Some dojo hold classes which are devoted almost exclusively to training with
to jo (staff), tanto (knife), and bokken (sword); the three principal
weapons used in aikido. However, since the goal of aikido is not primarily
to learn how to use weapons, trainees are advised to attend a minimum of two
non-weapons classes per week if they plan to attend weapons classes.
There are several reasons for weapons training in aikido. First, many aikido
movements are derived from classical weapons arts. There is thus a
historical rationale for learning weapons movements. For example, all
striking attacks in aikido are derived from sword strikes. Because of this,
empty-handed striking techniques in aikido appear very inefficient and
lacking in speed and power, especially if one has trained in a striking art
such as karate or boxing.
Second, weapons training is helpful for learning proper ma ai, or
distancing. Repeatedly moving in and out of the striking range of a weapon
fosters an intuitive sense of distance and timing - something which is
crucial to empty-hand training as well.
Third, many advanced aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In
order to ensure that such techniques can be practiced safely, it is
important for students to know how to attack properly with weapons, and to
defend against such attacks.
Fourth, there are often important principles of aikido movement and
technique that may be profitably demonstrated by the use of weapons.
Fifth, training in weapons kata is a way of facilitating understanding of
general principles of aikido movement.
Sixth, weapons training can add an element of intensity to aikido practice,
especially in practicing defenses against weapons attacks.
Seventh, training with weapons provides aikidoka with an opportunity to
develop a kind of responsiveness and sensitivity to the movements and
actions of others within a format that is usually highly structured. In
addition, it is often easier to discard competitive mindsets when engaged in
weapons training, making it easier to focus on cognitive development.
Finally, weapons training is an excellent way to learn principles governing
lines of attack and defense. All aikido techniques begin with the defender
moving off the line of attack and then creating a new line (often a
non-straight line) for application of an aikido technique.