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09-18-2003, 07:40 PM
Hi Folks!
I thought this site might be a good place for me to gain insights and tips from people with actual experience in studying Aikido. I guess you could call me a prospective Aikidoka....
When I was growing up, several people growing up around me were studying various martial arts. There was the Tae Kwon Do crowd who apparently didn't get it. Every so often they'd decide to attack me for no apparent reason, coming at me with impressive looking jumps and spins and flips trying to kick me, and all their efforts seemed to do most of the work for me when it came to defending myself. More than once I've read, "It's not the martial art, it's the martial artist.", which is why I figure that that particular crowd didn't quite get it.
Then there was the few who seemed to keep to themselves about their martial arts studies. One was studying Ishin Ryu Karate, and he amazed me. He had artificial legs from the knees down, and no hands, but he didn't seem to have any problems with balance and had this baffling way of throwing lightening quick punches. The other one I knew had been studying martial arts practically since he started walking, and he had studied Karate but had at the time more recently been very much getting into Jujitsu and Aikido.
For one thing, trying to learn any of that stuff from these friends during lunch time and free periods or before band was trying to learn under obviously limiting circumstances. Learning to fall? Rrrrriiiiight. But through my prodding, they tried to teach me what they could here and there. When it came to Karate, I was hopeless, though perhaps I was impatient with it at the time since I was told repeatedly that it can take around two years before you learn how to kick properly. It didn't appeal to me much anyway, just wasn't my style. But the Jujitsu moves, and particularly the Aikido, very much appealed to me. It seemed more rooted, and the movements felt more natural, actually pleasant in fact.
Unfortunately, between focusing on school and particularly not being able to fit it into my budget financially, it's always been one of those, "Gee, I'd really like to study that someday...."
Well now I've finished school, got my masters degree, found a job which has me now contending with my first full year of teaching (music: my passion), and with this improved budget I'm looking ahead to joining a dojo after I have this first full year under my belt. I'm a bit concerned about starting Aikido while simultaneously beginning my career, since I really want to be able to give both pursuits focus and dedication, but I've wanted to study Aikido for some time now, and in recent years found that interest inexplicably returning with strength.
My motivations? Well, it's strange, because while I am interested in the practical applications, I've never really been one to worry about being able to defend myself. I mean, how often could that come up? There are often ways to avoid or get out of such situations without it coming to a physical confrontation, and while I suppose it's good to be prepared for the possibility however remote, it's just not something that's on my mind. For one thing, there's just something about the movements of what I was shown way back when that have stuck with me and had me wanting to go back for more. Also, in scouting ahead towards studying, I've purchased and read several books on Aikido - "Aikido & The Dynamic Sphere", Roy Suenaka's "Complete Aikido", "The Art of Peace", "Remembering O'Sensei", "Ki in Daily Life" - and I find its concepts and principles appealing. I think serious studies could bring me insights about myself, those around me, people in general, and life. I also think that learning the practical aspects - the moves themselves - (if I'm perceiving it right) provide a practical way of putting the philosophical and spiritual concepts into physical application, each side giving opportunity for further understanding into the other. So I think it would be fun. I could only imagine that at the same time, it's difficult, and I guess a fuller understanding of that aspect will hit me (pun intended?) when I get there. But I'd really like to pursue this, not just "try" it but approach it as a lifelong pursuit. I think I could really benefit from it.
Anyway, I'm getting into fatigued prattling here, and I have planning and preparations to do for tomorrow's music classes I have to teach (I've even incorperated some of the breathing concepts and exercises I've read about from Aikido books into vocal instruction, with quite successful results!). Any thoughts, tips, advice, or stories from any of you would be appreciated! I look forward to hearing from some of you and your own personal pursuits and experiences in Aikido! Take care!

09-19-2003, 07:25 AM
Shut up, go train !

09-19-2003, 07:44 AM
Actually, that's... some good advice! (laughing!) Thanks for the imput!

09-22-2003, 10:26 PM
I guess my big advice would be to go in with no expectations. I've seen it a number of times when a new student comes in having read more books and seen more videos on aikido than the collective membership of the dojo ;), only to be dissapointed when those expectations aren't met or they feel like they aren't learning it quickly enough.

There are many many flavors of aikido out there. Depending on where you choose to train the things you've read may or may not apply. It would be a shame to miss out on a great teacher because what he was doing didn't match what was in the books. Be open to different interpretations, there are many.

One gentleman asked me if we did ki training, because he had read a lot about it and thought it sounded great. I explained to him that learning and doing the techniques themselves was, in my opinion, the best ki training. He tried two classes and left because it wasn't mystical enough.

I feel that at first you need to focus on learning the technique. You must first learn where to put your feet, hands, center, and mind before you start worrying about applying the philosophy. The job of a beginner is to show up, listen, watch and try your best to do what is being shown. The great thing is that once some of this stuff starts to sink in you won't have to actively apply the philosophy... it will just start to happen, if you give it time.

That said, go to the Dojo Search Feature (http://www.aikiweb.com/search/), find a dojo then shut up and train.


09-23-2003, 10:39 AM
I have to agree with them. Firstly, just go in the dojo and give it a shot. Secondly, the variations(spelling?) on teachers is quite remarkable. In my first dojo, we practiced really hard on technique. Now, in my current dojo we focus extremely hard on not just technique, but mainly on taking the balance of uke. And I mean we F.O.C.U.S. on the balance, and we go s...l...o...w. haha. Anyways, just be open to the style(unless you are totally not into it, don't force yourself to do something you dislike) and enjoy the practice. Look at my signature quote at the bottom for crying out loud!!! Train Safe!!!

Joe Jutsu
09-23-2003, 04:57 PM

I think that it's really cool that you are incoporating (ki) breathing exercises in your vocal instruction. As a child I was a classically trained vocalist, and later on when I started aikido the breathing exercises felt so natural. I think they really compliment each other. In anycase, I hope that you can find the time in your schedule to start training, and I hope that it is what you are looking for. You've read lots of literature on the subject, but I feel the need to reiterate to go into it with an open, beginner's mind. I also suggest to check out various styles that are offered in your area (if there are various styles offered) to find the right fit. Good luck!


09-23-2003, 05:54 PM
Thank you, gentlemen, for the thoughts and hello! Excellent advice, all of it, keep it coming!

Some of it reminds me of a compliment I got from a musician friend a few months or so ago, because he used a similar if not identical phrase. He said how I keep a beginners mind in my approach to things. I guess I try my best to remember to "keep my cup empty" as they might put it, and maybe I've learned that from music. Sometimes I'll get a student, on piano for example, who's used to playing a certain way that may be different from what I want to teach that student. This can understandably be met with resistance, and I can sympathize because for some time I was quite the jackass myself. In retrospect, maybe I wouldn't have the same depth of insight into some of the things I struggled against learning if I had instead simply followed with blind obedience, but if it weren't for the patience and quality of my teachers, I would've missed out entirely on what was being taught. So now, when I encounter such a student myself, I encourage that student to question everything and feel free to discuss with me or even argue within reason, but I also ask that the student try to overall keep an open mind when it comes to genuinely trying to learn what I'm teaching. Learning things a different way doesn't mean you have to throw away what you had before that, and as I tell my students, later on they can and should figure out what to do with it, how to use it and make it their own. At the least, it's something new to add to the pallett of what they do.

With Aikido, I feel that I'll be going into that with very little knowledge actually. Sure, I've read some books, and I've enjoyed the reading. I've tried to get out of that what I can. But.... To illustrate it, what you folks pointed out about the dangers there reminds me of the education courses I took, courses about teaching. I felt like I was reading books on street smarts. That's fine and good, but the only way to truly find out if any of that is actually going to work is through practical experience, and that's the only way to truly learn. So clinging to those ideas taught (unfortunately often in an unconnected manner with material pontificated by people with little teaching experience themselves) in those courses can actually lead you to some very poor teaching methods indeed. You need to be flexible.

I really don't know what to expect when I start Aikido. I may not even enjoy it at first. Ever see a kid in his first lesson picking up a violin for the first time? (chuckling) But I hope to approach it as something that I'm going to stick with, at least giving it some time and a genuine chance. So far as trying to find my own personal style and perception, maybe I should at least find myself a dojo first.... (laughing!) Ya know, "Here, first lemme show you how to HOLD the instrument...." As Bronson touched on, and perhaps this is the case with all of the arts (certainly with music), participation is the key, and insights and understanding will form and adjust itself over time at its own pace. In the end, sometimes the reward is more in seeking the answers than whether or not you ever really find them. So as suggested in this thread, I hope to show up, watch, listen, participate, and do my best to learn what's being shown.

To Joe: I'd love to send you a handout I made for my students on the breathing. If you'd have time to look it over and comment back to me on it about any way that I might improve it, I'd really appreciate your insights in talking shop a bit with singing. I like carrying insights from one area into another, and it was immediately apparent to me how the concepts of breathing to and from the one point, doing breathing exercises, and all that (including the kiai, refined) could readily be applied to singing. Drop me an e-mail if you're interested, and I'll reply sending you what I give my students on that. If it would be an imposition and you're bogged down with other things to do though, no problem at all, I can certainly understand.

Thank you all for your comments on this post! Hopefully there's more to come, I appreciate you all sharing your thoughts!

OH, and one more question! As a musician, obviously the well being of my hands and wrists is important to my livelihood and career. Do any of you have any thoughts or advice concerning the related risks with that and practicing Aikido?

09-24-2003, 05:12 AM
OH, and one more question! As a musician, obviously the well being of my hands and wrists is important to my livelihood and career. Do any of you have any thoughts or advice concerning the related risks with that and practicing Aikido?
A few things jump to mind...I'm sure others will have more.

1) Learn to fall correctly. Start slowly and get the form right. You don't want to try to catch yourself by planting your hands.

2) If you can only fall at a "2" don't attack at a "10". Generally the harder you attack the faster you'll head to the ground.

3) Don't resist too much until you learn what's going on. Some of the locks can be really painful and if you resist it some people may lay into them hard and fast. I'm not saying take a dive, just be aware.

4) Never, ever, ever be afraid to ask nage to ease up or slow down a bit if you are concerned for your safety.

Have fun,


09-24-2003, 10:37 AM
I would like to add one more thing to Bronson's post.

Try to stay a split second ahead of nage in your ukemi. In your early practice this will save you from injury...In your advanced practice it will allow you to take advantage of openings.

Patrick Barr
09-24-2003, 03:49 PM
My two cents... have fun and forget everything you think you know about martial arts. Start fresh and keep your mind open to new teachings.

Joe Jutsu
09-24-2003, 04:31 PM

I wouldn't really worry about aikido physically interfering with your livelihood. I too am a musician, though not a professional, but I would hate to think that I would lose the ability to play the guitar, sax, etc. due to martial training. I don't think that this is really a risk at all. Actually, through practice your wrists will get more flexible, and you learn neat stretches that can actually help you out if you're cramping after a long session.

I'm embarking upon what *should* be my last year of undergraduate study. It's a constant give and take between school, aikido, and what could be described as a social life. I've found it difficult at times for aikido not to take the front seat, especially when there are term papers and such that need to be attended to. However, after a good practice I often find myself clear-headed and more ready to face the task at hand than I was before practice.

I would be interested in reading your manual. It sounds good. I'm not sure of how much of a help I would be, or exactly how to get you my email (is it kosher to post such things on this site? I don't know). But I found it really intriguing how my best singing instructor's and my best aikido instructor's warm-ups and breathing excercises mirrored each other in many ways. Anyway, good luck with your career. A truly good teacher is a very valuable commodity. There are not nearly enough of them around IMO.


09-26-2003, 08:44 AM
More great thoughts and suggestions! This web site is turning into a great resource for me, plus it's simply fun to read. Thanks for the ideas and reassurances about the hands health concerns. I had a nasty bout with tendonitis back when I was in high school and early college. I seem to have recovered from that pretty thoroughly by now through corrections/adjustments in my practice habits and playing technique (plus I did seated wrist curls, regular and reverse, using only a broom stick and keeping it slow and relaxed arriving gently at the top and bottom of each movement without pushing), but I think that experience added to the already natural musicians caution I have when it comes to my hands and wrists.

Joe, I used your e-mail icon on this site... yesterday, I think it was? (This first year of teaching is a bit hectic and can leave my peception of timeframes somewhat disoriented). Hope it got through! I'd love to have the insight of an actual Aikidoka who also has vocal training in music.

Anyway, gotta scoot! Hall duty! (laughing!) Take care, all, and thanks again for your thoughts and insights!

~ Jeff