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!