You don’t need much aikido equipment to teach this martial art, which is bad news for the sellers of martial arts equipment. The good news, is that there are plenty of Aikido books (and a few ebooks, too). Plus Aikido videos and lately Aikido DVDs.
While fitting out a hall for Aikido training doesn’t require your buying expensive exercise equipment like fitness machines, you still need a few items of sports equipment.
Your largest investment by far will be the martial arts mats which are necessary if your aikido students are to take Ukemi (perform safe aikido breakfalls) again and again without injury.
The traditional option is to use Japanese tatami, which are often referred to as Judo mats. Actually, these were the thick and hard sleeping mats of the traditional wooden Japanese home. Tatami were originally made of packed straw, and could seem rock-hard after years of pounding bodies in a dojo (a martial arts training hall).
Today there are many improved options, from interlocking jigsaw mats or puzzle mats, to thick foam floors covered with vinyl or canvas tarpaulins.
Mats can be laid down before class and removed afterwards, as in a shared community hall, while the floors with tarpaulin covers are for permanent aikido dojos or perhaps a Judo room. There the safety mats stay can stay on the floor undisturbed for months, possibly years.
Permanent safety mat systems that I have seen have all had a wooden frame around the borders of the mat area. A tarpaulin cover is stretched over this and attached to hooks on the wood frame with rubber (bungee) cords. All of the foam rubber mats underneath are completely sealed from view and are well protected from gathering dust and other unwanted debris.
A great advantage is that there are no cracks between the mats for you to snag your toes in and possibly break them. And I have seen that happen with traditional tatami mats that fitted together imperfectly. Indeed I have broken my own toes during training, and it is nothing to laugh about.
The tarpaulin-covered mats are also simple to clean quickly with a broom or a vacuum cleaner, and to scrub with a mop or wet towels.
You can glide quickly and safely over the mats and tarpaulin using the (Tsubi-Ashi, sword fencer’s shuffle) we use often in Aikido.
Other necessary equipment includes Aikido uniforms (keigo gi or do gi), which are usually the same thing as a Judo gi, but not always. Traditional Aiki styles will use hakamas for teachers, senior students and females; but most Shodokan schools do not.
Shodokan Aikido schools use a rubber tanto knife for training, where the knife must be soft to prevent eye injuries – especially during randori free practice and in shiai competition. Traditional Aikido schools use the traditional Japanese hardwood weapons, the tanto (knife), bokken (sword) and the jo (short fighting staff).
Of course, there is always a market for aikido books, training videos and DVDs, as long as the prices are affordable.