Our Martial Arts

About Aikido

Our main focus is connecting students to the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Aikido is a martial art of minimalism; it seeks to use the least amount of energy, effort, strength, speed, and work to nullify attacks and remove danger from attackers. Where many martial arts begin with basic movements and progress to difficult and complicated techniques, advancement in Aikido trains us to focus on mastering the basic and simple even in difficult and complicated situations. 

If you're new to Aikido, I'm thrilled you're considering learning Aikido with us.  If you're new to martial arts, I'm humbled and honored that you're thinking of Aikido as a starting point for your martial arts journey! Training in martial arts is a wonderful and amazing experience.  There are a lot of styles, teachers, and choices out there! 

I hope to have the chance to train along side you as you follow your martial-arts journey.

Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei
Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), known to Aikido students as O Sensei (Great Teacher).As a young man, he overcame debilitating childhood illnesses through martial arts practice, eventually becoming a master of the sword, the staff, the spear, and the art of ju-jitsu. O Sensei also held strong Shinto religious convictions concerning the ultimate futility of conflict and the illusory character of victory based on strength. This internal contradiction, which drove O Sensei to adopt a life of austerity and rigorous training, was resolved through an enlightenment experience which led to the development of Aikido, a martial art influenced by a philosophy of universal harmony.
What Aikido Means

Ai

Harmony, whole, to fit together, to combine, to unite

 

KI

Spirit, inclination, will, life, breath

 

 

DO

Road, path, way, principle, method

Beginning Aikido

There's a lot to learn about the martial art of Aikido. Reading and research will get you started, but the best introduction comes on the mat. I hope to see you there!

Aikido training has also been shaped by its philosophy of harmony. There are no competitions or tournaments in Aikido. Rank is awarded through a testing procedure which emphasizes self-discipline, rather than the mastery of others. Daily practice focuses on the development of technical skills and awareness through the constant repetition of techniques in a controlled environment in order to master the fundamentals of moving, timing, and breathing.

Most practice is done with a partner: each working at his or her own level of ability, alternating as uke (the attacker) and nage (the one who is attacked). Both roles are stressed; each contributes skills that enhance overall sensitivity and control.

Students train to neutralize the energy of the opponent's attack and to redirect and focus it into techniques of martial efficiency and power. At the same time, the student can use the same philosophy to deal with stress and conflict in daily life, and learn to remain calm under all conditions.

How Aikido Works

All Aikido techniques and movements are based on the idea of harmony. Aikido emphasizes blending with an attacker by moving in such a way as to neutralize the force of the attack itself and thus neutralize the attacker. This is done by using spherical movements which allow the Aikido student to deflect the attacker's energy while simultaneously entering close to the attacker; "to blend with the attack," and so neutralize it.

Properly executed, some techniques are spectacular, sending the opponent flying through the air. Others are more subtle: small deft movements that immobilize the aggressor. Both results are achieved not through the use of brute strength, but by blending and neutralizing the attack, followed by circular and flowing techniques to unsettle the opponent, and completing the movement with a throw or immobilization. Because great strength is not required, Aikido can be practiced by men and women of all ages.

Wooden practice weapons — a sword (bokken), staff (jo) and knife (tanto) — are sometimes used in aikido training.  Often weapons are used in aikido martial arts classes to examine a concept or technique in additional ways.  Many aikido martial arts techniques are based on sword techniques, and the movement of sword cuts can be seen throughout the defense.  Additional techniques are based on the disarming of an attacker. 

The Goal of Aikido

The final aim of Aikido is to integrate physical and mental training to develop a confident person who can think clearly and react instantly on and off the mat. It is only through constant training that an Aikidoist can acquire the habits of mind which make this integration possible.

In Aikido, such an integrated person is said to be "centered." A centered person displays a confident and relaxed posture, and centering gives Aikido movements their appearance of grace and simple elegance. Thus, Aikido training helps a student to become calm and centered and enables the student to deal with stress and aggression in an efficient and decisive manner on the mat, at home, at school, or at work.

Testing for Aikikai Rank

Arundel Aikikai offers color-belt testing for it's youth and teen students.  Teen and adult students can test for internationally recognized martial arts rank in Aikido through our parent dojo, Capital Aikikai.  Martial arts rank obtained through testing at Capital Aikikai is officially recognized by the Aikikai in Japan.

Capital Aikikai hosts Aikido tests for martial arts rank roughly three times per year.  Costs are generally around $30 for Kyu ranks, but check their website for the current rates.  Additionally, if you're testing you'll need to fill out an application for rank.  You can view Capital Aikikai's testing information here.

Our Dojo

Our Classes

Our classes are 90 minutes and generally follow a pattern of prepare, train, and finish.  Each class involves creating a training space, stretching and basics, and an examination of techniques.  Classes are never exactly the same, and feedback is encouraged!

To prepare, we

  • Prepare the space: If practice mats need to be laid down, we "build-a-dojo!"
  • Prepare our minds: Reiho, or the bowing in ceremony
  • Prepare our bodies: stretching and warmup

During practice

  • Basic drills, techniques, or concepts
  • Tumbling or other basic movements
  • Full techniques or situation

Wrap-up includes

  • Bow-out of class
  • Reflection or discussion on class content
  • Put any supplies or mats away
Our Students

Aikido's approach to generating power allows a smaller person to be effective against a larger attacker. Many of our students are parent-child pairs who train together! Our martial arts classes are open to individuals at least 10 years of age or older and are taught as mixed-age classes. Family discounts are available, and it is strongly preferred for parents or older siblings to participate alongside younger students.

Our Instructor

Christian Noll is the founder of Arundel Aikikai, and it's instructor. He has been training in the martial art of Aikido since 2007. He began training in Aikido at Aikido of Annapolis, a member of Capital Aikikai.  In 2010 he had the chance to provide regular cross-training sessions in Aikido to students at an Annapolis area sport-style Tae Kwon Do studio beginning in in 2010. By 2011 this had grown to include a dedicated Aikido class. In 2014 - After several years of growth and gains, Arundel Aikikai, LLC was formed out of this class. Christian currently holds the rank of shodan in Aikido through Capital Aikikai. In addition to teaching regular classes for Aikido students and cross training classes for Tae Kwon Do students, Christian has taught several Aikido-focused weapons seminars for Taekwondo groups and camps.

Christian first began training in martial arts in 1999 in a classical/non-sport hard-style Tae Kwon Do with Chung Do Kwan USA, with whom he currently hold the rank of sandan. Training in this style created his emphasis on honest practicality in training.  The ongoing interpretation and examination of the style's 21 forms, one-step sparring, and other drills designed to test the material with partners created a great platform to appreciate the partner drills of Aikido.

For group activities, it is always important to know what you are getting into with an instructor. This is infinitely MORE important when the activity you're thinking of doing involves being deliberately being attacked. For fun. ... On purpose. Thank you for taking the time to learn about me.  I hope to meet you soon. 

Our Approach

Our Training Attitude

If - when you think of martial arts classes - the first thing you picture involves shouting martial arts instructors, angry pajamas, and abuse... you're in for a surprise with martial arts at Arundel Aikikai.  We teach martial arts with a kind attitude and a contagious enjoyment of our martial arts content. Each martial arts class we teach is unique, but follows the same basic patterns.  Our educational approach could be considered "flipped," spending martial arts dojo time critically examining marital arts content with the instructor and your peers. Our attitude in training is open, kind, enthusiastic, and ultimately contagious!

Open

Our skills improve when we train with diverse people and challenge ourselves with new situations.

The greater the differences between training partners; the greater the potential learning!  As an instructor, I am open to being challenged by questions and also open to failing!  Students are open to asking questions and discovering answers!

 Enthusiastic

When you love something, you practice with enthusiasm!  

When you love something, you develop discipline to do it more often!  I truly cherish time spent training and learning martial arts.  I have an inescapably great time when I train.  I hope to provide the same for you!

 
Practical

Martial arts are completely honest; you get out what you put in!  

You are studying body mechanics, kinetic physics, and combative mentalities when learning to apply martial arts in self-defense. There is no time for strange or silly movements; everything has a purpose.  There any allowances for misunderstanding how the body generates force; everything must be as efficient as possible.  This economy of motion is the core truth of martial arts, anything else is dancing.

Our Training Method
Flipping Education in Martial Arts

In academic settings, Flipped classrooms refer to a reversal of the normal approach to teaching. Rather than listening to lectures from teachers as a class during the day and completing homework as a follow-up activity individually or in groups, flipped classrooms seek to reverse this. Lectures or content is prepared and delivered outside of class time via videos or other material. The actual class time is utilized for the students to truly explore the content with the teacher acting as a guide and amplifiers of the learning potential of the students' questions, comments, and discoveries.

At Arundel Aikikai, students are welcomed/encouraged to do pushups, sit-ups, forms, drills and/or running on their own time should they so desire. During class time, all work is focused on providing space for the students to explore the foundations, applications, and improvements of martial arts movement with partners and their instructor. Questions are welcomed, expected, and often immediately incorporated into the current class theme to explore further! (As a note of caution/encouragement though; if you ask the question, you're the recipient of the answer!) Time in the dojo with Arundel Aikikai is spent mutually exploring Aikido in martial situations.

If this is confusing - excellent! Through confusion, students are able to engage the source material and make it their own in a way that isolated repetition of words or motion never could accomplish. While this method usually takes longer for students to fully realize what they've learned, it grants the ability to cast a critical eye on their own martial arts output, as well as that of others or other instructors. 

We seek to create a unique training environment, or at least a rare one! When you picture a martial arts studio or dojo, what's your first thought?  Is it pushups or jumping-jacks?  Maybe it's yelling or hitting bas in groups.  It might be a group running, or maybe a group doing a kicks, and punches in unison.  These activities are fine strength building or repetitive desensitization drills, but are not actually "martial arts."  In all of the above, you do not fully need a martial arts teacher (and pay for studio fees and mat time) to effectively do these things!  The best educational approach I've come across to describe how this works it the "Flipped Classroom" approach.

Our Training Goals

Martial Arts training is effective when it taps into the body's ability to link memory to motion -- or muscle memory. The more the medical, biological, psychological, and anthropological sciences learn about the human mind and memory, the more we realize that our brains are not computers in the way memory works.  Where computers utilize descriptions and dates to store isolated and static components of information or commands, humans use emotions.   Memory is grounded in situation, and allows humans to translate information into motion much faster than computer commands. 

 
Declarative Memory

No time for checklists! Just Move!

The first category -- declarative memory -- is where humanity falls short of computing's recall abilities in speed and accuracy. This is the realm of grocery lists, addresses, and emails. Many martial arts instructors fall into the "if-then" trap of teaching. As declarative memory is closer to our analytical surface, it's what we think of when we talk about memory. The temptation is to leave training to our declarative memory, and not dig deeper. "IF" there is a high attack, "THEN" use a high block. On its face, this is a fine statement.

However, "remember" that this area of memory is where we are weakest. When under attack, it takes far too long for declarative processes to: recognize a dangerous situation; confirm a threat; identify an attack; assess the attack; recall defense options; link defensive options to identified attack; choose the appropriate defensive option; and activate the appropriate defense technique. To be effective in martial arts, that entire sentence has to occur BEFORE the reality of the "IF." If it seems impossible, don't worry, it is

Implicit Memory
In human memory, our abilities are generally divided into two categories: explicit and implicit.  The second category -- implicit memory -- is where humanity excels beyond any computer.
 
Implicit memory is the realm of emotions, peripheral vision, feelings, reflexes, and autonomic responses. There is no "if" in this realm, rather a memory-triggered procedural response that unleashes your movements with blinding speed.
 
Building muscle memory by repetition is one part of this category. Through exercises, you develop process memory and teach your body the "how" of movement (no "then"). In many ways, implicit memory has already given us all the raw material we need as martial artists. When a baseball is flying towards your head, you will likely react to dodge or brace yourself before you can even process the details of the "why." If you see something out of the corner of your eye that startles you, adrenaline and immediate evasive motion occur as quickly as a blink. These responses are vital, and immediate. They effectively process an overwhelming amount of contextual, structural, and situational information, link this information to an immediate response, and initiate a physical action over an immense network of "you" faster than most computers open a program. This is the raw processing power of implicit memory.
 
In martial arts training, we seek to refine, improve, or strengthen the body's procedural responses while providing the body a chance to update or expand the student's implicit memory to include martial arts situations. Learning a "technique" or a "move" is useless if the mind cannot link what the body has learned to implicit procedural memory. Inversely, the most basic martial movements can be devastating through timing with the simplest linking to implicit memory. Effectiveness in this approach does not come from a list of things you learn and repeat. Rather, true power comes from instilling the procedures of martial movement in the students' implicit memory.
Training Rules and Guidelines

Training Rules

When we train in martial arts, a space that allows us to make mistakes safely is critical. In a real sense, institutions that train individuals for any kind of combat or violence are truly some of the original "safe spaces" of the world - while learning any combat art, your teachers and fellow students may be harsh, but are not actually trying to kill you. The rules of our dojo are fairly simple, and place you -- the student -- in control of much of what you do and experience.

Stay Safe

If you fear for you safety or life, you will likely not learn very much.

Have Fun

If you are not able to enjoy what you do, you will not learn very much.

Learn Aikido

If you stay safe and have fun while working out with us, the third rule happens automatically.  You learn Aikido by experiencing it's techniques and by trying over and over again; something made possible by staying safe and having fun! 

 


 

Training Guidelines

When learning or practicing the martial art of Aikido, there are some general guidelines and practices to be aware of that will help keep you safe and get the most out of your training! For the most part, these are universal in the martial art of Aikido, and can likely be found in some degree in most dojo you visit.

You are in charge of you

We do our best to encourage you to expand while adapting content to meet you where you are.  Some of the exercises are intentionally challenging or difficult. Within this context though, it is important that you listen to your own body.  You are fully in charge of what you do while training, and are ultimately in charge of your own safety.  

Listen with your body

Connecting to your attacker and their attack keeps you safe. Connecting to your attacker is also how you learn Aikido.  Your body can not figure out what the attacker is doing if you are rigid, too strong, or trying to stop the attacker from moving.  Stay safe, stay learning and stay connected as you listen with your body to learn Aikido.

You exit the speed you enter

All of our techniques are practiced in partners or groups.  When beginning, such practice can be intimidating.  If you don't yet feel confident in receiving a technique or throw in response to your attack, then attack slowly.  In Aikido, this tells the other partner to apply the technique just as slowly.

Tap to stop

In addition to strikes and throws, Aikido also utilizes pins and pressure.  If at anytime you are working with a partner and the technique causes pain, simply tap / slap any surface loudly and keep tapping until the technique is halted (it is normal practice to halt techniques as soon as a partner taps once, but it never hurts to tap more!) .  Do not be in a such a rush to tap, though, that you miss the chance to let your body listen to how, where, and when the technique works.

What goes around comes around

I call this the iron rule of martial arts training.  When training in pairs, almost everyone attacks as well as defends.  Take care that you attack and defend sincerely, but carefully.  If one partner is overly aggressive in attacking or defending, the other partner will almost always have a chance to return the sentiment. While not inherently bad, this usually results in both people missing the lesson of the technique or class by only focusing on competing with each other. It is far better to work together to understand the techniques.

Our Milestones
Our primary approach to measuring student skill is through tracking progress in martial arts milestones. Students can test for rank if they wish, but testing or not testing for martial arts rank does not keep students from learning any content!
These milestones are some of the core areas of martial arts content every martial artist works on improving. We are all on the same martial arts learning curve; the same loop of success and frustration. These aren't improved on a straight line, but a never-ending circle. Focusing on these basic milestones of martial arts will take your training far better than belts, ranks, or titles.
Milestone One: Shape(s)
Circles! Triangles! Squares! Oh Myyyyyyyyyyyyy!
Are you able to create a cohesive and stable structure out of your body's various parts, unting your arms and legs with your center (hara)? Can your body recognize the core shapes present in Aikido - the square, circle, and triangle? Can you place your body, mind, and energy (ki) into these structures?
Milestone Two: Motion
Just keep moving ... Just keep moving!
In responding to attack, are you able to keep your structure and shape intact throughout movement? Are you able to change your shape to meet the needs of your situation? Are you able to change your attacker's shape? These are some of the elements in this milestone.
Milestone Three: Energy
What goes around, ALWAYS comes around
Do you demonstrate aware, sincere, and controlled attacks? As you practice ukemi (tumbling, falling, rolling, receiving attacks), are you aware of your shape and your movements? Is your ukemi soft and fluid? Is your ukemi appropriate for the martial arts technique applied to you? Do you resist techniques with force, or connect to them to learn what your opponent is doing?
Milestone Four: Connection
Witchcraft! Aikido-Jedi-Mind-Tricks!
When you attack, are you soft and fluid, or rigid and quick? When defending, are you able to move slowly and calmly with freedom, or do you move quickly and suddenly? Are you able to connect to yourself and then to your attackers? Are you able to keep and control the connection throughout the exchange?
Milestone 5: Centered
There is no spoon (?)
In all things, are you in complete control of your body, mind, and energy? Are you able to move independently of attackers or defenders? Are you able to attack or defend at will, flow between techniques, find reversal moments, or defend without techniques?
Our Curriculum

Our approach to curriculum leads the students beyond the punch and past the kick. At Arundel Aikikai, we focus on creating the space for our students to learn advanced physical concepts in the most useful way - their muscle memory. We do the same exact thing -- in a completely new and different way -- every night. Students develop their skills working together through one-on-one attacks, multiple-attacker situations, weapon take-aways, and "deep-dives" into the concepts that make everything in martial arts work. 

Martial Arts curriculum -- unlike academics or other skill curriculum -- isn't an "add and advance" style of linear skill progression. Students can "add" a technique or a "move" through instruction and have it in their mind. If the body does not know the technique though, the martial arts "moves" cannot be recalled and/or utilized with any degree of expediency or effectiveness (if they can even be recalled fast enough when it counts!).

Instead of focusing on "the next thing," there is a general curriculum goal - to empower students bodies to learn martial movement that automatically is called up and applied to appropriate situations through muscle memory. It's a longer-term approach than linear technique-focused teaching which centers around "learning to punch" or "how to kick." This learning, however, is a deeper and more meaningful engagement of the material which leaves the students better prepared and better positioned.