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Take up an art. Aikido is a form of Japanese martial arts often translated as ‘way of unifying life energy'. It is designed for the purpose of self-defence but is great for exercising every limb and joint in the body as well as increasing flexibility, muscle tone, co-ordination and awareness. Although you get fit practising Aikido, it focuses more on movement, timing and reaction, giving your brain a good work-out at the same time.

How does it work?

This form of self defence teaches you how to respond to different types of attacks and how to disarm an attacker using various throws, holds and joint locks. As much as this sounds brutal, they are applied so as not to cause their attacker any serious injury. The emphasis of this defence is not to compete but to control the attacker by taking their force and balance into your own hands.

There are certain practices that need to be followed during a training session, for example at the beginning and end of an Aikido class, it is traditional to line up and bow to the instructor, and to a partner before and after practising with them. Some classes may even require you to say ‘onegaishimasu’ which means ‘please practice with me’ and ‘domo arigato gozaimashita’ at the end which means ‘thank you very much’.

In terms of equipment, the only thing you will need is a loose fitting outfit, a white Judo style uniform, otherwise known as ‘gi’. Women usually wear a t-shirt or tank top under their gi.

Aikidoists gather at large practice sessions and seminars where everyone trains together, so you won’t have to worry about being alone with your almighty tough instructor. In fact, Aikido classes are a great way to not only get fit but also meet people.

Is it for me?

Aikido is available to almost anyone who wants to learn it. You could be five years old or eighty years old and it wouldn’t matter. You don’t have to have previous experience or be in tip top physical condition. In fact, if you’re not in top form physical condition it may help you to strengthen up. However, if you're not in your best shape it would be wise to consult your doctor and the chief Aikido instructor first.

Nevertheless, beginners will start off at a slow and easy pace, therefore if it is too strenuous for you to handle, you can back out in time before you cause yourself any serious harm. Don't worry; we can't all be like Jackie Chan!

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