History and Lineage
Aikido was created early in this century by Morihei Ueshiba, know as “O-Sensei” which means great teacher.
O-Sensei began his study of Budo, or Martial Arts at a young age. He studied various systems and obtained teaching licenses in several. Perhaps most influential to him were Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu, Kendo (Sword) and Sojutsu (Spear).
O-Sensei also pursued his spiritual development with great enthusiasm. He eventually arrived at the conclusion that the true purpose for Budo was to nurture and protect all living things and to live harmoniously, taking care of one’s own realm and environment.
O-Sensei’s great understanding of martial arts and fervent spiritual pursuits placed him on a unique path in life which gave birth to the art of Aikido. During his lifetime O-Sensei achieved a condition of invincibility that was uncanny and unfathomable to many. He weathered many challenges by accomplished martial artists of various disciplines all with the same result – the attacker ending up on the ground, wondering what happened, sometimes pinned by a single finger. Many of these individuals would then petition to be accepted as O-Sensei’s student.
Several of O-Sensei’s live-in students, who are now Masters of Aikido called “Shihan” are still alive, training and teaching today. One of these students, Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, 8th Dan, is the head of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), which has its headquarters in New York City. Yamada Sensei has dedicated his life to the promotion of Aikido and its principles. He began teaching in New York in approximately 1963, and is still there today.
One of Yamada Sensei’s original students at the New York Aikikai was Harvey Konigsberg Shihan, 7th Dan. Konigsberg Shihan began his study of Aikido in 1965. He teaches at the New York Aikikai now and remains a student of Yamada Sensei to this day. Konigsberg Shihan has also studied Iaido extensively and has dedicated his life to painting and Aikido. He is the Chief Instructor at a thriving dojo with a very high level of practice- Woodstock Aikido in Woodstock, NY. Konigsberg Shihan teaches and demonstrates around the world, as well as in Woodstock and enjoys an outstanding reputation within the Aikido community.
Bob Wilcox, 4th Dan and Chief Instructor at Kingston Aikido, has studied various martial arts but settled on Aikido as his main pursuit in 1990 with Harvey Konigsberg Shihan. He has studied intensively under Konigsberg Shihan since he began training, taking private lessons weekly almost from when he started until he received his 1st Dan rank. Bob continues to train regularly with Konigsberg Shihan in Woodstock, as well as traveling frequently to attend seminars with Yamada Shihan, Sugano Shihan and Shibata Shihan.
Marilyn St. John, 2nd Dan Aikido, 4th Dan Tang Soo Do, Assistant Instructor at Kingston Aikido has been Konigsberg Shihan’s student for the past 14 years. Ms. St. John also teaches at Woodstock Aikido, and has been teaching Tang Soo Do (Korean Karate) at her own Dojang in Woodstock for over 20 years.
The philosophy of Aikido may be summarized as the “Way of Harmony”. Aikido is, however, first and foremost, a martial art and discipline. We learn extremely powerful, effective, and dynamic techniques. But there are some unique aspects of Aikido training and philosophy.
It was O-Sensei’s belief that to win a conflict at the expense of another was not the true purpose of Budo. Rather than focusing on harming others and “winning” Budo (the martial arts) should be used to improve and correct one’s self and take care of others. There are no winners and losers in Aikido. There are no competitions, and contests of strength or “fights” are strictly forbidden.
When we practice Aikido, it is always clear who the “attacker” and “defender” are. We take turns executing and refining techniques, and experiencing both sides of the technique. Proper movement and technical correctness are emphasized. We take care of our practice partners, rather than trying to injure them for points or sport. For this reason, Aikido can become a life-long practice.
As students progress in Aikido they become more capable of “receiving” techniques and executing them. As students become more able to be thrown without injury, and their joints become more conditioned and flexible, the level of practice may be intensified. Eventually we build up to a pace which looks very dangerous and frightening to the uninitiated, but it is still safe and fun. Similar to how the accomplishments of great athletes are incomprehensible to “ordinary” people, Aikido techniques and practice at a high level appear to be almost “magic” to people who haven’t built up to it.
We try to carry the attitude of caring for our practice partners and moving and acting correctly at the Dojo over to our everyday lives. We learn an effective martial art and we learn how to protect ourselves and others. But more than that, we learn something we can carry with us every day. Respect for others and ourselves, cooperation (rather than conflict), good physical fitness and flexibility, and how to remain calm and balanced in a crisis are things we carry over to our daily lives.
Etiquette is simply the set of rules we follow to maintain order and show respect for Aikido, the Dojo, ourselves, and each other.
When bowing, you are showing respect. Your bow should have purpose – clear your mind and consider the circumstance in which you are bowing – be “present” and give the bow your full attention.
How to Bow
We basically do three different bows in Aikido.
Standing, simply bow from the waist. Seated , to each other or the instructor, bowing is done by placing the left hand out first on the mat, then the right. Bow from the waist with a straight back. Do not bow all the way down to the mat. The junior person bows first, and holds the bow position longer than the senior.
Seated (to O-Sensei), the bow is slightly different. Place both hands out on the mat simultaneously (follow the instructor’s lead as to the exact form of the bow), and also withdraw the hands simultaneously.
When to Bow
We bow often!
· When entering or leaving the Dojo.
· When getting on or off the mat.
· After receiving instruction as a group or individually from the Sensei.
· Before and after practicing with a new partner.
· Before and after you are throwing in a line practice.
Behavior in the Dojo
The Dojo is a special place. It is not a gym or a health club. It is treated with respect as a place where we try to uphold the standards set forth by O-Sensei.
This is not to say that we have to be dogmatic or stifled in our behavior. Spontaneous laughter is fine, and a joyful practice together is one of our goals. We must maintain a serious attitude about the practice, however, and remain vigilant. This is especially true on the mat.
If you are watching a class, refrain from loud conversation which may be distracting to those taking the class. If you are practicing and have your children with you, it is your responsibility to watch them and keep them from becoming disruptive to the class.
In the dojo the teacher is addressed as “Sensei”.
Be on time to class. Occasional lateness is sometimes unavoidable, but it should not become a habit. Habitual lateness shows lack of both respect and discipline.
Do not lean on the walls, or lay on the floor in the dojo. Sitting on the floor is fine.
Turn off your cell phone, pager or electronic games, etc. in the dojo. If you must use portable electronics, please go out in the hall or stairwell to do so. In general if it rings, beeps or buzzes – please keep it off when in the dojo.
On the Mat
Pay attention to what’s going on. When the instructor is demonstrating, remain quiet and observe what’s being shown. Then practice the technique that was demonstrated. In general keep conversation to a minimum. If you have a question, attempt to ask the Sensei. If the Sensei is busy, ask your partner. If you are explaining something and the Sensei comes around, it is proper to stop talking and allow the Sensei to observe and comment on the technique.
If you get cut, you get off the mat immediately and dress the cut. In this case it is not necessary to wait for permission from the Sensei. Return to the mat and apply hydrogen peroxide to any stained areas.
If you have to get off the mat for any reason, ask the Sensei. Also, when returning onto the mat, wait at the edge for the Sensei’s permission to come back on.
Cleaning the Dojo
It is every student’s responsibility to keep the dojo clean, and the dojo is cleaned after each class. Everyone cleans regardless of rank. If you are a black belt, please wait to fold your hakama until after you have helped clean.
Remove footwear when in the dojo, and put it on when going out to the hall, etc. Do not track in and out in your socks or bare feet.
Before each class make sure:
· Toenails and fingernails are clean and short
· Feet are clean
· You and your gi are clean
Etiquette at Seminars
At seminars it is particularly important to pay attention to the techniques demonstrated, and make a sincere effort to practice what is shown. Do not just do things the way you are used to doing them. Keep an open mind. You represent the Dojo and your Sensei when you are out at a seminar.
Dues make it possible to have a dojo and a Sensei. They are not a fee for a service in the conventional sense. Pay your dues promptly at the beginning of each session. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, talk to the Sensei about working out an alternate payment plan to get you through the lean times.
Extended Absence and Leaving the Practice
If you will be missing practice for more than a week or so, please let us know. Also, if for some reason you decide to stop practice altogether, it is very important that you let us know. This is an important point of etiquette. Do not simply disappear if you decide to stop training.
Beginners and Regular Practice
Aikido looks easy, yet it is surprisingly difficult at first. At the beginning it can be quite confusing – almost like learning a new language and how to walk at the same time. Rolling looks scary, and what about those breakfalls!
When you first start, it is also easy to get frustrated because it’s not easy to do something completely new, and not be “smart” or an “expert”. You look around and it seems like everyone can do it but you! It’s okay – we have all been there at one point and know what you are going through as a beginner. And nobody minds working with new people who have open minds.
If you push through the confusion of the first couple of weeks or months, you will be rewarded with better balance and confidence, and start to develop a stronger, more flexible body with faster reflexes. The only way to get there is to practice, and do it regularly. That is why it is important to establish a training routine and stick with it. It’s best if you train at least twice a week so that you don’t forget what you just learned!
Once you’ve settled into a routine and are a “regular” student, consider training 3 days a week minimum if your schedule allows it. Some people like to train every day they can once they start to see the potential of Aikido. It’s fine to do this as long as you and your schedule can handle it.
Ukemi is the practice of taking falls, or receiving the energy of a technique from your partner. If you want to develop smooth, fluid, powerful aikido, the best way to learn is to take good ukemi. The top aikidoists today were the great “ukes” yesterday, and that is one of the main ways they became so accomplished.
Here are some rules of thumb for taking good ukemi:
Give a clear strong attack and then follow the movement of the technique.
The uke’s job is to provide the correct kind of attacking energy that facilitates learning whatever technique is being practiced. For example, if the technique requires an entering movement, don’t put your head and shoulders forward. Or, if the technique requires a turning movement, give some forward movement to facilitate this.
People come to practice, not to be instructed by their partners. Focus on your own practice and sincere attacks.In general do not instruct each other, but if your are working with a beginner, or if someone asks for help, then help them if you can.
The best way to help is by moving through the ukemi part of the technique. If you don’t know enough to know how to do this, you don’t know enough to help – so ask the Sensei for help.
Do not have contests of strength – competition is against Aikido principles.
Focus on what you can do to facilitate your partner’s learning rather than on correcting them.
If you are repeatedly stopping the movement of your partner, then you are giving too much resistance and frustrating them. Please do not train this way, as it is counterproductive.
When a hand, elbow or other object moves towards your face, move it out of the way, usually backwards. Develop the reflex to protect your head and face this way by being responsive. Ukemi should protect you as well as help your partner learn the techniques.
Remember, Aikido is the art of non-resistance.
Dan – Black belt rank
Fukushidoin – Certified teacher
Gi – The uniform worn in the Dojo
Hanmi – Basic triangular stance
Hakama – The pleated pants worn by black belts or women above approximately 3rd kyu
Irimi – Enter
Ju Waza – Freestyle technique
Kaiten – Turn or roll
Katatetori – One hand grabbing one wrist
Katatori – One hand grabbing the gi at the shoulder
Katatori Menuchi – Grab one shoulder and frontal strike to the head
Kokyu – Breath
Kote – Wrist
Kote Gaeshi – Wrist out-turn
Kyu – Any of various ranks before black belt
Morotetori – Two hands grabbing one arm
Nage – The one who throws or executes a technique
Randori – Freestyle, usually with many attackers
Ryokatatori -Two hands grabbing the shoulders or lapels
Ryotetori – Two hands grabbing two wrists
Sempai – One who is senior in rank
Sensei – Teacher
Shidoin – Model teacher
Shihan – Master level teacher
Shomen Uchi – straight downward blow to the front, top of the head
Tai No Henko – Body change exercise
Tai Sabaki – Body changes
Tekatana – Handblade
Tenkan – Turn
Tsuki – Straight thrusting attack
Uke – The one who falls, or attacks
Ukemi – The art of falling, receiving techniques
Ushiro Tekubitori – Grabbing both wrists from behind
Ushiro Kubishime – Wrist grab and choke from behind
Waza – Technique
Yokomen Uchi – Angled blow to the side of the head
A seminar is a special class or day of Aikido practice where we bring in a guest instructor from another dojo. Periodically we will have seminars at our dojo, and at our sister dojo in Woodstock. Attendence of the local seminars is strongly encouraged. Please support the local seminars by attending. Seminar costs are intentionally kept as low as possible so everyone can attend. Family and friend are welcome to come observe during these seminars.
Throughout the year and around the U.S. and the rest of the World, seminars in Aikido are taught by advanced practitioners. In the Eastern Region U.S.A.F., there are several major seminars, in addition to scores of minor seminars:
Spring – Montreal, a long weekend in early May
Summer Camp – A full week in mid to late Summer
Winter Camp – A long weekend in Hollywood Florida
Christmas – At the NY Aikidai,
U.S. Aikido Headquarters, a weekend seminar in Manhattan.
These seminars are generally attended by various kyu and dan ranked Aikidoka, and classes are taught by high ranking instructors, Shidoin or Shihan.
Attendance of at least two of these seminars per year is encouraged at any kyu rank. Attendance of a minimum of two per year is required of those ranked 1st kyu and up.
We encourage attending major seminars. It is a great way to expand your practice, meet new people, and see the Aikido community. Over the years, we make lasting friends at these seminars, and attending them is an energizing experience which revitalizes your practice. It is great to see and learn new techniques and to network with people from many areas who have Aikido in common.
It was one of O-Sensei’s main goals in creating Aikido to bring people together, and this is part of what seminars are all about.
Training in Aikido is fun and exhilarating, but like anything worth doing, it is not always easy. There will most likely be some obstacles along the way, and those of us that have trained for a long time can help less experienced practitioners overcome them. Seek out your seniors when problems arise.
Some common obstacles include:
Lack of time
Frustration – plateaus
Difficulty with Japanese words
There is always a way to solve problems which come up. If you have the determination to continue, almost any problem can be resolved. Talk to the Sensei or senior students if you are having problems. Overcoming obstacles is part of the practice, and we’ll help you do it.
Your Sensei will let you know when it is time for you to begin preparation for your next test.
Candidates for each level up to 3rd degree black belt must meet the following requirements:
1) Have the minimum number of days of practice required
2) Be practicing regularly
3) Know the test material and vocabulary thoroughly
4) Be able to take the ukemi (falls) for the required techniques as well as execute them
5) After 1st kyu, attend a minimum of two of the five major seminars per year
6) Have your Sensei’s permission
The first test for adults is 5th kyu and requires a minimum of 60 days of practice to be eligible. Minimal test fees are charged to cover administration expenses, and must be paid prior to testing. For more on test requirements, talk to your Sensei or to a senior student. Family and friends are welcome at tests and all dojo social functions.
Kingston Aikido and Woodstock Aikido
Kingston Aikido and Woodstock Aikido are affiliated dojos.
We have a close relationship with the Woodstock dojo and the people who practice there. The two dojos help one another, and members are encouraged to visit the Woodstock dojo, and vice versa.
As a full time member of Kingston Aikido, you are entitled to half-price dues and/or mat fees at Woodstock Aikido, and vice versa.
The dojo provides a number of books about Aikido for its members.
Books stay in the dojo. You are free to read them at the dojo, but you can’t take them home.
There are a number of excellent resources available about Aikido. Here are a few suggestions:
The Spirit of Aikido – K. Ueshiba
The New Aikido Complete
by Y. Yamada
Aikido – Way of Harmony
by J. Stevens
The Aikido Student Handbook
by G. O’Connor
Aikido – The Power and the Basics (a series, Y. Yamada)
Ukemi, The Art of Falling
In the event of extreme weather, call the dojo phone number. If class is cancelled, there will be a message on the machine to that effect.
“I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind. This is Aikido. This is the mission of Aikido and this should be your mission.”
– Morehei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido –