There are a great many aspects to aikido and most dojos have their own specific take on how important they are. This section should give you some insight into how these are regarded at Balance Aikido.
Many dojos operate with some level of Japanese martial arts etiquette. This usually ranges from the highly formal to the medium formal. At Balance Aikido we don't follow that route. The etiquette is the barest minimum. This means we bow in at the start of session, and bow out at the end. Beyond that we don't follow it at all. There are several reasons for this but one of the main ones is something that Ichihashi sensei said to Alan Ruddock, "Remember, all these things like bowing and sitting in seiza are Japanese – not aikido. You know better than we do how to teach foreigners. When you go back home, respect the ways of your country, remember to teach aikido your way." Please not that while etiquette is regarded in this manner respect for each other is not.
A lot of aikido dojos train heavily with weapons and Balance Aikido is no exception. Where we differ is that instead of performing the prolific aiki-ken (aikido sword) from Iwama that most places do, we practice the Aiki Toho Iai. This is a form of Iaido that was devised by Shoji Nishio Shihan to connect the correct use of the sword to aikido. The simplest way to think of Iaido is - the fastest gun in the west but with swords. This is conducted as a solo practice with wooden training swords.
There are generally two methods to conduct gradings in aikido. The one that most dojos use is a very formal grading system where each student demonstrates their knowledge to the sensei in a test. At Balance Aikido we already know the abilities of the students and the level they are at. There is no real formal grading. When you are consistently training at a level appropriate to a grade you will be awarded that grade without a formal examination.
There are two schools of thought in aikido. That it is a martial art, and that it is a tool for self-improvement and nothing else. At Balance Aikido it is regarded as a martial art and emphasised as such. In order to fully understand the art, and to promote self-improvement, it is important to train aikido in the concept that it was originally created for. A martial art. Aikido can be one of the most devastating martial arts when done correctly; however, only if it is trained as such. If you do that then the lessons of the techniques become obvious.
We aim to walk a narrow path between the middle of the two opposing views. Our goal is to improve ourselves through the study of an effective martial art. To become better people and foster a sense of inner calm and harmony by absorbing the martial lessons into our daily lives.