Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Aikido?

Aikido is a Japanese martial art founded in the 1940’s by Morihei Ueshiba and is originally derived from the samurai unarmed combat style of Jujutsu.

How is Aikido different from other martial arts?

Aikido differs from the vast majority of martial arts in that it is both non-competitive and seeks to resolve any conflict situation with the minimum of force/violence. It is also comprised of a system of both empty handed techniques and weapons techniques rather than focusing solely on one or the other.

What techniques/methods are used in Aikido training?

Instead of blocking an attack and then countering, aikido aims to blend with the aggressors attack, thereby utilising their own energy/momentum/strength against them.
The empty-handed techniques in aikido are comprised of strikes, joint locks, throws, chokes and body blending exercises. The use of traditional Japanese weapons such as the bokken (wooden sword), Jo (qaurterstaff) and tanto (knife) are also taught, as well as techniques used to disarm an attacker with one of the above weapons.
Randori (multiple attacker drills) and Jiyu-waza (freestyle practise drills) are also an important part of regular aikido training. Within the context of these drills an aikidoka learns how difficult it is to evade and deal with more than one opponent simultaneously and how to deal with any number of committed attacks. As there is no competition in aikido, the stress that these drills place on the individual are key to their development.
Ukemi (rolls and breakfalls) are taught from the beginning and are of the utmost importance so that everyone can practise the techniques safely and without fear of injury. At a higher-level, ukemi comprises redirecting and countering techniques so that the line between attacker (uke) and defender (tori) becomes harder to distinguish.

Is Aikido an effective martial art?

How long is a piece of string? There is no such thing as an ‘effective martial art’, only effective practitioners. The techniques used in Aikido are all valid and can effect the human skeleton/nerve points to a great degree when performed correctly. The Police do actually utilise several joint locks found in Aikido to immobilise and restrain people.

How long will it take me to become proficient?

As above there really is no set answer for this question, it depends on how many times a week you train and how you learn whilst training. The ideal amount is two or three times a week, although we do not expect or ask people to train this much. If you just want to pop down now and again then that’s fine, everyone has other commitments in life.

Do you have to be strong/tough/an experienced martial artist to train in Aikido?

Like any sport or skill, some people are more naturally suited to it than others, however, everyone is capable of doing Aikido as it does not require a great deal of strength and is particularly suited to women, children and older people. Many of our senior students had no or little other martial arts experience prior to beginning their Aikido training so it really doesn’t matter. Everyone is a beginner at some point…

Do you wear coloured belts?

No. We follow the traditional Japanese ‘Kyu’ grading system whereby a student wears a white belt until they achieve their first Dan black belt. There are 6 Kyu grades prior to black belt, beginning at 6th Kyu and descending to 1st Kyu. They are each indicative of a colour. We prefer this system as it encourages a more open minded approach and discourages elitism.

What are those weird, baggy black trousers called?

They’re called ‘Hakama’ and are basically the Japanese equivalent of riding chaps worn by samurai during the country’s feudal period. They are usually worn by the senior students within the class after attaining the standard of 1st Kyu. They are also worn as part of the uniform in Kendo, Kyudo, Iaido and some styles of Jujutsu.

What should I wear?

Anything you’re comfortable in basically. If you have a karate/judo gi then that is great, although a tracksuit and t-shirt or jeans will be more than adequate to begin with. If you wish to order a gi (judo suit) we generally put a bulk order in for our new members at some point in the autumn/winter term where we can get you a bit of discount. Which is nice.

Are you the best martial arts club at Durham University?

You wouldn’t believe how often we get asked that question at fresher’s fair! We’re only the best if you want to try Aikido. Everybody is after something different and it is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole a person or a martial art into a one size fits all. If you’re looking to do competitions then we are clearly not the best choice for you and we would advise you to check out the nice people at the Judo and Taekwondo stalls. If you only want to practise a purely weapons orientated art then we would recommend the Kendo club.
If you want to come and learn Aikido in a fun, friendly environment where there is a lot of expertise on hand to guide and help you as well as a wide range of people from all walks of life, then we’re the club for you.

Is Aikido a soft or a hard martial art?

It depends on which style of Aikido and also the instructors preference. We teach a traditional style of Aikido called ‘Aikikai’, the type created by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1940’s. We believe in teaching a practical, dynamic style of Aikido focused on realism and self-defense. We like to think of ourselves as a ‘hard’ style, though don’t let that put you off: you get out what you put in and as such you can train in pretty much any manner you like, soft, hard, fast or slow.

How long does it take to get to black belt?

There’s no set time period, it really does differ from person to person. Roughly speaking though, if you train three times a week and train hard then the average time is between three – five years. Alternatively, if you want a black belt quicker then you can go to a sports shop and get one for about £3.99. Easy!

Are gradings a regular option?

If you turn up regularly and train diligently then yes. We don’t have specific times of the year for gradings, we do the majority of them in house when the head instructor feels that a student is ready to progress. Gradings within Prince Bishops Aikido Club are free and there is no need to buy any new belts or stuff due to the ‘kyu’ system mentioned above.

All the video clips look a bit scary. Will I be expected to train like that?

No. The video clips that we have up currently feature the highly experience aikidoka. They have years of experience in the art and the clips are basically there to show what is possible if you keep training. No one would be expected to train that fast or hard in the beginning: you train at your own pace and health and safety is an integral part of our practise for everyone. We have a wide range of people within the class, ranging from beginners to the aforementioned black belts, they all train at different levels and no one is expected to attempt anything they are not comfortable with.