By practising with Aikido weapons, you can raise your skill to a new level. You'll get plenty of benefits from using weapons in your training.
There is some debate about whether we should include weapons at all.
So, where did Master Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei, the founder of Aikido, stand on the subject of weapons training?
Well, the major technical influence on aikido is the Daito-ryu aikijujutsu that he learnt from Sokaku Takeda. A system built on sword principles.
Morihei spent many years in Iwama experimenting with Aikido weapons - Ken (sword) and Jo (staff). One of his main students at that time, Morihiro Saito, witnessed this process and was his main uke.
Also, many of the common technical terms in aikido... tegatana, shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, and shihonage are taken from kenjutsu. Even iriminage comes from the entering movements with a sword.
The study and practice of weapons was a long-term passion of Morihei Ueshiba, who only allowed Saito Sensei’s Aikikai Hombu Dojo classes to include weapons practise. Morihei didn't teach weapons at Hombu dojo!
The Aikikai Hombu dojo's official position excludes weapons practise, but many well-known teachers include iaido practise. Morihiro Saito's Iwama Aikido includes the weapons form as taught by O'Sensei.
Aikido weapons training is helpful for learning the correct distance to be from an attacker, ensuring your safety. Repetitive moving in and out of the striking range of a weapon helps you develop an intuitive sense of distance and timing, essential in empty-hand training.
Also many advanced aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In order to ensure they can be practiced safely, it is important for students to know how to attack and defend with weapons.
Using weapons in Aikido training can add an element of intensity to your practice, that forces you to focus your mind. Also, You'll be able to understand important principles of aikido movement and technique.
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Tanto - Wooden knife is the smallest weapon in the Samurai's armoury, and is equal to a knife, broken glass or other stabbing weapon.
Aikidoka are trained to disarm an opponent armed with a tanto, and how to use it effectively against an opponent. The tanto is made of oak wood or rubber to encourage students to really attack, without fear of receiving an injury from falling onto or being hit with it.
Jo - 4ft wooden staff is a four foot wooden oak staff that is tough and flexible. The Jo is the main weapon of the Japanese Riot Police. In modern society this aikido weapon is similar to a pool cue or broom handle.
Bokken - wooden sword is used to teach traditional sword techniques. This would equal a baseball bat or length of wood. The techniques used to disarm an opponent armed with a bokken can readily be adapted to these modern street fighting weapons.
Katana - Samurai sword is generally only used by Dan grades. The practice of Iaido (sword drawing and fighting) helps you focus on your centre and at Nidan techniques may be demonstrated against live blades. Where as below this level the bokken is used.
I personally think it is good idea to include weapons practise to improve your skills. Obviously you must have a fully qualified Instructor to help you to understand all of the technical ideas and principles.
To fully develop traditional Aikido skills it is essential. But to understand and use Aiki principles in modern society... maybe not so important.