Q: How do ranks and promotions work in aikido, and how come there are no colored belts?
A: According to the standard set by the International Aikido Federation (IAF) and the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), there are 6 ranks below black belt. These ranks are called "kyu" ranks. In the IAF and USAF, kyu ranks are not usually distinguished by colored belts. Other organizations (and some individual dojo) may use some system of colored belts to signify kyu ranks, however. Eligibility for testing depends primarily (though not exclusively) upon accumulation of practice hours. Other relevant factors may include a trainee's attitude with respect to others, regularity of attendance, and, in some organizations, contribution to the maintenance of the dojo or dissemination of aikido.
Q: What if I can't throw my partner?
A: This is a common question in aikido. There are several answers. First, ask the instructor. Perhaps there is something you are doing incorrectly. Second, aikido techniques, as we practice them in the dojo, are idealizations. No aikido technique works all the time. Rather, aikido techniques are meant to be sensitive to the specific conditions of an attack. However, since it is often too difficult to cover all the possible condition-dependent variations for a technique, we adopt a general type of attack and learn to respond to it. At more advanced levels of training we may try to see how generalized strategies may be applied to more specific cases. Third, aikido techniques often take a while to learn to perform correctly. Ask your partner to offer less resistance until you have learned to perform the technique a little better. Fourth, many aikido techniques cannot be performed effectively without the concomitant application of ATEMI (a strike delivered to the attacker for the purpose of facilitating the subsequent application of the technique). For safety's sake, ATEMI is often omitted during practice. Again, ask your partner's cooperation.
Q: How would an aikidoist fare against someone trained in karate, judo, tae kwon do, ninjutsu, or kickboxing/?
A1: It depends on the specific capabilities of the individuals involved.
A2: Who cares? The purpose of aikido isn't to learn to defeat other martial artists.
A3 (slightly cryptic -- think about it): Offense calls for offensive strategies. Defense calls for defensive strategies.
Q: How often should I practice?
A: As often or as seldom as you wish. However, a mimimum of two practices per week is advised.
Q: How can I practice by myself?
A: Naturally, aikido is best learned with a partner. However, there are a number of ways to pursue solo training in aikido. First, one can practice solo forms (kata) with a jo or bokken. Second, one can "shadow" techniques by simply performing the movements of aikido techniques with an imaginary partner. Even purely mental rehearsal of aikido techniques can serve as an effective form of solo training.