Aikido training consists of two basic steps -- kata and randori. (In some aikido schools, they only practice kata.) Where it is practical to do so, shiai may be added to hone the skills acquired in randori.

[I] Kata. Aikido training begins with repeated practice of kata until the waza are sufficiently internalized (or mastered). [Kata is fundamental movements in aikido, typically involving two partners, in which tori applies specific waza (often translated rather incompletely as 'technique') on uke repeatedly.] In kata practice, the tori and uke follow movements that have been agreed upon in advance.

Two basic methods are known in the practice of kata: (A) kata is practiced and performed in a flowing fashion as precisely as possible, usually following the demonstrations of a master instructor; (B) kata is practiced as a prototype of some basic waza. [In Japan, two different characters are often used to differentiate (A) and (B). In the traditional martial arts of the bygone centuries, the latter concept was preferred.]

(A) The first concept is applied in kata practice in most aikido schools.

(B) The second concept was emphasized by Professor Tomiki as an important part of the training (without neglecting the first concept). The student practices the kata on both sides, not just on the right or the left side. After the student has
sufficiently mastered the basic kata, the manner of attack (by uke) can undergo variations; this is to ensure the mastery of the kata for different circumstances. Students of the Tomiki School are urged to practice kata in this manner, without implying any prejudice against the training method in (A).

[II] Randori. After internalizing waza through kata, one learns to apply them in situations where movements (manners of attack and hence manners of defense) are random, with some constraints to avoid unnecessary injuries. This method of training is known as randori. In randori, participants usually do not know in advance who will attack and who will defend, approximating situations in real life. Thus, in randori, tori and uke are not distinguished.

[III] Shiai. An aspect of aikido training can take the form of shiai or a competitive sport. However, a sport competition requires above all safety for the contestants and that imposes some limitations in tournament (shiai) aikido. Certain aspects of aikido training (as a martial art) are not suitable for competition.

Realistically conducted randori can also accomplish similar objectives as in shiai. Shiai is in effect a form of randori under a set of rules that make it a competitive sport.

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