I’m a beginner, how do I start?

Come to a class.  You may wish to observe a class first, and you are welcome at any time.  If you’d like to try a class, you may do that as well to experience training firsthand before making a financial commitment.

As a beginner, I feel that I’ll just be holding any seniors back from their own training. Is this so?

That is absolutely not the case. The seniors helping you know that when they started other seniors helped them in the same way.  This is their chance to help someone else and make a friend in the process. The seniors are also deepening their own understanding of Aikido when they are helping you. In this way they are learning by teaching.

I see a lot of bowing. Is there some religion being practiced?

No, absolutely not. Aikido is not a religion and we do not preach any religion. The bowing that you see simply shows humility of oneself, respect for the dojo and the other practitioners and thankfulness for the opportunity to train in Aikido and the gifts that aikido and the dojo experience bestows. Because Aikido is a Japanese art it retains the traditional custom of bowing as a mutual sign of respect and appreciation. However, if that bowing conflicts with one’s religious beliefs it is not required-so long as mutual respect, appreciation, thankfulness and humility are still sincerely demonstrated to others and to the dojo. Aikido, though not a religion, definitely has its spiritual aspects. It supports the basic tenets of all religions in that we must seek to understand, respect and love both ourselves and all others – even our enemies. Since Aikido is based on the philosophy, ethics and wisdom of mutual protection it encourages this mutual respect, understanding and love within its physical practice. Therefore, men, women & children of any and all religions practice aikido together at Aikido Center of Lancaster as they do all over the world regardless of sex, creed, color, size or shape. Friendships result and a sense of both local and global community are developed and shared.

 

Is Aikido effective as a martial art?

Yes. In addition to effective techniques that give Aikidoists a wide range of application according to various situations and needs, Aikido amplifies the most important aspects of self defense: developing and trusting in natural instincts, intuition and sensitivity. Respecting one’s gut feelings and common sense are strongly encouraged. Many also come to aikido with extensive backgrounds in other martial arts and see the advantages Aikido has to offer over their previous training. Law enforcement officers, in particular, recognize the advantages of using Aikido in that they can easily handle someone with minimal effort, usually with just one hand-thus freeing the other hand for other uses. Aikido techniques can be applied in such a way as to not cause harm or bodily injury. Therefore, persons can be handled easily and safely. Handling a person in this way also reduces the chances of inciting others because of obvious harm or violence being inflicted. Additionally, Aikido techniques are practiced in such a manner as to take in all of the attacker’s capabilities as well as the assumption there may be a multiple attack. Therefore, when practicing Aikido one must be fully aware of the opponent-can they still kick, hit, bite or pull out and use a hidden weapon?  They must also be aware of the surroundings in case of further attack. The Aikido practitioner learns to apply the technique in such a way as to neutralize any attack capabilities, take the opponent down into a pin, use the opponent as a shield against further opponents or to throw that opponent into any others to neutralize or delay their attacks. But, again, the best tools for self defense are trusting in one’s common sense, intuition, instinct, gut feelings and sensitivity so as to avoid or neutralize potential problems or attacks. All of these important tools are developed and enhanced by training in Aikido.

How long will it take to be proficient with Aikido?

As with any new pursuit, everyone comes with different capabilities and talents. If you were to begin piano lessons, for example, who could say when you might be able to play a particular concerto? It is the same with Aikido. Some may have a feel for it sooner than others but usually it is those that must work at it that become the most proficient.

How long does it take to get a black belt?

Although getting a black belt is not the goal in Aikido, it takes a minimum of at least five, six, seven years or more to achieve that level of proficiency. It is not unusual for practitioners to train for ten, fifteen, twenty years having no particular aspirations for black belt level but just enjoying the training as an important part of their daily life. The best way to approach Aikido training is to simple enjoy each class, each accomplishment, each moment and to recognize one’s continued growth and improvement. The true goal, again, is not to get a black belt but to enhance one’s character while developing a deep appreciation for and understanding of all of the inner and outer aspects of Aikido. Then, as time goes by, one eventually makes their way up through the various ranks below black belt and, as a result of their efforts, may find themselves preparing for their black belt test.

How long does it take to progress through the ranks and what are they?

The study of Aikido typically requires more time to master than many other martial arts. Therefore, it tends to attract students who are interested in a genuine enjoyment of the on-going regular practice of the art, and those who are interested in true self-improvement. To move through the ranks (5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st kyu) and on to the black belt ranks, usually takes at least six or seven years, depending on how often one practices. For adults, there are no colored belts, just white and black.

 

Is this the style that Steven Segal uses in his movies, and can I learn how to do what he does?

Yes, Steven Segal is a legitimate Aikidoist and numerous Aikido legitimate techniques can be seen throughout his movies. However, the movies portray a much harsher form than is practiced in a dojo. While we do show the potential for doing harm, we take great care to protect ourselves as well as our practice partners as we alternately play the roles of attacker and defender. The emphasis is not so much on how to hurt others, but rather how to prevent them from getting hurt while protecting yourself. Of course, if it’s a serious situation then Aikido techniques may be employed in their most devastaing form. But we prefer to choose the most ethical option and, therefore, the Aikido technique at its finest with effectiveness and benevolence combined.

Why do some Aikidoists wear the Japanese skirts?

The hakama was a traditional outer pants garment used to protect a Japanese samurai horseman’s legs, similar to a cowboy’s leather chaps. It was retained in Aikido because of the aesthetic way it enhances both the look and feel of Aikido performance. At Aikido Center of Lancaster, students who have attained the rank of 3rd Kyu are permitted to wear hakama. Black or dark blue are both commonly used. One color does not denote any meaning or significance over the other. It is simply a personal preference.

Is practice open to both men and women?

Yes. Men and women study together. Actually, women tend to excel in the art as they typically do not rely on strength to execute the techniques. Aikido works because of timing, leverage, and positioning. Also, a lower center of gravity can have many advantages.

Am I too old to participate?

Many students have successfully practiced well into their sixties and seventies without restricting their activities. It’s never too late to begin. Chances are, you won’t be the oldest person on the mat.

What are the benefits of being a member of Aikido Center of Lancaster?

First, your monthly membership fee allows you to attend as many classes as you are able.  (Please note that no contracts are required.)

Second, as an affiliate of the Aikido Centers, you are connected to one of the largest and most established Aikido dojos in the U.S.   Aikido Center of Lancaster students regularly participate in joint seminars which bring together nationally and internationally recognized instructors and have their rank endorsed by Greg O’Connor Sensei, 6th dan.

Finally, as a member of Aikido Center of Lancaster, you are part of a larger nationwide and worldwide community of Aikido teachers and practitioners who frequently come together to share their experience and love of the art.

For further questions you can email us, call or stop in to watch any classes and speak with the instructor.
We’ll be happy to answer any questions and we look forward to you joining our dojos.

 

Reprinted with Permission
Greg O’Connor
Aikido Centers