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Aikido

Frequently Asked Questions about Aikido

What is the difference between Karate and Aikido?
How physically demanding is Aikido?
How realistic is Aikido?
What is Shodokan or "Tomiki" Aikido? How is it different from Traditional Aikido?
Can my children learn Aikido?
Who teaches classes at Atlantic Martial Arts?
What are some general Aikido Principles?
How long does it take to earn a black belt in Aikido?
How much does it cost?
Do I need a uniform or other equipment?

What is the difference between Karate and Aikido?

Karate is a martial art based primarily on striking, using the hands and feet. Attacks are often blocked using the arms and legs, then counter blows are delivered. Aikido is about blending with the speed and power of an attack and using that energy against the attacker. There is little conflict in Aikido. The Aikidoist (Aikidoka) does not block an incoming attack, he or she positions him or herself in such a manner that the attack will miss. The Aikidoist also tries to avoid fighting or wrestling with an opponent. Powerful joint locks may be applied using the attacker's energy and resistance as well as centering and other leverage principles to avoid contests involving strength and size. This makes Aikido applicable to practitioners of all shapes and sizes. There are striking techniques in Aikido, but they differ from those found in most Karate styles, because they do not involve a power snapping motion of the limbs. Instead, the Aikidoist directs his opponent off balance and uses his or her entire body to strike.

Please understand that this is an over-simplification of both Karate principles and Aikido principles. Aikido is not necessarily the perfect martial art, nor is Karate. The perfect martial art is not the one that can destroy any opponent, it is the one you enjoy practicing the most. We invite you to try Aikido out and see what an impact Aikido training can make on your every day life.

How physically demanding is Aikido?

Physically, Aikido can be demanding, but not in the same way as Karate or many other martial arts, particularly aerobic/cardio kickboxing programs. While our classes do include exercises to promote good general health and fitness, our workouts are not cardiovascularly intensive. This means that Aikido can be practiced by young and old alike, and you needn't worry if you feel you are currently out of shape. We do not push our students beyond their physical comfort level.

The most difficult part of Aikido for new students is learning to fall properly. We pay close attention to new students and guide them carefully in this process. We fall in order to avoid injury, and we always use mats when practicing Aikido in the dojo. If you have a medical condition that you think might interfere with your ability to practice Aikido, we recommend you discuss it with your doctor before attending class. While we are certainly happy to explain what is involved in learning Aikido, we cannot help you come to a medical decision about whether or not it is right for you. This is something you must be comfortable with yourself.

How realistic is Aikido?

This question often translates into "Can I beat someone up using Aikido?" We would hope that your learning of Aikido would improve confidence enough that you need not ask this question. However, if the situation arises, Aikido is incredibly useful. It is not only useful in "street" situations, but in more practical situations where punching and kicking are not appropriate responses to an attack. For example, a security or law enforcement professional may not have the option of punching an assailant, but he or she can use a joint locking technique to subdue the subject until additional help arrives. This allows control of the offender without causing serious injury.

Another reason this question is often asked is because some techniques seem too easy to be possible. Aikido encourages a relaxed response with a minimal amount of energy. Instead of tremendous amounts of muscle for a brute force defense, the Aikidoist relies more on off-balance (kuzushi) and finesse in his or her technique. This way large expenditures of energy are not necessary.

The third reason this question is often asked is because the attacker appears to be cooperating too easily. Sometimes this is the case, but there is usually a good reason for it. Trained Aikidoists can practice their technique at full-speed to enhance realism. In order for this to be possible, the person receiving the technique (Uke) must learn to flow with the throws in order to avoid injury. If the attacker resists a properly applied technique, he or she risks injury and is not following good Aikido principles. This does not amount to going along with every technique or falling because one is expected to. It is merely the knowledge of when a technique has been properly executed and making an instantaneous decision to go with the throw instead of moving in conflict with the throw and jeopardizing a wrist or elbow that might already be locked.

What is Shodokan or "Tomiki" Aikido? How is it different from Traditional Aikido?

Atlantic Martial Arts teaches Shodokan Aikido, which is overseen by the Japan Aikido Association. Shodokan Aikido stems from traditional Aikido, Aiki-Jujutsu, and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, as taught by Morehei Ueshiba. Kenji Tomiki studied under both Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, and Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Sensei Tomiki, Ueshiba's first 8th dan student, made improvements to the art of Aikido by adding more entering (irimi) and linear techniques for a faster, more mobile form of combat. He also made many contributions into the style of teaching and remembering Aikido, as well as creating a competitive form of Aikido involving knife attacks. Another minor difference is in traditional schools techniques are usually referred to as the first technique, the second technique, etc where our terminology is more literal, such as wrist outward twist, push down, etc.

Our method of teaching is based on Tomiki's teaching methods, but also includes many of the same techniques and principles found in traditional schools. While we do utilize Tomiki's competitive rules for self-improvement in the dojo and added realism, we do not train specifically for competition and we do not promote a highly competitive environment. Our focus is primarily on student safety, comfort, and learning. For those interested in Aikido sport competition, we can provide training.

Can my children learn Aikido?

The simple answer is yes. Aikido can be taught to adults and children alike. However, young children often have trouble with the more complex movements involved in Aikido and get frustrated with the repetition required to master those movements. Therefore, children are taught in a different manner than adults. Children typically learn a mixture of Aikido, Judo, Karate, and Self Defense, while incorporating various games to teach important Aikido principles. This allows instructors to provide a fun atmosphere with techniques that are easier to learn as well as those that will challenge students without frustrating them. If children are going to learn martial arts, it should not only be a safe and value-building experience, but it should remain fun and exciting for many years into the future.

Atlantic Martial Arts no longer teaches the Children's Aikido or Aiki-Budo programs. We do highly recommend the Youth Program at the Baltimore Martial Arts Academy.

Who teaches classes at Atlantic Martial Arts?

All of our instructors are black belts in Aikido certified by the Japan Aikido Association (JAA). Our instructors range in rank from first degree black belt (shodan) through fifth degree black belt (godan). Many of our instructors have studied other martial arts and also have earned ranks in those arts.

Additionally, Atlantic Martial Arts can provide instruction in Judo. Judo promotions are certified by the United States Judo Association (USJA).

What are some general Aikido Principles?

Maximum efficiency with minimum effort: There is no sense in wasting energy by moving too much or by exerting unnecessary force against an opponent. One key is to use your attacker's energy to help power your defense. This allows the practitioner to overcome someone much larger and/or stronger and also to remain relaxed and conserve energy for the next possible encounter.

Mutual Benefit for you and your partner: Both people get the most out of their Aikido training when they look out for each other. This means treating your partner well and making sure that your technique is executed properly to avoid injury. This also means observing proper etiquette and assisting your partner improve his or her technique.

Natural postures and stances: We don't walk down the street in a "fighting stance" so why should we train in such a stance? An overly defensive or offensive stance may also warn or threaten an attacker.

Centering: Using your entire body to execute a technique allows a smaller person to overcome the attack of a much larger person. It means not relying on muscle and brute strength to make a technique work. This is related to efficiency.

Balance, Footwork, and proper movement:Moving in a such a manner that the Aikidoist is always balanced and ready to move swiftly to avoid further attack from any direction. This foot and body movement is called tai-sabaki.

Off balancing: A person who is off-balance is much easier to throw. Most Aikido techniques involve off-balancing an attacker before executing a throw.

Avoidance and redirection: Strikes are avoided instead of blocked, and the power of the attack is conserved to be used against the attacker.

Unbendable arm: When the arm is relaxed and bent slightly at the elbow, simply concentrating on not allowing the arm to bend results in a powerful weapon. The unbendable arm is used in many Aikido techniques.

How long does it take to earn a black belt in Aikido?

The answer to this question is dependent on many factors. Each student's natural ability certainly comes into play, but how much the student practices and attends class is probably the most significant factor. The average time for a student who attends classes regularly to earn a black belt in Aikido at Atlantic Martial Arts is around five or six years. While belts do signify progress, we try to focus more on the process of learning along the way rather than the test to see what you know.

How much does it cost?

The cost of Aikido training is greatly dependent on where you attend classes, in which program, and how often you plan to come to class. Membership fees are paid monthly. The only other fees are for rank promotion and any training equipment you may wish to purchase.

Do I need a uniform or other equipment?

For your first class you should wear comfortable clothing, such as sweats. If you already own a gi (uniform) from another martial art, you are welcome to wear that. Aikido training does not require the use of any special equipment, but a good judo-gi (uniform) is recommended. Judo uniforms are made from thicker fabric than karate uniforms because of the stress they undergo during training. Karate uniforms tend to rip much more easily. We allow all brands and colors of gis in our schools. If you already have one, feel free to use it. If not we can provide one at a reasonable price.

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