If you are curious about Spirit Aikido, or even aikido in general – then this page is for you! This information is specifically for anyone who is interested in training with us, and that includes visitors. I would like to give you a good idea of what you can expect and look forward to.
Are You a Good Fit?
The best of all worlds is that you find a place to train and learn which suits your interest, and we find students who are eager to learn what we teach. When that happens, it is a win-win result.
You are a good fit if you are a normal person who is interested in learning a fascinating and practical martial art but don’t want to turn yourself into a fighter. Our belief is that our aikido is meant to end violence as quickly and safely as possible. With real world violence, that is not always an option. Protecting ourselves and loved ones is our top priority.
From a training standpoint, students should not be injured in training. Many modern martial sport arts are well known for having students injured on a regular basis. This is often viewed as necessary for building skills and means your training is tough. If this is the kind of training which interests you, then we would probably not be a good fit.
Training at Spirit Aikido is physically rigorous, but not so much that you leave class banged up, in pain, or having to suffer for days afterwards. Life is for living, and if our goal is to protect ourselves from injury then why would we take up training which leaves our body battered and broken?
We will push your limits, but do so in a measured way. Our approach allows you to strengthen and grow without having to take breaks to heal up. This is mature and responsible training, not just beating each other up to so we can feel tough.
If you want to learn to win fights and hurt people, we are also not a good fit. We stress good character in our group, and this means learning to stay in control of ourselves. All of our students are focused on helping each other as much as they are on improving their own skills. We inspire and support each others’ growth.
What is Training Like?
Classes are a combination of mental and physical learning. At first glance, it might appear that everything we are doing is physical and it certainly is. However, what you will learn about your body (how to move, keep balance, apply angles, and learn technique) are far more mentally challenging than physically challenging.
The physical movements such as learning techniques, taking ukemi (being thrown), and even just getting up repeatedly off the mat will provide a level of conditioning. How much depends on you. Because we are not interested in anyone getting injured, we start each new student at a level they can handle and slowly grow their capabilities from there.
You will start learning techniques right away, as you learn to roll and fall safely. Your rolls may start out pretty rough, but we will teach you how to do it and in a few months you will learn to roll smoothly. Building good ukemi (rolling and falling) skills takes time and you will continue to improve the more you practice.
Many people who train in all kinds of aikido enjoy it because it includes the mental, or puzzle solving aspect. It is far more engaging exercise than riding a stationary bike or being on a treadmill. You will be moving your body in all kinds of new ways, and that will build strength and flexibility.
Aikido training also includes learning strategy, which means learning about awareness, self-protection skills (which are different than self-defense skills), and many other topics related to handling conflict.
Training brings another benefit, which is that it is a kind of meditation. Not the sitting with your eyes closed kind of meditation, but a moving meditation. While you practice, you are focused on what is at hand. This allows you to put aside the burdens of your day and other things which are on your mind.
Many practitioners comment that this is one of their favorite aspects of martial arts training. In a world which is flooded with distractions and hype, the dojo is a place where you can learn to wield your focus and teach your mind to stay focused on what is important – the current moment.
One thing you won’t see in Spirit Aikido classes is students separated by experience level. This is a common practice in the martial arts world, but all of our classes are mixed so that new students work with intermediate and advanced students. New students learn the most working with more experienced students, and I encourage students to help one another. There is a great level of communication and questions are welcome.
Is Aikido Useful for Self-Defense?
There is great controversy regarding this question. I’ll give you as concise an answer as I can and still be complete.
Aikido has a robust background of being very effective in dealing with physical violence. The founder, Morehei Ueshiba, was an incredibly potent and capable martial artist. He entertained many challenges to prove his art, and in every single case he succeeded. In many instances, the challenger would ask immediately to become a student. A number of his challengers were top ranked martial artists already, so this shows that he was able to impress those who were already remarkable martial artists.
Aikido’s potential is there, but what about aikido’s modern reputation as being useless? That is a long story, but since Ueshiba died in 1969, aikido has evolved. It suffered, like many other martial arts did, from it’s own popularity. Martial arts which surge in popularity become plagued by inexperienced teachers who do not build strong and capable students. This happens in all areas. Superb teachers are rare. It doesn’t matter how good you are at something. If you can’t teach it effectively - your students will not be skilled.
There is another factor at play here too, which is that Ueshiba was a devoutly religious man. He spoke a great deal of his religious beliefs and left us with many confounding and conflicting statements. Add to this that there is a great deal lost in the translation from Japanese to English and other languages, and aikido practitioners find little agreement about exactly what he meant. That includes his direct students who trained under him for years.
A portion of aikido has evolved to embrace studying aikido not as a martial art but as a spiritual and philosophical pursuit. It is not focused on self-defense or martial practicality. You could call this one camp within the aikido community. The other portion, which is smaller in size, has maintained focus on aikido as a potent martial art. The aikido I teach is of this latter type. The priority remains on it being functional to help protect you from real violence.
Neither approach is superior to the other, but they provide different benefits. The martial-oriented aikido is very useful for self-defense, and is probably the best martial art for normal people who want to learn practical ways to defend themselves without turning themselves into fighters.
What About Character?
Anyone who has the knowledge and ability to cause harm must be of good character. The world has bad people in it and we certainly don't want to be one of them. As good as that is, there are still bad people in this world who can harm us. We may be the only person at hand to save ourselves, our loved ones, or even innocent bystanders from them. Preparation is what sets you up to succeed and survive when that time comes. So, we will train you to be strong and capable.
Along with the abilities we teach goes the character to use those skills rationally and reasonably. Students have commented that they have built great confidence through their training, and that confidence allows them to be calm and solve their problems with their brains first. The physical skills we teach are for when that doesn’t work or you cannot avoid violence.
Character also means you don’t over respond and cause undue harm or injury. The physical skills of aikido allow practitioners to apply a full range of control, from very soft to very hard. It is your judgment for how much you need in a given situation to ensure your own safety. In the best of all outcomes, the conflict is halted quickly and no one is injured.
This is the ultimate goal of those with good character. Expressing rage, vengeance, or anger has no place among those of good character.
Can Anyone Start Training?
There are no prerequisites to being training with us, other than the desire to learn. Just come in to visit a class and watch, or try a class out for free with no obligation.
I have trained students who are very young, quite old, have nagging injuries, are overweight, and even completely blind. Do not feel you need to get in shape before you start, or you need previous martial arts experience. We will chat and I will set you up with a starting point that is right for you.
Admittedly, the aikido training we do is not for everyone. There are a few physical limitations which are very difficult to work around and some are impossible. I have seen people who are missing limbs and even in wheelchairs learn aikido, so almost anything is possible. I’m happy to discuss it with you if you have any questions or concerns.
We do not have specific beginner courses at Spirit Aikido. New students are welcomed into regular class, and I present material for the students in that particular session. Since the fundamentals are so important, even advanced students benefit from working on the same things new students do – they just tend to be better at it. The more practice you get on the fundamentals, the better your art will be.
What Age Range Do You Teach?
Aikido classes are all adult based, with our minimum age being about 12 years old or so. Maturity and focus are more important than chronological age. We only require of our students that they keep attention on what is being taught and abide by the direction of the instructor.
For those with younger children (7 and older), we welcome them to join and learn with their parents during adult classes. This is a tremendous bonding experience, parents and their children learning together. If you are interested, please contact us for more information.
As for any upper age limit, my oldest student is 79 years old and is currently a brown belt. If you are thinking you might be too old to start aikido training, he will tell you he started at 70 and is still going strong. Ueshiba trained until the day he died at 85 years old. Your age is not a good enough excuse not to train aikido.
How Long Should I Try Aikido Before I Know I Will Like it?
The first thing I recommend is visit the dojo you want to try out. Don’t dismiss it just for something you read on their website. If you feel there is any chance they might have something you are interested in, go in and check it out. You cannot really get a good feel for a group unless you meet them in person.
If you go in and get a bad vibe right off the bat, then you may want to avoid them. Some dojos are like that. You can sometimes feel toxicity dripping from the walls.
If you don’t get a feeling like that, but are not sure what to expect – don’t worry. That is natural going into any new group. Everyone is a little nervous and apprehensive at first. It will take a bit of time for us to get to know you, just as it will take you some time to get to know us.
It is good to try a class out, but realize that classes are not all the same. The way I teach, every class is different. Sometimes remarkably different. I suggest trying out a dojo for two or three months before making a decision. Obviously, if you feel it really isn’t working then you shouldn’t stick it out. But give it a chance. If you are new to training martial arts, the change in your habits can take some time before it starts feeling right. It is said that in order to learn a new (good) habit, or give up on a bad one, you need to keep at it for 40 days. That will allow you to reprogram yourself to the new way.
Allow yourself the time to explore it and see if it is right for you.
Rather like starting an exercise program, the first few months may be a little frustrating. I felt this way when I started too. Other students around me were doing techniques, rolling smoothly, and looking like they were having fun. I was rolling rough, my body didn’t know how to move correctly, and felt clumsy and awkward. This is totally natural and happens to all new students.
As you learn, aikido gets more and more enjoyable the better you get. It will still be challenging, and along the way you will learn more about yourself than you ever imagined. It is a very satisfying journey, seeing yourself grow and your skills flourish.
Why Did You Call the Dojo Spirit Aikido?
Each of us are made up of three aspects: the body, the mind, and the spirit. You can train the body, but without a strong mind, the body will not find success. Being strong is not enough.
Having a strong mind: being cunning, smart, resourceful, etc. is a tremendous advantage, but these without a strong spirit are not enough either. You may experience success with a strong mind and body, but without a good spirit you may lack good character.
When your spirit is healthy, it will sponsor the right mindset. When you have the right mindset, your body will show it and become capable.
It all starts with the spirit, it is the foundation upon which your entire being is built. The spirit is that important, and that is why I liked the name Spirit Aikido. It is the bedrock of everything we are.
I look forward to meeting you!
- Tristan Chermack