Can You Teach Yourself Aikido? (Yes. Here’s how)


If you are working on a tight budget but wanted to learn a martial art at the same time, you may have thought of teaching yourself at home instead of signing up in a dojo. But can you teach yourself Aikido?

Here’s what I know from doing both in-person and virtual martial arts classes:

Yes. As with most martial arts, you can teach yourself Aikido at home. But learning at home requires more discipline since there is no one else to hold you accountable. It can also be harder to learn movements that were designed to be practiced on another person.

Sounds confusing? Let me explain.

Some martial arts like Tai Chi work great when learning on your own as they don’t require a partner. Online Karate classes could focus mostly on katas which are done alone.

Aikido, on the other hand, uses a lot of hip throws and joint locks.

While you can study and practice those movements. Doing them on your own is NOT going to be the same as practicing them on someone else.

But, if you’re on a tight budget or there isn’t a dojo nearby, practicing and learni9ng at home can definitely be done and is still better than not learning martial arts at all.

Let’s get into it!

Is Aikido hard to learn?

Yes, Aikido is hard to learn. Many of the techniques in Aikido are subtle and require very specific movements to execute well. Additionally, because Aikido’s main goal is to not damage your opponent any more than necessary, it relies more on your senses and timing than it does brute force.

It takes devotion and a high degree of subtlety because, as counterintuitive as it may seem, you’re actually learning “how not to fight.”

It’s essentially a defensive art because the intention is not to harm the attacker even as you subdue them.

You’re learning how to flow with the attacker’s energy and use it against them. It doesn’t sound easy because it isn’t. It helps to have the right mindset and to understand the essence of the art. Then, you’ll be able to evince the patience needed.

It requires time to master the physical techniques that’ll help you fight without injuring yourself and others and grasp the deeply philosophical nature of the art and how the physical techniques reflect them.

Most arts have unilateral and bilateral techniques. While using unilateral techniques, as the name suggests, you alone can decide to charge an assailant and punch them over and over again until you knock them out.

Such a method is uncommon in Aikido.

You’re most likely going to employ bilateral techniques, which involve merging with another’s energy and redirecting it.

As I said above, it’s not about brute force, but brains and consideration, because even as you’re protecting yourself, you’re also doing your best to make sure that the person attacking you is not hurt. That’s a tall order if you ask me.

It makes sense that it’s hard to learn and that it often takes years to master. Especially when you also factor in the fact that it’s really “a way of harmonizing energy.”

It’s about peace and making the world a better place, even as we work on ourselves.

Can you learn Aikido online?

You can learn parts of Aikido online but the best option is to go to a good dojo. If you must practice online, be prepared to focus more on the philosophy and understanding of body mechanics and flow of energy more than how to execute a throw or a wrist lock.

It’s a practical martial art, so ideally, you want to be in an environment where you can watch an instructor and repeat the techniques they’re teaching and get their immediate feedback.

But, if that’s not feasible, you can find some good online dojos and learn.

Most of them have pre-recorded videos that will inform you about the history, the philosophy, and instructions on how to execute the various techniques that make up the art.

Ideally, you also want an online dojo that has a component where you’ll be able to receive instructor feedback as you practice what you’re learning from the videos. Without this, you’ll not know if you’re doing it right. It’s hard for us to be good judges of our own ability.

But, I must stress that this does not really constitute learning Aikido!

See it as a temporary introduction that’ll be supplemented by one-on-one, face-to-face, physical, and practical training later. It’s a martial art, so don’t kid yourself that it’s something you’ll pick up from passively watching videos. Or even by practicing alone.

Here are my top sources for learning Aikido online (not paid endorsements):

Platform Name/Link Why I Like It Cost
YouTube Mihaly Dobroka Almost 15,000 subscribers and almost 300 videos most of which are tutorials on a specific move. Free
Online Course 100 Aikido Ukemi Build Up The top-rated Aikido course on Udemy for beginners that offers over 2 hours of training videos with a lifetime access. $12.99
YouTube Aikido Instructions Lots of videos and playlists which break down Aikido into basics, philosophy, techniques, and common mistakes Free
Live Training plus online courses Aikido by the Bay These are live classes taught virtually and students have access to the recordings so if you miss a class or want to rewatch a technique, it’s easy to do. Ranges from $10/class up to $160/month for unlimited

How can you practice Aikido alone?

To practice Aikido at home, have a dedicated room or part of the house for your practice, and have set times you practice throughout the week. Because you will be learning from videos, make sure to have a laptop, desktop, or TV in the room with a clear view from where you will be.

One of the benefits of going to a dojo is the fact that it’s done at set times, and while there, you repeat certain techniques over and over again. You also get to practice with a partner, which is not feasible when you’re alone.

So to offset some of that, having set days and times where you practice will help build in a routine.

So, make it fun and make sure your laptop or TV that you’re using is big or of medium size so that you don’t have to squint or strain your eyes. But, at the same time, you want it in a safe place so that you don’t accidentally run into it while you’re practicing the techniques.

So, try not to rush, pick a few techniques per week and practice over and over again until you’re proficient.

Mastery will take a long time. But ensure you watch several times, then practice several times. Focus on the basics. You’ll need to be with an instructor later to really “get” the techniques. So, the practice at home is a temporary thing.

You might be thinking, but how does Aikido compare to a martial art like BJJ?

I’ve got you covered. That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine. I compared Aikido and BJJ and suggested which is better for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How long does it take to learn Aikido?

In a dojo, it will take 1 year to be proficient at Aikido, if you practice 2-3 times per week. To earn a black belt (first dan) typically takes 4 to 5 years, again practicing 2-3 times per week minimum.

The time it takes naturally varies from person to person. It is a function of how devoted they are, how many times they are practicing each week, the quality of the instructions, and their mindset.

It’s quite possible to master the techniques fast, but it’s far better to learn slowly and perfect the techniques rather than rush through them and pick up some bad habits.

A good instructor looks out for both. Because as you’ve glimpsed, Aikido is a holistic martial art that’s about peace and harmony. It’s just about mastering some physical techniques. It’s also about self-mastery.

But ultimately, as with most of life, I want you to focus on the journey, not the destination.

A black belt is great. But you know what’s far better? Being at peace with yourself, knowing how to self-regulate, and having increased awareness so you can avoid trouble in the first place.

All of that comes from years of training. A black piece of cloth can’t give it to you. You can only give it to yourself through practice.

You might wonder about Aikido’s effectiveness. After all, it’s an art of peace. Can it really be effective in a street fight, for example?

That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine.

I answered questions, such as Is Aikido absolutely useless? I shared about seven different benefits it offers. That’s in addition to its use in self-defense. I outlined the best moves for self-defense in Aikido. And, I also shared which one is the best: Karate, Jujutsu, or Aikido.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Aikido basics for beginners practicing at home alone

Since many Aikido moves involve throwing a partner over your hips or doing wrist and joint locks, let’s look at 3 vital Aikido moves that can easily be done alone and at home.

Mai Ukemi (Forward Roll)


This is one of the most vital techniques to learn and master. It’s about how to break a fall. It’s called a forward roll, but it’s executed sideways.

To execute it, you step forward on the mat on one foot and with your hands positioned to support your weight on the mat.

Lean forward while placing the side of your hands on the mat. Tuck your chin under your neck and turn your head such that the chin is also tucked in your shoulder, and you are looking over your arm and can see where you’ll land.

Allow your arm to bend slightly, curved in such a way it can support you as you roll over.

Push off with the back foot and roll easily over your arm and shoulder. Roll in such a way that you get back to a standing position. Practice from your right and left sides.

Ushiro Ukemi (Backward Roll)


This can be executed from a sitting or standing position.

Tuck in your chin and raise your rams in front of you. Get down on one knee, then sit down, and roll backward, striking the mat with both arms just before your shoulder touches the mat. Raise your legs, and continue the roll over the outside edge of your shoulder.

Use your hands to assist you.

This protects your head and neck from contact with the mat. Thrust your toes forward as your feet pass over the head so that the ball of your foot touches the mat and you can come to posture.

Kamae (Defensive Position)


This is a typical stance for receiving a frontal attack.

You place one of your legs with the foot turned out and the arm of that side open. Your weight is over the front foot, and your knee is slightly bent. Your head is up, and you’re watching your attacker.

Conclusion

In the preceding paragraphs, we explored whether Aikido is hard to learn.

But we also looked at if it can be learned online, and if you could practice it at home, how long it takes. But I also shared some techniques beginners could get started with, with or without a partner.

As I’m fond of saying, any martial arts practice is better than none. So if learning online at home alone is the only or best option for you, that’s better than nothing!


Photo which requires attribution:

Omar Gilani Teaches Martial Arts by SDD Stakeholder Engage is licensed under Public Domain

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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