There are no competitions in aikido. Instead, a student's development is marked by their interaction with others and their ability to blend with an attack or deliver one, take a fall safely, and redirect an aggressor's energy. After the teacher has demonstrated a technique, students practice in pairs, alternating turns as attacker and defender. Aikido techniques depend primarily on circular movements to harmonize with an aggressor's force. Additional training with a wooden sword (bokken) and a staff (jyo) complements the body art and allows for improved stance, timing, and distance in martial encounters.
Training in aikido improves flexibility, muscle tone, endurance, and the stimulation and direction of ki (universal energy). Moreover, through disciplined and focused study, aikido students learn to become more centered in their lives, allowing a sense of calm to penetrate their actions and thoughts.
"The sword and jyo are extensions of your body and must be handled as if they have your blood running through them," writes the late master Kisshomaru Ueshiba in his book, Aikido. "Unless you can make the weapons part of your body, you have not truly trained in aikido."
Weapons training is an integral part of the curriculum at Brooklyn Aikikai. Training with weapons informs the unarmed body art movements, primarily because many aikido movements are derived from sword work. Working with a bokken and jyo (a wooden sword and staff) can help students grasp the timing, distance, and technique of a martial encounter.
After training at Brooklyn Aikikai for a minimum of six months, students may begin weapons training with the permission of the chief instructor.
Batto-ho, "sword-drawing method," is based on iaido, the "way of sword-drawing" and other traditional forms of Japanese sword work. Batto-ho is studied largely for the same reasons as weapons work with bokken and jyo: for what it reveals about the roots of aikido as a martial art.
Zen has a strong link to the martial culture of Japan. Both the warrior culture and zen discipline emphasize the impermanence of life and teach us to be present in the moment, here and now.
Ultimately, a warrior wages war against him/herself in an attempt to shed his/her numerous delusions, and to become unconditionally present. Zen is a non-intellectual practice; through sitting it is possible to see one's true nature.
At Brooklyn Aikikai we have several periods of meditation each week.
"An important practice from the Shinto tradition, misogi-no-kokyu-ho may be translated as purification through breathing. Training is arduous, emotionally straining, and physically exhausting. Yet it is a unique opportunity to break through self-imposed limitations and egoistic personality defenses. With the intense stimulation of misogi, primal life force deep in the lower abdomen is activated and the potential to directly experience the root of one's being is at hand."
The above is an excerpt from an essay on misogi. Read the full text here.
Brooklyn Aikikai offers misogi training several times a week.