Is aikido for me?
If you are not seriously injured or if you don’t have X-Men superpowers, Aikido may fit with you. As a Budo, Aikido can be practiced by everybody and most of the time all the students practice together at the same time: old or young people, advanced or beginners, male or female, etc. Aikido is part of what is called internal martial arts, that means a martial that do not require or develop the use of pure strength but some other skills like coordination, timing, harmonization (not blocking the partner).
The only pre-requisite is to get the right attitude: aikido learning curve is slower than “fighting martial art” (such as Kung-fu or self-defence), it takes time and perseverance. If you ready to commit, aikido is definitively for you
What are the benefits of practicing Aikido?
Practising Aikido on a regular basis will develop a lot of skills.
Physically, if Aikido does not develop pure strength (like lifting some weight in a gym for example), Aikido will develop core strength: balance, posture, legs (falling down and standing up will definitively improve your legs and your overall condition). The way we practice in this dojo will develop also flexibility and will remove internal tensions (internal tensions make your movement heavy and visible by your partner).
Self-development wise, practicing aikido will help you to reduce your stress, your insecurity, to improve your vigilance…
Is Aikido really effective as a martial art?
The first answer will be yes but it is absolutely necessary to define what the expectations behind this word are. Giving the fact that, without any X-Men super power, nobody can be faster than a bullet, the effectiveness is something that needs to be defined.
Aikido is not a set of techniques that is designed to hurt people but a set of technics and principles that will be used to overcome aggression protecting people, including your partner.
As an Aikido teacher, I have been asked a lot of question in that sense: “is it relay effective?”, “Which martial art is the strongest?”, “Can I kill people with aikido?”
For the last question I would recommend to ask yourself first why would you kill somebody? And maybe a therapist would be more effective than an Aikido teacher (joke). For the two first question, the answer will be that it depends on the practitioner, not on the martial art itself.
As it is said above, the learning curve in Aikido is slow, maybe slower than other martial arts indeed, but with time, perseverance and hard work, an aikidoka (aikido student) will develop all the skills that may help him to survive to a common aggression (see the first point related to the gun fight).
How long it takes to get a black belt
Of course the answer will be different for each cases, mastering aikido requires a lot of commitment, hard work and perseverance. But my experience shows that a particularly gifted student practicing everyday (actively) can get a black belt three years after he/she started (I personally met a student like that). For the more-average people, the required time will be a longer. Don’t forget that a student who gets his/her 1st Dan black belt is called shodan (“beginner’s grade”), that means that the journey starts here, everything before was a preparation for this journey.
Of course, you still can buy a black belt and pretend to be a yudansha (black belt student) without any days of practice, as far as nobody asks you for any demonstration, it can work (joke).
Are there Aikido courses for new students?
There is no beginner’s class for now, not that no beginners are admitted, of course not, but all student (total beginners or advanced) come and train at the same time. There is no secret technic in Aikido. A total beginner can be asked for his first day of practice to work on a technic that could be asked for a 6th Dan test. Of course the expectations won’t be the same. In the dojo, the teacher is responsible to take care of each students, feeding them with what they actually need. Aside of the global teaching approach, there is an individual follow-up for each students.