At VWA, we have dedicated classes for beginners twice a week (on Mondays and Wednesdays at VWA Jericho). In addition to our ongoing program of beginners classes, we also offer a special three-week introduction to Aikido program in September and in January. The program is intended as a first introduction to Aikido for those who are curious about this martial art, and is designed to show various aspects: from basic footwork movements to basic techniques to weapons practice and to dealing with multiple attackers.
You are welcome to come and watch a class (beginners or regular), and start practicing with us at any time!
In a "normal" beginners program, it may take many months for new beginners to see advanced aspects of Aikido, whereas our special introductory program will give the beginners some flavour of what Aikido has to offer quite early on. It goes without saying, of course, that to become actually good at Aikido will take years of dedicated practice!
They will learn some basic footwork and ukemi (a safe way of falling down), and some basic Aikido techniques. They will get to practice with our more advanced dojo members and learn from them.
The students will certainly have a much better idea of what Aikido is after being exposed to this program, and hopefully will want to continue on their Aikido journey for many years after this first experience.
First, we line up and bow in, then we do Aikido warm-ups, and finally start practicing Aikido techniques as demonstrated by the instructor. It is a cooperative practice with a partner, where you take turns being a nage (performing a technique) and an uke (receiving a technique). At the end of the class, we again line up and bow out. We follow the Japanese etiquette about bowing and are using Japanese terms. It may take you some time getting used to it, but we will be there to help!
The main instructor for the intro program (and for the beginners program thereafter) is Valentine Kabanets, 3rd dan, with over 10 years of Aikido practice (in Canada, Japan, USA, and UK). He's been practicing Aikido under Ishiyama Shihan's guidance since 2005, and has also been influenced by other Aikido teachers, in particular, by Tada Shihan, Osawa Shihan, and Tissier Shihan.
After the three-week intro program is over, we will be continuing with our beginners classes. The students who wish to continue practicing Aikido are welcome to join our dojo, and start attending our beginners program. Once the beginners are proficient enough in their ukemi and with basic foot work, they are encouraged to start attending our regular classes, taught by our Chief Instructor, Ishu Ishiyama Shihan, 7th dan. You can continue attending both beginners and regular classes for as long as you wish!
Come to the dojo on the first day of classes (or at a later day, if you can't make it to the first class), wearing loose comfortable clothes (you don't need to buy keiko gi right away, just practice for a few classes and see if you intend to continue). Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the class starts, to allow time for introductions and some paperwork. Most importantly, be open-minded and willing to learn something new. Our instructor and students will make sure you enjoy your first encounter with Aikido!
The focus of the beginners classes is on Ukemi (receiving of techniques), Taisabaki (body movements) and Kihon Waza (fundamental techniques). The goal is to help new people to gain some basic skills that would enable them to continue their training at a more advanced level in our regular program.
We offer dedicated beginners classes on Mon and Wed, as well as all-levels classes on Fri and Sat. You will make the most progress if you practice at least three times a week. Aikido is a challenging martial art to master, and progress may be quite slow. Be ready for that and do not despair! It is normal. If you practice regularly, you will have occasional insights that will show you that you are on the right path. Also feel free to seek help and advice from more senior Aikido students who have been on this path longer than you. Everyone will be happy to help!
Aikido uses the framework of martial art to help us become better individuals. It is impossible to get good at Aikido without opening up to the world and letting go of your ego. By practicing, you strive to unify your mind and your body, to make them operate as one unit, which improves your overall well-being. Every Aikido practitioner has their own reasons for continuing practicing. Aikido is so rich that everyone will be able to find something that resonates with their personality and their desire for personal growth. The only condition is that you practice regularly and sincerely!
As Saotome Sensei, one of the students of O Sensei, said in his book The Principles of Aikido:
"Gaining mere literal knowledge and technical skill is not the goal of Aikido practice. You must work to improve your character and raise your consciousness to a higher level. The study of Aikido cannot be a selfish study. You must develop your sensitivity toward others and your concern for them in your daily interactions, both in practice and in your daily life."