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First Steps

Beginning Aikido

The hardest thing to do is walk into the dojo for the first time. Don’t be worried. The people are nice and everyone wants you to do well. You might think twice about going. But you will not regret having started.

But here’s some helpful stuff for you to read and immediately forget!

Beginners are always welcome at Aikido!

Aikido is typically practised in a training facility called a “dojo” (lit., “way place”) on a mat surface. Aikido classes begin under the direction of an instructor called a “sensei”.

Students sit in rows in formal Japanese seated posture to receive instruction. Training begins with yoga like stretching and warm-up movements, following by rolling and falling practice (ukemi) and Taisabaki (basic body movements).

The instructor then explains and demonstrates techniques, and then students pair up and start to practice, each alternating in turn. Most schools employ a variety of Japanese terms to refer to techniques, aikido principles, and the dojo setting.

You will learn learn a basic vocabulary of Japanese Aikido terminology that will apply to your practice globally, regardless of location or language. The technical names used sometimes vary slightly depending on the style of Aikido, but most core terms are universally understood.

Japanese etiquette is also observed in Aikido schools in a manner similar to the adoption of Japanese technical terms. Common etiquette includes bowing of the instructor and students towards the kamiza – the dojo alter where a photo of the Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and/or the current Doshu are usually displayed – at the beginning and end of each class.

The instructor and students bow towards one another from the formal seated posture called “seiza’ at the opening and conclusion of the class, and students bow to their partner before pairing off to practice.

The uniform worn during training also corresponds to the traditional dress standard observed in Japan for aikido training. The uniform is variously referred to as the “keikogi” or “dogi’, and consists of a top piece or jacket, and pants. A belt called an obi is tied around the waist to hold the jacket in place. In most cases the uniform is made of white cotton.

Black belt holders called Yudansha wear a hakama or “pleated skirt” denoting their higher ranking status. The hakama is descended from the formal wear of the samurai caste.

Your practice of Aikido and your joy and discipline that follows will benefit the people you train with and enrich your own life.