View Full Version : Beginners and Daily Training

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07-22-2008, 01:02 AM
As a beginner myself, I wonder how practical it would really be to train every day or even without the guidance of an instructor.

I'm going on my 5th month in aikido and i'm still very hesitant about training without supervision. It's almost a catch 22. I would very much like to train at least a small amount daily, even if that means just reviewing techniques and tai sabaki. The problem is that when you are so new to an art, you don't REALLY know that you are doing it correctly. There is the very real possibility that you could develop bad habits that might slow your class learning to a crawl.

A simple solution would be to just wait it out until you are confident enough in your form to practice the steps solo. But, it can seem as if you are progressing at a much slower rate than you would if you practiced outside of the dojo.

What are your thoughts on a beginner's unsupervised training? You think it's a bad idea? Think it doesn't really matter that much?

Randy Sexton
07-22-2008, 01:27 AM
Been doing Aikido 15 months now and I find reading articles on-line and watching some of the instructional material on You Tube very helpful. I have started a good library of books on Aikido as well as watching some of the wonderful DVD available. Doing Jo or Bokken work at home is a great way to get exercise and develop skill. Daily stretching regimen is vital to me. Not to mention my daily exercising on this wonderful Aikiweb!

07-22-2008, 07:24 AM
I think, if I were doing it, I'd keep the solo practice real, real, real simple -- and limit it to things where I know what's right and what's wrong. Just doing things that can be done without a partner isn't enough, you need to be able to give yourself feedback.

07-22-2008, 07:25 AM
Try reading these posts for possible solo exercises:




07-22-2008, 07:46 AM
As I said in another post, there are many things you can do in the long run to help any martial art.

For example, stretch. Being supple and flexible will help you reduce injury and live a healthier life. This means more time for aikido. Maybe take a walk or a run, do some exercise such as lifting weights. Granted, you probably do not want to bulk yourself up, but being in good or great physical shape will help you prevent injury and illness which means more aikido time.

I've always had to laugh at very out of shape guys who train martial arts for self defense and in all honesty are winded walking up a short flight of stairs. If they were so concerned with their safety, you would think they would be in shape. Health problems kill more people then random muggings I'm sure.

I personally have started in on the crossfit craze. The workouts are very short and very intense working cardio and strength at the same time. I find supplementing this with basic stretching or yoga helps keep me from getting too inflexible from all the weight training.

I know a lot of martial artist laugh at the idea of physical conditioning (my aikido instructor has said "I would never pay a martial arts teacher to have me do pushups"), but it is my opinion that the first step to anything martial is to be in the best reasonable physical shape you can be in. In the long run, I feel this will really help anything you choose to do, martial or not.

07-28-2008, 04:48 AM
I think if you want to practice alone the most important thing is to know the answers to the "why" and "how" questions. As long as you don't know the answers you just copy movements, you don't know what to focus on, how it is supposed to going. This is not really for the mind of someone who is not from the Far East. Westerners are more of the analysing type, so if they understand what they do they can learn and memorise much better.
Answers to the 'why'-s: if you understand what is the aim of each movement, why you do things the way you do them, and if you learn how to do them, you will be able to concentrate on practicing them on your own and you will be able to notice your mistakes.

The same applies to practicing in pairs so I believe that you will learn a technique much more easily and effectively if you understand how they work.

Kevin Leavitt
07-28-2008, 05:17 AM
Second Don, Crossfit, it is the way to go.

People spend too much time (myself included) doing waza and not enough time developing the martial body.

Mark Murray also provides some good links, highly recommmend reading them in gleaning the into.

Most of us have spent many years doing waza only to wake up and find out that indeed we should be doing more solo, developmental conditioning.

It is not hard to do, and while technical somewhat, the technical part requires baseline conditioning before you can really do it right anyway, so you might as well get started on the basics...which is why I recommend Crossfit

Don't let anyone tell you aikido does not require you to be in good shape. Yes you can get by in poor physcial conditioning, but you will not get far in the art if you are not in shape.

In shape I do not mean being able to lift a bunch of weight, but core strength. Crossfit, go to the website and read about it.

07-28-2008, 08:47 AM
I've observed that beginners who are enthusiastic about a martial art, and who want to practice hard and often, frequently end up injured if they start out in poor condition, or even okay condition but not martial-arts condition. Can you get into good shape through aikido? Yes, but it's not the safest or most efficient way to do so. Conditioning is an excellent use of time for an enthusiastic beginner in any martial art.

07-28-2008, 09:36 AM
Just as an offshoot ...

Some people like practicing sword cuts for solo work because it is something that can be done outside the dojo.

In that light ... here's my view so far ...

Note: Start with a light bokken. If you use too heavy of a bokken, you will end up using specific muscle groups and that will negate any training in whole body usage.

When bringing the sword upwards for a shomen cut:

1. Do not use the shoulder muscles to raise the sword. In other words, don't let the specific shoulder muscles engage on their own. Some hints that this is happening is that your shoulders will raise. Another hint that this is happening is that you'll feel like your arms sort of separate outward from the shoulder socket. Typically when this happens, your elbows go outwards.

2. Instead, picture the imagery of the unbendable arm and the water hose. Rather than just having the water hose go through your arms, have that water hose go from palm of hand to your center and then down through your legs to the ground. Imagine the ground is where the water pressure is held in check. Open the valve at your feet and let water pressure go through the hose through your body into your palms and let that raise the bokken.

3. Just to make things a little harder, imagine that there is a pathway from your fingers, through your arms, through your shoulder blades to your spine. Imagine that there is a line of energy pulling into your spine from your fingers and that this is happening the same time the ground force is coming up through. Work on relaxing your shoulder and shoulder blades so that they don't physically engage.

Once the bokken is raised, bringing it downwards tends to be a bit trickier -- at least for me. You want to let gravity do the work, but not in a loose manner.

1. Don't use shoulders to bring the sword down. If you find that your chest muscles are tightening, you're using shoulders.

2. Don't put any muscle power into the cut. Remember, this is training to make your body work as one unit, not to cut through anything. That comes later from a qualified teacher.

3. Relax completely is not really a very enlightening translation. There are things working inside the body, but relax completely can be thought of to mean do not engage muscle groups on their own. If you are practicing cutting with the bokken for aikido training and you find that your biceps, or even the chest muscles, are hard and tense, then you have effectively shut down your whole body power. Imagine a water hose that is pinched shut. When you engage muscle groups, you shut off the hose.

4. Keep the back straight. Don't lean left or right, forward or backwards.

5. Watch that the arms don't disengage from the shoulder socket. The best way to keep the arms as part of the body is to keep the image of energy going out to your hands *and* energy coming back from your hands -- keep both going at the same time. That energy coming back tends to seat your upper arm bone into the shoulder socket and takes out a lot of play in that joint.


James Edwards
07-28-2008, 09:55 AM
I like Don's point about physical conditioning. Aikido may be the martial art "for all shapes and sizes" but it is still a martial art and demands physical effort. In my opinion if you condition your body and practice using it you will understand your own body better. Thus by understanding your own body you'd be able to adapt better to the techniques (both performing and receiving) and make the aikido adapt to your own body (as in finding what is effective for you).

Anyway on the suburi topic, both jo and bokken suburi would supplement your training and you can do these easily by yourself. If you haven't been taught any suburi then find a way to get your instructor to pass the knowledge to you :P

In my humble beginner experience I've found that Chiba sensei's 8 suburi helps me understand the basic taijutsu forms a bit better. Once we did a technique that starts with katadori and where tori would have to step back and cut down. My sensei told me that it is exactly like the first suburi and it made a lot more sense to me.

Going back to Mr. Cavin's question though. I'm also a beginner and we had arranged a few extra sessions with just fellow students to practice. I find that it helped a lot especially with the more experienced students giving more than the casual pointers in class. Of course there is an element of safety with all that. You'd also find that you want to experiment a bit more than in class. It's all constructive but can be dangerous. So just make sure you get a permission from your sensei if you want to do some extra practice. Personally I really recommend it though I would recommend to have someone more experienced to keep you on track.

07-28-2008, 10:33 AM
I would have to disagree with everyone who believes that weight training is good for beginners. It's actually the single worst thing any beginner could do.

Think about it. What are you accomplishing in weight training? Building up specific muscle groups. How? By getting specific muscle groups to fire in response to weight and resistance.

For aikido, that's a very bad thing.

1. Relax completely. Can't do that if you're training groups of muscles to fire and engage when weight and resistance are encountered.

2. Takeda, Ueshiba, Shioda, etc all took on people much bigger and stronger than them and had no problems handling them. It isn't about big, bulking muscles.

3. Getting whole body, relaxed movement requires an integrated body. Weight training is opposite that because it trains specific areas to respond.

4. And when uke gives an attack with body weight, energy, and resistance, what primarily would a weight training individual do? Respond with what he/she has been doing -- in other words, specific muscle groups will fire/engage and he/she will try to muscle through a technique.


Kevin Leavitt
07-28-2008, 10:41 AM
Understand where you are coming from Mark on the weight training thing. But I disagree a little. Crossfit incorporates weights as a core building process. Medicine Balls, Kettlebells, and even olympic weights done properly train the body appropriately to respond to loads and what not.

that said, even in Crossfit, you start out with little or no weight in many exercises until you build the core.

Lifting 1970's Arnold style, no it does very little and can actually serve as a road block...I agree with that.

07-28-2008, 11:12 AM
Understand where you are coming from Mark on the weight training thing. But I disagree a little. Crossfit incorporates weights as a core building process. Medicine Balls, Kettlebells, and even olympic weights done properly train the body appropriately to respond to loads and what not.

that said, even in Crossfit, you start out with little or no weight in many exercises until you build the core.

Lifting 1970's Arnold style, no it does very little and can actually serve as a road block...I agree with that.

Probably some cross talk here. :)

I should clarify that the weight training I'm talking about is going to the gym and "lifting weights." I don't know much about Crossfit. But, once you have some sort of start, weight training can help you improve. It's just that for beginners, I don't think it should be advisable at all.

Or, as you state for Crossfit, they start with very little or no weight until later. Which is what I'm trying to say. Beginners shouldn't start weight training. The training is too new for most to be able to get any benefit from the weighted resistance. So, I think we're probably agreeing here, just using different words. :)


Kevin Leavitt
07-28-2008, 11:25 AM
Yes Mark, I am sure there is some cross talk. I work out in my Gym at work with the rest of my Army guys. I get some strange looks at how I "lift weights". Those that are in the know understand what I am doing..the rest simply Don't get it.

BTW, I spend more time without weights than I do with weights. there is simply too many things that I need to work on that my body weight is enough at this point.

The weights simply add an out of balance situation that requires me to use my core to rebalance it. It is not about isolating the muscle groups.


recommend it if you are interested in the crossfit philosophy.

07-28-2008, 02:50 PM
Exactly, even for boxing, bjj, judo, weight lifting to build size is not going to help you. You need to work out to improve health. This means losing excess body fat, building cardio endurance (and thus a strong heart), and building functional body strength.

But I am not recommending everyone go out and try to build as much muscle as possible. I recommend getting healthy and improving yourself. If you have 10 or 15 pounds of extra weight on you, you can be hurting yourself in the long run. I know quite a few martial artists who have knee and back problems that are probably due to their size and have weight related health problems.

Being fit and trim should be your number one priority if you are worried about self defense.

That said, crossfit is an excellent workout for reasons beyond that. The way it combines exercises to focus on the body as a whole really helps build you in ways that are very useful to martial artists. I have noticed much larger gains in my cardio and muscular endurance in the short time I've done crossfit. I used to run 2-3 times a week and found the gains very small. I was not training strength endurance under cardio stress.

When you build healthy muscles you burn more fat, you feel all around 'better' and you can practice more often with less injury. I'm not saying you need to be a specimen of perfection, I am far from that. But if you are not working on improving your physical fitness then you are missing out on a large part of what I believe is essential to being a martial artist.

Proper diet, proper exercise, proper mindset, and proper training.

James Edwards
07-28-2008, 11:48 PM
With the weight training issue I partially agree with Mr. Murray. Training the body to push againts resistance contrasts with aikido training with focuses on finding the most efficient way to execute a technique. It is also evident with my observation that often the smaller practitioners can execute techniques better as they focus on technique, not strength. However I still believe that there are aspects of weight training and cardio exercises that can help and I'm not talking about bulking up and getting big here. Other than helping improve your overall health as discussed, you can train your endurance and core strength as well. I find that these are two of some of the physical necessities of aikido training.

As your endurance goes up, you'd get tired less easily as well. Meaning you can concentrate better in the dojo to take in what's taught to you. Of course aikido is about relaxing the muscles and that can't take that much energy right? But there are still other aspects of it that can drain you. Running to your opponent to attack, taking ukemi, weapons training, etc. In seminars this would even be more important due to the longer timescale.

Core strength is another important aspect. It helps your spine stay erect and your body more stable. Thus you'd feel more grounded as well.

On top of that with weight training for martial arts, people usually focus on the extension muscles (e.g. triceps) since these are usually the largest muscles of the body and helps in "relaxing". When you "relax" your arms, you do not use your biceps and thus it stays relaxed but when someone pushes againts your arm, you'd utilise your triceps and other extension muscles to keep your arm straight. I think this may also be part of the explanation of the unbendable arm. If you tighten up, you'll employ your biceps which retracts your arm, if you don't then your triceps can easily keep your arm straight.

Anyway I'm starting to go off tangent with my babbling. This is just what I think about other exercises to supplement aikido training.

Garth Jones
07-29-2008, 09:51 AM
First off, I totally agree that core fitness and good cardio conditioning are really important. For younger students, getting in good shape early and staying that way will certainly help down the road.

Back to the original question - I would suggest practicing tenkan, rowing, and ukemi. Basic suburi with bokken and jo are also good. Will you do it 'right'? No, not at first, but that's why you have an instructor. Make sure he or she watches your form regularly to make corrections and suggestions.

As you train, on your own or in the dojo, try to gain a sense of what your body is doing. Can you tell what your own posture is? Are you shoulders over your hips? Are you balanced through a tenkan? Are you leaning forward too far at the end of a row? And so on.

I find that many new students have little sense of how they actually move. Learning how to see this - which comes from a lot of practice - has been essential for me to improve my own technique so I try to encourage this kind of self-awareness in my students.

I hope this is helpful.


08-20-2008, 10:01 PM
I have to agree with Kevin and Don

Use your time away from the dojo to get in top physical shape. Weight training is excellent tool for that. If you weight train you will have the following advantages over a non trainer. 1. Higher power to weight ratio (you will be able to relax in deep stances while your collages are straining, but you will be relaxed where you need to be because you are only using a fraction of your potential. 2.You will develop more advanced mind muscle connection (you will be better at feeling when you are using the wrong muscles). 3. You will suffer less from injury (more balanced physique with good stabilizer muscles). 4. If done correctly you will be more flexible. 5. Weight training changes your hormone profile helping shed fat and recover from aikido sessions better. 6. You will feel better. 7. You will increase your bone density.

In short if you weight train with the right goals in mind you will get to know your body better, and be able to control it better. To that end being strong in an aikido context is about being able to move your own body effortlessly. If you mindlessly follow a bodybuilding routine you may be missing the point. But just think for yourself and structure what you are doing accordingly.

The idea that weight training teaches resistance that you apply to the rest of the world is silly. If you where walking down the street and someone threw a dumbbell at you, what would you do, try to catch it or move out of the way…enough said..

Do some running, biking or swimming for cardio.

08-21-2008, 02:05 AM
There is a major difference between bodybuilding training and olympic lifting/power lifting.

I dare you to pull off a heavy power clean thinking about isolated muscles ;)

I would have to disagree with everyone who believes that weight training is good for beginners. It's actually the single worst thing any beginner could do.

Think about it. What are you accomplishing in weight training? Building up specific muscle groups. How? By getting specific muscle groups to fire in response to weight and resistance.