Aikido is often misunderstood as an outdated, ineffective, martial art with little practical use or benefit in the modern world; more so, it is often poorly represented, with many of these representations performed by actors or merely those who do not reflect the high quality and levels of proficiency certain Aikido practitioners [and teachers] possess. Whatever your opinion of Aikido currently, allow me to introduce you to some of the most integral elements of the art, including Etiquette, Ukemi, Buki waza, and Taijutsu, that may help to dispel some of the misconceptions about this noble art.

All traditional martial arts, such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu etc. take a lifetime to master and [sometimes] several years to learn the basics; that being said, each has one aspect of the art that is harder than any other – Aikido is no different.

There is one thing, above all others that is hardest in aikido… What could it be?


Etiquette, for some ‘Westerners’, is already well understood and practised in earnest, alongside good manners and proper conduct. For the Japanese however, they took etiquette to another level of elegance and depth. In traditional Japanese martial arts, this focus lives on in the practice of bowing before and after training, thanking your partner for training with you, and giving each and every person the greatest respect in the dojo.

Although these actions may seem alien at first, particularly to ‘westerners’, this becomes an integral part of aikido training that practitioners exhibit throughout life. In any case, it certainly isn’t the hardest thing about aikido.


Ukemi is more than falling, rolling, high-falls or receiving a technique; it is the vehicle to understand softness under pressure, flexibility under tension and fluidity under force.

Aikido teaches us the importance of a balanced, supple body that is ‘appropriately responsive’ to a change in circumstance, and ukemi is essential in this process. At first, the rolls and concepts may be challenging but over time they will become easy, and something you delight in training – It is possibly the softest thing in Aikido, not the hardest.


Buki waza, or ‘weapons techniques’ may at first seem questionable and unrealistic. “What use is swinging a wooden sword?” you may ask… Although it is true you will likely never have to duel someone, or be attacked by a crazed, katana-wielding, samurai on the street; the benefits of weapons training go way beyond these possibilities.

Buki waza develops body co-ordination, distance, timing, and martial awareness, while improving mental stamina, balance and focus. Whether training solo [suburi], paired exercises [kumi tachi/jo] or even ‘weapons taking techniques’ [tachi/jo dori] you can be sure that it is more profound than merely ‘swinging sticks’ and holds merit in the modern era.

However initially confusing, frustrating and seemingly impossible Buki waza may first appear, it is not the hardest thing about Aikido.


Taijutsu, or ‘body/empty handed techniques’ form the other half of the aikido-coin, with Buki waza its opposite.

Aikido is purported to have thousands of possible combinations of techniques [yes, you read that right]; they develop from basic/fixed positions into more flowing, connected movements, until the point of naturally blossoming techniques. Don’t worry… no one expects you to remember thousands of techniques.

Taijutsu practice [as is the case with all of Aikido training], is as useful at home, in board meetings, [and anywhere else you may find yourself] as it is in the dojo. You are learning more than simple self-defence, you are learning tools for daily life and how to manage conflict in a harmonious and non-aggressive manner.

With such a huge empty-handed syllabus, myriad technical possibilities and ‘fighting without fighting’, it could be argued that Taijutsu is the hardest thing about aikido – but this is not the case.


I appreciate by now, your head is probably swimming with new ideas about Aikido and what it offers those who train, but we still haven’t answered the original question: “What is the hardest thing about Aikido?”

The answer, as simple as it may seem, is actually twofold; it is the same situation as the dual sides of the coin analogy [used earlier].

Nothing is harder than walking into an unfamiliar place, with new people, doing something completely alien to you. 

“Worse yet, they are fitter [maybe], more flexible [possibly], and you would only slow them down”…

Sadly, this is how some people think about starting at clubs, gyms and groups, and this is why they feel unsure or unable to take that first step into the dojo. For new starters, the prospect is so daunting, they choose instead to continue with their day-to-day life, unaware of what they could be missing…

For people who have never experienced aikido, [perhaps you] the hardest thing is taking the initial step on the mat.

Hopefully, this will make you [and others] reconsider that decision, and you can become part of the International Aikido community.


For those of you who have been training 6 months, 10 years or longer still, the hardest thing about Aikido is actually not Aikido – it is everything else.

Training is simple, consistent and fulfilling  [not that you need telling]; you have no expectations or attainment goals. We are simply content being in the process and learning lifelong, that there is always more to discover and you can always find somewhere to train or someone to train with.

Other matters of life such as home, work, relationships, bills and anything that isn’t Aikido, becomes the hardest thing about the training. Why can’t all things be as simple as ichi, ni, san?…

I hope you have enjoyed this article, it indended to give a [relatively] brief insight into the core elements of Aikido practice and my [own, personal] reasons for loving it – even the hardest part. If this article has piqued your interest, please check Is aikido right for me? or contact us directly.

On a personal note,

Thank you to all who i train and learn with/from on [and off] the mat… you have my utmost respect and complete gratitude.


All comments and opinions made are my own.