Behaviour is learned and trained. We learn by copying those around us and by responding to our environment. Endless repetitions of our patterns of behaviour have reinforced these patterns in us. Your training in Aikido is meant to give you new patterns and new choices. Even if the old patterns are uncomfortable or destructive, we may cling to them until the new patterns have been tested and proven. The body learns slowly compared to the mind, so many repetitions of each movement are necessary.
Uke (literally "one who receives", the one who takes the fall) and Tori (the thrower) have a very special relationship. Unlike many martial artists who train against an opponent, the Aikidoka trains with a partner. There is no competition in Aikido. Instead, each partner is half of a whole, each having equal responsibility for the learning experience.
Contrary to what one might think, uke --not nage -- has the most difficult role. Uke has the task of giving his partner an "honest" attack to work with. On the face of it, this seems quite simple. Actually, it is not. An honest attack is more than holding as tightly as you can, or striking as forcefully as you can. An honest attack is an aware attack – Aware of your partner's situation.
Many students of Aikido have a difficult time in reconciling the difference between total resistance/full power attacks and "falling down" for their partner in a condescending response to a weakly applied technique. It is helpful to remember that as uke, your primary responsibility is to serve your partner. Try to bring out his or her best. This is best accomplished through sincerity and sensitivity.
It's easy to train on the upswings, but it can be difficult to persevere when things aren't going so well. If you only train during the upswings you reinforce a pattern in which you function well when it's easy and poorly when it's hard. On your own behalf, consider what would happen if you trained well when things were going well and continued as well as possible through the low times, so as to raise the quality of your peaks and valleys equally. Then your highs will be higher and your lows will be higher, and you will learn how to count on your skills when the going gets difficult. The natural result of this consistent training is that tomorrow's low is higher than yesterday's high!
Stay with it. Train on a steady schedule and allow yourself to discover your greater capabilities. Put in some time every day for your Aikido, even if you can't make it to the dojo. Aikido will give you its greatest gifts in the later years of your life, when you need them most. Remember that this is an art, which continues to improve with age. Stay with your training, and you will improve with age too. And don't fool yourself into thinking that it's easier for anyone else: it's not. We all have the same degree of self-realization before us.
It will take at least a year for you to get a taste of what Aikido is like. This is true for all martial arts. A novice musician would not expect to play in concert after taking "ten easy lessons" – they would learn the technical basics of his or her instrument, along with the basics of music theory – so why should one expect to have a high level of skill in the martial arts with a similar amount of training? Learn your basics well.
There is one important point that should be stressed to beginners: the secret of Aikido is daily training – consistent, unwavering devotion to one's practice. If you consistently come to practice, you will progress! This truth is so simple, so obvious, that it is easily overlooked.
When you join the dojo you fill out an application. This defines a small part of your relationship with the dojo. Most of that relationship (like most of the art) is learned in silence, without explicit explanation. Please learn to utilize the dojo well. Let it be a place in which you can grow. Simple considerations will enhance your relationship with the dojo.
A dojo is more than a physical space. It is a family of people. You are now a member of this family, and a very large family of Aikido people all over the world. There are approximately 800 Aikidoka in the British Aikido Federation alone.
The dojo exists so we may train ourselves well, and its quality depends on all of us. Please make yourself available for help in the dojo when needed, pay your dues on time, and support the atmosphere in which you are growing. Dues need to be paid in full regardless of the number of times you train during the month. Unlike a spa, gym, or most other public places, the dojo is an extension of our creativity and willingness to generate peace in our lives. Your support of the dojo is your support of an idea.
From time to time we will host other instructors at our dojo, and will advise you of seminars and workshops conducted by other instructors at other locations. Each instructor has a unique approach, and can offer valuable insights into their understanding of this fascinating art. We suggest that you train with as many of these instructors recommended by your Sensei as possible.
You will find your fellow students of all ranks to be a marvellous source of information. We are all here to help one another: each of us, in time, both teacher and student.
Generally speaking, injuries in Aikido are of the bump, bruise, strain, and sprain variety: the nuisance injuries that plague dancers, joggers, etc. If some part of your body is getting consistently sore or bruised, let us know. Perhaps we can see what you are doing that is causing the trouble.
If you injure yourself in any way, please notify the instructor immediately. A first aid kit is available in the dojo.
Deciding to Leave
If you decide to drop out of Aikido for any reason, please tell us. We are sincerely interested in making your Aikido experience a positive one. It may be that your personal needs can best be fulfilled elsewhere at this time. We will honour your leaving just as we honoured your arrival. We have been training in Aikido for a long time, and have dealt with a multitude of processes within others and ourselves. We would like to understand your experience and to learn from it. By communicating with us, you provide us with valuable feedback and give us the opportunity to improve ourselves.