Those seeking to check out Aikido are welcome to come and observe classes, and join in, to see if our style is of interest. All classes are open to students of all levels.

Some come to aikido for the martial, self-defense aspects. Others are interested in a creative addition to their fitness and conditioning program. Some want to explore the smooth and powerful movements that appear to be effortless, as an opponent is tossed across the mat. Some are attracted by the "path with heart" that aikido practice embodies, the cultivation of a way of being that transends both skilled counter-force and passivity. Others are seeking fudoshin in the midst of oncoming attacks: the quality of mind that is present, engaged and not disturbed by anything that arises.

SBK Aikido training addresses all these and many other interests. We pride ourselves on taking care of new students, giving them a good introduction, a good grounding in the basic forms, and a path that they can follow as deeply and for as long as they want.

Contact us or just come by and check it out. New students are beginning all the time.

Copy of our Liability Waiver - if you want you can review and sign and bring with you. OR just come to your first class and sign there.

Basic Questions & Answers

What is Aikido?
Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art which emphasizes blending with an attacker's energy in the performance of self-defense techniques. Since aikido blends with, rather than fights, the incoming energy, great strength and size is not a requirement to successfully utilize aikido techniques. Aikido students learn to "read" the emotional and physical energy of an attacker in order to facilitate the performance of techniques to defend against grabbing, choking, and striking attacks.

I want to start training in Aikido. What do I do?
Read the rest of this FAQ. Come to a class to observe, but come dressed in loose clothes, like sweats, in case you want to participate. Class Schedule.

Do you run beginners courses?
Yes. Every now and then we initiate a 4-week series of basic instruction, usually with a tuition discount. See the schedule page for announcements. Yet, a beginner can start whenever they want... Just jump in and start rolling on a Monday or Wednesday class, most start this way. We all wish we had started sooner.

What's involved in training in Aikido?
A normal class is about two hours long and includes:
Stretching and warm-ups
Basic rolling, backward and forward
Ki development exercises
Traditional Aikido techniques

Other areas often included:
Bokken (wooden sword)
Jo (wooden staff)
Tanto (wooden knife)

Do women train in Aikido?
Yes, and they are often quite good at it. Aikido succeeds not because of muscular strength or power, but with position, timing, blending and grace. Many men have learned to use their size and strength in moments of challenge, while women usually do not have this ingrained learning, thus aikido is particularly suited for women.

What clothes do I need to wear? Do I need to buy a uniform to start?
We understand that a gi can be expensive for someone who isn't sure they will want to continue. Acceptable clothing for a beginner is loose, comfortable sports type wear, like sweatsuits. It should have full leg and arm covering. No short or leotards please. This is mainly for safety - the clothing protects you against mat burns, bumps and scrapes. Remove jewellery, watches, earrings, rings, hard hair clips and so on before class. Any cuts or wounds should be covered by adhesive tape. Hands and feet should be clean and washed if necessary. Nails trimmed.

You'll find that Aikido is very hard on normal clothes, which is why we wear a martial arts gi which is built to last. Either white or unbleached is fine. We provide recommended sources for purchasing a gi on the resources page.

Always buy a gi too large! They shrink a huge amount! When I buy a new gi I put it on over my normal clothes in the shop. The sleeves should cover your hands right to the fingers. The pants should drag on the ground. Ask the shopkeeper if you are uncertain. Wash it once before your first class - you'll be astounded how much it shrinks. If you buy a new gi that is a comfortable fit in the shop it will shrink so much you won't fit into it - don't do that. Some modern suppliers offer pre-shrunk gi. Always check with them on their recommended sizing chart.

When do I get to wear the black skirt?
At the Shin Budo Kai dojos, the black skirt, Hakama, is worn by men and women when they reach 3rd kyu level, about 2+ years of regular training.

How long does it take to get a black belt?
A similar question would be 'How long does it take to learn to play the piano?' Having said that, a student who trains seriously might be nominated to test for the black belt grading, shodan, after five years or so.

Is there a minimum age to start?
We offer a kids aikido class for those 8 to 15 years old. This is scheduled Monday and Wednesday from 4:30p to 5:30p. For the regular aikido classes, the age is usually 15.

Is there a maximum age to start?
No. Speak to your instructor if you think you may be too old to start training. Obviously you need to have the physical capability to exercise vigorously.

"Oh, he's just falling down for her."
An Aikido throw can look so improbably smooth and effortless that it is easy to believe that it is faked. It isn't --- it's physics.

The laws of physics are as strictly enforced at Aikido schools as they are at ski slopes. If you have ever been a beginning skier, you know from painful experience just how devastating those forces can be. Saying that the attacker fell down "for" the Aikidoist is like saying that the beginning skier fell down "for" the mountain.

The advanced skier has learned to use these forces; a small shift in weight or position determines whether the skier crashes into a tree or swooshes effortlessly through a turn and down the slope. An accomplished skier flying across the snow is as improbable to the frustrated beginner as an accomplished Aikidoist flying across the mat --- but neither one is faking.

"It's too much like dancing --- It would never work."
What is dancing? It is controlled motion. Watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the two moving in harmony, whirling around the floor in perfect control. What would have happened if Fred had let go of Ginger at a critical moment, she would have gone flying across the room and fallen.What happens when the Aikidoist lets go of an attacker at a critical moment? The attacker goes flying across the room and falls.

Yes, it is like dancing.Yes, it works.

"I think aikido is the most difficult of all the martial arts to learn. Its demands for skill, grace and timing rival those of classical ballet." --- Physicist Jearl Walker

"The genius of Aikido is to transform the most violent attack, by embracing it, into a dance." --- George Leonard.

"It didn't work."
It is useful to define what you mean by "it worked" or "it didn't work." If someone grabs you and you prefer that he not do that, you have many options. Some techniques (especially those known as kokyunages) depend on the attacker (uke) holding on to the defender (nage); he is in danger of being thrown only so long as he does so. If he lets go, you have no throw. But if your purpose was to pursuade uke to let go and he did, then the technique "worked." You do not have to put him on the ground to achieve that purpose.

On the other hand, if your purpose is to learn a technique, there are other considerations. Some students are afraid of falling. Others may see doing the throw as "winning" and falling as "losing." Consequently many beginners counter every move or let go as soon as they feel themselves in danger of falling -- then confuse the cessation or change of their own attack with failure of nage's technique.

In Aikido there is no losing. We learn to give the appropriate attack and we learn to fall so that we can help others to learn. They will do the same for you. You "win" by being a good teacher.

"Winning means winning over the discord in yourself. Those who have a warped mind, a mind of discord, have been defeated from the beginning." --- Morihei Ueshiba (Founder of Aikido)

"But instead he could..."
Yes. But don't worry about it. The possibilities of attack and defense are unlimited. Beginning Aikido is like beginning arithmetic: we stage a particular attack with a particular energy in order to practice a particular response or its variations. Calculus, with multiple variables, comes later. For now, give the appropriate energy, respond with the appropriate response. This is how we learn.

"What is Ki? Is it real?"
Aikidoists think of Ki as the universal energy or spirit present in all things -- often a difficult concept for Westerners. If the idea of extending a beam of energy from your fingers out to the edge of the cosmos violates your sense of reality, then think of it as "attention" or "mind" or "breath" and use the ideas as a tool to begin creating the image.

If you begin a ki test by imagining yourself nestled at the center of the earth, are you physically attached of billions of tons of water and rock? Not "really" -- but if your thought results in stability and power, what, then, is "real?"

Use the concept of Ki as a working hypothesis. Over time and with practice you may develop your own ideas of what it is and how it works for you from your direct experience.

"Have you ever had to use your Aikido?"
In the usual sense of physical attack and physical defense, no. In the larger sense I use it every day. Budo, the "way" or "path" of the Japanese samurai, is usually translated as the "way of the sword." The characters, however, actually mean "the way to cease using the sword."

Aikido emphasizes calm control of the situation -- and of yourself. Self defense is a side effect of something far more profound. Aikido, the Way of Harmony, is a path well worth following. And it can be followed for a lifetime.