Calligraphy by Shiohira Sensei
Most new students are interested in Aikido for a specific reason. This reason could be self defense or better health or because your friends are doing it or any number of other things. However, learning Aikido is a journey, not a destination.
There is an old saying: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."
Your first step is to get on the mat for your first class. How do you choose a dojo (an Aikido school)? The best way is to observe a class.
Welcome to the Pacific Aikido Federation.
There are a number of things that happen before a journey starts. As a new student you naturally will have questions and concerns.
Welcome to your first step of a long and rewarding journey.
Beginners are welcome to observe any regular class. In a regular class a beginner may be paired with an advanced student, and will work on the same techniques separately from the class (though on the same mat), until learning some fundamentals, such as simple falls and rolls. Check with the dojo you visit on how to start your training.back to top
What to Expect
The dojo has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. However, it is also a place of serious study, mindful of the martial arts tradition and purpose. The emphasis is on personal development and understanding, not on following a rigorous set of forms or memorizing complex kata.
The training can be physically challenging, but is not necessarily so. Students work at their own level of physical ability and stamina, relaxing when necessary, challenging themselves when appropriate. Students are not goaded into pushing themselves to the extremes of their ability. Rather, students are asked to try to integrate their energy into the class. The result is a feeling of enjoyment and relaxation with alertness and clarity by the end of class.
The entire dojo trains together in each class. There is no segregation by rank during practice: Beginning, intermediate and advanced students all practice together freely. The instructor gives individual attention to students throughout class.
The emphasis is on controlling a physical encounter from the beginning through timing and motion, rather than by subduing an opponent by sheer force or speed. Proper breathing and posture are also important. There are some breathing exercises during class.
Students are free to practice together after class, and help is always available from senior students. The dojo has many Black Belts (Yudansha), so abundant help is always available.back to top
New Student's Questions
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a non-competitive martial art from Japan that emphasizes mind/body integration. Learn more by clicking on the About Aikido button. Learn more about Shiohira Sensei by clicking on his button.
Who can study Aikido?
Men and women of all ages can study Aikido, regardless of physical skill or previous experience in athletics or other martial arts. Training is always self-paced, and for the most part all ranks train together, with the more experienced Aikidoists helping the newer students. We also offer Children's classes. They can start as young as 7. Check the main page [ click on header ] for these classes.
Why do people study Aikido?
Aikido is never competitive, so the training is purely for personal development. Aikido is vigorous, weight-bearing exercise that improves your strength, coordination, balance and your overall health. The training also helps you develop alertness and a calm mind. Most people find that regular training reduces stress levels significantly. The most important reason to study Aikido, however, is to enjoy it!
How do you begin?
Just come by and join a class. We also offer classes especially for beginners. In the regular classes senior students give you individual help with the basics and work with you until you feel comfortable enough to train with the other students.
To sign up just arrive at the dojo about 15 minutes early to introduce yourself and sign a waiver. Wear comfortable, loose clothing, or a gi if you have one. You are welcome to observe classes and talk with the instructor and other students before you decide to join.
What is a Dojo?
The word Dojo means "training hall". For example, the Aikido Center in Mountain View is a spacious facility, with a padded training mat, separate dressing rooms and bathrooms, and a small office.
What does Sensei mean?
Sensei is an honorific title meaning "teacher". The head of a dojo is always referred to as Sensei, and other instructors as well. O-Sensei means great teacher. In Aikido this refers to Ueshiba Sensei, the Founder of Aikido.
How do we train?
Aikido training consists of throws and falls. A class session generally works on between 3 and 5 different throws. Each person chooses a partner for a given throw. The partners take turns throwing each other four times. The person doing the throwing is called nage. The person doing the falling is called uke. Students find they learn as much from acting as uke as nage.
If I'm falling all the time, why don't I fall apart?
Students are taught from the first day how to fall safely. This is in fact one of the most important and pleasant aspects of Aikido training. We train on a layer of tumbling mats or tatami.
How often should I attend class?
Students are encouraged to attend classes a minimum of 2 to 3 times a week. Your monthly fees entitle you to attend an unlimited number of classes.
What can I expect when I begin classes?
A ranked person will work with you individually during your first classes to prepare you gradually until you feel ready to train with the group.
What do I wear?
Most students wear a gi. A sweatsuit or other loosely fitting cloting is acceptable if you do not have a gi. You can often purchase a gi at the dojo.
Must I be in good physical condition?
As with most martial arts it helps for students of Aikido to be in good physical condition. You will build up your strength and endurance over time at your own pace.
Can I be injured?
There is some risk from the throws, rolls, etc. in Aikido. However, Aikido emphasizes safety. Each student is taught to be aware his or her own, as well as partner's, ability.
For more information, please call us: Palo Alto (650) 969-1731 or
S.F. (415) 275-0393.
EMAIL: Palo Alto or San Francisco [ dojo AT aikidocentersf.org ]