Five Things I Wish I Knew About Aikido Before I Started
I officially started Aikido in 1991, after dabbling with it for three to four years in my tweens. In hindsight, I would’ve probably would’ve done things differently to fast-tracked my learning. Here are seven things I wish I knew about Aikido before I started. Even though I can’t change my past, I hope this article can help your Aikido in the future.
About Aikido Having Many Schools, Styles, and Flavours
When I started, all I ever wanted was to find a school, learn quickly, and do all the cool Steven Seagal moves. Yes, it was naive (I was 12 going on 13 I was a kid), but I didn’t really care about Aikido Schools, Styles, and Flavours.
In this video, I also talked about Yoshinkan Aikido – The RIOT POLICE Aikido. But that part was edited out because there was a lot of noise and it didn’t work out.
0:25 A Short Story on the History of Aikido
3:08 How Did Aikijujutsu become Aikido
4:10 Aikikai The Biggest Aikido Organisation In The World
5:10 Shodokan ‘Tomiki’ Aikido – Competitive Sports Aikido
6:09 Tenshin Aikido – Combative Aikido – Steven Seagal Sensei’s Aikido
6:49 Ki Aikido – Aikido Focused on the Ki (Chi, Prana, Spirit)
8:20 Iwama Ryu – Osensei Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido
There are many other schools and styles of Aikido because Osensei had many students. The ones listed above are the major ones.
About Aikido Ukemi
Let’s talk about Aiki and Ukemi. Ukemi is the first thing and arguably the most important thing and that an Aiki student learns.
fall seven times get up eight times…
Ukemi or (breakfall in English) in a literary sense means “receiving body or self.” To put it simply, to receive the technique or receive the throw. There are two roles in most Aiki or Judo training methods. One is doing the technique or throwing (Tori or Nage) and the other person’s role is the one being thrown or receiving the technique (Uke).
It is always used in a passive sense. Mi means “body or self”. In this case, self is the better translation.
The founder of Judo, Jigaro Kano Sensei said “before practising throwing techniques or engaging in randori, it is imperative to master ukemi, the technique of falling safely”. I couldn’t agree even more.
As far as the physical practice of Aiki is concerned, ukemi means “fall safely” when one receives a throw.
One of the best lessons we can learn from Ukemi can also help you progress with anything in life. There is an old jujutsu proverb “fall seven times get up eight times”. If there’s one thing you can learn and master about Aikido, make it Ukemi. Master the art of falling safely for it is the key to good Aikido.
The Aikido Journey is a Marathon NOT a Sprint
This insight is usually followed by the question, How long would it take for me to get my black belt?
Let me answer the follow-up question first. If you train regularly two to three times a week, you can get your black belt in three and a bit years. In Iwama because they train every day in the highest intensity one can get their shodan in a year and a half.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The realistic purpose of a black belt is to hold your pants up and your gi intact. If you really want a black belt, then get one from Amazon, it’s cheap (less than 15 bucks) and easy. But that’s not what Aiki is all about.
When you get your black belt you want to be a Good Aikido black belt. What’s a good blackbelt? You know your techniques, taijutsu, and bukiwaza. Your mind is sound. Your spirit is strong.
Yes It is a Marathon, BUT do NOT take 10 Years To Get A Black Belt
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should take ten years to get your black belt. No no. That’s just procrastination. That’s just giving yourself an excuse not to learn in the most efficient way possible. Trust me I went through this process of ‘I’m not good enough, ‘I’m not ready, or ‘I’m not worthy of going for my blackbelt’. It doesn’t work.
What I would’ve done differently is I would’ve given myself three to four years to get to shodan (1st-degree black belt). Because the mastery happens after shodan. The keyword here is mastery. One of my favourite Authors Robert Greene wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. That’s 10,000 hours of doing it, studying it, and thinking about it.
Because the aim is mastery. You want to master Aiki when you are relatively young so you can enjoy Aiki on that level for a longer period.
In most Aiki schools the official title of Shihan (Master) happens at rokyudan or sixth-degree blackbelt. Well, I kinda disagree with that. That’s why the Good Aikido grading system only goes to Yondan or 4th degree. Because when you gain your Yondan. I believe you’ve now entered a level of mastery that no one can ignore. You are now an Adept of Aiki.
Be Alert, On, Relax, and Breathe
Now, this is easily said than done.
0:22 Be Alert, On, Relax, and Breathe
2:31 Practise this concept every day
5:38 Aiki Excercise: Kokyu
9:09 Do this exercise at the beginning of your training
There are four parts in this hindsight:
ALERT means you are quick to see, hear, and understand what’s happening around you.
ON means you are alert and can sustain that alertness for a good period of time
RELAX means you are alert, on, yet not paranoid or overly focused on a point that you lose awareness of what’s happening around you.
BREATHE take a good breath inhale exhale
This concept has helped me in my daily life. At work. During high-performance projects and stressful situations.
On the mat, I’ve watched some people fall apart during Keiko especially during randori or jiuwaza when two or three people were attacking them at the same time. This concept is perpetual and takes some practice to infuse it in your unconscious.
It took me a while to get this. So I am putting this concept and exercise at the front of your Aiki training. So you can start learning this concept now.
It’s Not the Art It’s About the Artist
0:24 Is Aikido Effective?
1:47 It’s Not About the Martial Art, It’s About The Martial Artist.
3:32 The Reason I Stopped Defending Aikido
Is Aikido Effective?
This insight is my answer to the most asked question about Aikido on the internet – “Is Aikido effective”?
My answer to this question is “it’s not about the art, it is about the artist”.
This question is oversimplified. It’s very black and white. The world is coloured NOT black and white. We need to extend our thinking, open and expand our minds to actually learn something new. We need to empty our cup and open our minds so to speak.
An Open Mind is Needed to Learn Something New
Remember, The mind is like a parachute, it is the most effective when it is opened. As soon as you close your mind, you close your ki, your thoughts, and learning will stop. The mind is like any open water that doesn’t move, it stagnates, it festers. So open your mind, extend and expand your thinking to the levels you never thought possible. We, humans, have the most advanced brain on the planet. If we all open our mind and actually use it, I think there would be fewer problems in the world.
Anyway, I digressed, let’s go back to the insight of “it’s not about the art, it is about the artist”. Let’s think about this insight by asking the same question in different ways so you can understand where I’m coming from.
“Is boxing effective, well it depends on the boxer”. “Is oil painting better than acrylic, it depends on who’s the artist”. “Does Karate work? It depends on the Karateka”. Does Judo work? It depends on the Judoka”. “Is a Mercedez Benz better than a BMW in a race? It depends who’s driving”. “Is Aikido effective against a real fight? It depends on the Aikidoka”. “Does martial work against a brawler? Depends on the Martial Artist”.
The Relationship Between Wisdom and Understanding
I also believe that the lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding. Unless one truly wants to understand, then wisdom will be silent. I’m in my 40s. I don’t need to prove that I am right all the time. It’s tiring.
If someone asks a (pretend) question and starts their sentence with “prove to me that…”. I usually don’t engage because the person asking probably have made up their mind, and just wants to get a reaction, trigger people, and argue (troll) for the sake of arguing. So it’s a waste of time to engage.
The reason I stopped defending Aikido as a martial art is because there are bad one and there are good ones. That’s one of the reasons I started Good Aikido, I want my students to always do good Aikido. I don’t want to defend the bad ones, and I don’t need to defend the good ones because they are good.
When One Reaches A Decent Level of Aikido Martial Artistry This Happens
When one reaches a certain level of true martial artistry, the martial artist will train in other arts. Veteran Aikidoka(s) do other martial arts. Having said this, a lot of Aikidoka(s) start from karate and judo and get into Aikido later on. I’m one of those guys, I did Ashihara karate and boxing as a kid. We come to Aikido to add to what we already know.
When you are looking on the internet for something, you will find a hundred reasons why and how something will not work. I have news for you, you don’t need a hundred reasons for something (or anything) to not work, you only need one.
If you want to be a martial artist and be good in Aiki? Then make it work. I’ve said this a thousand times in the last 11 years teaching Aikido. The most important Aikido in the world is your Aikido. Not mine. Not your friend’s Aikido. I can teach you the best Aikido I know, but it is up to you to do your own push-ups, it’s up to you to do your ukemi, it is up to you to be good in Aikido.
Check out How O Sensei’s Aiki Looked Like