Q - How old should you be to learn Aikido?
A - General Age Group Guidelines: Adults of Any Age, Childrens Class at the age of 7 to 12 years, Teens at the age of 13 to 17 years.
Q - Do you have to be strong, tough, or athletic to learn Aikido? Or to do Aikido well?
A - No. Young and old, flexible and stiff, strong and not so strong, male and female, tall and short, trim and overweight can all learn to do Aikido well. Most classes have a mix of beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. Students of all levels work with each other, and will usually switch partners multiple times during a class.
Q - How long will it take before I am good at Aikido?
A - Just as with any art or skill that’s worth mastering, learning Aikido takes time. You probably wouldn’t expect to be an accomplished piano player after taking a year of lessons, and so it is with Aikido. As with any worthwhile endeavor in life, be it learning to play a musical instrument, earning recognition in a profession, or raising children to be good members of society, Aikido takes commitment, dedication, persistence, and practice. Your understanding of Aikido deepens the longer you practice. The more you know, the more you realize there is still more to learn; yet that prospect is exciting, not daunting. The study of Aikido truly can last a lifetime.
Q. - How effective is Aikido for self-defense?
A - . Aikido is a defensive martial art rather than a method of self-defense geared to neutralizing specific attacks such as someone grabbing you, pulling a knife, throwing a punch, and so on. If you are looking for self-defense techniques to be used in specific situations, there are many good programs available.
Many of the ideas taught in Aikido, including getting off the line of attack and not using muscle to overpower your attacker but rather movements to unbalance them, can be effective in self-defense situations when used by experienced students, but this is not the sole aim of practicing Aikido.
However, one of the most important methods of staying safe is not getting into a bad situation in the first place. Aikido helps you develop a greater awareness of your surroundings (and eventually the actions/intentions of others). This awareness enables you to avoid putting yourself into a risky situation to begin with. As someone once said, if you plan for the unexpected, it's no longer unexpected.
Q - Do you bow down or pray to any gods in Aikido?
A - No, we do not bow down or pray to any gods in Aikido class. We bow to each other in the dojo in the same way that we shake hands with friends and business partners outside the dojo: it's a way of showing respect and politeness for one another. It's also a way of thanking the instructors and other classmates for allowing you to train with them.
Q - Do Aikido use weapons?
A - Yes. The three standard weapons of Aikido are the wooden sword (bokken), the short staff (jo), and the knife (tanto). Much of Aikido's basic empty-hand movements are patterned off the sword, so sword work is very important in traditionally-minded Aikido schools. The jo is a good tool for teaching spontaneous movement and creativity in techniques; i.e., "to go with the flow." The knife is a good tool for perfecting Aikido techniques. Very often the dynamics of a blade permit an armed assailant to be a threat where an unarmed assailant would not be a threat, so training to defend against a knife makes one's Aikido better.
Q - What else can I learn from Aikido?
A - That’s really up to you. However, many students find that the more internal aspects of Aikido and the culture of the dojo - which upholds courtesy, etiquette, dedication, sincerity, and respect, among other things - become as important as the training itself. These students seek to live the rest of their “off-the-mat” life with the same values as those practiced on the mat in the dojo. The tenets of being a good Aikido student and training partner can extend to all areas of life, including work, home, relationships, and so on. If you let it, Aikido just might help you be a little better person!