VANCOUVER WEST AIKIKAI
Aikido : A Guide for New Members
Aikido is a Japanese martial art, founded by Master Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), where training is used as a `way' (michi) for personal development, self-discipline and spiritual growth. Aikido is an attempt to actualize the `Spirit of Wa (harmony)' by refining technique, heart and ki (life force) through martial art training. Founder Morihei Ueshiba stated that Aikido is "not to create and fight enemies, but a practice to harmonize and become one with the ki of the universe" and "a life compass to lead to self-actualization and the improvement of one's mettle". It is also a wonderful educational system to polish oneself and to create a strong and flexible, well-balanced body and soul.
The ideal in Aikido is not to think of defeating attackers, but rather to be in harmony with them while neutralizing their attacks. Because the nature of Aikido philosophy is to promote harmony and non-conflict, there is no sparring during practice. Instead, training partners help each other learn the proper execution of various forms. Aikido techniques are practiced in a very balanced manner, including: left and right; omote (front) and ura (back); tachiwaza (standing); suwariwaza (sitting); and hanmi-handachiwaza (half-sitting/half-standing).
Aikido practice is characterized by a series of techniques and exercises designed to allow the body to internalize the principles of movement, awareness and energy dynamics. Through persistent and sincere training, one will begin to understand both the internal and the martial aspect of the art. We begin with gentler and slower movements appropriate to an individual's level of experience and fitness, and gradually build up to faster and more challenging techniques. This style of practice loosens the muscles, flexes the joints, improves the posture, and stimulates and enlivens all parts of the body.
Basic Martial Etiquette
Aikido is a `modern' martial art that we practice in a friendly dojo atmosphere, while still retaining strict manners and martial aspects. In Aikido training, etiquette is as important as the study of physical techniques. Proper execution of etiquette forms not only creates a good atmosphere in the dojo, but also develops your intuition and awareness. Since Aikido is a Japanese martial art, the interactions between the teacher and the students, and among the students, follow the Japanese form. You will not be expected to know all etiquette forms in the beginning, but you will be expected to learn them in a reasonable amount of time.
The DOJO: Aikido training takes place in a hall known as a dojo (place of the way). The dojo is considered a sacred place of learning, and must be kept clean and free of distractions. Behave no differently in a dojo than you would in a church or temple.
TRAINING PARTNERS: Training partners should always be approached with gratitude and respect. They are lending you the use of their bodies to enable you to gain the benefits of Aikido practice.
REI (bowing): Bowing is a very important aspect of the Japanese culture. In Aikido, we bow to show respect, honour, and gratitude. There are two ways of bowing: from a kneeling position, and from a standing position. The kneeling bow is considered more formal.
The kneeling bow is performed:
The standing bow is performed:
ETIQUETTE EXPRESSIONS: Common expressions and their approximate translations.
General Etiquette And Conduct
The dogi, or gi is the uniform that students should wear during practice. A Karate-gi or the more durable Judo-gi is preferred. The dogi should be white or natural (unbleached). They may be purchased at a local martial arts supply store. For new members who do not wish to invest in a uniform immediately, it is acceptable to attend the first month of classes in a t-shirt and a pair of track-pants.
Weapons training in Aikido is important in that it helps us learn principles of timing, combative distance, sensitivity and awareness. The training weapons used in Aikido are the Bokken (wooden sword)
and the Jo (a 50 to 54 inch wooden staff).
These may be purchased at a local martial arts supply store. It is not essential for new members to buy weapons; however, they are encouraged to participate in weapons classes, even without a Bokken or Jo.
Ranking in Aikido
Aikido follows the traditional kyu and dan system of ranking where only white and black belts are worn. The white belt ranks proceed from 5th kyu until 1st kyu. After passing a black belt test, a student is awarded the rank of 'shodan' (first degree black belt) and becomes eligible for examination for advanced 'dan' ranks. Because Aikido is a classical martial art, tournaments are non-existent. Instead, the well executed performance of the techniques, the seriousness and diligence of the student during practice as well as the student's understanding of Aikido principles become the criteria for promotion. In addition, consideration is given to the student's development and application of Aikido principles in the areas of character, conduct and attitude (both inside and outside the training hall).
Testing in Aikido
Rank is an integral part of Aikido. As a beginner your testing helps you formalize what you have learned, provides you feedback on your progress and satisfaction of achievement. As a senior, granting of rank acknowledges your continued contribution to the promotion of the Art. Usually your instructor or senior Yudansha will suggest to you that it is time for you to test for the next rank. You are not required to test, but your seniors' suggestion implies that testing is something you should think about. If you have not been advised to test and you have achieved the minimum time required between tests, and desire to test, you may approach a Yudansha and discuss this with him/her.
The current grading requirements by the Canadian Aikido Federation can be found here.
Requirements before testing
Before you may test, you must complete the appropriate forms and make payment. The pages linked below detail these requirements.
You should ask one of your peers to act as your Uke. Your Uke should be no more than one kyu rank above or below your current rank. Sensei may assign you one or more Ukes, but you should always have one pre-selected and available at your test date.
During the test
The test candidates and their ukes should sit in the front row of the audience.
When your name is called, you and your uke bow, and shikko forward, to the positions from which you will bow to O'Sensei. Your uke will sit beside you, at least one mat-length away; if you have more than one, the other ukes will form a single file behind the first. If more than one candidate is to test at once, they and their (first) ukes should form a line across the front of the dojo, and roughly centered on O'Sensei. Maintain a respectful distance from the kamiza; in the Vancouver West Aikikai dojo, this should be about one and a half to two mat lengths.
Sensei will say "O'Sensei ni REI". You and your uke then bow to O'Sensei. Wait until you hear the REI (Sensei may pause before saying this); do not bow until you hear this.
Sensei then says "otagai ni REI". You and your uke then bow to each other.
Wait for Sensei to tell you to stand up. When you are told to do so, rise and stand facing your Uke while maintaining a good ma-ai (a distance of one Tatami LENGTH is a minimum for Tachi waza – standing techniques).
The examiner will call out the requirements to you. Do them repeatedly until he tells you to stop. He will say yame (meaning stop) or Hai (meaning 'O.K'). Unless the examiner tells you differently, demonstrate each technique on the Right and Left side, showing Omote first and then Ura movement.
During your test, if you are unclear as to the requirement, or you did not hear what was requested, say 'Sumimasen?' and the examiner may repeat the instruction or provide you with further clarification. DO Not turn to Sensei and say: 'huh?' 'What?' etc. If you forgot how to execute a specific technique, do your best anyway. It is better to do something rather than nothing at all.
After the test, candidates and ukes will line up and bow in the same fashion as before the test.
Students are not allowed to test at seminars without prior permission by the Chief Instructor of the dojo. All testing and processing fees should be paid and the application form is be completed and signed. The testing application form requires your instructor's signature. You should discuss your desire to test at a seminar or summer camp with senior Yudansha and instructors at least two months prior to the testing date, for appropriate guidance, preparation, and the Chief Instructor's permission. For dan tests, you should discuss it at least six months in advance.
In Aikido we seek to create an atmosphere of respect for the art, the dojo, and each other. In the beginning, the student may feel uncomfortable with the culture and customs of a traditional Japanese martial art. It may be helpful to note that etiquette forms and protocol help to psychologically prepare us for learning and help provide safety and productivity for all members. But more important than the superficial observation of any form is the sincere and open-minded attitude toward training which gives meaning to the forms. The intention of this dojo is to create a formal but enjoyable environment where the benefits of Aikido practice can be realized. We welcome comments and suggestions as to how we might better provide such an environment.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to speak to any of the senior students.
Pronunciation of Japanese Words
Consonants and vowels in the Japanese language are pronounced the same way each time they are encountered. Thus, if you know the pronunciation of one word, you already know how the vowels and consonants will sound in another word containing those vowels and consonants. The following guide may be of help:
Counting in Japanese
Some Japanese Terms Encountered In Aikido
Glossary of Attacks and Techniques
Names of Some Attacks Encountered in Aikido Training
Names of Some Aikido Techniques