Development Of Aikido
The Founder envisaged 4 elements to training to aid development .
The first of these is Kon No Keiko (魂 の稽古, spirited practice) this is the diamond element characterised by solid practice and strong grips. It represents the bodies bones.
Second is Ju No Keiko (柔 の稽古, gentle practice) this is the willow element characterised by flexibility and movement, this practice is soft and reasonably compliant. It represents the bodies flesh.
Third is Ryu No Keiko (流 の稽古, flowing practice) this is the stream element characterised by fluid practice similar to water this is often done with rapid movement and requires good ukemi. It represents the bodies blood.
Finally there is Ki No Keiko (気 の稽古, energy practice) this is the air element characterised by energetic practice which has no fixed form. It represents the bodies breath.
O Sensei said the ultimate form of aikido and budo is what he called Takemusu Aiki (武産合氣) the birth of martial technique through harmonizing energy. “the spontaneous generation of technique through blending movements”. Ideally all waza are exercises to help achieve this.
One thing which separates Aikido from many other arts is that all the techniques can be learned and accessed regardless of how long a person has practised. Even juniors can apply all techniques (though not all techniques can be applied to juniors).
This means Aikido techniques are not grade restricted however there is a degree of expectation of how well they are practised at different grade levels.
The techniques are a means to practice Aikido and its principles so it is possible to stream practitioners into different classes of practice. This is commonly used at big courses and Summer Schools when classes may be split by grade.
Sho Gakko ( 小学校, Lower School) Sho Gakko means "lower School". Sho Gakko means "lower School". This is essentially the beginner grades 0, 6th, 5th kyu (White, red, yellow belts in Juniors). These are the least experience graded practitioners and the classes are focuses on, kihon dosa, shisei, tai sabaki and ukemi. Correct attack and positioning are also a focus in these classes.
Chu Gakko (中学校, middle school) these clases are for developing grades 4th, 3rd, and 2nd kyu (Orange and Green Belts for junior grades). Having got a good feel for aikido these students should have the rudiments of most techniques and started to understand how they relate to each other. These are the grades where students start to seriously study there aikido techniques and tai sabaki, getting it to flow. Developing timing, Maai and Zanshin becomes important at these grades.
Koto Gakko (高等学校, upper school) this class if for higher grades Ikkyu and the Yudansha (Blue and Brown Belts for junior grades). This willoften include potential candidates for Ikkyu. In the B.A.F. these are the senior classmen and people who should know all the standard techniques and should be able to perform them at an increasingly higher standard. This allows the students to progress and develop there own study and is where aikido truly begins for them. There is a focus on developing Aiki, and Kokyu, softness and grace of technique. At this level there are also instructors classes for teachers.