At first glance, the idea of weight training and Aikido could appear to be much like water and oil that simply do not mix. Aikido has techniques that ideally utilise your opponents strength against them and Aikido Dojo’s are quick to correctly point out that Aikido is a martial art that any one of any physical ability or fitness level can practice. Training with weights conversely is a sport that has a specific focus on muscle building and rewards people with strong stature and physical strength based on the amount of relative effort one is prepared to put into training and diet.
Yet I would like to put it to you that there are several good reasons to train with weights at the gym to become better in your ability to practice Aikido if you are approaching or are over 40 years of age.
A point that I would like to focus on is that if we look historically at the students that trained under O’Sensei, there are several differences between modern Aikido training and the Aikido of his era. No one could simply turn up to an Aikido dojo and expect to be accepted as a student. Acceptance was never automatic to anyone except for those people the Sensei wished to be their students. In all the Aikido footage that I have seen from that time, We see people training that are clearly in good physical condition. These are people that train full time on bamboo mats break falling at speed and force into the bamboo mats. No hight density foam mats here! The reason is that your commitment as a student to your Sensei included your commitment to presenting yourself and maintaining an appropriate physical condition for the required training.
Another difference is that when O’Sensei led his students the prevalence of sugar and high fructose corn syrup and other things that feed into the health problems of the western world was very low. Its a sad day when you cannot find bread in your local supermarket that is sugar free, yet that is largely where we find ourselves today, with high calorie consumption considered normal. At the same time our lifestyle has become relatively sedentary which also leads to health problems for many people. As a result its common to see people following dieting plans and holding gym memberships working to correct some of these health issues. Sometimes more is needed than simply the cardio fitness you get at your Aikido training night each week to reverse this process and get you into shape.
Physical training for body building was the basis of the original Olympics and it is suggested that it was revived by Eugen Sandow (1867-1925). In our modern times it was made popular by the likes of Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the years a number of medical and scientific studies have been carried out on body building with some interesting results. What we know is that for people in general, muscle mass begins to naturally decline around the age of 40 years with a small percentage of loss occurring each year. Yet for those who train with even moderate weights, this process is reversed. It is quite possibly to reverse this loss of muscle and be in your 70’s with the same or better muscle mass than you had in your 30’s. While the jury is still out on why, evidence is beginning to show that for some people, Parkinson’s disease and other age related diseases, symptoms can show signs of improvement with weight training.
If you are over 40 and training in Aikido, it is a good thing to take onboard the attitude that you want to present yourself for training in your best physical condition. Because of the nature of what we do, falls, sprains and tendon strains are often experienced. Recovery from an injury can remove you from training for several months at a time. Presenting yourself to training in a good state of physical fitness and physical capability lessens your chance of injury and can shorten your recovery time in the event of an injury. Physical training will also capably prepare you for the cardio component of Aikido training if you wish to take your training to that level. If your form of Aikido takes techniques from the Yoshinkan school of Aikido, Then its expected that you will have the capacity to perform these techniques in the hard Yoshinkan style which is aided greatly by physical training.
If you would like to take this further I can suggest two books that may be of some help to you. The first is “Sweet Poison” why sugar makes us fat by David Gillespie – http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670072477/sweet-poison-why-sugar-makes-us-fat The second is “Natural Bodybuilding” by John Hansen which is a great book for beginners to look into and get started into natural body building. – http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Bodybuilding-John-Hansen/dp/0736053468