If you have Aikido weapons now is a good time to give them a little TLC. I did mine today. Don’t they look lovely?
Give them a check over for splinters and cracks. Lightly sand out any rough spots, sanding in the direction of the grain of the wood. Then give them a light coat of oil. You can use mineral oil if you have some but I often use olive oil from the kitchen. Today I used a beeswax and mineral oil paste that I picked up a few years ago. Oiling helps the wood to stay moist which will reduce splintering. Apply a thin coat and leave it for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess and give it a rub so that it’s nice and shiny. Click Aikido Weapons Maintenance for more information about this.
When you’re done and the weapons are nice and dry, try some solo weapons techniques! I ran through Jo Solo #1, Happo Giri – basic and advanced, and the kaze arashi ryu tanto solo. If you can’t find a place to practice outside, try doing tanto techniques inside. A short piece of dowel can also stand in for a bokken or a jo for inside practice. There are a few videos for weapons techniques on our website at Weapons Syllabus and Videos and many more on the internet!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you are new to Aikido, attend weapons classes. Why? Because all Aikido techniques have a basis in weapons. If you’re new, the most critical aspect of weapons training that will impact your comfort level with Aikido is kamae. Kamae is not just the way we stand before we do a technique. It is the stance in which we are ready. Ready for whatever comes next. We are focused, and ready to act. When you stand in kamae with a bokken, your sword is drawn. You are committed to action. You mean business. But even if you don’t feel all that focused just yet, holding the weapon will alter your kamae in subtle ways. You will feel more need to put weight in your back leg in order to offset the weight that is projected from your hands. When you lift the bokken and strike, you will also need to push your weight down through your hips to maintain your balance. Maintaining your own balance while upsetting your partner’s balance is how Aikido works.
While our regular classes do include some weapons techniques, spending a full class dedicated to weapons practise will improve your comfort level enormously. You should especially do this if you find weapons forms frustratingly complicated or confusing. Even if you are not new to Aikido (black belts included!) weapons training can still improve your Aikido. It’s a chance to practice beginner’s mind. Pretend you don’t know anything and learn how to move your body differently. Your arms are now three feet longer and can no longer grasp your opponent. How do you make this work for you? Energy flows differently when you have a weapon in your hands. It comes from movement, flow and balance rather than muscle strength.
I encourage you to make a commitment. Pick a Tuesday or Saturday weapons class and commit to attending for six weeks. Try techniques with bokken, tanto and jo if you can, and most of all, practise, practise, practise!
Adult test techniques on our Testing Information page have been updated to the AYF 2017 technique lists. New Dan and Instructor recommendation forms are also available. Note that these forms have changed and new information is being requested. Forms are available as fillable PDF or Excel spreadsheet, MS Word versions are no longer available.
When I first started aikido two years ago, Sensei Jaimie told me that I could use the principles of aikido in the rest of my life off the mat, whenever I faced difficult circumstances. It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to do that, but a few weeks ago I had a huge aha! moment.
I was sitting watching an evening class, and a new student who had only been to a couple of classes approached me and asked me if aikido helped teach how to be calm.
Without missing a beat I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes!”
The trouble was, I didn’t quite know how to explain it to him so that he would understand, because English wasn’t his first language. In a flash, it came to me.
I pointed to my bald head, and told him I’d had cancer, and many other problems.
Then I pointed to the mat. Sensei Therese was teaching second control – nikajo – at that moment, and I pointed out the students who were applying the second control to the wrists of their attackers. (A video describing the entire technique is below.)
I took the young man’s hand in mine just like the people on the mat, and explained that when we first learn second control, we usually grip our training partner’s hand very tightly, thinking that it takes a lot of muscle to make them kneel. I made a grimace, and screwed up my face as if I were trying to do something very difficult, and gripped his hand as if my life depended on it.
Then I explained that the technique actually works better if our hands are relaxed. When we tense up, the attacker can feel it through our touch, and they tense up too, making it harder to move them. If our own hands are relaxed when we touch them, they don’t realize there’s a threat, and then when we can feel that their shoulder is locked, we can apply the pin with little effort, and control them.
I changed my grip on his hand.
“Gentle,” I said, and moved his hand. I repeated the illustration one more time. Screwed my face and body up, and held his hand in a death grip. Then loosened up, “gentle,” and moved him.
And that’s when I had my aha! moment. It was the answer that I’d been looking for for months.
Relax your “grip” when you’re under attack – from someone else, or a situation, or even your own thoughts. Relax, and act from the relaxed place.
Sounds so simple.
Our aikido training teaches us, through repetition, to respond a certain way to being attacked. And we repeat it over and over again until it becomes reflex, so that if we’re ever in a situation where we really need to defend ourselves, we act automatically.
When life is throwing all sorts of crap at you, ease up your mental grip. Go to your centre. Then act from that calmer place. Practice it even when life isn’t throwing crap at you, and it will become automatic.