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What should I be aware of if I would like to start training Aikido? I used to train as teenager in small dojo. I picked up few tricks but I never got the essence of Aikido. Is there something you would recommend I research or be aware of before I signup with local dojo?

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Maybe would be best if you re-formulate the title "What to consider before signup with Aikido dojo". This way it sounds too broad (like considering also your health etc.) –  Tomas Feb 1 '12 at 10:13
    
Your question is not clear. What are you looking for ? How choose a good dojo or style ? What is the physical condition required ? Is aikido good for me ? etc –  tacone Feb 1 '12 at 14:05
    
more general question here. Mat, I already wrote my proposal in quotes, and your new one is much better. –  Tomas Feb 1 '12 at 14:29
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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The best indicators I ever found were:

  1. Are the senior grades teaching the lower grades?
  2. Is the instructor friendly and approachable?
  3. Is everyone (from the top to the bottom) having fun?
  4. Are there special fees, secret techniques, and a cult mentality?
  5. Are many people injured?
  6. Are all fees clearly labelled and explained?
  7. What are the instructors' qualifications?

With those you should not err too far. Note that those are not only applicable to Aikido but especially the injury and qualifications ones are very applicable.

Aikido can be hard on the wrist, knees and ankles. Break falls can be hard on your neck and back. Thus it is important to know your limit and pay attention to instructions.

Note that qualifications includes both proficiency at Aikido (which can be hard to judge) as well as teaching qualifications and insurance.

As for styles, pick the right dojo. Do not worry about the style as in the end, it is all Aikido.

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Most of this is good advise. Especially: select a good instructor, based on how they treat their students, whether the students are joyful and confident, and there is a positive culture of learning. This is more important than what style of aikido, or even whether to choose aikido versus another art (unless you already know aikido is the art for you--if you aren't sure, pick an instructor, not a style or art). –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 29 '12 at 23:00
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It doesn't matter what they say about the school. It matters what they do.

I believe, the answer to the question lies in measuring the schools ability to help you find what you are looking for. So go to the school and look for people who you can relate to.

If you can see people that you have something in common with and you can see people making progress along a path of change that would motivate you then this is a good school for you.

For example I heard once about this Aikido dojo that had a very impressive student body, they looked great. For their warm up drills they did forward hand springs. It turns out they were from a University and had been recruited from the gymnastics team.

What we are looking for is a place where we can make progress on our own path. If you can see in the school the kind of change you are looking to make that school will probably work for you.

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I wrote something a few years ago that is still fairly relevant. The thing is - how do you choose a school, and that is not specific to aikido. I hope this helps -- let me know if this brings up any questions in your mind.

The basic point is: make sure the teacher is personable and not just trying to sell you on a subscription. Pay attention to the students. How do the beginners look? How do the intermediate students look? The intermediate students should look like they have an idea what they're doing, and should look worse than the advanced students.

Finally - as a student, once you have chosen a school, you have a responsibility to shut up, listen and learn.

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Could you excerpt it here, or convert this to a comment, to prevent linkrot and add value? –  Dave Liepmann Dec 1 '12 at 1:56
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It depends on what result you expect from studying martial arts, but in many cases it will be useful to look at the students there.

In most martial arts with sparring, students who are taught by a good trainer will win in competition. I suggest instructors which have such students are better than those who have not.

In most cases in Aikido there is no such scale, but you can ask about certifications (both student and instructor).

Anyway, there must be some external verification of instructor quality available.

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There are styles of Aikido with competitions. –  Sardathrion Feb 1 '12 at 10:03
    
@Sardathrion Agree. –  Iaroslav Kovtunenko Feb 1 '12 at 10:13
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Try to consider the dojo as a whole. Beside avoiding scams and cult staff you should look at this:

  • the teacher has to be good and motivated.
  • the amount of talk from the students should be minimum or absent. Basically you should hear breakfalls noise, not people speaking.
  • a healthy number of senior students ( one third of students is a good number)
  • white pajamas should be at least half of the total students. (not necessarily true for very big dojos)
  • students, especially white belts, should look very motivated.
  • there should be physical training. If they don't look tired at the end of the lesson don't join the dojo.

Avoid dojos where senior students regularly give explanation to novices. That's a break of etiquette and should be a seldom exception.

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Good points- though I don't agree that at least one-third of the students should be black belt. Black belt rank is just an indicator (not a goal), and the rate of advancement differs from school to school, so this can be very misleading. –  wraith808 Feb 1 '12 at 15:11
    
agreed, it's misleading. –  tacone Feb 1 '12 at 15:13
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I should note though, that having a too long roadmap to achieve the black belt is not a good sign, imho. –  tacone Feb 1 '12 at 15:14
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I think that several of these overstate the case. In both of my dojo's it is common for senior students to explain to novices, and it is not a violation of etiquette. Also in adjult dojo's, I think the proportions will change. We're probably 75% black belt at the moment, and although I'd prefer to change that, I don't perceive it as a significant problem. I don't disagree with tacone - these are useful indicators - but I think that they overstate the severity. –  Mark C. Wallace Aug 23 '12 at 11:08
    
The whole not talking thing is a particular culture of some branches of aikido, and is no way indicative of quality either good or bad. Its just a cultural quirk. –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 30 '12 at 12:46
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