Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is the practice uniform required and where can I buy one?
Yes, a standard practice uniform (gi) is required. The practice uniform is called a keiko-gi (gi for short). Black skirt-like trousers, called hakama, are worn by black-belts. Aikido practice can be very rigorous and, as such, a sturdy uniform is necessary. However, during the first month of practice, a member may start by wearing loose, comfortable clothing (sweat pants and a t-shirt are appropriate). By the time a member signs up for the second month, he/she should be wearing a gi which may be purchased directly through the dojo. If you already own a gi, please check with us. If it is similar to ours, it is probably okay to wear.
2. How often should I practice?
While Alamo Area Aikikai encourages its members to practice as often as possible, there is no required schedule. Each member sets his/her own training schedule and may come to as many classes as he/she would like. Many beginners find that coming to class at least three times a week on a regular basis is optimum for good memory retention, thereby continuously reinforcing the concepts being taught. Unlimited membership entitles a member to attend any or all of the classes offered by Alamo Area Aikikai, except for high school practice.
3. How many different colored belts are in Aikido?
At Alamo Area Aikikai a white belt is worn by all unranked and kyu ranked (below black belt level) members. All dan ranks (black belt level) wear a black belt. A blackbelt does not denote expertise, but designates a senior student. Alamo Area Aikikai's kids program uses colored ribbon to denote kids' rank (10th kyu C, B, A - 7th kyu C, B, A).
4. How long will it take me to get a black belt in Aikido?
While this is very difficult to answer, people practicing sincerely for about three days a week regulary and continuously often find that they test for black belt in approximately six years.
5. How do you spar in Aikido?
There is no sparring in Aikido. Aikido is an art and there are no competitive tournaments. In Aikido, the person you practice with is considered your partner, not your opponent. As such, you practice Aikido for your own personal improvement. Once your skills in throwing and falling have reached a competent level, Aikido is unique in that it may be practiced at full speed without fear of injury.
6. Are there tournaments or competitions in Aikido?
Not in Aikikai Aikido. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, felt that tournaments or competitions were directly contrary to the philosophy of Aikido, which is to overcome your own ego. Tournaments and competitions seem to be activities that encourage an ego by saying one person is better than another. In Aikido, we try to better ourselves regardless of the other person. Aikido is not something that can be easily regulated, and as such, serious injuries would likely occur in competitions.
7. What is the hakama and what does it mean?
The hakama is a traditional garment worn by the Samurai. Although O-Sensei preferred all members wear one, at Alamo Area Aikikai it designates men and women of black belt rank. The USAF handbook has further information.
8. Do you practice kicking in Aikido?
Practicing techniques against kicking is limited because falling down with one leg in the air and only one leg on the ground is very difficult. Most people are challenged enough just learning ukemi without the added difficulty of practicing falling from a thwarted kick. Although sometimes we do practice kicking, it is extremely rare and reserved for advanced classes.
9. How long will it take me to master Aikido?
A very long time. Some people spend the rest of their lives practicing Aikido and few reach the goal of truly mastering it.