Warming up, training & black belt

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In Aikido it is a common activity doing warming-up to start a class. Some groups are using a short warming-up session, others are using a very long and tough warming-up session.
A possible disadvantage of a (tough) warm-up is that your energy supplies will be exhausted for a prolonged  training. Make sure you do not waste energy unnecessarily during the warm-up, which means you perform less during training.

If you are a professional  or nonprofessional martial arts competitor you have to do workouts for improvements on stamina, endurance….on a regular base. Those workouts are not included in the normal dojo training. Warming-up cannot replace the extra workouts.

2 Categories of warming-up

We divide warming-up in 2 big categories, eventually with subcategories. Mobilizing blood flow, lubricating joints, waking-up nervous system..

  • Using non-specific warming-up exercises.
  • or using methods directly or indirectly related to Budo Aikido.

The question for a non-competitor or Budo Aikido practitioner: Is it really necessary to do a non-specific warming-up?
A non-competitor, of course can participate in a group with a competitive character, where stamina, endurance…are important elements. Some people likes to enjoy the game of Tomiki Aikido also called Sports Aikido. The warming-up as a workout with non-specific exercises will be certainly one of the training items.

If you like to enter the training for Budo Aikido, you have take in account the factor how much time you like to spend on your training.

The 1-training a week

Within the time of 1-training a week, it is better to focus on Budo Aikido related body movements (bodywork exercises or tuning exercises). Focus has to be on soft and non-loaded exercises. Of course by a 1-time a week training, the result cannot be that high. Softness within the context of the concept of “ju” or “yawara” (柔) is the primary goal in the training. Warming-up  and general training presents three basic goals: warming up the body, training basic postures and basic movements, studying the interconnection between movements .The exercises of “judo taiso” or “yawara taiso” * created by Kenji Tomiki are a good choice for warming-up and general training. Studying basic techniques (basic 15 or basic17) will be used to spicy up the training, eventually some kakari geiko. Of course to become a “black belt”, the candidate has to do extra efforts (extra training).

* Judo Taiso or Yawara Taiso was basically “a method to introduce aiki” to University Judo students. Ju and Yawara are similar words and outside the context of Judo can be used interchangeable.

The 2- or 3-training a week

This kind of person has a motivation beyond the 1-training a week person. The result of bodywork exercises will have an impact on the performance of Budo Aikido. Bodywork and Judo Taiso are a good replacement for non-specific warming-up and tuning exercises. Basic techniques will benefit of the acquired skills of bodywork training.
A balance between ju (柔) and gō (硬) is one of the main targets of the training. Rendo will be the result of the balance and using non-conscious intention. This can be demonstrated during kakari-geiko and hikitate-geiko.

The daily-training a week

Not so many people will follow this kind of Budo Aikido path. Training depends on the availability of dojo or training-hall. Solo-training is needed at home to reach the necessary bodyskills. Warming-up and training will consist kyokotsu and tenshikei exercises, judo taiso unsoku-ho and judo taiso tegatana dosa. Balance between ju (柔) and gō (硬) is needed to reach the goal of “hakkei“.

Cooling down

Bringing mind and body back to the normal world. Mostly done by some breathing exercises to regulate the breathing and the blood circulation if necessary.

The dilemma of the instructor

Your regular class will exist of a mixed group of students. A warming-up will focus on some bodywork exercises and judo taiso. After 30 minutes doing exercises the body  and mind is ready to do more complicated situations of Budo Aikido. Short-term and long-term planning is a useful tool to set goals for the students. Take in account the previous comments on the “how many times” a week.

The other dilemma : black belt and their degrees

The problem is quite diverse. Are we going to compare the person with other martial arts, or within the competition arena in the same martial art or another one? What happens on the street?

If we compare with iaido or jodo, a 1st degree in those disciplines can handle their weapon in a basic manner. They are not ready to have a fight with real blades. What is very important with iaido and jodo, is the attitude towards their martial arts. Most of them have a kind of confidence called “kigurai”. The strength derived from confidence acquired through repeated practice. There is still a lot to learn, but they understand the concept of a promising beginner and still have confidence in their skills even if they don’t have “battle” experience.

1st degree black belt or a promising beginner

When someone becomes a black belt, in general people believe he or she is an expert. This is far away from the truth. A black belt 1st degree is someone who knows the basic movements and techniques and it is possible to use the movements and techniques in a low level free situation (kakari geiko). Some of the 1st degree black belt can have some profit of their skills in self-defense and competition area. Other are still not ready for this. A black belt 1st degree is not an expert or a fighting machine. A 1st degree black belt is a “promising beginner”.

2nd and 3rd degree black belt

This person is capable to perform in the category of middle level free situation (hikitate geiko). There is a skill of adaptation to changing situations. The technical level is still focused on basic movements and techniques applied in a changing situation. Hikitate geiko is an excellent exercise to demonstrate this skill.
If you have enough confidence and the skill of “hyoshi” is present, with some extra training in self-defense there is a chance to control the situation. Competing in a shiai environment also need extra training and workout to perform and understand the rules of the game.

4th degree and higher

When you reach this level, it is supposed you understand what you are doing. Basic skills are a part of your body and mind, and can be executed with a non-conscious mind. Fighting or competing becomes non significant, you discovered the way of practising and are open for new elements in your Budo Aikido.

You are still no expert, but you are a very keen practitioner. Katachi is becoming kata.

Beyond degrees

Is it necessary to follow the path of becoming a black belt with many degrees? In fact there are 3 kind of practitioners :

  • mudansha – people without a dangrade
  • yudansha – people with a dangrade
  • sensei – teacher

Becoming a black belt has a symbolic message. You receive a “black” belt and it is your duty to show you are still a beginner on the road of training. How to do this?

When you are really practising, you will find out that below your “black” belt there is a white belt, the sign of a beginner. The longer you practise, the better you can see the white belt.


Picture by Deviant Art https://www.deviantart.com/