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 or do-gi(gi for short). It is a white or off-white thick weave gi like those used in Judo and Juijutsu. 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-cho. If you already own a gi from a different martial art, 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. O Sensei emphasized daily practice as opposed to rank acquisition, after all. That said, each member sets their own training schedule and may come to as many classes as they 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.
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. A brown belt may be worn by students who have obtained the rank of 2nd kyu or higher. All dan ranks (black belt level) wear a black belt and hakama (see description below). A blackbelt does not denote expertise, but designates a senior student.
4. How long will it take me to get a black belt in Aikido?
This is very difficult to answer, as commitment and opportunity are both required for a formula answer like 2-5 years. Realistically, most people practicing sincerely at least three days a week, often find that they test for black belt in approximately 6 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 skills in throwing and falling have reached a competent level, it is this partner effect that allows Aikido to be practiced at full speed without fear of injury.
6. Are there tournaments or competitions in Aikido?
There are no tournaments or competitions in Aikikai Aikido. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba, felt that these were directly contrary to the philosophy of Aikido. Tournaments and competitions are reserved for sports and activities that deem a winner and therefore a loser. In Aikido, we offer ourselves to one another in a unique partner effect that allows the betterment of both individuals involved in the conflict. Competitiveness is discouraged as it directly impacts the learning process necessary to transmit the Art of Peace safely to all practitioners of all varying abilities and ages.
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 students 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 short answer would be: a very long time. Some people spend the rest of their lives practicing Aikido, and few reach the goal of truly becoming a master. O Sensei often emphasized the importance of daily practice as opposed to skill building for mastery. Therefore, incorporating Aikido in your everyday life is emphasized more as a goal.
10. What are seminars? Am I invited?
Seminars are organized events led by a host affiliate United States Aikido Federation dojo in which a senior instructor visits to share their Aikido teachings with a population that may not have regular access to high level instruction. The may be held as one day events, weekend retreats or week long camps. These events have been known to draw up to 500 people depending on the venue and the instructor. In years past we were lucky to host and participate in seminars with some of the most well known and renowned global teachers, including Akira Tohei Shihan, Seichi Sugano Shihan, Yoshimitu Yamada Shihan to name a few. We are fortunate to have a direct lineage to Hombu Dojo Aikikai World Headquarters through our teachers directly, and through this unique system we continue to train with some of the top teachers the world has to offer. As a member of the United States Aikido Federation, all members are encouraged to attend as many seminars as they can to enrich their own understanding of Aikido. One of the more unique offerings if Aikido is a community of people worldwide that share your love of this magically connective Art of Peace.