Avoiding injury in Aikido training

It is only natural for anyone interested in taking up a martial art to be concerned about the potential for injury.  Fortunately, serious injuries in Aikido are quite rare.

Ian Grant (a) On its face this probably seems strange given that Aikido is a full contact martial art which amongst other things involves techniques where the attacker almost always ends up being sent to the ground.  The outcome can largely be attributed to the higher emphasis on safe practice advocated by the vast majority of dojo’s.

While safe practice is a without doubt everyone’s responsibility in the dojo, there are many simple things that an individual can do to minimise their chance of injury during training practice.  These include the following:

  • Always warm up

Make sure you get to class in time to participate in the preliminary warm up exercises.  If for some reason are late, take responsibility and do some warm up exercises prior to starting active practice.

  • Make learning ukemi (the art of falling) a priority

It cannot be emphasised enough that learning to fall and roll correctly out of techniques (i.e. ukemi) is absolutely critical to the practice of Aikido.  Practitioners who for whatever reason decide not to learn ukemi not only place themselves in a position where it almost impossible to become proficient in our martial art, but also place themselves at high risk of harm.

  • Learn to relax

Always easier said than done when you first start, but if you can maintain a relaxed state of mind and body during practice, your chance of injury significantly decreases.  Remember its much easier to snap a twig than a pillow.

  • Listen to the Sensei (teacher)

Your safety is the Sensei’s priority.  If the Sensei points out that a particular technique has the potential for risk take note of this and the stated ways of avoiding it.

  • Be aware of your surrounds

When practising techniques, remain aware that others are also sharing the mat – in short do not set yourself up to be thrown on another person.  Conversely, do not linger on the mat after receiving a technique.

  • Be honest about your abilities

Don’t train beyond your abilities.  If you need your partner to slow down or take it easy because you are getting out of your depth – be upfront.  Further, if your training partner for some reason is starting to rely on physical strength rather than technique or for any reason is getting rough, speak up and bring it to their attention.

  • Practise more than once a week

I recently read a report that a research study undertaken for a master’s thesis found that persons who practice Aikido less than twice a week or more than 5 times a week experienced a significantly higher injury rate than those who practised between 2-5 times a week. This is something you may wish to keep in mind when planning your training schedule.

  • Other factors 

In a study by Phillip Smith published in the Spring 2009 Edition of the Journal of Sports Therapy it was found that there appears to be no correlation between injuries in Aikido and any of the following factors –

  • grade of the student;
  • age of the student; or
  • years of practice.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo