Beginning Aikido Over Fifty

Categories: Blog

I recently began learning/practicing Aikido, after being exposed to it a few years ago and really liking the philosophy behind it. One of the first things the sensei (teacher) said to me when I signed up for class was that it’s rare for someone of my age (over 50) to begin learning Aikido, and in the same breath, also mentioned how it’s a really good way to learn how to fall, since when we get older, falling can be a major disaster since our bones are more brittle.

While I wasn’t there to learn specifically how to fall because I was getting older, I was heartened by my sensei’s comments about the appropriateness of learning Aikido beginning in my 50’s. Though I still have a ways to go before I have any sense of mastering this martial art, I do have some insights I would like to pass on.

Aikido is a way of living, day to day, moment to moment. It is not just a martial art, or way of physical self defense. Aikido was called “The Art of Peace” by it’s founder, Morehei Ueshiba, also known as O’Sensei. There are many sources to learn more about O’Sensei, and I recommend you check out one or two of them to find out about this amazing man, and how he came to create Aikido by distilling techniques from other martial disciplines. A simplified way to describe Aikido is to say that it is about learning how to disarm an opponent without causing unnecessary harm.

I began Aikido for two reasons – both equally important to me. One reason was simply to become more active, increase vitality and at the least hold at bay if not reverse some of the effects of a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to do some sort of activity that had a purpose behind it beyond working my muscles, which to me is a rather boring activity and one which never lasted very long.

The second reason is to develop a discipline or practice that helps to co-ordinate mental discipline with physical discipline along with “energetic” discipline, the energy being the “life force” energy that I have experienced at other times, but not in any lasting way or in any way that was repeatable (without great effort and/or expense).

Aikido fits the bill perfectly. The “Ki” of Aikido is the energy (life force) that I want to learn to connect with and utilize. Moving my body in the aiki-taiso (aikido warmup exercises), the ukemi (the art of falling) and the waza (techniques) is a way to move my body, increase strength and co-ordination, and learn to work with Ki in a disciplined, and eventually repeatable manner. The fact that I am learning a self-defense skill is an added bonus that gives me more confidence as I go about my life in the world.

If you are curious about how this martial art can help you, then I recommend you find a local dojo (school) or two, and visit them. Take a class if you can, talk with the instructors and other students. Find out the philosophy behind what is being taught. Experience for yourself the feeling of throwing, and being thrown, of blending, and of using your attacker’s Ki to your own advantage. There is much to learn from Aikido. Start today.