Should I Bother Getting Strong to Do Aikido?

DSC_5090Yes and no.

Aikido is a real martial art. Being strong and fast will make your aikido better. But if you try to do aikido strong and fast, your aikido will be terrible.

You see, performing an aikido technique does not take great strength. Trying to apply a technique by force will give your attacker (uke) the opportunity to overpower you or reverse your technique.

The reason we want to be strong and fast as aikidoists is because being strong and fast is a healthy condition for human beings. And if we’re taking our aikido seriously, then we want to take care of ourselves properly. This is why I brought kettlebell training into the dojo and consistently train with them myself.

The extraordinary athlete who brought kettlebells to the United States is Pavel Tsatsouline. Pavel has created a new organization called Strong First. Here’s some of what he has on the front page:

You can be anything you want. A warrior. An athlete. A hard man or woman ready to handle whatever life throws at you. But you must be strong first.

“Strength is the foundation for development of the rest of physical qualities,” stated Professor Leonid Matveev. It takes priority over all others: endurance, flexibility, etc.

Until one becomes “entry level strong,” e.g., a strict bodyweight military press for men or strict pull-ups for women, no priority other than strength can be justified for a healthy athlete. Science and experience have taught us that any athlete, even in ultra-endurance sports, who has not built a foundation of strength will fail to reach his or her potential. Strength has been compared to a glass that can be filled with other qualities; the larger the glass, the more endurance, sport skill, fat loss, etc. it can hold.

What Pavel says here is unquestionably correct.

Gabriel Cuppet kettlebell military press

Gabriel Cuppet is doing a military press with a 35 pound kettlebell. This photo is from early in Gabriel’s strength & training program.

We need to be strong to be healthy, effective aikidoists, athletes, human beings. With strength comes endurance and productivity and physical beauty and fun and long lives. Did I mention fun?

Doing aikido while strong is way more fun than doing aikido while weak. Doing anything while strong is way better than doing anything while weak.

How strong, you ask? That’s part of the fun. You start where you’re at and build from there.

So let’s get strong and have a great time!


  1. Great insights Frank!

  2. Thanks, Eric.

    I am consistently surprised and pleased by how much my aikido is improved by getting strong with kettlebell training. The strength and conditioning training we do isn’t about bulking up or becoming some caricature of a healthy person. Our strength and conditioning training is about becoming highly functional and really healthy.

    Best of all, our kettlebell training works. Our students are getting strong and highly mobile with excellent endurance. I see it in their training every day. And we have so much fun, everyone’s disappointed when time is up.

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