All classes begin and end with a formal greeting (reigi) whose purpose is to contain the training experience within the limits of care, trust, and respect.

These are the essential ingredients for creating an atmosphere in the Dojo, where practitioners can safely put pressure on each other without allowing the practice to drift towards competition or get out of control.

The basic structure of a Taijutsu (empty hand technique) class in Aikido is generally as follows:

  • Formal greeting of beginning
  • Warming up
  • Practice of falls (ukemi)
  • Techniques practice
  • Formal greeting of termination

Formal Greeting of Beginning

The way to start and end the classes is the same as that used by the founder of the Dojo in Iwama:

The first bow is a bow to the Shomen (head of the Dojo where the calligraphy and photos of O Sensei and Morihiro Saito Sensei are), thus we show our respect to these great masters who existed before us.

The second bow is between the teacher and the students.

The third is between the students at the beginning of the first technique.

The greeting should not be understood only as a show of respect but as a way to lower the ego. The training begins. There is no competition in Aikido and we train with our partners and not against them, without the intention of being better or feeling superior to others.

Warming Up

It consists of a series of stretches and movements whose main objective is to consciously open and release the body (joints, fascia, muscles).

Falling Practices (ukemi)

It is the practice to overcome the fear of falling and that allows us to discover the experience of being dynamically centered even though we have physically lost our balance. It is an essential skill in Aikido as a practice that teaches us that when losing balance we tend to stiffen unconsciously. This would seem completely natural at first, however, it is precisely in those moments that we are faced with a force that threatens our balance, that rigidity inhibits the ability to respond appropriately. This learned and ingrained pattern of resistance is what we must face and overcome in Aikido.

This is the same as when we learn to surf a wave. The wave seems to us an overwhelming threat. Rigidity and resistance ensure a strong shock against water. By working “with” the wave we “lose” our balance, but if we manage to focus, we can “ride” it without resisting it. It is his power that brings us to shore. In Aikido the same thing happens: we “receive” and “flow” both with the attacks (like tori) and with the techniques (like uke) of our partner, in doing so we train the ability to remain centered and without resistance. The “resistance” at all levels loses strength with the practice of Aikido.

The concrete meaning of the Japanese term “ukemi” is not to fall, but rather “to receive with the body.” This implies that when we fall we do not resist losing balance, but rather flow and adjust with the change in our relationship with the ground or our partner, to protect ourselves effectively. In Aikido practice “balance” is the key.

Technical training (Taijutsu)

It forms the core of each class. The technique training format is a pre-established ritual (kata). This is a traditional Japanese format whereby the roles of attacker (uke) and defender (tori) are fixed, and in basic training levels, technique is also decided beforehand.

Training partners take turns being both the attacker and the defender. As an attacker, uke makes an attack to nage so that nage responds and absorbs. The energy of the attack is harmonized and turned against the attacker according to the specific technique being practiced. It is now the moment when the attackers practice non-resistance (ukemi) while flowing with the resolution of the technique that can be either a throw (nage waza) or a ground immobilization (osae waza).

Therefore, the training based on attack and defense is a practice to learn how to “surf the waves” through the opening to non-resistance, understanding the rhythms of emptiness and fullness present in all movements and changes.

The attack (yang) is absorbed (yin) by the defender and returned (yang) to the attacker, in the form of a technique, who is absorbed through “reception” (yin). The important thing in defense or attack is fusion and non-resistance, flowing back and forth between yin (receptive) and yang (attacking).

The techniques in Aikido are not just simply “techniques”, in the commonly understood sense of the term, but they represent and make tangible the spirit that defines Aikido. Every time we practice a technique with presence and intention while maintaining the basic principles, we embody the spirit of Aikido.

The paradox of training is that we learn Aikido by practicing techniques, but Aikido is neither restricted nor defined by techniques.

However, considering training as “lesser” and focusing on principles and philosophy as “higher”, without being able to base it on action, is a mistake. Concentrating only on the technique without understanding the principles is also a mistake and leads to a superficial understanding of Aikido.

The techniques are the tangible forms of the principles of art and as such techniques and principles are inseparable.

The Principle of Balance must be a principle that leads to the search for balance between techniques and principles, not only in Aikido, but also in daily life.

Weapon Training

Why do we train with weapons?

All the great masters, regardless of the martial art, have been unanimous in affirming that the essential elements of their art were based on the most basic practices: use of the body in a masterful, timing, distance, empty hand technique and weapons training.

Morihiro Saito Sensei was no exception in considering weapons training as the foundation of technical training.

Advantages of weapons training:

  • Use of the body position and movement: In Aikido we strive to develop a body totally connected to the ground, linking all its parts and organizing them from the center, both static and in motion. The first level of weapons training is individual training and at this level one can train slowly and paying attention to the movements without the distraction of a fellow attacker.
  • Power: The development of power in Aikido (kokyu) is an extension of the higher dynamics of the use of the body and the power of movement that is achieved by connecting with the ground, through the tissues of the body from the center and expressed and transferred through from the periphery at the point of contact with our partner. The dynamic in power development: ground-centre-periphery is exactly the dynamic we seek with weapons training, where it is much more accessible than in empty-hand practice.
  • Everything is bigger: In training with weapons, the aim is to make the weapon an extension of the body itself, achieving the sense of reach and extension. Furthermore, distances, angles and time are more clearly perceived and therefore better studied in basic work with a partner.
  • Control and precision: In Aikido protective clothing is not used, therefore control, precision and constant attention are a must.
  • Riai: It refers to the harmony of the underlying principles of the empty hand technique and the weapon technique. Saito Sensei said that Riai should be understood and incorporated at the level of use of body movement and that it does not depend on having or not having a weapon.

Considering this basic principle (Riai), Saito Sensei once said that “the relationship between weapons and empty hand training should be close, but not too close!”

The Riai is not a strictly horizontal or vertical relationship. Sword work is characterized by a cutting edge and therefore needs to be defined and performed with more circularity and smoothness than empty hand techniques. When weapons dominate Aikido itself, Taijutsu is often too blunt and direct. Without weapons, Taijutsu usually lacks a lack of precision, clarity in handwork, and technical definition when weapons are the basis of movement (Tai Sabaki). We seek a balanced relationship between these two branches of art where both feed and reinforce each other.

Message Us

Get In touch below or give us a call

Call Us

01902 475826