Aikido training consists of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques. Also coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons, such as the sword, staff and knife. Aikido was created from traditional Japanese martial traditions that dates back centuries. It is is one of the most widely practiced budo, or martial way, in the world.
Classes are designed to allow students enter a meditative state of mind, they forget about the realities and worries of daily life, which in turn allows them to focus entirely on the physical, non-conflict and spiritual aspects of practice. Students also learn how to apply what they learn in class into other aspects of their daily lives. This is how the peaceful nature of Aikido becomes a way of life.
People of any size or age can benefit from Aikido practice; techniques are applied to equal effectiveness regardless of gender or size.
Before each class, a basic warm up that consists of stretches and light falls takes place to get students ready for practice.
Students sit upright in a row, facing the front.
- Everyone bows to the "Shomen" which is considered the front of the dojo, and Iwama Aikido dojos traditionally has pictures of the Founder of Aikido and of Morihiro Saito Sensei. This is done with respect for the art, teachers and fellow students.
- Practice begins with basic Aikido exercises. These are the basic movements of Aikido and are considered the building blocks of techniques.
- From here practice includes Kihon Waza (basic techniques) from the Aikido syllabus. Basic Aikido techniques are set techniques that teach students the underlying principles of Aikido. It can be said that the effective use of Aikido in battle relies upon intuitively applying principles to create techniques to fit the circumstances, rather than trying to fit circumstances to techniques.
- In class, students take turns practicing techniques on each other. In addition to learning how to apply wrist locks and throws, students learn how to receive techniques safely by learning how to fall in different ways.
"Bukiwaza" refers to the practice of Aiki-ken and Aiki-jo techniques developed by O-Sensei. At his dojo in Iwama, Morihei Ueshiba taught a technically rich system including weapons over a protracted period of time with Morihiro Saito Sensei as his leading student. Saito Sensei categorized and catalogued these weapons forms as he incorporated them into his daily practice. The practice of Aikido weapons (aiki ken and aiki jo) is now deeply rooted in the Iwama Style Aikido training curriculum.
In the 1938 technical manual titled “Budo” there is a large number of historical photos where the Founder demonstrates key basic techniques, including weapons practice that look virtually identical to the Aikido forms taught by Saito Sensei at the Iwama dojo.
The practice of Bukiwaza was central to the Takemusu Aikido practice, the forms and techniques were handed down from O Sensei to Saito Sensei, and he continued to teach those same forms and techniques at the Iwama dojo after the Founders passing in 1969.
For a period of time since 1961, Saito Sensei also taught weapon classes on a regular basis at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. As a matter of fact, Saito Sensei was the only teacher, besides the Founder, allowed to teach Aiki bukiwaza at the Aikikai Hombu dojo.
This integration of weapon and empty hand (body) practice is well explained by Saito Sensei in his first series of five instructional books, TRADITIONAL AIKIDO •Sword •Stick •Body Arts first published in 1973. Under the heading RIAI – The Combined Aikido System, Saito Sensei wrote:
“Generally speaking, Aikido is known by its taijutsu [body] techniques. However, the taijutsu movements are based on movements of the ken [sword]. It is difficult to separate those movements which are based on the ken from those of taijutsu. Rather it is a harmonious blending of both that creates a single Aikido. In other words, both systems agree with each other.
If one were to mix present forms of Kendo and Judo, and expect the result to be similar to Aikido one would be making a mistake. Even when using the same ken, Kendo and Aikido are very different even though they may appear to be similar. It would also be very difficult to explain Kendo in terms of Judo and vice versa.
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