Aikido practice begins the moment you enter the dojo! Trainees ought to
endeavor to observe proper etiquette at all times. It is proper to bow when
entering and leaving the dojo, and when coming onto and leaving the mat.
Approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class, trainees
should line up and sit quietly in seiza (kneeling) or with legs crossed.
The only way to advance in aikido is through regular and continued training.
Attendance is not mandatory, but keep in mind that in order to improve in
aikido, one probably needs to practice at least twice a week. In addition,
insofar as aikido provides a way of cultivating self-discipline, such
self-discipline begins with regular attendance.
Your training is your own responsibility. No one is going to take you by the
hand and lead you to proficiency in aikido. In particular, it is not the
responsibility of the instructor or senior students to see to it that you
learn anything. Part of aikido training is learning to observe effectively.
Before asking for help, therefore, you should first try to figure the
technique out for yourself by watching others.
Aikido training encompasses more than techniques. Training in aikido
includes observation and modification of both physical and psychological
patterns of thought and behavior. In particular, you must pay attention to
the way you react to various sorts of circumstances. Thus part of aikido
training is the cultivation of (self-)awareness.
The following point is very important: Aikido training is a cooperative, not
competitive, enterprise. Techniques are learned through training with a
partner, not an opponent. You must always be careful to practice in such a
way that you temper the speed and power of your technique in accordance with
the abilities of your partner. Your partner is lending his/her body to you
for you to practice on - it is not unreasonable to expect you to take good
care of what has been lent you.
Aikido training may sometimes be very frustrating. Learning to cope with
this frustration is also a part of aikido training. Practitioners need to
observe themselves in order to determine the root of their frustration and
dissatisfaction with their progress. Sometimes the cause is a tendency to
compare oneself too closely with other trainees. Notice, however, that this
is itself a form of competition. It is a fine thing to admire the talents of
others and to strive to emulate them, but care should be taken not to allow
comparisons with others to foster resentment, or excessive self-criticism.
If at any time during aikido training you become too tired to continue or if
an injury prevents you from performing some aikido movement or technique, it
is permissible to bow out of practice temporarily until you feel able to
continue. If you must leave the mat, ask the instructor for permission.
Although aikido is best learned with a partner, there are a number of ways
to pursue solo training in aikido. First, one can practice solo forms (kata)
with a jo or bokken. Second, one can "shadow" techniques by simply
performing the movements of aikido techniques with an imaginary partner.
Even purely mental rehearsal of aikido techniques can serve as an effective
form of solo training.
It is advisable to practice a minimum of two hours per week in order to
progress in aikido.