There are a lot of self-defense sports you can try, and aikido is one of them. It’s a modern Japanese martial art that can be used to defend oneself while also protecting the attackers from injury. Aikido is a non-violent approach to self-defense, making it a viable option for those who want a safer martial art option. It resembles fighting methods used in jujitsu and judo, with the aim of turning an attacker’s strength against himself.
Starting out in training for aikido can be exciting, and it opens a new world for you. But you have to be equipped with this new hobby so you can perform your best. If you need an introduction to aikido, read about its history.
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The first thing you need to equip yourself with is clothing designed for aikido training. The gi, or the traditional uniform used for practice and competition, is worn for aikido. It’s similar to the uniform used in karate, judo, and other Japanese martial arts. It’s made of nice and soft cotton or cotton and polyester material. It’s also lightweight but tough. Quality gi is designed to be long-lasting and comfortable.
You may not be required to purchase a gi right away. You may be advised to start with loose-fitting clothes. Regular sports shirts and jogging pants are preferred for beginners.
Depending on your club, you may need a hakama that is either black or blue. Not all clubs require this for a beginner, and some only wear it from second to first kyu grades. But when you need them, you ideally want it to be made with fairly thick material and a soft back padding.
The hakama is a traditional Japanese samurai clothing worn over the top of a gi. It’s a skirt-like pants that an aikidoka wears. The hakama was a traditional piece of samurai clothing, and it was initially designed to protect a horseman’s legs from bushes, etc. It served the same purpose as a cowboy’s leather chaps. Since leather was hard to find in Japan, they used heavy cloth instead. Once the samurai became more like foot-soldiers, they persisted in wearing the hakama because it set them apart and made them easily identifiable.
The seven folds in the hakama represent seven virtues, such as the:
- Yuki – courage, bravery, and valor
- Jin – Benevolence, humanity, and charity
- Gi – Justice, integrity, and righteousness
- Rei – Etiquette, courtesy, and civility
- Makoto – Honesty, sincerity, and reliability
- Chugi – Loyalty, devotion, and fidelity
- Meyou – Reputation, honor, and glory
The traditional item to wear for aikido is zori sandals. They are not worn for training but for getting yourself on and off the mat. Dirty feet aren’t welcome for any training mat.
If your training center allows you can wear sock-like shoes for training. These shoes help trainees perform specific techniques without restriction and offer grip and comfort for the foot.
Weapons and Training Aids
Every aikido club differs in when they use weapons – some start using weapons right away, while others wait for some time. Some incorporate weapons into drills and regular training, while others keep them separate. Either way, you will need one of each weapon for your training.
The traditional weapons used for teaching skills in aikido include jo staff, bokkens, and tanto. Many movements from aikido are derived from classic weapons, and it helps develop a practitioner’s coordination, footwork, and timing.
The bokken is a wooden version of a katana or samurai sword, and it is used in many Japanese martial arts types. The term “bokken” is widely used in the West to refer to a Japanese wooden sword, but in Japan, the term is “bokuto.” The Japanese also use other terms like “daito,” “tachi,” “kidachi, and more.
A wooden sword is used for safety reasons, though the concept of the bokken is for training on using a real sword. Bokken can cause bruising and fractures, but the entire purpose of it isn’t for sparring but for teaching students what it feels to fight with a real sword.
There’s not much difference between red and white oak. It all boils down to which particular bokken you feel comfortable with. When buying a bokken, have a feel – you will know the one that you want.
The jo staff is another stick that is used for aikido training. “Jo” translates to “stick” or “cudgel.” It serves the same purpose as the bokken.
Jo is a 4-foot long wooden staff that is typically smooth and light. These are used for direct contact with an opponent for spearing and hitting, and also for blocking and deflecting blows.
The tanto is a short wooden sword modeled on the samurai dagger to teach trainees what it feels to fight with a real dagger or knife.
Another piece of equipment that may come useful for aikido practitioners is a carrying case for the bokken or jo staff. You can choose one made of plastic to protect your wooden sword or one made of nylon with an adjustable back strap for your convenience.
Another necessary thing to bring in training is a bag. Whether it’s a gym bag to hold all your equipment and clothing, or a simple drawstring bag, having one is essential for transporting gear to and fro your training center.