Aikido Basics: 20 Helpful Tips for Beginners (With Pictures)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Beginner Aikido athletes in white kimono train on blue tatami.
Lidia Muhamadeeva / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve been thinking about joining Aikido classes, but are not sure what to expect at the beginning, you have come to the right place.

Having some background on the martial art can help you settle into your practices quickly and help you have a deeper understanding of the entire theory and culture behind Aikido.

Do not underestimate the value of learning a bit more about the martial art before your first class. Being more informed will help you boost your skills, as well as to truly embrace the art and lifestyle of Aikido. Knowing what to expect can only enhance the experience even more for you.  

Are you ready to learn more about Aikido? Below, we feature 20 tips that all Aikido beginners can benefit from.

These are 20 Aikido tips for beginners. 

1. Always stretch before practice.

Stretching is essential in every form of exercise, including Aikido. It helps to loosen up the muscles and avoid potential injury during practice. Stretching also helps a student find where their tensions are so that they know where to work on flexibility.

2. Wear loose-fitting clothes to practice.

As a new student, you might not own a “dogi”, which is a martial arts uniform. In fact, you might never own one, as it is not essential when learning the art. Practice is best done in loose-fitting comfortable clothing. Baggy pants and t-shirts are ideal. The whole point is to be able to move unhindered and smoothly without exposing any part of the body.

3. Do not fear falling – learn how to fall safely.

Throwing technique in aikido monochrome
Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com

Learning to fall is a big part of all Aikido classes. In fact, it is one of the first things that your Sensei will teach you because students fall at least 50% of the time. The mats are well padded to catch you safely, and you will learn falling techniques that keep you away from injuries. 

Most Aikido experts recommend practicing falling at least 50 to 100 times between classes. What you do in class cannot be considered as practice – you must practice at home too.

4. Study Hanmi for a better understanding of Aikido.

Hanmi carefully explains the fundamentals and basic foundations of all Aikido movements and stances. You should take the time to read up on this before you start learning Aikido. Once you start practicing, try to notice how Hanmi and Aikido can be applied to everything in life – every movement you make.

5. Always start training on your weak side first.

We all have a weak and dominant or stronger side. Have you ever picked up a dumbbell and punched very easily with your right hand but struggled with your left? That is because your weak side is your left side. Start training on your left side to conserve energy and to build strength on that side first. 

6. Take along a bottle of water.

You can expect to get quite out of breath and sweaty during your Aikido class, so take a water bottle with you in order to stay hydrated. 

Bottle water made to plastic aikido
Shutterstock.com

7. Do not fear receiving the technique – relax and work with it.

It is natural to be tense and fearful when Aikido is being used on you (receiving Aikido), but the trick is to relax and work with the movements of the opponent. The more you tense up and try to act against the techniques being used on you, the more potential there is for personal injury. The more you relax and apply the methods you have learned calmly, the better you’ll do.

8. Do not try to rush to the next level.

Aikido students are able to level up by means of testing at various stages of their training. Aikido is an art that takes time, dedication, and practice. Rushing through the stages is not going to make you better at Aikido, and besides, there are strict time stipulations to be reserved between each testing period. 

Put leveling up out of your mind and focus on learning and getting better at your own pace. Be willing to put in the time and patiently follow the training process.

9. Leave your ego at the door.

When you enter the dojo and bow to your Sensei, be in a learning mindset. The lessons are sometimes tough, and everything is about learning. The objective is to see everything in your Aikido class as a learning opportunity. If you lose at a sparring event, you have learned something – nothing is in vain. 

10. Be prepared to trust your practice partner. 

Helping hand aikido concept
Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com

Students often take turns throwing and being thrown. Beginners often fear when it is their turn to be thrown. You might tense up, and that may cause you to fall or roll incorrectly. To avoid injuries, trust your partner. Gentle throws are always the norm for new students. 

11. Get your hair under control.

If you have long hair, make sure to tie it up. Long hair can get distracting as well as hinder correct carrying out of techniques. 

12. Put some effort into active stretching. 

Most students start out being quite inflexible, which makes it difficult to bend over from the waist or roll correctly. Practice compressing yourself into a ball and regularly stretch to become more flexible. The more flexible you become, the more natural the movements, bends, and rolls will feel.

13. Practice deep flat-foot squats.

Many of the techniques and movements in Aikido will have you in a squat and deep squat position. You will have to remain in these positions, low to the ground with your feet flat. Practice a few deep squats every day to strengthen the muscles required to make these moves easy for you. 

14. Be mindful of all of your movements. 

Aikido master practices defense posture.
Shutterstock.com

If you need to fall and roll, do so, but get up in the simplest possible way without using excess energy. This will help conserve energy, and the quicker you get back on your feet, the faster you can recover and get back into the action. 

15. Allow your own Aikido style to develop.

You might watch videos and wonder why your Aikido techniques do not look exactly like the demonstrations you have seen online. The truth of the matter is that everyone is different. You have different strengths and weaknesses to other students, and so your own “style” will start to develop along the way.

16. Pay attention and focus on the process.

Your Sensei is not going to demonstrate every move a hundred times, especially if you are not paying attention. Commit yourself to 100% focus when you enter your class. Clear your mind of any other thoughts and distractions and focus on precisely what the Sensei is showing you with each and every move. The more you apply yourself, the more you will advance. 

17. Choose your instructor and school carefully.

Japanese traditional martial arts aikido
Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com

Before you start Aikido, put some effort into researching the schools and classes in your area. If you want the best possible training and introduction to the martial art, you need to train with an instructor who has a deep understanding of the art and takes it seriously. 

18. Avoid comparing yourself to others.

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is comparing yourself to others in the class. You might be the oldest, youngest, fattest, or least coordinated – that really does not matter at all. What matters is that you are at the class and that you are fully focused. Do not let what is happening around you deter you from learning. 

19. Buddy up.

It is always fun to join a new class with someone you know, so think about buddying up with someone. Having a buddy in class means that you will always have someone to ‘talk Aikido’ with, as well as practice with every day. 

20. Watch videos, read articles, increase your knowledge.

Being involved in a lesson is quite different from watching someone actually use Aikido. Spend some time on YouTube watching Aikido clips. The more you see the art in action, the more you can visualize the movements you are carrying out and can start to perfect them. The more you read and increase your Aikido knowledge, the more you will feel connected to the art. 

Video source: Martial Arts Journey / YouTube

By and large

There is a multitude of tips that beginners can benefit from when starting out in Aikido. The most essential tips are to be present in your lessons, dedicate yourself to the practice and be prepared to relax and unwind while you move with your opponent. Hopefully, these tips make your Aikido practice more rewarding to you. 

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.