What to Expect
Aikido practice begins the moment you enter the dojo!
For this reason students should endeavor to observe proper etiquette at all times (for more on etiquette, read the Student Handbook). It is proper to bow when entering and leaving the dojo, and when coming onto and leaving the mat.
Aikido training encompasses more than techniques. Training in aikido includes observation and modification of both physical and psychological patterns of thought and behavior. In particular, you must pay attention to the way you react to various sorts of circumstances. Thus part of aikido training is the cultivation of (self-) awareness.
The following point is very important: Aikido training is a cooperative, not competitive, experience. Techniques are learned through training with a partner, not an opponent. You must always be careful to practice in such a way that you temper the speed and power of your technique in accordance with the abilities of your partner. Your partner is lending his/her body to you for you to practice on – it is not unreasonable to expect you to take good care of what has been lent you. Just the same, it is acceptable, and encouraged, to speak up if your partner is treating you in a way that is inappropriate.
Aikido training may sometimes be very frustrating. Learning to cope with this frustration is also a part of your training. Practitioners need to observe themselves in order to determine the root of their frustration and dissatisfaction with their progress. Sometimes the cause is a tendency to compare oneself too closely with other students. Notice, however, that this is itself a form of competition. It is a fine thing to admire the talents of others and to strive to emulate them, but care should be taken not to allow comparisons with others to foster resentment, or excessive self-criticism.
Expect to sweat, and to do many things outside your comfort zone. You will find that soon these things do not bother you anymore, and your comfort zone has expanded.
If you have experienced a violent assault in the past, especially a sexual one, let the instructors know. It may be embarrassing, but it is important. You will be in close proximity to others, often, in situations that will be very uncomfortable. It’s best that we know before we have someone inadvertently attack you in a similar manner. Aside from straightforward, direct attacks, aikido routinely practices attacks from behind, chokes, and while being restrained.
At Central we provide quality training, and ensure all students get what they need to progress. Your sensei are here to help you, and they will do their best. Our instructors provide training and support to all members without bias or prejudice. The instructors at Central have been known to go above and beyond for their students, both on and off the mat. It doesn’t matter if you are their best friend, or if you can barely tolerate each other off the mat, on the mat you are a priority. We will support you as best we can in all your aikido endeavors, and often off the mat as well. You are not alone here.
Read the Student Handbook and follow it. It is your guide to the dojo and Aikido world.
What is Expected
We expect you to make mistakes. Lots of them. We have all been there. We’ve all had our first class, first week, first month. We are not judging you, we are all learning. If you knew it all, there’d be no need to take classes.
Aikido is not a religion but it remains deeply influenced by traditional Japanese values. A centerpiece is Rei, which means “appreciation and respect”, but is essentially bowing and etiquette. It is expected you will stumble through etiquette for quiet some time, even the more experienced students mess up occasionally. This is fine, there will be no beheadings. Just the same, we do expect you to continually try to improve. Etiquette is an important part of training, in ways you wont understand at first.
The only way to advance in aikido is through regular and continued training. Attendance is not mandatory, but keep in mind that in order to improve in aikido, one probably needs to practice at least twice a week. In addition, insofar as aikido provides a way of cultivating self-discipline, such self-discipline begins with regular attendance.
Your training is your responsibility, and it only works if all are involved. While the instructors are skilled, they are few. They can not see to everyone individually at all times. For this reason dojo employ a standard of Japanese culture – the Senpai/Kohai relationship. As an aikidoka, you are expected to look after your fellow comrades. Even from day one. Senior students (senpai) mentor and help direct kohai (junior students). New students are expected to help out. Before long, you will find you are no longer a new student, and others are looking to you for guidance. That said, no one is going to take you by hand and baby you through anything. You have to do it, we will do our best to guide you.
Be on time to classes, and pay your dues. All in the dojo, regardless of age, are expected to be and/or act like adults. This includes tending to your obligations. We should not have to chase you for a month to get your dues. But, we will remove you from the mat for not paying.
On the same notion, if we are holding a workshop, special class, seminar or attending one, you need to keep track of these events on your own. The instructors are very busy, and not here to be your personal secretaries.
The First class
The dojo is open at least 15 minutes before each class, be early. If you are not a UCM student and just want to observe a class, let the front desk know and come watch. If you arrive early the instructors will be able to meet with you and answer any questions you may have.
When you start classes allow for time to register and get acquainted with the facilities. Remove your shoes at the door or by the shoe cubby. Do not walk on the mats with shoes on. If you have sandals, flip flops, or zori, place them on the edge of the mat pointing out from the mat. When you step onto the mat, bow.
Before class, take time to relax and indulge in the physical or mental preparation which suits you best.
Your first class will be a bit bewildering – don’t worry, we’ve all been there. In general, do as the others do. Normally, someone will be assigned to lead you through the warm-up exercises and will teach you the rudiments of falling. Someone else will work with you on the techniques.
Classes follow a standard structure. First the mats are rolled out and the kamidana set up, then…
|Approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class, students should line up and sit quietly in seiza. We bow in unison to the kamidana. Then sensei turns to the class and all bow again. This is a traditional Japanese custom to show respect, but has no religious connotation.
|We stretch to loosen the body and prepare ourselves for the exercises to come. This includes basic stretches of the legs, arms, and body, as well as Aikido-specific stretches of the wrists.
|One person techniques. These are often the basis for techniques we do, and sometimes involve breathing exercises. Usually involves rolling practice. Could be considered an extension of stretching.
|Partner techniques. Techniques are demonstrated and discussed before the class as a whole practices them. Asking questions during a demonstration is encouraged. Several techniques may be practiced each session.
|Breathing techniques are used to calm the individual and bring focus to the mind and the days activities.
|Sitting seiza we bow to the kamidana and sensei again, then gather in a circle and bow to each other to show respect and thanks to our partners. While in circle is the time to ask questions, get more details about a technique, and hear club announcements.
You will feel very goofy and confused. Welcome to our world, just enjoy the ride. Don’t worry about if you are doing something wrong, and don’t apologize for doing it wrong (unless there is a serious injury). You’ll be doing it wrong for some time. We’ve all been there.
At this time we put everything up, as this is a shared space. If you want to join in with the people cleaning and straightening the dojo, simply ask how they do it.
Now is a good time to ask any questions you may have. You’re officially an aikidoka!