Aikido is a Japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba (whom Aikido students refer to as “O-Sensei” or “Great Teacher”). O-Sensei was a major figure in the history of martial arts, and his work in the past century was in many ways a quantum leap in the evolution of martial arts.
Students of Aikido practice how to use their body and mind in a natural and optimally efficient way. Aikido includes many responses to different types of attacks including throws, holds, joint locks, pins, and disarming techniques. In addition to unarmed training, Aikido practice also includes learning how to use weapons such as the bokken (wooden sword), jo (wooden staff) and tanto (wooden knife). Many observers perceive elements of other martial arts when watching an Aikido class; however Aikido has many unique technical features including a particular approach to using movement, timing, and reaction. In the course of practicing its vast number of techniques and situations Aikido also develops judgment, balance and increased awareness.
Aikido is different in many ways. First, one can distinguish in general the old versus new martial arts. Older forms of Japanese martial arts focused almost entirely on fighting techniques. Their names often include the suffix “jitsu” which means technique, for example jujitsu, or kenjitsu. The modern martial arts, of which Aikido is one, add the idea of personal development as well as many of them contain the last Japanese character “do” which translates as “path”. Beyond that, Aikido has a unique character that can be seen in its approach to martial arts training. Unlike most martial arts, Aikido has no competition. Students work cooperatively to improve their understanding and execution of the techniques. Aikido focuses on the art of efficiently moving oneself and one’s opponent, and conversely, on safely receiving the power of the opponent . A relaxed body is necessary to learn this skill, and this is best developed by cooperative practice. For similar reasons, there are no tournaments or contests. Instead, Aikidoists gather at large practice sessions and seminars where everyone trains together.Another example of Aikido’s unique approach is that Aikido does not emphasize strikes, except insofar as they are integrated into techniques as part of the total body movement. While knowledge of other martial arts doesn't detract from Aikido training, the student of Aikido must learn a significantly different approach to training.
Aikido is an endeavor with many features, and consequently, the reasons for practicing can vary. Some people want to learn self-defense, others movement. Some have heard of the idea of “turning the energy of the attack against the attacker”, while others are interested in the translation of philosophy into physical movement. Some people do it simply for exercise. One common theme is that Aikidoists enjoy practicing in itself, and the sense of well-being and centeredness that comes with it, as well as the challenge of learning Aikido’s complex techniques. It is difficult to say what benefits it will bring until one actually begins.
Aikido is available to almost anyone who wants to learn it. Aikido practitioners range from 5 years old to eighty. Like most Aikido dojos, we have children’s classes for younger students to get them started. The adults program includes everyone else. No previous martial arts experience is necessary, nor does one have to be in top physical condition. Aikido practice will gradually increase one’s strength and flexibility. If you have particular physical problems, you should first talk to your doctor, and then with the Chief Instructor. In general, since a beginner practices at a slow and easy pace, it is usually possible for you to determine for yourself, in the process of Aikido practice, if the problem is manageable or not, without risking any serious injury.
Aikido is a martial art, and as such, a fundamental requirement is that it works as a self-defense system. It is rooted in the pragmatic study of martial effectiveness. However, its sophisticated techniques take a long time to learn, and one should not expect instant proficiency.
Aikikai means “Aikido organization”. It signifies in a general way the style of Aikido training of those who follow O-Sensei. The Aikikai Foundation is the official name of Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, where O-Sensei taught, and where his son was and now grandson is the chief instructor. It therefore signifies the Aikido lineage and style that US Aikido Federation schools teach and is generally considered the most authentic transmission of O-Sensei's teachings.
Iaido is a martial art evolved from traditional Japanese swordsmanship. The art began to be taught publicly in the 1800's but dates far back in Japanese history. It focuses on techniques of drawing, cutting, and re-sheathing the sword, in a multitude of situations. Iaido is a separate yet complementary martial art to Aikido. While Aikido practice includes weapons training, especially the use of the bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden staff), learning how to handle a sword can provide additional insight into Aikido. Some fundamental similarities are the emphasis on being "present" (or focused) in a relaxed state, using proper body mechanics and breath control.
Typically, one would observe a class or two to get a clearer idea of what Aikido practice is like, and to decide whether to begin Aikido training. If you feel Aikido is right for you, then you can sign up at any time and begin practice immediately.
We don’t think that a trial class is particularly useful in making your decision about whether to begin Aikido training. It's usually better to observe a class. Aikido is challenging, especially during the first two to three months when you are learning the basics. Because it usually takes this long to complete the initial phase of training, it can be hard to appreciate Aikido in one class. However, if you feel you can't make a decision otherwise, you can take a trial class at no charge.
There are two "Beginners/Basics" classes each week. These classes focus on basic movements and techniques, but are open to students of all levels. Beginners may also start in the mixed level classes. In either case, we will work with you individually while you learn the most basic movements and techniques. After the first few classes, you will be able to follow most movements, but at a slow pace. This is the traditional way of teaching beginners in Aikido, and although it might seem intimidating at first, it does work and provides and smooth path for progress.
Membership fees are paid monthly and entitle the student to take all classes (except Iaido). There also is a one-time registration fee. Please call or come visit the dojo for more information about fees.
You will need a standard medium weight white Judo style practice uniform, or “gi”. That is the only required equipment. (You can purchase a gi at Framingham Aikikai.) Women usually wear a white t-shirt or tank top under their gi.
You should come as often as you can. If you need a benchmark, think of practicing two to three times per week. Maintaining a certain frequency of practice allows faster learning. Other than that, you make your own schedule.
There are ranks, six ranks of white belt and ten ranks of black belt. However we do not use the colored belt system that is prevalent in other martial arts. Students start unranked. White belt ranks go from 5th kyu to 1st kyu. The next rank, shodan (1st dan), means first degree black belt, and then progresses to, second degree, third degree, etc. What do the ranks mean?A person’s rank, in a general sense, indicates how much one has trained and how well one knows the basic techniques of Aikido, both in the role of the attacker (uke) or the defender (nage). How does one advance in rank?One advances in rank by periodically taking tests. Testing follows the guidelines of the United States Aikido Federation. The test consists of demonstrating a set of techniques and also, frequently, taking ukemi (being the attacker) for other student's tests. Each test also requires that the student must have practiced for a proscribed number of days since beginning, or one's last test. Once you have practiced the required number of days, you are eligible to test. One must then obtain the permission of one's instructor. The tests get increasingly complex at higher ranks. To achieve the rank of Shodan (first degree black belt) one must practice steadily and seriously for approximately five to six years.
There are no competitions in Aikido. Aikido's techniques are such that competition gets in the way. Students help each other better themselves instead of competing.
Framingham Aikikai has a children’s class that meets four times per week. It is aimed at ages seven through twelve, but children outside those ages can be admitted with the approval of the Chief Instructor. By the age of thirteen or so, most teenagers can successfully practice in the adult classes, and the adults program at Framingham Aikikai usually includes a good number of such students.
A typical class begins with stretching exercises. Then the instructor demonstrates techniques and the students take partners and try to duplicate the instructor's movements as best they can. During practice, partners take turns performing the technique (being the “nage”) receiving the technique (being the “uke”). The instructor observes the students as they practice and gives personal instruction, often consisting of bringing the student's attention to important points or common mistakes.
Daily practice is supplemented by Aikido seminars, i.e. practice sessions that extend over one or more days. Seminars are very valuable to the training of an Aikido student. At seminars, one trains with students and instructors from other dojos, as well as study with our Shihan or Master Instructors. There are also other special Aikido events such as the annual week-long Aikido Summer Camp.
The proper place to practice is on the mat at the dojo. It's generally not a good idea to practice elsewhere, especially without an instructor there to provide guidance. However, there are some kata (motions and forms) and stretching exercises that students can do on their own.
Like any kind of physical activity, Aikido training can create some element of pain, most often typical muscle soreness. Aikido practice in general is conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and should be pleasant to all students. Partners work together, practicing at a pace and intensity level that will be safe for both. The main point is to execute techniques correctly, and typically that means doing them relatively slowly for some time. Over time, students can maintain precision at higher speeds. Therefore, advanced students may practice with more intensity than beginners, but that doesn't mean that a beginner should feel the need to practice with that level of intensity. Aikido students are encouraged to progress at a comfortable rate they define for themselves.
Etiquette is very important in Aikido. In general, etiquette is based on sincerity, common sense and consideration for others, but as a Japanese martial art Aikido has its own rules as well. For a more detailed discussion, see the New Student’s Information document.