View Full Version : Aikido & Weight Training

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Matt Shane
02-19-2008, 11:57 AM
I was just wondering...

Would it be smart to do both simultaneously? Might seem a silly question but I'm only asking out of curiosity.

02-19-2008, 12:44 PM
I was just wondering...

Would it be smart to do both simultaneously? Might seem a silly question but I'm only asking out of curiosity.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, I'm sure it could reinforce a person's Aikido training. One thing I remember from weight training is the idea of proper alignment. From an inertia standpoint, weight training might be described as developing the ability to overcome increasing degrees of inertia by increasing muscle mass and developing proper alignment. I think the intent of the physical waza of Aikido is basically the same thing, though quite a bit more complex in that we're trying to overcome the inirtia of an articulated "weight" which has a conscious will of its own.
The only danger I can think of is that without adequate stretching the muscles might become a bit too tight.

02-19-2008, 03:42 PM
The only drawbacks IMO are that if you are doing heavy weights to build mass you will have a tendency to get tight if you do not stretch as part of your weight workout and if you are trying to build mass or already have, you will find you have a tendency to depend on the strength of your shoulders and arms only. This will hinder you in learning principles of movement that aikido teaches.

I weight train but I already had about 10 years of aikido before taking up weight training. If you are a beginner, and you want to weight train, I would recommend doing lots of lighter reps first and stretching out between workouts. Don't go for heavy weights unless you are willing to distrust the use of your arms and shoulders. However once you master movements, you should find that your weight training helps

02-19-2008, 04:38 PM
Squats. Lots of squats.

02-20-2008, 05:57 AM
Would it be smart to do both simultaneously?
IMHO, no.
You can train sequentially by using good alignment, full range of motion, and visualizing energy flow.
But, not simultaneously because we tend not to allow the weights on the mats. ;-)

Mike Sigman
02-20-2008, 06:21 AM
I was just wondering...

Would it be smart to do both simultaneously? Might seem a silly question but I'm only asking out of curiosity.I think if you're shown how to move, that's a big enough problem to re-learn without complicating matters with weight-training. Then again, if you don't know how to move correctly, the previous sentence makes no sense, so it's seldom paid attention to in Aikido. And of course, if you don't know how to move with kokyu and ki, you're left with only moving normally or not doing "Aikido", so it becomes a real puzzle. ;)


Mike Sigman

02-20-2008, 08:15 AM
I think the main drawback is recovery time. It depends some on what your aikido is like and what your weight training is like, but the way I do both, I wouldn't generally want to do them on alternate days. When I was doing regular strength training, on my off days I liked to do something aerobic and non-impact that would let my body recover. I'm afraid that at this point, and for the foreseeable future, my aikido isn't anything close to non-impact.

Guybrush Wilkinson
02-20-2008, 08:41 AM
I was a competetive bodybuilder untill 2005 and quit bodybuilding in summer 2007. After that I have devoted my past time for Aikido.

I find very little advantage in weight training if the aim is to benefit from it in Aikido. Being very muscular, my problem in aikido has been the use of force instead of using the flow of technique. Or in other words, the flowing technique is quite hard for me to learn since the strength and power is allaways there.

However, doing squats and leg presses will strengthen your knees.

Matt Shane
02-21-2008, 11:13 AM
Much appreciated... thanks!

02-21-2008, 12:14 PM
IMHO, no.
You can train sequentially by using good alignment, full range of motion, and visualizing energy flow.
But, not simultaneously because we tend not to allow the weights on the mats. ;-)

lol, good one!!

02-21-2008, 03:10 PM
Weight bearing exercise is critical to neuromuscular adaptation, bone density, efficient tissue recruitment, postural organization, improving work capacity, and maintaining a healthy body composition. I can ASSURE you that there are at least a couple Aikido shihan who participate in a program of regular weight bearing exercise, probably many more. I can also assure you that if you do not participate in regular weight bearing exercise your health will reflect the difference later. The misunderstanding usually comes from confusing bodybuilding with almost any other kind of weight training. Weight training is not an all or nothing proposition. You are not trying to win a contest. We are talking about adding resistance to actions performed within a functional domain. A good example is the clean and jerk. The clean and jerk is THE most efficient method of moving weight from the floor to extension above the head. This is not a discussion, it is a scientific fact. The movement of the clean is literally prescribed by our DNA. The ability to do a pretty good clean and jerk automatically confers an explicit understanding of how the human body generates power on the vertical plane. This understanding is handy when undertaking any endeavor from getting up off the crapper to surviving a life and death struggle. The clean can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, with anything ranging from a broomstick to sandbag to a boulder.

02-21-2008, 03:43 PM
I was just wondering...

Would it be smart to do both simultaneously? Might seem a silly question but I'm only asking out of curiosity.

Maybe in your solo practice at home you can wear ankle and wrist weights.


02-23-2008, 11:23 PM
i am afitness instructor at a local gym and i can say that weight bearing exercise and training will add years to your life our friend is right we don't want win a contest we want to be a little stronger and lot healthier so a weight training regiment and LOTS of cardio will be just fine added to your aikido training and SHAZAM extra years for you! go you!:D

Patrick O'Regan
02-24-2008, 02:39 AM
Hi Matt
I got stuck into weights last year with a view to bulking up a bit. I put on about 5 kgs. I found in my Aikido that my center was much stronger but my ukemi was sluggish. Now I am doing body weight exercises only. It seems to be a happy medium.
Good luck.

02-24-2008, 12:32 PM
Is a good idea...The kind of weight training you engage in is key. I use the "super slow" method combined with snatches, squats, dead lifts, lunges, and clean & jerks on off days. Nothing super heavy with the free weights. Super Slow builds core muscle strength quickly without bulking up, and the free weights help with balance and your core fitness. I also try to build my shouder and elbow legiments with some specific hand weight exercises which really helps both Aikido and Surfing.

Cardio is huge too...and I need to work on my stretching at my age. If you can find a class... Bikram Yoga is great for building Kokyu and learning to focus your breathing under duress.

here are some helpful links...
Super Slow


Crosstrainer Fitness is a software program I have been using for a few years and it really helps me keep track of my regimen and nutrition. If you used it everyday for 30 days you would see exactly where you're at in terms of fitness and it really helps me keep track.

I hope some of you finds this stuff as helpful for your Aikido as it has been to me. :)

William Hazen

03-05-2008, 10:37 AM
I can say in my dojo Sensei encourages extra workouts after class, and he participates them as well. Generally we do a Navy Seal Conditioning program which consists of pushups, situps, pullups and running/swimming.

Having gone through the 15 week cycle twice I was amazed at how I was able to develop my upper body strength and the result was I was fitter AND my ukemi improved dramatically.

I then blew out a disk lifting a TV, and then again in aikido 6 months later. However, my core strength was what kept me out of surgery.

These days I swim a mile 3x a week and I lift pretty much before every aikido class. Exhausted muscles force you to work on flow and proper technique. Plus having swam/lifted before the advanced class, I'm usually in a more relaxed (read: exhausted) state.

So yes, if you have time, do weight training in addition to aikido. It'd be impossible for you to harm yourself with this combo. Just be prepaired to be exhausted pretty much all the time! And I'd google a Navy Seal Conditioning program, all you need is a pullup bar and you can do the whole thing right at home.


Walter Martindale
03-05-2008, 01:54 PM
Well.. Yes, in short, strength training can help. As someone above commented, if you're quite strong, it can affect how well you learn to flow with a movement. Longer answers - Kevin Hewitt provided some good ones.
I used to practice judo then went to rowing when my knee ligament was ruined. After 6 months of training on the university varsity 8+ I went back to the judo, and it was an amazing revelation - I could easily wear out (and beat up) my sensei, and the 3 other students in the dojo that day, 3 times each, and was still fresh at the end of it. That was after 6 months of 90 minute/day rowing training and racing, 6 days/week.
When I started Aikido, I'd been out of rowing (except in the role of a professional coach) for 10 years, and the main comments from the shihan in the area were associated with the fact that I had too much muscle. (oh, I'd also worked in the fitness industry - some rowing machine, some other cardio stuff, and lots of weights - for those of you familiar with Nautilus, at the end of a workout, I could hook up 60 lb (about 25 kg) on the multi-exercise and do 10 "dips".)
Will strength training help? Sure. How much? Depends on where you start, what you want to get out of it, how much time you dedicate. Where I work now, people (national team rowers) row 2-3 times per day, lift weights 2-3 times per week (on the days when they only row 2x) and have Wed PM and Sunday off. Despite (now) 15 years of Aikido, I don't think I'd want to take on even the women in this programme. The range of fitness - if you sit on a concept 2 rowing machine and see how fast you can row 2000 meters, some of these men do it in less than 5:50, some of the women in less than 6:50, and even the lightweight women (under 59 kg body weight) complete this in less than 7:30... Try it - you'll like it...

03-05-2008, 02:28 PM
Hi Matt
I got stuck into weights last year with a view to bulking up a bit. I put on about 5 kgs. I found in my Aikido that my center was much stronger but my ukemi was sluggish. Now I am doing body weight exercises only. It seems to be a happy medium.
Good luck.

This is where I'm at, with a couple of resistance band exercises thrown in. The nice thing about many body weight exercises is that they are increasing overall flexibility during the exercise, while also working the core muscles. While they don't put on the muscle mass that you see with heavy weights, they definitely build your muscle endurance...which seems to me more in-line with the aims of the akidoka.

My resistance training days generally go by this routine:

20 mins going easy on the exercise bike
5 mins vigorous stretching
1 mile run (about 8 mins)
15 pull-ups
50 hindu pushups
100 deep squats
20 bridge presses
15 hand-stand presses (against a wall)
30 dips
as many jack-knives as I can do
25 rows (with a resistance band attached to a hook on my deck)
25 reverse flys (resistance band)
25 curls with each arm (resistance band)
as many crunches as I can do
as many crossing leg-lifts as I can do
10 mins easy full-body stretching

I don't pause at all between exercises, and it takes about an hour. By the time I'm finished, I feel energized and relaxed...not exhausted the way I used to feel after a heavy-lifting workout. And I'm more flexible than I've ever been in my life.

03-05-2008, 05:19 PM
Just as a cautionary voice.... Make sure that your exercise regimen is properly balanced to include both the large muscle groups and the smaller stabilizers usually ignored by most books and websites.

I had gotten very out of shape and overweight while my late husband was ill. When I started putting my life back together, I decided to both return to martial arts and to weightlifting as a way to restore my physical and mental health. Unfortunately, I made the decision to start with machines instead of free weights. The large muscle groups were getting very strong, but the tracked guidance of the machine meant that the balancing/stabilizing part of weight bearing exercise was totally eliminated. My shoulders, for instance, had really strong delts, traps, and pecs, but my serratus muscles were maybe half the strength of the larger muscles. Normally this isn't much of a problem in regular daily life. However if my ukemi was off just a little bit, the uneven muscular forces within my shoulder would cause it to destabilize.

After several weeks of physical therapy, one cortisone shot, and a change to pure free weights in a carefully balanced workout, my shoulders are finally getting back to normal.

So save yourself the potential injury time and make sure you have a really well crafted workout. Correct form is crucial as well. Any sports medicine doc or trainer with martial arts experience should be able to help you out if you have questions.

(who in case you're wondering is now down to 23.4% body fat from a starting point of 47.9% - yay!)

Terence Phan
03-05-2008, 07:28 PM
General cardio and exercises that target the core muscle groups really enhance my practice time on the mat. I hear jump rope does wonders but I have yet to try it out.

Walter Martindale
03-06-2008, 12:41 AM
To echo Lori's cautionary about balance in the training - if training for strength, pay attention to the stabilisers and smaller muscles, and avoid "guided" movement in machines - the rowing people I mention in my previous post generally train with free weights, body weights, balance boards, wobble boards, medicine balls, and "Swiss" balls.

If you find a "dumbell curl" too easy, stand on a wobble board and try to do the same exercise. If you find a bench press too easy, use dumbbells, or instead of a bench, lie on a swiss ball - or try pushups with your hands on a swiss ball.
Sample variations of pushups - one hand on a bench, the other on a swiss ball.
Each hand on a different swiss ball (pretty difficult)
Feet on one swiss ball and each hand on a different swiss ball (pretty advanced, and very difficult - I've never even tried)
On the floor - use a small medicine ball do one pushup with one hand on the floor, one hand on the ball. At the top, roll the ball to the other hand and do the next pushup with the other hand on the ball - switch for each pushup, but keep the spine and pelvis aligned and horizontal..
Crawl, backwards (feet first, facing downstairs), up stairs touching only with the hands and toes.
(I've seen women's volleyball teams doing this one)

If you find any weights exercise too easy, make it more difficult by making the surface you do the exercise on less stable - I've done dumbbell squats while standing on a swiss ball - light dumbbells, and I warn people that if I'm going to fall, I'm throwing the weights away. There's another difficult ukemi because I have to hold onto a stair, rail, or squat rack to get up on the ball - solid obstacles on the way to the solid floor...

Split squats with the back foot on a chair and the front foot on a wobble board.
The variations are infinite...

03-07-2008, 09:45 AM
After several weeks of physical therapy, one cortisone shot, and a change to pure free weights in a carefully balanced workout, my shoulders are finally getting back to normal

(who in case you're wondering is now down to 23.4% body fat from a starting point of 47.9% - yay!)

Congrats on the body change! I've done something similar - did not measure body fat percentage, but lost ~35lbs of fudge over the last year and a half. I'm 5'10" and was a very strong 215lbs when playing rugby. After my playing days finished, I went down to a very-soft 205lbs (I work at a desk all day) for several years. I'm down to 170lbs and I'm in the best shape of my life.

I will echo exactly what you said about the stabilizer muscles...add me to the cautionary tale. I'm 95% healed from a torn rotator cuff I suffered while body-surfing in rough shore break last August. I elected to not have surgery and instead rehab it through p.t. and it has taken a long time to get back to the point that I have a full range of motion without pain. The ortho looked blamed the musculature of my shoulder and lack of development of stabilizer muscles for the severity of the injury.

Michael Douglas
03-08-2008, 01:19 PM
Ueshiba claimed in an interview that as a younger man he could lift 1200 lb.

Lifting heavy stuff makes you stronger. Amazing.

Steve Peters
03-08-2008, 05:24 PM
Squats. Lots of squats.

Squats were helpful when I started Aikido. Lunges and various core exercises were also just as useful.

Now, however, I've been leaning towards yoga, pilates, and tai chi. They tend to do more of what I'm looking for with the added flexibility benefit that I'm looking for.

Lyle Bogin
03-08-2008, 08:44 PM
When my aikido got a bit better, I lost some muscle weight since I didn't need to use so much meat to make the other guy tumble. Use it or lose it. So I added in pushups/pullups to maintain upper body mass. Not that you need to be able to bite-pull a dodge truck, but a bit more muscle takes stress off of the joints.

03-08-2008, 09:57 PM
Long ago my Sensei told us that weight training is not for female.I am
scared !

Walter Martindale
03-09-2008, 12:44 PM
Long ago my Sensei told us that weight training is not for female.I am
scared !

Wonder why weight training wouldn't be for females - the only difference between a male and a female is one chromosome (yeah, I know, that one chromosome makes for a lot of other differences, but male humans and female humans are still human).

Women have exactly the same muscles as men. Actually, there's a condition called "Androgen insensitivity syndrome" where the male's body doesn't respond to androgens (e.g., testosterone), and the person grows up looking like a female (breasts and all) but with testicles and so on not developed, no uterus and a few other oddities.

Normal females have less testosterone and other androgens than normal males, and cannot develop the bulky muscles that normal males develop with the same amount of weights training.

We had a gymnastics instructor who, when asked by one of the women in the class if all this (gymnastics) would make her muscle-bound, said "Remember ladies, under every curve, there's a muscle."


03-10-2008, 09:49 AM
i have been weight training regularly (3-4 times weekly) for the past 4-5 months, and i have seen no negative effects in my aikido training. And seeing as, in most fights, it is dificult to stay completly aiki, the extra strength and muscular endurance is useful to say the least. Any other questions?:)


03-10-2008, 11:47 AM
Now, I don't know if the person beginning this thread meant Aikido and weights at the SAME time as in using weights during a technique or exercising as well as doing Aikido, so I'll cover both.

Aikido practice WITH weights during technical practice:

This would be interesting. Other martial arts do this, Karate, Kung Fu, MMA, etc. Even japanese arts do this with weighted weapons, suburi-to and all. We had a heavy lead pipe that was the same size as a jo so we used it for practice, it definitely made a difference in speed and strength with a weapon. You could add weights during practice and it would make your regular practice MUCH lighter!

Aikido training as well as weight training at different times of the day

I do this and feel a significant difference! My strength and endurance is much better and I can actually last through hours of training without having to step off or take a break. It also reduces the tendency to overcompensate due to a lack of self-confidence. I know my endurance and strength will be better than most people so I can take my time and patience with an execution of a technique.

Either of these situations might be more realistic to a self defense situation anyways. What if you had a backpack? groceries? KIDS? Being weak and fatigued could mean the difference of enduring an attack and collapsing because you can not do anymore. Not only that, but it's a matter of health. Exercising your muscles, lungs, etc. will make your body last longer. I don't find Aikido doing that well of a job to the body to keep it healthy, so I think supplementing is needed for health reasons. If anything do Yoga, that's three in one. Mind, body, and spirit.


03-21-2008, 01:52 AM
i've done weight training quite a bit bu ti dont do it as much when im also practising aikido for exapmle if i dont do aikido for a month i'll just do weight training if i dont do weight training i'll just do aikido
saying that i found some things quite easier after doing weight training especially with the legs. but yeah nah as long as you stay flexable and do heaps of stretching i dont think its to bad. you need to keep some of ur muscles healthy. i definatly think its good.

but using weights while training i dont think is a good idea for the simple fact that in a real life situation u dont have these weights on and after just training with the weights you'll be able to move faster and it'll be lighter your harmony and balance will be slightly off.

at least thats my theory.