Q: Can older people practice Aikido?
A: People can and do begin studying Aikido later in life and continue
practicing into their seventies, eighties, and even beyond. Many older
people are already quite well prepared by their life experiences for the
kind of study that Aikido offers. They will find all-round exercise for
the body at whatever degree of vigor they choose to participate, and
partners at Suginami who will adapt to their physical situation. They
will also find that Aikido practice provides excellent exercise for
the mind and memory.
Q: What about those high falls? They look scary.
A: High falls are an option, never a requirement. You can always take normal
falls instead. Normal falls are not scary, are good for the spine, and
become quite enjoyable. Many people never take high falls, and that's
Q: What is a dojo?
A: The dojo is a place where people come to practice or train in martial
arts like Aikido. It is a place for learning, like a school, with a head
instructor or sensei, other teachers, and students. It is also a kind of
community, where people come as often as they can to support each other
in their efforts to learn the art. Dojos observe traditional practices
like frequent bowing to and thanking the teacher and fellow students,
customs that help build an atmosphere of mutual support and respect.
Q: What is Suginami dojo in particular like?
A: Suginami acquired its present location in 1999 when the members gutted
an older building just south of Mission Street down to its brick walls
and high ceiling and installed the present modern facilities. As you
enter the dojo, you will find a reception area and storage space for
street shoes. Beyond that is an ample, well-lit "mat" or practice area,
with dressing rooms and lavatories at the back. At either end of the
practice area are lofts-one for the head instructor's office and the
other providing living quarters for the uchi deshi or live-in students.
The uchi deshi are an important part of the atmosphere at Suginami. While
working toward their shodan or first-degree black belt, they commit to
live at least a year at the dojo, maintaining it, welcoming members,
and participating as assistants at every practice.
Q: I've heard that Aikido is non-competitive. How does this
play out in actual practice?
A: If someone grabs your arm hard with both of his hands, what do
you do? The urge to show him who's boss arises, and if you are bigger or
stronger than he or she is, you can probably muscle your way through and
put him down. But Aikido was developed to help people find options other
than the use of force, so we try to find another way through that
situation. Acknowledging and then relaxing the competitive tensions
that arise in the body, we search for a way to move with the attacker
that re-directs that hard grab and releases it into a fall or roll-out.
It's a path of nonresistance that will also take me out of harm's way.
In Aikido I've "won" if I succeed in finding that path.
Another point worth mentioning is that the two people practicing an
aikido technique take turns being thrown. The attacker, or uke, gets
thrown four times, then the nage ("the one who throws") becomes the
one who gets thrown. Then they change back again, alternating their
roles throughout the practice. So "winning" or "losing"isn't involved;
it's a matter of taking your turn, not competing.
There is growing scientific evidence that human beings are hard-wired
for cooperation as well as competition. To focus on only one aspect of
human interaction, namely competition, may unnecessarily keep us from
cultivating our innate talent for finding other ways to get along
together. Aikido can be a help in exploring more of our options. If
we give "winning" the highest value in all human encounters, we may
unintentionally close the door to that kind of exploration. Maybe
that is why the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, firmly rejected
competition within and among Aikido dojos.
Q: How does the ranking system work?
A: At Suginami Aikikai adults start at seventh Kyu. They then work
their way up to first Kyu. Each test gets progressively more
challenging. At our dojo, as in Japan, adults only wear white or
black belts. Children, on the other hand, wear colored belts to show their
Q: How long does it take to get a black belt?
A: Usually it takes three to five years to first-degree black belt.
If a student trains every day, he or she could get a black belt in three
years, but normally it takes four or five years.
Q: How many levels/degrees of black belt are there?
Q: At what age can my child begin Aikido?
A: The Aikido ranking system goes up to ten degrees of black belt. All
our black belt ranks are awarded directly from Kato Hiroshi Sensei,
through Hombu Dojo, Aikido's world headquarters in Tokyo. After the
founder passed away on April 26, 1969, no tenth degree black belts have
been awarded. **There are currently two living tenth dans
(Tohei Sensei and Abe Sensei), and one living ninth dan.
**the above information may not be acurate.
Kato Sensei is an 8th dan, his Hombu dojo
membership card is #6, James Friedman's is a 5th dan his card is around #64,000!!!!
A: The Kid's Aikido Program at Suginami Aikikai is geared to
children of 7 years or older. For 6 year olds, we would encourage
parent and child to observe a class first. If your child is interested,
we can then arrange to have him/her try a class for free. At the instructors discretion.
Q: How much does your Kids' Program cost?
A: Kids' dues are $80 per month for one class per week, $110 for two classes per week.
Q: Can I buy the uniform (gi) for my child from you?
A: Yes, we have high quality children's uniforms(gi) available for $50.
Q: What if I have more than one child. Do you offer any special
pricing for families?
A: Suginami Aikikai offers many discounts under our Family Plan.
The amount of discount varies according to how many children you wish to
enroll. We also offer discounts to adults in the Adults' Program that have
children in our Kids' Program.