Does this sound familiar? “I went to the BJJ place down the street and got my shoulder ripped apart. I really wanted to practice a martial art but I can’t get hurt like that.” You can substitute any number of competitive or combat arts names, but this is a story I hear often colored in many forms. This makes entering a dojo for Aikido a scary thing for many. I recently had a student come to us with just such a story. After watching a class his only question was “How do I sign up?”
Why is Aikido different?
First off Aikido is not competitive. We are not showing our abilities off by beating another. Secondly the environment we train in is light and airy, with a feeling of joy and balance. Lastly the community we create mandates that we take care of our training partners.
There have been several studies over the years regarding injuries in the practice of martial arts. In sifting through many of them some things are consistent. As you might guess arts that throw, punch and kick in competition have the most injuries. One thing that stood out to me as an Aikido instructor was that of the injuries that incurred during Aikido were either taking a bad fall or weapons related. These are largely preventable. This is a link to a well done Canadian study. https://rdcu.be/b1ujO
Taking great ukemi is paramount to enjoying and exploring all Aikido has to offer. As instructors we must put as much thought, care, and time in to teaching ukemi as well as waza. We must consider each students’ physical abilities and development when choosing technique and how to present it. Sometimes that means no fall classes.
As we teach technique and ukemi we are teaching the body to move in ways we are not used to. As we develop in our Aikido these ways of moving become the natural healthy movements that invigorates our bodies providing healthful exercise.
Weapons training can me made safer by carefully plotting out spacing requirements and choreographing so as to prevent accidental collisions. We must first learn to control the tip of the weapon before we start swinging at each other.
As instructors it is our responsibility to create a safe and inviting environment for exploring Aikido. It requires diligence and awareness on the mat to adapt to the changing conditions of students, abilities, and space. The energetic practice of Aikido can be done very safely if we all take care of each other.