People come to aikido for many reasons. Some want to improve their physical fitness, coordination and flexibility; others want to find a spiritual and physical balance; still others are seeking a martial practice that includes weapons and other training.
At Brooklyn Aikikai, students of all ages and backgrounds are welcome.
There is no wrong time to begin aikido. One needs an open spirit and a desire to work hard. Your skill level in another sport or activity will not necessarily help you with this unique martial practice.
Although your fitness will improve, aikido is not about strength, nor is it competitive. Students of all ages and experience train together on the mat and learn from each other.
As a new practitioner, your first three months of training will be exciting, challenging, and sometimes daunting.
A ranking student, or the head instructor, will work with you personally during your first few classes until you have accomplished some of the basic skills necessary for your safety. Only half of aikido is applying a technique – the other half is protecting yourself and falling safely. Learning how to fall and roll is the essential first step of aikido. You may find, after your first class, that you've used muscle sets you had no idea you had. You will feel it and this is normal.
When I first started at Brooklyn Aikikai it was to motivate myself to exercise. I remember observing a class and wanting that sense of physical rigor and strength. What I did not expect was to be part of such an encouraging community that gives direct attention to growth as a martial artist and personhood. Now, the two support each other; Brooklyn Aikikai is not just a place to push yourself beyond your limits, but to contribute to the investigation of the entire practice by demanding more of yourself, and others, on and off the mat.
For years, a fear of hurting myself and looking like a fool kept me off the mat. Then, on May 1, 2014, I took the leap and participated in an aikido class. Savoca Sensei assessed my skill (or lack thereof) and eased me into the practice by showing me some basic techniques. By the end of the class, I was exhausted, with sweat coming out of every pore of my body. My gi (uniform) was soaked. Eight months later, I am still training and, if I am honest with myself, still afraid. Yet the fear is different and for lack of a better description, it has changed me. I know it is not the heart-stopping, hide-in-your-closest fear that it once was.
I have been training in aikido for five months. I started because I was looking for a place to get a good work out. What I found was a much deeper practice than I expected. Yes, the work out is as vigorous as I was hoping (and then some). But more than that I have started looking at my discipline and habits in a new light. My goals and expectations for myself are a little bit higher than they used to be. And the people that study at the dojo all share a culture of cooperation and kindness. Having only trained for a short time, I know that I can only see the tip of the iceberg but I am eager to learn more.
I have always wanted to do a martial art, but lacked motivation until I observed a class at Brooklyn Aikikai. To be honest I was not blown away by aikido, but I was curious. The first classes were awkward. I was stiff and I did not know my left foot from my right arm. But the sensei and the community at Brooklyn Aikikai have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge and I have never felt that I was not learning. I have always been active, but I was surprised how physically demanding a martial art could be. Now that I’ve been practicing for close to a year, I feel myself incrementally getting better with each class. It has been a huge learning process, something I am still curious about exploring.
Aikido takes time. You cannot expect to become a master overnight! At Brooklyn Aikikai, we ask you to watch a class before signing up. Once you decide to begin training, you are asked to sign up for three months to be comfortable with the basics. The more you train, the faster you will gain fitness, awareness, and confidence. New students should plan on that in order to progress. Beginners are welcome at any aikido class. If aikido seems difficult at first, one of the attractions of the practice is that it is always challenging: even aikidoka who have practiced for thirty years find something to learn and improve in every practice.
One important thing to remember when you are training on the mat is that the movements are not the only lesson to learn. How you train and the commitment you bring to it, is very important. We train with a partner in order to learn how to feel and respond to each other's energy. Respect for your teachers, your partners, and yourself, is very important in aikido.
Bring a courageous and bold spirit to the dojo. The nature of this training is difficult, and one must persist. Push forward!