Beginners FAQs

1: How physically demanding is KSMBDA Aikido?

2: Are there any KSMBDA Aikido videos I can watch?

3: Can I just turn up?

4: What should I wear?

5: What does it cost?

6: Are there any disciplines on the mat or other rules to obey?

7: What is a typical lesson structure?

8: Is there a grading structure?

9: Do I need to know any Japanese?

How physically demanding is KSMBDA Aikido?

KSMBDA Aikido is all about mind and body co-ordination, energy flow and skilful technique. If you're using physical strength, then you're doing it wrong!
We teach mind and and body co-ordination exercises and tests, to show that dynamic relaxation is stronger than physical strength.
We teach you how to roll, so that when you are the attacker and are thrown, you can safely roll out of the way. This differs from breakfalls, which we don't do, which involves a certain amount of physical strength and tolerance.

Are there any KSMBDA Aikido videos I can watch?

Yes. There are 3 demos taken from a recent course that show Aikido to beginners. See the Demonstration page.
There are also many YouTube videos available - see the Videos page.

Can I just turn up?

Yes. All regular classes at all clubs are open to beginners, and you can just turn up unannounced. Just look for the Sensei (teacher) or any person with a black belt or a coloured belt, and let them know you are new, and you will be looked after.
All the courses are also open to beginners, with the exception of the High Grade courses. 

What should I wear?

For your first few times on the mat, we'd advise to wear something comfortable that is not restrictive such as a tracksuit and a t-shirt. After a few lessons, you'll want to wear a judo suit (gi) with a white belt, as that is more suitable for our practise. These can be bought from large sports shops or martial arts shops.
There are changing rooms at all clubs.
We work bare foot on the mat, although you can wear socks if you wish. We never step on the mat with shoes.
Please take off or tape up anything that might inadvertently catch on someone else, eg jewellery, earrings, watches etc.

What does it cost?

Your first lesson will be free.
Subsequent lessons are approximately £5 per lesson; this may vary slightly across the different clubs. 
Once you've attended a few times, you'll need to pay a membership fee. This is £40, and this covers your BAB (British Aikido Board) insurance.

Are there any disciplines on the mat or other rules to obey?

Aikido is a Japanese martial art, and shares similar disciplines to other martial arts. 
Bowing: We bow instead of handshakes. We bow at the start and end of lessons, and at the start and end of working with a partner. 
Sensei: We call the teacher Sensei (sen-say) in the dojo (place of practice), instead of his first name. Sensei Kolesnikov is always called Sensei, even when off the mat.
Respect: We look after the attacker. It is not correct to throw them into a wall! If there's not enough space, we redirect the energy to throw them into a safe clear place.

What is a typical lesson structure?

A lesson usually follows this structure:-
  1. Stretching exercises. All these exercises require you to stretch as far as you feel comfortable, but no further. For example, there is a reaching-your-toes exercise, where the goal is to reach your toes and keep hold, pulling yourself to your toes. But if you can't reach your toes, it doesn't matter, you reach as far as you can and hold. The important thing is the hold.
    Note that they are not stamina exercises, for example there's no "do 20 press-ups in a minute" type of exercise.
  2. Ki exercises. These are mind and body co-ordination exercises, such as unbendable arm where someone tries to bend your arm (in the natural way) whilst you remain relaxed but focussed. Aikido techniques are based on these exercises.
  3. Rolling. We teach you to roll, so that you can safely look after yourself when you are thrown. It takes several lessons to be able to roll, and we teach you from the basics. You will not be thrown until we know you can roll.
  4. Aikido techniques. The Sensei demonstrates a technique with a partner, and then everyone gets into 2s, 3s or 4s and practises the move. Usually the highest grade starts first. Sensei supervises all groups, and will help selected groups in turn.
  5. Meditation. This is to focus you or relax you, and lasts a few minutes.

Is there a grading structure?

The KSMBDA Aikido organisation follows a similar grading structure to other martial arts, where the practitioner wears a coloured belt to signify their rank. This also allows the defender to know whether the attacker knows how to look after themselves during the techniques.
The structure is as follows:-

Belt Colour Japanese Grade
6th Kyu
Yellow 5th Kyu
Orange 4th Kyu
Green 3rd Kyu
Blue 2nd Kyu
Brown 1st Kyu
Black 1st Dan (Shodan)

2nd Dan (Nidan)

3rd Dan (Sandan)
  4th Dan (Yondan) 
  5th Dan (Godan) 
  6th Dan (Rokudan)
  7th Dan (Shichidan or Nanadan)
  8th Dan (Hachidan)
  9th Dan (Kyuudan) 
  10th Dan (Judan) 
  • Kyu denotes a grade of practitioner before reaching black belt. 
  • Dan denotes a degree for a a black belt practitioner.
    It literally means "rung", as in rung of a ladder. Once a practitioner has reached black belt, they are considered to have mastered the basics and are on their journey learning.
There are gradings every 6 months, where you demonstrate the techniques in order to move to the next belt. 
If you're practising twice a week you can usually progress every 6 months up to green. Thereafter it will take about a year to progress to the next belt.

Do I need to know any Japanese?

All lessons are in English. However, there are several words of Japanese origin that we use:-
Dojo (doe jo): This is the name for the place of practice.
Sensei (sen say): This is the name for the teacher.
In addition, all the Aikido techniques we practise have Japanese names. See a list of these names. Initially you don't need to know these, as they will be demonstrated to you. In time, you'll learn them easily.