I am thinking of trying Aikido but I can’t make the “basic” classes due to my schedule? Can I attend a mixed class, with students of all levels?

Yes. Mixed classes include people of all abilities and rank. Senior students help junior students, and everyone goes out of their way to make the new students comfortable.

I notice your dojo is also headquarters of the Brooklyn Buddhist Association. Do I have to be Buddhist to practice Aikido at your dojo?

Absolutely not. The Buddhist and Aikido organizations are separate and distinct. Some of the Aikido students are practicing Buddhists (and some who came for Buddhism are now practicing Aikido students) but this is by their choice. The founder of Aikido was heavily influenced by the Shinto, Buddhist and Omoto-kyo religions, and the spiritual discipline of Aikido draws heavily on Buddhist principles. As a result, the practice of Buddhism can greatly enhance your Aikido practice, but this is for each person to discover on his/her own.

Aikido looks choreographed, like everyone is cooperating. It doesn’t look “real”. What’s the deal with this?

Aikido is a powerful and effective martial art that has the potential to seriously injure or even kill an attacker. When practiced properly this will not happen, but the potential is always there. When you see Aikido being practiced, one person is attacking and one person is defending. The attacker will end up either thrown or pinned, and completely controlled by the person performing the technique. It looks like cooperation for a simple reason; the attacker in Aikido is trained to fall properly, in order to escape injury. The result looks planned, or choreographed, but is in fact very real.

OK, but how come you line up a certain way, and you know what attack is coming, etc. This isn’t how fights happen.

Consider this analogy. When you are learning to play tennis, you go out on the court with a tennis pro, and he stands there and hits balls to you (not away from you). He tells you that he’s going to hit 100 shots to your backhand, then switches to your forehand. You know what is coming, and you hit the ball over and over again, and in the process, get better at it. If the pro stood out there and hit 120 mph shots into the corners you would never get a chance to learn. This is what is happening at the early stages of learning Aikido. Once you reach the yudansha ranks (black belt) you will be “playing with the pro” to use the tennis analogy.

How long does it take to get a black belt in Aikido?

Please be aware that attaining the black belt rank is an indication that you are now ready to begin serious practice. There are many levels of black belt and attainment of the first level indicates that you have made a commitment to a serious level of Aikido training.

In any case, most people that practice Aikido diligently several times a week may attain the first level black belt in 4 – 5 years. Of course this depends on their level of diligence and commitment to the practice.

I’ve heard Aikido referred to as a “soft” martial art, as opposed to “harder” arts like karate. Can you explain what is meant by this?

Aikido is “soft” in the sense that you do not rely upon your strength to control and disable an attacker. You are completely relaxed, free of muscle and mental tension when you are defending against an attack. In addition, the attacker will simply be thrown or pinned, not killed or disabled by full contact blows. Your complete control of his attack quickly convinces the attacker that his contentious thoughts and actions are only getting him into deeper and deeper trouble. The desire to attack quickly vanishes.

Aikido teaches you how not to fight. Other arts teach you how to fight.

This is the “soft” in Aikido.

Is there a contract? Do I have to sign up for a year or something like that? What is my total commitment?

There are no contracts to practice at our dojo. You pay a monthly fee and you get to ome to as many classes as you like. To continue practicing you simply pay your monthly dues. The only additional fees are for testing for a new rank.

I’ve heard there are different styles of Aikido. What style are you and what is the difference between styles?

The founder of Aikido taught many students directly. Some of those students are now very distinguished black belts, and teachers in their own right. They have their own interpretations of what they were taught, and these interpretations form various styles. Our style was a result of the teachings of Fumio Toyoda Shihan. Toyoda Shihan studied directly under the founder’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and then under Koichi Tohei, 10th-degree black belt and founder of the Ki Society. We now train under the direction of Greg Noble Sensei, a long-time student of the late Fumio Toyoda Shihan.

The various styles all share a common center, and that is the teachings of O’Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba.

I’m not in shape. Will my lack of physical conditioning be a detriment to my Aikido practice?

Although Aikido does not rely on size or muscular strength, practicing involves moderate to intense physical exercise. To make progress you must be able to engage in at least a moderate level of exercise.

Is there competition in Aikido? Are there tournaments?

No. There are no tournaments, no winning or losing, no sparring and no competition. The only thing you need to compete with is your own instinct to fight. When practicing, you work with a partner or small group. You alternate attack and defense, usually after four repetitions of a technique.

What about physical injuries? Can I be injured practicing Aikido?

Aikido is a martial art and you certainly face the possibility of injury when you practice Aikido at our dojo or anywhere else. Even with an emphasis on safety, injuries can and do happen. Although we try to minimize the possibility, there is no way to guarantee that an injury will not occur. Signing up to learn a martial art is not the same as going to the gym to work out. You are learning a powerful and effective martial art. There is inherent risk involved.