is not a warring martial art, although you learn how to
wound and even kill an attacker. In aikido, on a basic
level, one strives to move in harmony with an attacker,
to move with the motions and momentum and eventually control
them harmoniously. On a deeper level, aikido is finding
ones own harmony in the world, observing and recognizing
tensions and moving in harmony with them.
was not familiar with martial arts when I started learning
aikido. In fact, I picked aikido at random. In that first
class I went through the movements, not knowing what they
were or how to do them properly. One learns aikido by
watching and by repitition in doing. Students are shown
a technique and them pair off to learn it. Aikido does
not use muscular strengthinstead it uses your personal
energy, called Ki.
one is making or doing aikido, the muscles should be relaxed.
You dont use your energy to force an attacker down,
rather you have to pull up your own Ki and then guide
them to a position of safety (for both yourself and your
attacker). I left after those two hours confused. I had
to accept and acknowledge that I knew absolutely nothing
about what I was doing. But something appealed to me in
aikido, so I continued going to class.
techniques solidified in my muscle memory, and I began
to see the beauty in the movement. I started to be able
to get a feeling for the tensions, not only in my body,
but also in my partner/attacker. I was becoming more aware
of my motions, and recognized the movements that gave
me the result I wanted.
show your advancement in aikido one must test. There are
six levels, called Kyus, before black belt. When you start
studying you are a white belt. This is no level. Your
teacher decides when you are ready to test. In my second
class I saw a test.
student being tested is called in front of the class and
asked to perform various techniques. After the techniques
have been demonstrated successfully the tester is asked
to freestyle. This is the closest thing to an actual attack
one gets in aikido. Freestyle can be one-on-one (usually
the first test) or can be five-on-one (for the black belt
I saw my first test I was terrified to think that sometime
in the not-too-distant future Id have to get up
in front of the class and do that. I knew this was far
enough ahead to not bother thinking about it, but I was
months later I was asked to prepare to test and a second
wave of fear washed over me. The time for me to be up
in front of class was going to be soon.
day came and I did some last minute practicing in the
morning. Class was in the afternoon and tests happened
right before the end of class. I had all of class to wait
name was called and I ran to the middle of the blue mats.
There was so much space. I was full of anticipation, tension,
and energy. I tried to ground myself, make myself solid,
calm and clear in my mind. Nothing entered it. I was ready
to act or react.
did most of the techniques easily. I had practiced a lot
and was prepared. Then it was freestyle time. I bowed
to my one attacked and jumped up, calm, surrounded by
lots of clear blue space. My teacher called in a second
attacker, I knew he would, and I still felt plenty of
energy pulsing through my body.
wasnt thinking. I was moving, trying to feel the
beauty of the motion, and always preparing for another
it was over. I kneeled back down in the middle of the
mats. I felt a ring of energy around me and calm, tired
calm, inside. I did not feel the adrenaline of winning
and I recognized this absence. In its place I felt calm,
peaceful, and balanced.
aikido doesnt stop at that. Im on the lowest
level. With each day of practice I recognize more of what
I need to learn. And Ive got six more tests to go