Strength Training for Kokikai Aikido

After taking her first classes with Rutgers Kokikai Aikido Club, a student asked, "Do you do conditioning exercises, like pushups, leg lifts or squats?" She seemed surprised when I said, "No," since strength and aerobic conditioning exercises are part of the warmup drills for most martial arts.

Here's why we don't spend time on "conditioning" and "muscle building" exercises in Kokikai Aikido classes:

  • Kokikai Aikido training is highly-specialized. Black belt instructors have typically trained for a minimum of seven years to gain the level of experience needed to teach. If they have advanced black belt degrees (which many do), they may have been training for 10, 15, even 35 years! (In contrast, you can get a certificate as a fitness trainer in a few days or weeks.) We try to make best use the limited time in class, teaching things that require this expertise. 
  • The "strength" that we develop from practicing Kokikai Aikido is not based on the use of muscle. It comes from developing mind/body coordination, through practicing correctly, for example, by using the four basic principles.
  • At the beginning of every class we actually practice strength training exercises. They are called ki development exercises! They help make us stronger by helping us make mind/body coordination a habit, until it becomes second nature.
Kokikai Aikido - strength does not come from muscle power
So, if you want to be strong so that you can play the role of the intimidating attacker in aikido, by all means, go to the gym! If you want to be able to take ukemi (falls) in aikido, over and over without getting winded, practice building up your aerobic capacity by running, biking, rowing or Zumba! 

If you want to learn to be even stronger, even faster, whether you're tall or short, male or female, skinny (like me) or brawny, come to class and don't get hung up on whether you have big muscles.

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