Frequently Asked Questions
- CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW AIKIDO CLASSES BEGIN
- Are classes really free? Why?
- Classes really are free. Aikido schools generally have to charge money to pay the rent, utilities and the instructor. Since we are operating rent/utility free on base, there is no need to charge any fees. We would like to encourage you to donate to our GoFundMe campaign "Aikido 4 PTSD" which raises money to train our staff in using Aikido training to help veterans suffering from combat related post-traumatic stress disorder. See our "Charity" page for more information.
- I have never taken Aikido classes, what should I expect? Can I just watch a class?
- Classes are conducted in the traditional Japanese format. All students are guided through a simple opening ceremony before each class where we sit in a kneeling position (seiza) before starting class. This helps us get into the proper mindset for training.
- After the opening ceremony the main instructor (sensei) will demonstrate a technique (waza) with the senior student (sempai) for the class. Then the students pair off and practice the technique together at a measured and safe pace. This is the general format of the class. At the end of the class, sensei will ask each student to share a "lesson learned" from the class. This can be about yourself or about aikido.
- We love having visitors! You are always welcome to come by and watch. We only ask that you take no pictures, turn your phone off, and do no talk during the class.
- Do you train with weapons?
- Yes. Weapons training is a vital component to our method of Aikido training. If you train with us, you will train with traditional weapons.
- What do you mean by "train with weapons"?
- You will learn to use the sword (ken), staff (jo) and knife (tanto). Additionally you will learn how to defend against them without any weapons of your own.
- What should I wear?
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Usually sweat pants and a t-shirt are just fine to start. Don't wear any jewelry such as watches, rings, ear rings or necklaces.
- When do I get to wear those pajama thingys?
- If you are talking about the white uniform (gi) you can start wearing it as soon as you purchase it. We do, however, recommend that you attend several classes before purchasing a gi. If you decide that you want to regularly attend classes then go ahead and purchase a gi.
- Where can I purchase a gi?
- It is entirely up to you! We recommend shopping through Amazon.com because their return policies are so customer friendly. If you decide to purchase a gi, we do require you to purchase a white judo style gi (vice karate or tae kwon do gi). The judo gi is hardier and will not stick to your body when you get sweaty like many karate/tae kwon do gis do. It must be white (or non-bleached white) not blue or other styles of gi. There can be no visible adversizements on the gi (as with many BJJ/MMA style gis).
- We also recommend that you purchase a judo gi that is actually 1 size larger than what your size. They are 100% cotton and will shrink drastically over time.
- Why do some students wear those dress-like pants?
- Those are called hakama and they were worn by the samurai-class in feudal Japan. They were originally worn as chaps, but as the samurai became less of a mounted force and more of an astetic faction, the hakama became a symbol, like the katana, of the warrior class. We still wear them today to showcase the warrior legacy of Aikido (as do many jiujitsu styles).
- What IS Aikido?
- Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title 'O Sensei' or 'Great Teacher'). On a purely physical level it is an art involving some throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu and some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu. Aikido focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.
- Do you have colored belts?
- Yes. The colored belt system was actually started by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, in order that he could have students of equal levels compete at a fair level. Aikido has used this system since just after World War II.
- How long does it take get a black belt?
- First off, we say "earning" your black belt, because you absolutely do! It takes 3 to 5 years to earn a black belt, generally speaking, and varies from school to school.
- Why does it take so long?
- Between each colored belt (kyu) there is a training time requirement. For example, to reach yellow belt you must have a minimum of 20 hours of training. Additionally, there are a standard set of techniques that are required to be learned before being eligible to apply to test.
- Are there different "styles" of Aikido?
- It is better to say that there is one Aikido, with several distinct interpretations (aka styles or "ryu"). There are no 'styles' of Aikido. Aikido was originally developed by one man, O Sensei.
- Many students who trained under O Sensei decided to spread their knowledge of Aikido by opening their own dojos. Due, among other things, to the dynamic nature of Aikido, different students of O Sensei interpreted his Aikido in different ways. Thus different styles of Aikido were born. The more common are listed here along with a brief explanation of what is different about the style. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses, but all are firmly rooted in the basic concepts which make Aikido the unique art that it is. None should be considered superior or inferior to any other, but rather an individual must find a style which best suits him or her. Outside factors such as geographic location may of course limit one's options.
- No matter which style you choose, you are going to be taught that particular instructors interpretation of it, and you yourself are going to develop your own particular Aikido. One might say that there are as many different styles of Aikido as there are practitioners.
- The "Old Schools" Include: Here we'll list the schools that developed from the pre-war teachings.
Aiki-Budo: This is the name given to the art O Sensei was teaching early in his development. It is very close in style to previously existing Jutsu forms such as Daito-ryu Aiki-Jutsu. It is considered to be one of the harder forms of Aikido.
Most of the early students of O Sensei began during this period and much of the early practice overseas was in this style (e.g. Abbe Sensei's teaching in the UK in the 50s).
Yoseikan: This form was developed by Minoru Mochizuki, who was an early student of O Sensei and also of Jigoro Kano Sensei at the Kodokan. This style includes elements of Aiki-Budo together with aspects of Karate, Judo and other arts.
Yoshinkan: This is the style taught by the late Gozo Shioda. Shioda Sensei studied with O Sensei from the mid-30s. After the war, he was invited to begin teaching and formed the organization known as the Yoshinkan. Unlike many later organizations, the Yoshinkan has always maintained friendly relations with the Aikikai both during and after O Sensei's life. The Yoshinkan is a harder style of Aikido, generally concerned with practical efficiency and physically robust techniques. It is taught to many branches of the Japanese Police.
- The "Traditional Schools" include:
- Aikikai: The Aikikai is the common name for the style headed by Moriteru Ueshiba, O Sensei's grandson, as taught under the auspices of the International Aikido Federation. Most regard this school as the mainline in Aikido development. In reality, this "style" is more of an umbrella than a specific style, since it seems that many individuals within the organization teach in quite a different manner. The Aikido taught by Ueshiba Sensei is generally large and flowing, with an emphasis on a standard syllabus and little or no emphasis on weapons training. Other teachers within the auspices of the Aikikai (like Saito Sensei) place much more emphasis on weapons practice.
- Iwama-ryu- (Our Style) The style taught by Morihiro Saito, based in the Iwama dojo, is generally considered sufficiently stylistically different from mainstream Aikikai that it is named individually, even though it still is part of the Aikikai. Saito Sensei was a long time uchideshi of O Sensei, beginning in 1946 and staying with him through his death. Many consider that Saito Sensei was the student who spent most time directly studying with O Sensei Saito Sensei says he is trying to preserve and teach the art exactly as it was taught to him by the Founder. Technically, Iwama-ryu seems to resemble the Aikido O Sensei was teaching in the early 50s mainly in the Iwama dojo. The technical repertoire is larger than in most other styles and a great deal of emphasis is placed on weapons training.
- Do you teach anywhere else besides on base?
- As of January, 2017 we teach only on Ft. Meade. We do have private training available off post, for groups of 2-6. You may email us for pricing and availability.