What is the meaning of warming up in Aikido?
The definition of “Warm up”
is: a period of preparation and gentle movements before a game or an exercise session. Some Aikido teachers would argue that there is no warm-up in Aikido and some others are only following the protocol of their class.
Protocols and warm-ups vary from school to school, and it is a personal choice how it is delivered.
We cannot argue the fact that warm-up is a period of preparation for the class, and it is especially important because if the students are not properly warmed up, they might get injured during the class. I will always remember a yoga class that I attended over 20 years ago, the instructor at the time did not care to warm us up very well and I got injured during a lower back exercise. I have never been very flexible even though I have been practicing martial arts all my life on and off. After this experience, I always make sure that I am well prepared before teaching a class or attending a class.
There is a key point that we need to discuss about the above definition: a period of preparation before an exercise session, an aikido class. If a class starts at a certain time, the teaching starts with gentle, stretching exercises before proceeding into the core of the curriculum. It is usually about 10 minutes on average. The question is: is it really a warm-up? Or is it just the class?
We must consider two points of view to answer these questions and I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer. If the class is labeled as a beginner’s class, then the time spent on gentle and stretching exercises should be longer than 10min to well-prepared the students for the rest of the class planned by the teacher. If the class focuses on more advanced students, then the gentle and stretching exercises' time should be shorter.
It is said that Aikido is bushido, the way of the warrior, so that means we should always be ready for an eventual attack. The advanced student knows that it is necessary to show up for the class 20 to 30 minutes before class to warm up. The student must prepare for the class. It is obviously different for beginners because they need to be taught how to prepare their body for the class so that time is included in the fundamental class.
We should note that it takes less time for a young student to warm up than an older student so that is a factor that needs to be considered when a class is being taught.
We can conclude that for the beginner student, the initial 15 minutes of the class is an actual warm up and then when the student starts getting used to the training, preparation will start before the class.
Someone might ask so why are we doing the gentle and stretching movements for 10 minutes if we are already warmed up?
For most of us, we have remarkably busy lives, and it is difficult to bring our mind to a quiet place before training. The first 10-15 minutes follow the same protocol every time so the gentle and stretching movements in synchronization with the breathing helps our body to relax and it helps the mind to find the quiet place to allow it to focus on the teachings. In this case, the warm up or the first 10 min of the class gives us the opportunity to cross the bridge from the outside world to our dojo training.