View Full Version : Is Aikido right for me?

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11-26-2008, 09:20 AM
I have decided to start training in martial arts. I am both nervous and excited
to get started. I have wanted to do this for years and now I am finally able to
make the necessary commitment. I would really like to make the right choice on
where to start. In my area the choices available are Karate, Tai Kwon Do, Kung
Fu and Aikido. My goal is to train not only my body but especially my mind. I
would like to improve my mental toughness and self discipline as well as
increase my self confidence. In researching these styles online it seems Aikido
is the best fit for this, especially the mental aspect. I thought it might be a
good idea to ask the people who actually practice this art what they think, so
here I am. I guess my main question is whether or not Aikido is a good place to
start for what I would like to accomplish or should I look at some thing else?
Thanks and I look forward to your responses.


C. David Henderson
11-26-2008, 09:52 AM
Dear Bill,

Others may have a different take, but I think you could improve your mental toughness, self discipline, and self confidence by practicing any of the arts you mention. Each is also very different, and different teachers teach within each differently.

FWIW, my advice is to watch a practice or two from various of the arts available to you. For me, one look was all it took. Aikido was simply and breathtakingly beautiful to me, and I said to myself "I want to do that."



Pauliina Lievonen
11-26-2008, 11:11 AM
I agree with David. Plus it's very important for your motivation in the long run that you feel ok with the teacher and group. I would go watch a class at all the possible places and choose the one that feels right. Not the one that looks most bad ass but the one where people seem relaxed but serious about what they are doing and everybody treats each other with respect.


11-26-2008, 11:12 AM
It really depends on the teacher. All of the styles you mentioned offer training in the aspects you said are important to you.

As far as mental toughness and discipline I would pick Karate. Most of those guys are really into that, and are good at it.

Depending on the Aikido teacher there, you may get some insight into mental training. Or you might just be told to eat macrobiotic food, dance with the wind, and worship Americanized Samurai fantasy's.

11-26-2008, 11:50 AM

Here are two articles which may help you in searching for a dojo for yourself:

"Selecting a (http://www.aikiweb.com/training/akiy7.html)Dojo" (http://www.aikiweb.com/training/akiy7.html) - my "boilerplate" response when asked for dojo recommendations.

"Evaluating a Dojo" (http://www.aikiweb.com/training/witt1.html) by Bill Witt sensei - Some tips for evaluating a dojo for newcomers.

-- Jun

G Sinclair
11-26-2008, 12:16 PM
Hello Bill,

You have quite a decision to make there. Would it help if you gave Aikido a test drive?
I noticed you are in Haverhill Ma. I train out of Methuen. Sensei had a promotion a few months back that allowed new students to sample a few classes. I am sure he would extend that to you to help make your choice a little easier.

If you are interested, give him a call (Methuen Aikido) or let me know and I can query him for you.

Good luck, Hope to see you on the mat

11-26-2008, 12:55 PM
Hi Bill,
I'm pretty sure that practicing any martial art will be good for you but I think what may be important initially is which martial art is best suited to your "current" mental/physical condition. I can't speak much for the other arts you mentioned but there are a couple of points you might want to consider..


1. To become proficient in Aikido generally takes longer than other arts. There is a long but steady process of refinement before one can really apply technique properly under varying conditions. Aikido is definitely a Journey, the traveling being more important than the destination.
2. The rate of which you learn Aikido is pretty much up to yourself. Some people reach a certain level and never (or very slowly) progress beyond that point, whereas others who really feel the hunger for learning tend to progress much faster. I think to answer one of your questions above, you need self-discipline to really advance in Aikido, I don't necessarily believe Aikido teaches you that but you may develop it from your love of the art and desire to train. Also solo-training (at home etc) is really really important to be able to advance your technique. Making the time for that will require self-discipline.
3. Aikido is probably a lot easier on the body than the other arts, there's less focus on attack/force and more on blending/softness.
The blending/softness is something that requires both mental and physical training.
4. Ukemi (learning how to attack/connect/maintain balance and protect yourself via rolling etc) is a very important part of Aikido and something that will help you in your daily life. To me it is as important as learning the actual techniques (certainly initially) and when I started Aikido (not that long ago) I found myself focusing more on improving my Ukemi than the techniques.
5. There's no (in general) open sparring in aikido, there is always a designated attacker and a designated defender. In this sense there is no competition between you and other dojo members. The "competition" in Aikido is with oneself. This I believe can lead to positive mental benefits.
6. Aikido will increase your flexibility and energy levels which will make you "feel good" about yourself. Personally if I could have seen my current condition, when I started 3 years ago, I would not have believed I could have made such a change.
7. Aikido students tend to be a friendly bunch and you may find Aikido (your dojo) becoming an element of your social life.
8. There's no place for Egos in an Aikido dojo, your job is to learn, help others to learn and have fun.
9. Aikido is fun, if you're not feeling the happiness, you aren't training hard enough.

I had no prior knowledge of Aikido before I started, nor had I practiced any other martial arts. I started because I decided after I turned 40 that I needed some form of regular physical exercise. There were classes in the local rec center and I went along for a trial. I was treated so gently and was given special instruction by higher ranked students on basic rolling etc, and very important to me at the time, I got a good workout. Most of all it was fun and I left the first class thinking, "yeah, this is something I can learn".
Three years later, the workout is still important to me but I find now that the challenge for me is my mental condition. Thinking clearly under attack (multiple attackers), trying not to think too much, trying to be calm and soft (I really enjoy spirited training but trying to be soft and calm under spirited conditions is a real challenge). I find now that I see subtleties to techniques that I never noticed before. My footwork is becoming almost natural (not requiring me to think about it). My breathing has changed, now more steady and relaxed. My confidence (in ability to perform techniques) is high and I no longer get frustrated when a technique doesn't work or unravels. It has taken me 3 years to get to the point where I feel how important that mental conditioning is and for me it is an ongoing exercise.

Hope this helps.

11-26-2008, 01:01 PM
"Or you might just be told to eat macrobiotic food, dance with the wind, and worship Americanized Samurai fantasy's."

haha. this, to me, is both hilarious and seemingly unfair. I think the reality is that aikido does derive from fighting/martial arts that go back to samurai traditions, and thus to have reverence for the art is also to rever its origins. "worship" may be too far, but there are some crack-pots out there.

up until recently, i was in position at my dojo to be one of the people that a passerby/newcomer would speak to when interested in practicing. In that position, i always found that the most challenging interactions with "potential students" showing interest were precisely those in which the person inquiring had NO prior experience in any martial arts and in fact knew nothing about Aikido. I think it is like this because Aikido exists almost as an antithesis to other martial arts; or, put differently, the emergence of Aikido as a practice respresents a paradigm shift in the approach to training for self-defense or conflict management. As such, if someone knows nothing about other martial arts, nor Aikido, it is difficult to provide the perspective and context for them.
I have witnessed many people in such a situation invest some money in starting aikido, only to decide a few weeks in that it is not for them because it's not what they expected--even after trying to warn them about this!

That being the case, i think it's best to focus on what YOU want out of it. If your goal is to "improve mental toughness and self discipline as well as increase self confidence" like David said, you can attain these from any of the martial arts--it really will all depend on who is teaching you, AND how much you devote yourself to these goals.

Also, as i always tell people who are interested, one of the best ways to decide is to actually come in and sit and watch a class or two. As mentioned above, this way you will get to see the teaching in action, and you will get to see the people practicing and get a sense of what the structure around them is like.

good luck!


Walter Martindale
11-26-2008, 10:38 PM
Hi Bill,
Depends on your age and physical activity background. If you're older, it's probably safer to be in Aikido because most dojo I've seen moderate the intensity based on who they're training with. If you're younger, the "competitive" arts are probably more suited at present, after which you may wish to have a go at Aikido. There's a higher element of risk in competitive martial arts, of course - the objective is to beat your opponent, whereas in Aikido the usual practice is done with a partner with whom you want to train in the future, so you don't "beat" them (although you can render a pretty good beating with Aikido partners, you take turns, and they get to render a thumping on you, too).

Have a look at the different schools/clubs in your area as has been suggested - go with what feels right.

11-27-2008, 01:00 PM
I would really like to make the right choice on
where to start. In my area the choices available are Karate, Tai Kwon Do, Kung
Fu and Aikido. My goal is to train not only my body but especially my mind. I
would like to improve my mental toughness and self discipline as well as
increase my self confidence.

Don't stop there; why not look for a style that will freshen your breath and prevent hair loss while you're at it? :D

Any pursuit can help you train your mind and improve your self-discipline (I don't know what you mean by "mental toughness" so I won't go there) -- any pursuit at all, from carpentry to mountain climbing. Whether you will experience any of those benefits depends on your teachers and your school to a degree, and to a much greater degree on you. There's absolutely nothing special about martial arts in that regard, and people who come to martial arts training seeking those things are quite likely to be disappointed. You get those things when you pursue something seriously, without apparent day-to-day reward, without expectations of being able to "master" this or that in any particular timeframe (or at all). You get them when you turn into a different kind of person. A good dojo (or dojang, or kwoon) is a good place to engage in that kind of pursuit; a bad one is a place to waste time and head down a lot of dead ends. Choose the school rather than the style and don't get too caught up in picking the "perfect" style (there isn't one -- I've trained in tae kwon do, karate and aikido, and I've had both good and bad training in all of them).

11-27-2008, 02:41 PM
If were in your area, I'd look up Dan Harden.

11-28-2008, 07:19 AM
IMHO you can make a survey first, what kind of 'mental toughness' and 'discipline' you want to have. Because each person has different perception about it. If you consider Aikido as Art of Peace, is it what are you looking for? so, you can start by searching teacher who emphasize on this Art of Peace aspects. Being calm is not weakness... :)

hopefully useful,

harm-one (http://www.sceptic-aikido.blogspot.com)

11-28-2008, 07:47 AM
Go to the dojos and have a look on how they train. Figure out what you like.

The most significant difference between Aikido and the other options IMO is the contact. Myself found TKD a bit dull the short time I was training mostly because of the 'kicking in the air' training style. Later I tried out judo and now aikido, found both more social and fun in the training style.

Whatever you chose, have fun.

Jorge Garcia
11-29-2008, 08:35 PM
Every Aikido dojo will be different and your chance of finding a good one will be poor (in my opinion) so you should definitelty check out your local Aikido dojos because if you have a good one there, it would be terrible for you to miss it.
Best wishes,
Jorge Garcia

11-30-2008, 06:39 AM
Every Aikido dojo will be different and your chance of finding a good one will be poor (in my opinion)That sounds so sad! Although I guess that can be true depending on where you are. Haverhill is close to Boston and southern New Hampshire, though, so I'm sure there are plenty of good ones around. I'd check out Shobu Boston, if the drive isn't out of your way, or the dojos in Methuen, Woburn or Westford. Portsmouth might be a better drive than Cambridge if you don't work in Boston... It's worth taking a month or two to try out every place you can find to see what you like best. If it were my search, I would avoid places with ninjas on the signs or in the title, anything with a lot of other ma's, or any place where you have to really search for the word aikido at the front door. Best of luck!

Toby Bazarnick
05-03-2009, 07:10 PM
Check out the list of Boston-area dojos on the homepage of Shobu Aikido's site: http://shobuaikido.ning.com

Sensei Gleason is teaching at Shobu Aikido of Boston. He trained for 10 years in Japan under the first generation of the founder's top students. He's teaching 3 classes (7 hours) every week. We have a beautiful new dojo in Union Sq. Somerville which is about 3 minutes from rt 93 - from Haverhill, it's a reverse commute that takes about 25 minutes by car.

Haverhill is so close to Methuen - definitely check their dojo. I've never trained there, though the website shows that the dojo itself is quite a beautiful space. These folks are Periello sensei's students (another aikido pioneer in Boston - he's no longer teaching). The top two students here are not teaching due to health issues, so I do not know who is doing the teaching there right now.

The dojo in Westford is headed by a 5th dan and is from another group of Periello sensei's senior students. They have a membership only website that you can join if you want to see dojo information.

There's also a new(?) dojo in Newton who's head instructor is a 2nd dan.

The dojo in Woburn has a 4th dan teaching. These folks trained with others from New England Aikikai in Cambridge. I do not know who is teaching in their dojo in Cambridge - most of the senior instructors have split off to do their own things.