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Tohei Sensei Bio

Tohei Sensei

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Ki Society Dojo

Aikido Glossary


Asked Questions

“Do not think that the power you have is only the power you ordinarily use and moan that you have little strength.  The power you ordinarily use is like the small, visible segment of an iceberg.  When we unify our mind and body and become one with the universe, we can use the great power that is naturally ours.”

– Tohei Sensei

What is your philosophy of teaching Aikido?

Here are some quotes from Tohei Sensei that should help:

“Spare no effort when you teach. You advance as your students advance. Do not be impatient when you teach. No one can learn everything well at one time. Perseverance is important in teaching, as are patience, kindness, and the ability to put yourself in your students’ place.”

“Do not be a haughty instructor…Training requires an atmosphere of mutual respect between teacher and student. If you see a haughty man or woman, you see a shallow thinker.”

Is Aikido difficult to learn?

Like any martial art, studying Aikido takes time and patience.  We all learn by  trial and error, which is why you need a good sense of humor and ask plenty of  questions.  It’s generally agreed that it takes about a year to become familiar  and more comfortable with the various moves. But what generally takes longer  is developing your mind and being open to new concepts. In fact it’s a never  ending study. That is where your greatest advancements in Aikido will come  from.

What should I wear?

We usually wear a white gi (martial arts uniform).  But in the beginning, it’s all  right to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.  No earrings or sharp edged  jewelry.  Higher-level students will also wear a hakama, which looks like a black  skirt.  A hakama is really a very loose fitting pair of pants.  But whatever you  wear, please keep it clean and shower (a must!).  Your training partner will  appreciate it!

What’s the training atmosphere?

You cannot learn Aikido without making mistakes.  So, we believe in a relaxed  atmosphere, where questions, and a lot of smiles are permitted.  We want you to  feel comfortable at the dojo.  It’s an atmosphere of cooperation, not  competition.  Students come in all shapes and sizes and varying physical  condition.  And they have ranged in age from their teens to their 70’s. We have a safe atmosphere in which to practice. People are there to learn, not hurt one another.

What if I arrive to class late?

Sometimes being late is unavoidable. Traffic problems, taking care of kids,  working late, etc.  If you’re late, change quickly, bow before getting on the mat  and join the class.  We want you to participate!

 Is there competition in Aikido?

While the KI Society does have taigi (kata) competitions (not required), students do not enter martial arts tournaments.  Before I started studying Aikido,  I saw a film  that said there are no winners and no losers in Aikido.  The purpose  is not to be better than someone else.  One of the purposes is just to be better  ourselves.

Are there different color belts?

We generally wear either white or black.  A white belt is worn until the Shodan (1st degree black belt) test is passed.  A hakama can be worn after passing the 3rd kyu test, which takes about a year and a half of training.  Some Ki Society dojos (martial arts schools) use different color belts and delay the wearing of a hakama until first degree black belt. The reason why we allow hakamas at 3rd kyu is because we believe it helps to student learn to move in a more fluid and graceful manner. Why wait several years to learn this? Of course, there are traditionalists who disagree. Plus, wearing a hakama is a milestone and encourages the student to continue training. There are also different ranks in Ki development, which must be passed before certain Aikido tests.

How long does it take to earn a black belt?

About 5 to 6 years.  There are about 150 arts (throws) to learn as well as numerous taigis.  You must also learn how to roll safely.  Think of a black belt  more as a journey, not the goal.  Remember, a black belt simply means we’re  serious beginners, not know-it-alls.  Aikido, like any martial art, can be studied  for a lifetime.  An instructor in his 90’s taught our summer camp!

So, you have training camps?

Each year, Ki-Aikido in Maryland and Virginia sponsor their own  camps featuring top instructors.  They’re a great way to learn and meet fellow students. We also have periodic seminars. Check the Special Events link for details.

What if I’ve studied other martial arts?

Will it help or hurt?

Hard to say.  It depends how open your mind is.  Aikido concepts can be new and challenging.  We don’t try to “beat up” the other person.  Many attacks are redirected and turned into a throw, not blocked.  Plus mind and body must work together.  It is not strictly physical.  Don’t let the ego get in the way of learning something new.

Can I take a free Aikido class?

Absolutely!  We recommend watching a class first and then taking a free class on the next visit.

Will I practice with black belts?

Sure! Students of all levels practice together, although beginning students will not perform the arts at “full speed.”  What often appears as speed is really the result of movements becoming second nature, reflecting the flow of KI. Respecting each other is a requirement, no matter what the rank.  We help each other learn.  It helps to leave the ego at the door.  It only gets in the way.

Do I have to wait for a beginners’ class to join?

No. You may start at any time.  So, what are you waiting for? 

Do I have to be big and strong to study Aikido?

No, if done correctly a smaller person can throw a larger person.  It’s important to practice with people of all shapes and sizes.

But I’m too old?

Says who?  You’d be surprised at how much you can learn and do no matter the age.  It’s not too late, but find out for yourself by coming to watch. Or take a free class.  Aikido takes patience, sometimes that only comes with age.  Someone said, “By the time I get a black belt I’ll be 50!”  Well, think of it this way, you’re going to be 50 anyway, or whatever age. So, why not accomplish something in the meantime?  Often older students have more patience and wisdom, which are essential.

Is there any religious significance to bowing?

None. Bowing is done to show respect.

You talk about mind and body coordination, why? 

I can walk and chew gum at the same time, what more do I need?

Mind and body coordination, in part, means allowing your mind and body to work together to make you much stronger than you think you are. Tense movements are much weaker than relaxed ones.  How you think can affect you physically. Tension often, if not always, comes from the mind. Tohei Sensei came up with a system to teach this.  Also, please don’t throw your gum on the sidewalk.    We hope you’ll stop by.

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