice to your own art, your instructor and yourself. Aikido should be considered more as a way to enhanced your quality of life as well as giving each person the opportunity to embark on a spiritual path also.

It is always best to seek out what interests you first, then find a school and do a few classes to see if it is something you wish to pursue. If not, continue until you find something that you wish to devote some years to understanding and achieving at least some level of mastery in.