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Aikido Tips

posted 28 Sep 2010, 21:38 by aikidorepublic
Having made the decision to learn aikido, rather than just dabble heres list of things to think about

1. Choosing a teacher and dojo
Having made the decision to commit to learning probably there is a veritable smorgasbord available in most cities. Apart from the style of aikido (hard, soft, ki focused) there is the decision of choosing a teacher and the dojo you want. (See also Choosing a Martial Arts Academy). Studies show that early experiences in learning are the most powerful so learn from someone who's aikido you aspire to and from the best you can find. its important to form good habits early, rather than have to unlearn them later. Someone said you are the average of the 5 people you spend time with, look around the various dojo and pick the average you want to be.

2. Learn about Budo, aikido is more than just a series of tricks and techniques
Budo is the martial way or martial path, it is to a certain extent bound up in the learning of aikido and if you have an understanding of it and it will actually help your aikido, so find out a bit about this idea. When you come to the dojo be the best you can be at everything you do for those few hours of the week. Wear a clean gi, help with the setup/pack up chores, be punctual, be fiscally responsible with mat fees, even making sure your shoes are lined up the correct way. All of this attention to minute detail is part of studying the path and even before you get on the mat it will prepare you to be a better aikido student.  Over time this practice may help you in the rest of your life too!

3. Seek the source
Aikido is a relatively young art, in fact its still possible to practice with direct students of the founder of aikido. So train with these first generation people if you have the chance, if not practice with those that have practiced with them. Look for an active connection to the source. Its not a guarantee of quality training but its a good start.

4. Become an independent learner
When you first start learning aikido its easy, someone tells you where to put your feet and what arm goes where, there is an easy right and wrong answer for everything. Everyone in the dojo is more experienced than you so you can always get help. After a little while though its not so easy anymore, you have seen most of the techniques before and not every class is going to give you exactly what you think you want. Its tempting to fall into an easy rhythm of just going through the motions but ultimately it may leave you stagnant or leaving what is a wonderful, rich art. The solution is to become an independent learner. An independent learner isn't always afraid to have an opinion, and is thinking about the what and why of the techniques and art. Read books, watch videos, try stuff out on your own, ask questions. Taking a real responsibility for your own learning, using the class as a framework when its not offering you something else will always ensure you are learning.

5. Test the art and then get over testing the art
Before you give your mind, body, spirit and significant amounts of $$$ over to the art of aikido you are probably going to test it. Its natural to see if it stacks up as a martial art and if it can help you achieve what you want from it. Thats great! everybody does this, however once having done this and you have satisfied yourself, you now need to cease the testing of aikido and give yourself to it for a sustained period of time before thinking about testing it again.  Learning the art of aikido is a co-operative rather than competitive process. Testing the art day in and day out actually hinders progress, so get over it!

6. Just learn the art of aikido from your teacher, not the other stuff
Aikido teachers are made from the same stuff you are, they also have their personal interests but they share a passion for aikido with you. Good teachers just stick to teaching aikido on the mat but sometimes other things can creep in as well. If you are at the dojo to learn aikido just stick to that, a fascination with another art, an interesting philosophy or world view can be informed by aikido but it ain't necessarily so. Don't presume expertise at aikido means expertise in other things as well, on or off the mat.  You don't have to like what they do off the mat to like their aikido. leave the red herrings for someone else to follow

7. Take ukemi  - its half the art and half the secret of the art
Half of the class is spent taking ukemi or falling over whilst the other person practises the technique. Contrary to what you may think its not wasted time. You are learning valuable skills in sensitivity, safety and defence that will all make you an exceptional aikidoka in time. All the best aikidoka were good at ukemi long before they were good at doing aikido technique. Taking ukemi is about providing honest energy, push uke hard enough but not too hard.

8. Train around
Unless you are fortunate to be training under a master teacher, its a fair bet you are not getting a complete view or introduction to aikido. Like the 12 different views of Mt. Fuji each teacher's view point has something to offer and you can learn a lot more of the art by training around a bit. Its very important to have a home dojo but dabble a bit on the side at other aikido dojos, once you can do the basics (otherwise you'll just get confused)

9. Learn the whole art
Aikido is a sogobujitsu or composite martial art, we get to play with weapons, open hand, hard aikido, soft aikido, tumbling skills, inner disciplines and self defence. You probably come to aikido with some favourite aspects, but your understanding of even those aspects will always be limited unless you study the totality of the art. If something scares you a little - this is probably one of the things you need to work on

10. Go to seminars, interact with the wider community
Drink from a flowing stream rather than a stagnant pond. Every new idea, every concept, every snippet of information, even the confusion from it helps your aikido improve. Probably your teacher will be at these seminars too, so you can learn new things together. Once in awhile its worth going to a seminar outside of your school (or even the art of aikido) too for some really fresh ideas. Ask around there is probably a way to do this through a personal network to keep it friendly and find something that helps rather than hinders.

Just Turn Up
In closing its important to remind you than the most important thing that will help you progress is turning up! Its a simple thing but decide on your commitment to aikido and stick to it. Going to the dojo when its exciting, the dojo is humming, when you are well and life is good is great! But mostly not all of these things are going to be happening. Time and again this simple method identifies those that inherit what the art has to offer. Turn up when you are tired, turn up when you are bored, turn up when you are excited, turn up when you are making progress, turn up when you aren't, but turn up!

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