Aikido exercises can be divided into two broad categories… The stretching exercises and warm-ups done at the beginning of each class, and the repetitive drills which give you the ‘building block’ skills that your Aikido techniques will rely upon in order to work right.
The stretching part of Aikido exercises involves, for example, bending and touching your toes, sitting with your legs spread open wide, and stretching towards each foot in turn, then down the center. Or placing your (bare) feet, heels together, and pulling the feet towards your buttocks – then trying to push your knees to the ground on either side of you. This can all be a bit uncomfortable until you get used to it, but it keeps your body supple, and that is much more important in a fighting art than strength.
Stretching exercise reduce your chances of accidental injury while training, and warm up exercises make sure your muscles have been loosened so they can work faster. Also, your heart rate is also increased even before you start being thrown (break falling) or throwing your training partners around the dojo mats.
Then there are Aikido exercises to strengthen and toughen your wrists – this is in preparation for the Aikido wrist throws which your training partners will do with you.
Further Aikido exercises teach you to stand in correct (balanced) posture, to keep your center of gravity low, and to get your arm, leg and body movements correct. And once you can stand correctly, there are sets of foot movements and hand blade movements to be done. These are called Unsuko Undo and Tanduko Undo. They were invented by Kenji Tomiki Sensei, and they are unique to Shodokan Aikido. They are, if you like, a movement kata that you can practice on your own almost anywhere.
Then there are Tomiki Aikido exercises where you break your partner’s balance, but you do not actually throw him (or her). And your training partners will not fall for you either, unless they overbalance by mistake.
It does happen sometimes, but nobody gets hurt.
The actual Aikido throwing and holding techniques begin after these warm-up routines which also include ukemi practice – where the teacher and students will do several sets of breakfalls. These include falling on your back, falling to your sides and slapping the mats left and right, and finally doing forward rolls (rolling breakfalls) using both your right and your left arm.