Information for beginners
How to get started
The best way to find out if Aikido is suitable for you is to jump right in and participate in a class. All Riai Aikido schools offer at least two free classes for beginners, so there’s no reason not to give it a go. Check out locations and class schedules on our schools page.
All our regular classes are suitable for beginners, unless specifically stated otherwise. Our instructors take into consideration who is attending and make sure that all levels and abilities are catered for.
It’s generally a good idea to phone the contact for the school in advance of your first class to confirm the class time and let them know you’re coming. If you’re unsure which age group is right for you, or have any other queries at all, don’t hesitate to phone the listed contact person for advice.
What to wear
Wear something loose fitting and comfortable, e.g. track pants and a t-shirt. Don’t wear anything precious, as it’s (remotely) possible it may get torn or damaged.
Because we wear bare feet on the training mat, and we sometimes end up face down on the mats, please come with clean feet and wear footwear right up to the side of the mat. Put on footwear if you leave the mat area during training. Some dojos prefer you take your footwear off at the door of the dojo, if in doubt just observe and copy the locals.
Remove any necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings or other jewellery, as these can potentially cause injury to you or your training partners.
What to expect
Classes typically begin with a period of warm-up exercises, sometimes followed by exercises in the basic stances and footwork (Taisabaki) central to most Aikido techniques, and/or practice in falls and rolls (Ukemi). As a beginner just do your best to follow along with the exercises, you will be given individual tuition on ukemi if required.
Once the preliminaries are over, the class typically alternates between demonstrations by the instructor and periods of partner practice. As a beginner it can be intimidating to approach the senior grades, but these are the best people for you to train with as they have the knowledge and control to perform the techniques at a level you can safely receive and learn from. Seek them out.
How to behave
To ensure the dojo is an enjoyable, safe and effective place to learn and explore the art of Aikido, we observe a few basic rules of etiquette. For the most part these are designed to encourage us to respect our instructors and training partners, to ensure that everyone knows what they should be doing, and to ensure the instructor can safely orchestrate the activity in the dojo.
At the start and end of class we line up in seiza (kneeling) in order of seniority and bow once to the front of the dojo, then once to our instructor. This signifies respect and gratitude to the founder of Aikido, the many teachers who have carried on the art, and to our instructor. It is the only time you need to line up according to grade.
We bow to each training partner before commencing training. This reminds us we are offering each other a chance to train and that we should respect the opportunity by training with respect and care for each other’s safety.
When receiving techniques that involve joint locks or holds, we slap the floor, or our thigh if standing, to signal to our training partner that the technique is effective (yelling is just as effective if you forget). Always respect this signal and release a lock or pin when your training partner ‘taps-out’.
When the instructor is demonstrating everyone else should sit silently in seiza and pay close attention. This helps maximise our learning and ensures everyone is clear what they should be doing when they get up to practice.
When training generally there is no talking on the mat, as we learn by doing not talking. For beginners some discussion (direction or feedback) with your partner maybe necessary however, e.g. if you are unsure how to proceed with the technique. When the instructor claps or shouts Yame! (pronounced yah-may) stop training and return to seiza.
Training safely is our number one priority. If you have any injury or health condition that you think may affect your training let your instructor know.
You are the best judge of what’s right for you. If you are uncomfortable with an exercise or technique, discuss it with your training partner or instructor. It’s always your right to sit it out if you’re not comfortable.
Uniform and belt tying
You don’t need gi (the ‘white pyjamas’ pdf the martial arts) to try aikido, but you will once you join. They are available from all martial arts stores. Wed are often asked how the obi (belt) is tied. Here’s a good way: