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Greetings Grasshoppers and Ladybugs:

When a new student presents a question personally, it usually takes a bit of maneuvering and conversation to determine a person's real pressing issues.    Even then, the answers given may not be what they want to hear, so one is careful not to discourage or disappoint.    There are usually many misconceptions.    However, there is a big difference between misconceptions and illusions.   There are occasionally illusions. Some people want to become stealth humans, shadow warriors, or modern-day samurai.    The desire occult powers and unique perception.    For those in law enforcement, they want an edge, but few in the profession actually become proficient in the martial arts. In actuality it requires considerable time, and cops have little, yet there are exceptions. One can only reply that the reality of martial training is mostly consistency, dedication and desire.   The nature of training is not always kind, although in time the lessons are appreciated as beneficial.   Some of the questions and lessons of my past were expensive, but indelible.    In order for any answer to be relevant for a person, one must speak in an appropriate metaphor and provide examples that communicate so the listener can convert its essence and come to own the idea.     Language molds our consciousness.     In actuality Aikido is about questions and answers until the answers lie so deeply inside the person that every movement is expressive of process.    It is a creative process, in some ways it is recreating, renovating and rejuvenating.     It keeps one young even though the body ages, it is refreshment for the soul.     Even now, even as I evolve through training, and life, there remain questions.    The questions have changed since I first stepped onto the mat, the metaphor has become more complete, but there remain questions nevertheless.    Please understand, this is not to appear evasive or inscrutable.    A lesson learned over time is that lessons take time, every change requires time.    So your questions may not be entirely answered, but be patient, duration requires patience, it is part of the definition. My first Aikido instructor Ed Baker, a perceptive Navy Chief Torpedo man, always said—"everything is training." He also tolerated my many questions.    Aikido is much about attuning one's questions, and listening for and to answers.    Maybe, the questions are the answers, so you are on the right track—daijobi.

Students and prospective students usually have questions with common themes. Following is a short list. However, first, there is an expectation on the part of the student that the teacher should be an expert in all martial arts. Modesty, ignorance and human limitation admits this is never true. This is true of every aspect of life, life gives experience, experience knowledge, but not expertise on all matters. However, students should have expectations of teachers. Students vary from having no exposure to martial training to quite experienced. Often, it is very tedious for the teacher to comment on questions like, what is or are the martial arts, what is the difference between Tai Kwan Do and Aikido, or Karate, or Judo or whatever. Most people can look up answers to these sort of questions on the web. One might be wise to bring informed questions to the teacher, at the very least it would test the teacher's knowledge and communication skills. The best of teachers will appreciate the challenge.

Initially the student must realize that there are many differences and many similarities in systems. Such questions are the beginning of a selection process that may fit a particular person to a particular art. This is a very positive indication, however, the question proposes elusive answers. There are many expert sales persons in the martial arts, they, of course, will tell you their art is the best and impress you with their credentials. If they propose that you sign a contract, run away. While it is reasonable that schools must have revenue to survive, and teachers deserve to make money, the manor in which they do it is an issue. Many systems use subtle to high pressure stratagems to cloy students. This is an answer for the prospective student, there may be issues with respect to this school or teacher. Take care when someone has all the answers. GO TO

Aikido works for both men and women. Aikido can also be taught to youngsters. The nature of training varies as one gains experience, in fact, a central theme of training is duration. Many people desire a quick fix to provide them with self defense. In truth, these do not exist, every form of preparation requires time and repetition. Aikido views the entire spectrum of life, not just the time when we are young and physically at a peak.  Many books have been written on Aikido. Most of these treat FAQs. In addition, there are many sites on the web that have resources, FAQs, and forums for Q&A. Go for it. As this site is developed, links to resources will be added, but for now, perhaps these answers will help.

General questions:

What is the best martial art?

Will I learn to fight/protect myself?

How long will it be before I can fight/protect myself?

How long must I train to get a black belt?

Aikido Questions: 

What is Aikido?

Is Aikido a defensive martial art?

Does Aikido have competition?

Can you defend yourself using Aikido?

Are there health limitations associated with training?

Are there health benefits associated with Aikido Training?

Is Aikido a good martial art for women?

People will usually realize that such questions although superficially reasonable actually are impossible to answer, each will find their personal solution eventually, questions merely dance around the issues.   Questions indicate what people are looking for in a martial art, but again, what they expect and what they get may be different.    From the teacher's perspective, they are somewhat difficult to endure, because ultimately the student must answer questions for themselves.    This provides a quandary for the teacher because they too usually have a sincere desire to comfort and instruct primarily because they have gone through the anxieties associated with the path.    They recognize that the nature of questioning is a virtue, and the intent to change or grow is sometimes a burden, and not every burden is light.    Generally the teacher recognizes that to learn something by wrote does not necessarily indicate  or promote understanding.    Remember, the teachers answers to these questions are their own perspective not yours or that which might be delivered by another teacher. It is always best to ask many persons to evolve an answer unique to yourself.    This is encouraged.    By the way, this does not mean instructors cannot provide answers, they are the answers from behind their eyes, they are the example. The receiver is the ultimate adjudicator of truth.    Teachers struggle, students struggle, wrestling with the questions that might ultimately lead them to some collection of harmonious living and wisdom.    This is what is intended to be passed on in an interminable stream from one person to another until all things are in harmony with truth.    It is a task that transcends any single person, and you are now in the stream. 

 General Questions:

What is the best martial art?

Reality and illusion:

This question placed in perspective is like asking who would win in mortal combat, Superman or Spawn? These are questions based on illusion. One must be careful not to make a cartoon out of life and to make one's own life a cartoon. Might does not make right. Power un-tethered by compassion, love, and understanding tends to become license. For men and nations there must be vigilance to not become that which they despise. In the reality of conflict there is much harm delivered all parties including considerable collateral damage, that is, innocents are harmed in many ways. This is the arrogance of power. The price that humankind will pay and has paid for the escapades of powerful minorities is unimaginably high. Usually one should not be concerned with trivialities regarding which is the best martial art but rather how they can do their best in any particular form of training. The crucible of love overshadows all mendacity providing the energy to complete the task, to prepare for work that extends to all humankind.

In the martial arts as in war, there is no ultimate high ground, no inaccessible palace or impenetrable fortress; there exist only stratagems to deal with threat and anticipate conflict. There are only three reasons for power, this includes the martial arts, exploration, protection, and acquisition. Power is an instrumentality of human consciousness, not an end in itself. Each of these rationales have a dark side which require a view for consequences to avoid pernicious results. Many things and artifices represent power and the trappings of power.

There are many fine martial art systems that have diverse historical, ethnic and regional origins. Many of these systems are the legacy of individuals who were themselves renown for their skill and influence. There are various emphases on stratagems, techniques, weapons, and philosophy. Finding the right martial art depends much on the teacher, their communication skills, teaching style, maturity and expertise. Some systems deal with punching and kicking, grappling, knives, swords, projectile weapons and much more. These are merely tools of the trade, just like a musical instrument. Many systems deal with antiquated tools and archaic approaches as an art form. Some systems are syncretic, eclectic and quite embracing of technological advances. Regardless, the skill to which the artist plays the instrument is the testimonial to achievement, but not all that are skilled are capable of teaching or should teach. The martial arts are not about modern day ninjas, spies, or other such covert operatives and questionable activities.

Some teachers are hard and demanding, others sensitive and compassionate. The image of a tough person may attract a student to a teacher, but this is merely an image, not necessarily reality. If your potential teacher is physically sick, this does not necessarily diminish their martial skill. In fact, it may be a testimonial to how they fight for their lives. This can be a sterling example. Do not choose a martial art because you think it is the ultimate in self-defense, choose one you can live with, grow in and through which you can become a better human being, firm up value structures, and then, perhaps, protect community, family and self should the urgency arrive. The key word is awareness, as understanding and expertise grows, awareness also expands, the ability to discern what merits conflict is part of the picture. Just because one has the tools to destroy or harm does not mean they should be employed. Ultimate weapons, security and systems designed to exalt are illusions. The beauty of any art is the spiritual empowerment, and grace accrued by practitioner, not a needy or short sighted recourse to violence as a solution to problems might rarely makes right. Beware, be aware, of what you become.

Will I learn to fight / protect myself?

Protection from What?

The answer to this is, "of course," but the question should be directed by also asking from what. In many martial arts, including Aikido, one of the first things the student learns is to fall. They are taught this in order to simulate combat scenarios where one person attacks and another defends, this often results in the attacker falling to the ground. Learning to fall is so fundamental that the art cannot be practiced without the skill. In life people fall more than they fight. If a person has an ability to control a fall, evenly distributing impact and in fact simply rebound back to the standing position they have integrated a fundamental form of protection. Almost from the very beginning one is learning to and protecting themselves.

However this form of protection involves abandoning attachment to certain fixed concepts and well entrenched fears. This sort of protection is not about preempting, vengeance, judgment or reprisal. It is about survival and safety. It is not about property, because sometimes it is necessary to abandon property to survive, additionally one must ask is any amount of property worth a single life. Clearly, fear of loss, life, limb, love or property, motivates self defense. Some people stumble across this notion naturally or through other experiences,. others examine the context of conflict to derive what forms of response are most suitable within given situations.

When someone corners another and demands money, sex or any other commodity of value, one must be very clear what has happened. Most situations could be avoided, aborted or at the last stages stopped. It is all about particulars. But if giving up the money improves chances of survival, give it up, it may merely buy a moment, but it is a moment nevertheless. There are super predators out there and chance or design may have one meeting them. This does not mean one will fall into their net. Most threat is derived from those one knows, or someone under stress that is victimizing out of compulsion, need or proximity. Reading the signs within an environment to ascertain any predatory elements is part of the toolbox. Diagnosis, seeing through, is part of the inheritance of training. It is an art, built on craft, applied to circumstances.

Self defense should not be overly analogized with war. War is a sickness man has plagued himself with, and any evolved martial tradition will eschew gathering for such purposes. However, historical lessons have taught that to preserve peace, autonomy and diversity occasionally strident objection must be issued. The recourse to escalation of force is not derived of those that object but from those that suppress. One has the right to protect themselves. Therefore groups have a right to protect themselves. Sometimes the most correct, or righteous method, but no less requiring courage, is that which is the least violent. Protection, sacrifice, change and courage hold hands with one another. Ultimately, such questions of value must come before the mind's eye for examination. It is part of the training.

Survival is nonjudgmental:

All martial arts have pragmatic features, and true self defense is practical. If a person is going out into a snowstorm they dress warm, let the car warm up, and avoid skin exposure to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. This is what you do to protect yourself from the cold. This is done so the cold does not intrude on the body and injure it. This is somewhat inconvenient and cumbersome, but effective. One is not attacking the cold, merely protecting the body from it, the effort has a neutral character, not very glossy, but it works. Over the process of training, one finds that protection is preparation, not paranoia. There is always a spectrum of issues associated with threat. Often it is best to avoid, evade or run rather than fight.

Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift Of Fear [recommended reading] writes:

So what can we tell a woman who thinks she might be killed? Seek and apply Strategies that make you unavailable to your pursuer.  If you really believe your are at risk, battered women's shelters provide the best way to be safe. Shelter locations are secret, and the professionals there understand what the legal system often doesn't: that the issue is safety --not justice. The distinction between safety and justice is often blurred...

GOF, p. 200 

It is a conservative approach to survival in a predatory environment. There is no ego or bravado here. No one would run out in front of a Tornado and try to fight it. No one would condemn another for hiding from such force. In war and life, it is not a shameful act to hide when nothing can be accomplished through confrontation. Dealing with the mere experience of trauma and loss is more important and skill sets associated with coping with change are more beneficial. This is most likely to result in one's survival, and reintegration of that which remains.

One goal for the martial artist is also to know their limitations. Almost everyone can acquire a firearm and learn to use it. But remember the possession of deadly force has deadly consequences. In such situations, one must have it close constantly, clean it, train with it, contend with the law regarding its possession, and be prepared to use it ruthlessly and unhesitatingly should the moment come. One must be custodian of it, power, particularly easily accessible power, requires control of the circumstance of its use. A child playing with a gun, poor impulse control, and any unwise use of tools that exhibit power, are examples of understanding custodial responsibility and stewardship. This does not merely apply to guns. Once the trigger is pulled the bullet cannot be retracted, one better be correct or their life from then on will be very complicated. Such mind sets make people antisocial, strange and sometimes crazy. Needless to say, it is not good for one's karma. The modern goal of the martial arts is to attain autonomy and understanding, to release karma, then fear fades to a form of intuition to which one listens. Then one can act appropriately.

How long will it be before I can fight / protect myself?

Satisfaction:

This and the prior question are entwined. The answers are perhaps and as long as it takes to not ask the question. I know this causes irritation. Accomplishment takes time. To attain security and autonomy over the terrain of constant change requires years. But one's condition gradually improves. Even the best of techniques, within the finest of teaching scenarios, take time to hone. Everyone is different, so one must not compare their progress on other's ability or progress. It is true that strength, speed, endurance, flexibility and many other attributes contribute to performance. However, the strongest muscle in the body lies between the ears. And all assets can lie as subterfuge and deny the practitioner the truth. All physical assets fade as age creeps into the body. One must be determined, disciplined and patient. As the years pass and one lives, there is success. Some of those that practice will have encounters, most will never have to fight.

Aikido is education, it provides tools to navigate your world. From a practical standpoint if one seeks to fight they also seek defeat and by extrapolation death. One must be careful not to self create personal difficulty by retaining a need for proving oneself. This is competition. In Aikido as in life there is no graduation it is all commencement. The class room is life, be prepared to spend years just completing the basics, then when you begin to create using the skills you have gathered, the idea of fighting will not be so important. There will come a moment where one is awake, all questioning ceases, this is more than satisfaction it is completion. Whether this occurs one time, a thousand or constantly in one's life, it is impetus to continue. One should desire this sign on the path, not the ability to prevail over others. 

Courage:

An underlying issue within this context is courage. People desire the confidence to negotiate life without being burdened by fear. They also believe that martial skills will diminish fear or enable them to live without both the appearance and fact of being a victim. Courage and fear are related, without fear there would be no courage or no concept of courage. This is the yin and yang of it. In the context of training, the concept of fear diminishes, is transformed, moved to the status of information and eventually fades as an impediment or barrier to action. However, in many people's lives fear is exacerbated by the imagination, anxiety is future projected fear. While it is valuable to discern what actions reap the most benefit, it is also important to respect that which contains risk. However, to become over burdened with imagined risk creates phobias, unreasonable fear. Perhaps for some it is asking someone to dance, the fear of rejection, for others embarrassment, or fear of death, it is an infinitely variable thoughtscape of perceived inadequacy.

What is usually considered courage and fear have lessons, the lessons themselves are barriers and lessons. Courage or the idea of placing oneself at risk for the sake of another is a land of paradox. The first part of the paradox is that fear is a gift, part of the survival mechanism, one should learn to listen to the inner voice that cautions. Further, one can develop fighting skills but the mere acquisition of skill does not necessarily indicate a change in the internal state that matures confidence and courage, however, they help. One must be certain there is not deception in the ability to prevail. Might does not make right.

No Fear:

On one hand there is the image of the risk taker. They are the people that reach out for extremes. They say "No Fear." The say that they are testing their metal. Some of these persons are quite remarkable, they are also explorers, adventurers, athletes and even the like of race car drivers, investment brokers, gamblers or astronauts, all seek to derive an experience from pressing the limits of their luck, skill, endurance and intellect in a manner that gives them some internal gratification, notoriety or profit. For some individuals there is a reckless component to this and they unnecessarily endanger themselves and others. They press these boundaries for the psychic state that is produced, for the rush. For some this is as compulsive as an addiction. This is a game humanity plays with itself and consists of drives inside itself. This context is not, however, necessarily negative, and such challenges are necessary for the human experience.  However, they must be understood for what they are and placed in perspective.

Unfortunately there is a category within this set of individuals that are at an extreme filled with rage, darkness and malice. These are potential killers (serial, assassins, torturers, and scientists that conjure weapons), thieves that rationalize their acquisition by the game and thinking they are outsmarting others, and some times even politicians, military, police and other official persons that think they become the law by assuming lawful positions. This makes them more powerful than others and can justify distortion. Such persons are full of ego and self absorption/deceit. In these cases what looks like courage lacks merit. It is a dangerous game where many are soiled.

Yin and yang, gradients of condition:

Human acts lie on a spectrum, the notions of absolute evil and good are simply archetypes, there are infinite shades of gray. The future is not known.   No one can know all the consequences [events] that issue from any act, so we all lie in shadow trusting that goodness will prevail.   Throughout time many of the most pressing matters before humanity have been about right and wrong.   Each individual must search their soul for answers, and the nature of the search is part of the answer.   Faith is another word that contains paradox, faith has begun and continued strife and it has also contributed great healing.   One of the characteristics of courage has to do with faith, and this is not to be confused with much arrogance that is portrayed as faith.   There must be inside a person or group a relatively pure sense of what is universally good.   They must also engage in perceptive and honest self reflection.   Then action must be measured and appropriate.   Because the future is not known every act has consequences that are not appraisable. We must have in ourselves a hope, faith, that, regardless of personal risk, consequences will be beneficent.

Persons that choose to sacrifice time, energy, and resources for the sake of others are courageous.   Courage is many faceted.   A person like Mother Teresa [Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, Roman Catholic nun, born 1910 in Skopje] exemplifies courage because she faces despair and hopelessness every day with joy, and faith, despite limitation, personal travail and a recognition of the immensity of the task. Mothers that sacrifice for their children also have courage.   The fathers that provide and nurture are heroes.   People that are in job classifications that engender risk can be heroes, but they are not stupid, so they conduct their business with tools that promote survival. Even those in the military prepare.

For some, heroic acts may be out of character, that is a selfish person may act with great selflessness under the right conditions. No one can predict how they will confront their demons in time of crisis.   In time of war or cataclysm there are many ordinary people that exhibit unusual character as acts of faith, true courage is not Hollywood hype, and many of these persons go unapplauded.   Courage annotated by celebrity inherit a jaded gift, because even occasional greatness can destroy a person.   Still accidental heroes deserve recognition, even though this might only be "The Moment" of their lives, and as it is said "this too shall pass."   Clearly, while all such events, sacrifices, should be remembered, they should not also become the ruination of both the person and example.

Bullies:

The ability to prevail over another is not necessarily courage.   The bully mentality regards force as justification for behavior.   This has parallels.   The clever can intellectually subdue others and prevail, the attractive can wow others with beauty but be selfish and insensitive. Those that have a gift for gab can obscure malicious intent.   Still, such attributes are assets, but without the correct attitude inside they are merely another obstacle to be overcome in the process of evolution.

An important lesson here is the nature of the above analysis.   Not all that appears attractive is good, things that worked in the past may not be the best for present, and the converse of this can also be the correct insight for a moment.   That is, tradition has weathered the test of time and should not be disregarded. True, all strengths can become liabilities under the right conditions.   Arrogance associated with any gift is still arrogance.   Fear of death, loss, embarrassment, and all kindred possibilities reside inside us all.   These too, can be barriers to growth. Learn to look on virtually everything in context of the whole.   It will yield benefits and widen your perspective, and then you can freely choose which way to go.

How long must I train to get a black belt?

Promotion policy is stated in Orientation and Promotion Policy.   Do not be surprised to find reiteration of some of the sentiments found here.   Test requirements will be posted.   If a person practices diligently and consistently the test for first degree black belt usually occurs in three years.   When one becomes a black belt they are considered a serious beginner.   The belt is meaningless if there is no expectation of performance, and over time character changes to balance performance.

Aikido Questions:

I gathered this cartoon from the Spartanburg Herald years ago, I liked it.   I could not trace the author, but would appreciate his tolerance for its use.  Please contact if the author is known.

 

What is Aikido?

This question is treated in detail elsewhere.   The brochures and other materials distributed have short explanations, but many books have been written on the topic.   I actually encourage students to answer this question for themselves by researching the topic on the web and by reading books.   The glossary also considers many topics relating to Aikido and context.   This might flesh out an overview for some.   For the most part, the prospective student cannot understand what they do not experience, so to understand one must become a student and train. 

Is Aikido a defensive martial art?

Again, although this question appears simple it is not.   For the most part today, at least philosophically, with some exceptions martial arts define themselves as defensive.   However, inside each martial art are mechanisms that can press an attack, or draw out opponents. Aikido has a saying "Aikido ne sete nashi", Aikido has no offensive techniques. Karate says similarly "Karate ni sete nashi".   These statements have much to do about the initial contact. One is correct to defend oneself.

However, there are limits to actions intended for defense.   Protection is one thing, brutality, loss of control, and vengeance are another.   Issues associated with appropriate use of force can be evaluated objectively, but in the heat of conflict it is often difficult to control events to limit harm.   The habits one develops in the process of training are what appear in crisis.   The Aikidoka is a heihoka, a person of peace.

In the beginning of the United States there was considerable debate regarding the kind of powers that were to be installed in the various branches of government. In the case of Wilks speech to the Continental Congress he made the statement power is apt to corrupt. In fact this was similarly iterated by Lord Halifax in Parliament and he said, "Power is apt to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."   The martial arts empower and the same questions that pertain to governments can be addressed to the individual.   Power can become convenient, aggressive and antagonistic.   Further, all humans, both men and women, struggle with anger, frustration, and many other emotions that motivate to aggressive and potentially harmful actions.   Aikido training, in part, puts this inner struggle into perspective.    As one evolves in training, both their ability to inflict injury and the ability to control conflict laden events improves. Balance occurs as one matures.    As to the question regarding Aikido being a defensive art, yes, but always remember the very act of crafting a weapon intimates its use and the intent inherent in it.

Does Aikido have competition?

No, everyone needs to read this GO TO link to Glossary, competition. Do not consider doing Aikido without reading this material.

Can you defend yourself using Aikido?

Yes, but Aikido training is not about combat scenario, defeating other martial arts or any competitive context, it is about awareness.   While the model is martial the goal is harmony with nature, to be in harmony with nature one must open the windows of perception to view this as an encompassing whole.   This is not simple, easy or guaranteed, the process is designed to mold both physical and mental tools to penetrate to the essences of things, and thus nurturing and protecting all life arrives as does the smaller concept of self defense.   The Japanese have a saying, "born asleep and died while still dreaming."   The principles of protection require attention.   Recourse to violence means something has gone dreadfully wrong.   On the highest levels of conflict all contingencies are considered and accounted for.   In real life emergencies panic, anger, fear and many other factors can color one's performance and determine survival.   Such urgencies are rare, but they are always a point of contention when one decides to train within a system. The best advice that can be given in this context is that Aikido is as much about how one lives their life as it is about preserving it. Preserving one's life can mean not driving recklessly or under a narcotizing influence. After all, one would not wish to die while still dreaming.

Over many years of training, both students and peers have related experiences where they acquitted themselves well and either fought off an attacker or otherwise were unharmed. There are also instances where very capable persons were killed by assailants. I have had personal experiences as well with respect to defending myself. Such experiences are not guarantees that one will always prevail, but they are testimony to the training. Still there is uncertainty.

When crises occurs it is never what you expect and your response will likely be surprising to you. When you live through such moments, life becomes more precious. Many of the issues associated with the question concern the uncertainty, and no matter how well you think you are prepared, the uncertainty will always be there. This is part of the training, learning to live with uncertainty. The surprise is a moment of truth.

Are there health limitations associated with training?

Health considerations can limit certain types of training. Most health issues are specific to the individual. If one has issues or questions address them to the teacher. Confidentiality should be respected. If questions remain, discuss with a Physician, preferably one that understands the parameters of Martial training.

It always is painful when a teacher must caution a potential student not to train. Or when a current student encounters a health issues that may be exacerbated by training or possibly infect others. [GO TO] It is often better to error on the side of caution than to risk an infection running rampant through a dojo. This is particularly important to consider during flue and cold seasons.

In general age of it self does not preclude training in Aikido. However, the nature of the training is usually different for these persons than for the young and restless. Again, this should be discussed with teachers. If a person is persistent and consistent, taking it slow and easy gets them where they want to go, and there is much pleasure in training.

While one particular martial art might not be suitable for a particular person, another might. Some forms like, Tai Chi are also very healing and do not contain features that jeopardizes fragile constitutions or exacerbate prior conditions or injuries.   This does not mean that this is not a formidable martial art.   One does not have to fight to learn a martial art or way. Further, pursuit of a spiritual path does not necessarily require engaging in a martial art.   There is one truth, but many paths, choose one that suits your aspirations, abilities and limitations.   A limitation, or challenge may be a blessing.   Sometimes the answer is when there is an obstacle in the road, go around.

Aikido, specifically, is quite gymnastic, requiring falling and some high impact conditions.  In the best of worlds the teacher nurtures the student through the conditioning process to bring them to a point where such encounters are not just tolerable but encompassable like any normal life activity or activity of daily living.   However, in the conditioning process, there is soreness, occasional injury and sometimes surfacing of latent issues.   All must be considered circumspectly, discuss matters with your teacher.   Life is long, there are always many impediments to achieving goals.   But don't let imagination impose fear where problem solving should suffice.

Are there health benefits associated with Aikido Training?

Yes, and they are many.   Physiologically Aikido is aerobic and thus the cardiovascular system is stimulated and strengthened.   It has stretching components that not only increase general flexibility in terms of musculature but also it maintains and maximizes range of motion for many joints.   The stretching also effects the peripheral vascular system, particularly in the lower extremities, by stressing the elastic tissue component of the veins and arteries insuring patency.   All intrinsic musculature is strengthened due to the constant flexion and contraction of muscles, fibers and tendons. This modifies to the level of suspensory, interossiae, connective, and peripheral vascular tissue.   This results in increased strength, regulation of blood pressure, and increased cardiac output.

When we are children we roll and tumble about, but as we attain adulthood, we cease to to this.   Aikido returns us to the pleasure and benefits of tumbling.   First this skill set helps conquer the fear of falling, which is a fundamental psychological barrier and fear.   The falling inherent in training contributes to the strengthening of internal tissue and increasing of flexibility.   Over time it helps make the frame stable and resilient.   The mechanism increases skeletal stress which in turn increases osteoblastic/osteoclastic repair mechanisms increasing bone density and buttressing old injuries and structural weaknesses.

There is much discussion today about osteoporosis.   Medical people say drugs can benefit, but often the use of such substances engenders more risk than benefit.   The natural way is the best.   The most effective way to increase bone density is first weight bearing activity before the age of 28, and exercise continued into great age.   Of course, this is also along with a sound diet rich in trace minerals that comprise many cofactors for physiologic function and health.   Green vegetables are very important and often under consumed.

By the way some of the exercises and principles of Aikido are contained in massage, acupuncture and other healing arts. This is particularly true of the wrist exercises that have a profoundly positive effect on carpal tunnel syndrome, a common malaise associated with repetitive motion and use of computer keyboards.

In short Aikido has all the benefits of exercise plus additional benefits associated with the unique nature of the practice. But these physiologic or physical benefits are only part of the benefit package.   Aikido existed long before Cardio Kickboxing, and other such modern derivatives, it has elements non existent in such fads.

There are clear psychological, and cognitive benefits to the art.   As mentioned there evolves an ability to deal with falling which transfers to other fundamental fear contexts.   This examination of fear in the context of conflict diminishes the impact of life stressors that generate anxiety, future projected fear, certain obsessive / compulsive sets, and inability to act when faced by a crisis that demands that fear be overcome to insure one's own or another's survival.

Each person can relate their own story and list of benefits of training. Some might say that these benefits parallel those of a regimen of ordinary exercise.   The emphasis in Aikido is different than in other programs.   First, Aikido is a complete system, integrating body, mind and spirit with a focus on a goal that transcends mere body issues.   Aikido teaches us to harness our consciousness to recognize and change certain poisonous habits which also have physiologic consequences.   For example, if we have much frustration and anger results, there is a cascade in the body that creates disharmony that can be the seed of disease. This paradigm might appear initially as spiritual nonsense, but in fact science today supports the psycho/somo link to disease, particularly chronic.   The work of Candice Pert, author of Molecules of Emotion the discoverer of the opiate receptor and the mother of the science nuropsychopharmocology, indicates that the endocrine system and in particular the brain center called the mesencephalon are sensitive barometers which implement triggering mechanisms regulating much of our self esteem and other physic states.   These mechanisms have been observed in the east for millennia and have been a subtle factor integrated into many growth media.   Ueshiba simply took this and made it a part of the training, included not by understanding the technology as we try to today, but by an understanding of nature from a vantage point few could appreciate and even fewer attain.

Is Aikido a good martial art for women?

While many questions and agendas are held in common with men, women have unique issues.   One of the issues orbits around training with men and attaining position and status within the art.   Another primary set of issues just refer to the effectiveness of Aikido as a self defense media.   Again, there is brevity and contributions are welcome.   There are other specific matters, which as people contribute will have elaboration, for now this is a brief discussion.

The bulk of Aikido practitioners are men.   Men by conditioning have a different predilection to physical training than women. However, women's roles are changing and many of the sociological restraints that hampered women to achieve on equal status to men are being eroded.   This extends to all other gender and sexual preference issues.   However, the simple fact remains that in training women will be working with men.

Unlike other martial arts Aikido is always done with a partner, the training is often hot, sweaty, demanding and exhausting. It is OK for men to smell bad but for women, especially in this context, it is not a date, and one appears on the mat as they really are.   So, it is often difficult for women to overcome the initial issues associated with appearances.   Generally women that ignore this are already quite self-confident and have a positive self-image.   For those that have image issues or issues with men, this type of training can be unappealing.   However, despite this, one should train.   Women should train.  Everyone on the mat has issues, each of us are flawed.   The differences is that in the process of training many are confronted and resolved. This is part of the crucible of Aikido.   One becomes what they really are, and move forward despite assets, liabilities and illusions.

Regarding effectiveness:

In many respects Aikido is the ideal martial art for women, it does not rely on many of the physical attributes that inhabit strength. Just let me relate a story.   I have many students in the Ukraine, where casual violence against women is far worse than in the United States.   One of my students, now a teacher, was standing at a Kiosk and saying to herself, what shall I buy.   Women everywhere shop.   While she was standing there ruminating, someone came from behind and grabbed her by the shoulders.   She thought it was one of her friends, she turned partly around and looked, and then looked up. Here was a very tall red-haired man with a strange smile on his face, grabbing and pushing down on her shoulders.   Julia is not tall, but she speaks her mind, she said "what do you want." He continued his action.   After this, her response was without thought, she went with the force of the attack moving down and under the man's body.   He went over her in a huge arc and landed, apparently unconscious, in a puddle in front of her.   She collected herself, walked forward, kicked him several times to, make sure he was out and said "now what do you want."   There were other people around the Kiosk, they probably watched the scene with amazement, because as she said the final words, they applauded.   It can be this way for you, too but you must want it, and work for it.

More later:

Please submit questions or links that benefit. Matters will be addressed by collecting questions and addressing themes.  All the best in your training. 

There is considerable consideration of English, Latin, Greek and other Language bases in these works.  There is an effort to be specific and succinct with respect to all language use.   To facilitate this as as a part of membership with the Global Natural Health Advocates, this site links with that site's extensive Glossary and Commentary resources.      While Aikido is a Martial Way, derivative of a culture, there are many associations and clarifying issues that require comparison between language bases.   There is a sincere attempt to avoid both ethnocentric and biased interpretive slants to specific topics and contexts.   However, there will always be differences, and diversity, that contribute to the rich nature of these environments that will beg continuous reexamination and expansion.   The goal is to provide a platform on which this form of discussion and contribution can take place.  It is part of the project to examine these concepts from many language angles so all in whatever language, or ethic background can participate and benefit. 

Dictionaries and Word sources

 Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary, Thesaurus, College Edition, 

[Designated as RHED]

Word Perfect Corp. version 1.5, 1992

 Miriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

[Designated as MWCD]

Microsoft Corporation 1990-2000

RHED & MWCD are search engines so no specific page references are noted.

[The use of multiple dictionaries and sources often clarify minutiae otherwise not clearly recognizable.  This methodology is designed and encouraged as a learning tool in all venues of discovery.]

Other definitions and support materials derived from multiple sources including Black's Legal Dictionary, Dorland's, Stedman's, Merk's, many Medical/science specialty resources, and other literary/historical resources.

There is occasionally commentary associated with definitions that clarify

 etymology or other nuances of words, phrases and conceptual contexts.

[THIS TAKES READERS TO GLOSSARY INTRODUCTION PAGE WITH ALPHABETICAL INDEX[

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