Of course, but only during the first two weeks of each new thirteen week session. Basically we take new students just four times per year. If you are interested in Zen Aikido classes, then you will have to wait for the next session. (Chances are that when you are reading this, the next class is less than a couple weeks away … and those couple weeks will inevitably come and go by.) Believe me, when you are a regular student, you will be very thankful for this approach. Accepting students continuously is great for paying the bills, not so great for assuring quality instruction … and you can see where we put our priorities.
What if I can’t make all the classes?
No one will make all the classes. The foundation of martial arts training is repetition and practice. You will always, always see techniques demonstrated and practiced again and again. In addition, there is Open Mat Sunday which can be used almost as a make-up class.
I have a bad knee (or ankle, neck, hip, shoulder, etc.) Can I still practice Aikido?
The reason that I group all these injuries into one question is that each case is so very, very different. (Your ACL surgery may be completely different from the next student.) In general, you and your doctor (or physical therapist, surgeon, etc.) know best.
With that said, we all come to Aikido with a history of life and sports injuries. The beauty is that Aikido is so adaptive – it really defies a simple description. You can find stories of Aikidoists in wheel chairs, Aikidoists missing limbs, Aikidoists in their 80’s. And if it were me, and I were sincerely interested in learning something like Aikido (and I had some doubts about how my body would respond), I would sign up for a class, go slow, see what I could do and adapt and see where the experience takes me.
Aikido training, especially when training with an existing injury, will undoubtedly have you reflect on two essential aspects of any pursuit … sincerity and seriousness. (You may want to really think about what it means be very sincere about learning or doing something, but just not very serious.)
Aikido as a self-defense
Can an Aikidoist defeat a mixed martial artist (MMA)?
Realize that MMA is about fighting and Aikido is about self-defense. In a way, you have to decide for yourself which is important. There is no sport in Aikido and there is no fighting. Last, consider the old saying – ‘to never fight’ is ‘to never be defeated’.
Is Aikido the best self-defense?
A defining characteristic of Aikido is its effectiveness against multiple attackers. Is there another self-defense as effective as Aikido against multiple attackers? No. Is there another self-defense better than Aikido one-on-one? Probably.
Do you encourage competition?
Do you teach kids?
A couple of things … I gear classes to the attention spans of adults. Also, all techniques are learned and practiced in pairs, which makes pairing up shorter kids and taller adults very difficult. With that said, a mature teen with a decent attention span and reasonable height would certainly be considered. I always recommend parents to take one session themselves and then decide for their child.
Belts and promotions
Do you have regular promotions?
Yes, we are a traditional kyu and dan school. (Kyus are the rankings up to black belt, dans are the levels after black belt.) For new students, the first promotion is to 5th kyu.
Do you issue colored belts?
No, we are a traditional white belt / black belt school. With respect to training gear, we do require that students wear a gi after the first promotion to 5th kyu and we do require students wear the traditional Aikido hakama after their promotion of 3rd kyu.
Do you test for promotions?
No, we base promotions almost exclusively on attendance. Teaching to tests really, really upsets the continuity of instruction and are often just income generators. But what we do at Both Hands Clapping is actually more demanding than the occasional test. After each 13 week session, each ranked student demonstrates defenses for the attack just studied. The number and type of demonstrated techniques change depending on the rank of the student. So, in a sense, each student has a test 4 times per year – no matter their rank.
What is your rank?
What people think of ranking comes from ‘established’ Aikido organizations. By definition, independent schools don’t belong to Aikido organizations. But as a simple point of fact, an Aikidoist with 25 years experience and 20 years as chief instructor is typically ranked 5th or 6th degree black belt. (As you can see all ranking across all Aikido schools is not uniform.) My last official promotion was from Shizuo Imaizumi of Shin-Budo Kai Aikido to Sandan (3rd degree black belt) in 2002. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that had I stayed with Shin-Budo Kai, I would have had 3 more promotions in the last 15 years, so for comparisons, 6th degree black belt is about right.
Do you also train with your students?
Absolutely. We always practice Aikido in pairs. On those training days where there are an odd number of students, I am very, very happy to fill out that ‘last pair’, and during the three weeks of freestyle, I always, always practice right along side everyone else.