Who can practice aikido?
In accord with the philosophy of aikido, there are no limitations regarding gender, age, or any other inherited or acquired abilities and disabilities of an individual. Groups are divided based on the level of experience.
What do I need for practice?
In the beginning, it is enough to wear comfortable clothing (sweatpants, T-shirt) and slippers to access the mats in the practice area (dojo). If we have problems sitting in seiza for a longer period of time, we can use a cushion or a wooden bench. Afterwards, we wear a white dogi (preferably a thicker one—judogi) with a white belt; there are no coloured belts. Instructors and higher grades also wear a hakama (tradional Japanese pants). After the completion of the beginners course, we practice also with bokken (wooden sword), jo (wooden staff), and tanto (wooden knife).
Injuries and rolling?
Aikido, when practiced correctly, is very safe with regard to injuries. We can say that it is one of the less risky "recreational" activities, in particular in the scope of martial arts. Techniques, practiced with a partner, are based on respecting the natural movements of the body and are designed so as not to injure the partner. They are usually finished with pins or by throwing the partner. Practicing rolling (and being thrown) is one of the main parts of the beginners course, and there are no special athletic abilities required for it. Both the ability to roll naturally and getting rid of the fear of losing balance are among the first useful skills learned, and can come in handy in the real life.
What does aikido practice entail?
Aikido is mainly practiced with a partner, as the search for harmony is possibly only in the relation of ourselves with the world. Aikido is an art or a path ("do") on which an individual steps, and is not a competition or a sport. It is a martial art, and thus also an art of danger—with the key aspects of it being a correct perception and keeping calm in unpredictable circumstances. The development of these aspects are behind the practice of individual techniques of aikido, which represent the actions in specific environments, attacks, holds, or punches. Aikdio techniques are not based on physical power, but on relaxation and finding harmony with the movement and intentions of the partner.
The practice of aikido thus entails:
Aiki Taiso (exercise without partner): preparations for spontaneous execution of movements and basic forms encountered in techniques.
Kumiwaza (techniques with partner): entails both empty-handed techniques with one or several partners, as well as practice with imitations of weapons: jo (wooden staff), bokken (wooden sword), and tanto (wooden knife).
Tsuzukiwaza: performing a series of techniques in a specific order.
Kenkodo ("the way of health"): Kenko Taiso—exercise for the coordination of mind and body; Teateho and Sotaiho; Kimusubi No Gyo—breathing exercise and meditation; Misogi.