How to Become an Aikido Instructor

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Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) designed so people can defend themselves while at the same time protecting their attackers from getting hurt. The discipline roughly translates as “the way of harmonious spirit.” It is unique among the martial arts for its focus on stopping violence without causing harm in the process.

Aikido instructor demonstrating a takedown move

Aikido instructors teach students the methods and philosophy of this martial arts discipline developed 100 years ago. Technical skills consist mainly of throws and joint locks, but the discipline also incorporates philosophical beliefs.

Today there are more than 1.2 million Aikido practitioners in more than 50 countries worldwide, according to the Aikikai Foundation. Aikido is taught in a dojo, which is the Japanese word for a place of meditation and learning.

If you are interested in becoming an Aikido instructor, chances are you already have extensive experience in this martial art. Almost all Aikido instructors attain black belt level before they begin to offer training in their own dojos. You may also know that beyond an effective and powerful self-defense art, Aikido also delivers inner harmony to the practitioner as well as the health benefits of getting into great physical condition. These are among the rewards of becoming an Aikido instructor, as you will be able to share the many transformative benefits of Aikido with students.

Read on to learn how you can become an Aikido instructor and teach this art to the next generation.

 In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as an aikido instructor
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for aikido instructors
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips

How much money can you make?

The median salary for an Aikido instructor is $89,440 annually, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for all fitness teachers, including martial arts instructors is projected to grow by 13% through 2028, the bureau reports. Opening your own dojo creates the opportunity to earn significantly more money, depending on your ability to attract and retain students.

Aikido instructor demonstrating a takedown move

Training and Certification

There are no licensing requirements for Aikido instructors in the United States, although in some states you may need to be certified as an instructor to be eligible for liability insurance coverage, which is an essential safeguard when running any sort of exercise studio. Additionally, certification shows the public that you have the skills and knowledge to teach Aikido effectively so students can expect to learn from you. It’s really basic consumer psychology – given the choice of two instructors each with a black belt in Aikido, more students are likely to gravitate to the teacher who is certified as an Aikido instructor. It makes a difference, both in the minds of students as well as in the confidence of the teacher. Certification gives you an automatic advantage over competitors, because only a small percentage of martial arts instructors worldwide have completed any formal instructor training, according to the Global Martial Arts University.

Organizations like the United States Martial Arts Federation  offer credentials to trained instructors who complete a training program approved by the organization.

Aikido instructor performing a takedown move on a partner

Some of the information and skills you will learn in training as an Aikido instructor:

  • How to use different techniques to ward off the same attack
  • Using the same technique to stop different attacks
  • Breaking down a move or technique to its component parts
  • Origins of technique (a history and of Aikido and its spiritual underpinnings)
  • Building on foundations by starting with a basic concept, then adding moves
  • Teaching proper footwork
  • Using the right touch points and posture for maximum effect
  • Kuzushi (putting opponents off balance)
  • Tenkan/Redirection
  • Basic first aid
  • Basic business skills in setting up and operating a dojo

Here is a list of Aikido instructor schools to get you started.

Professional Groups to Join

Getting involved with one or more professional organizations can be a huge boost to your career. First, these affiliations look great on a resume. They are proof of your dedication to Aikido and your professionalism. But joining a professional organization provides many other benefits. You can network with other members and make new friends. These contacts can help you find jobs – sometimes before an opening is even advertised. You’ll also have a resource for continuing training, learning new teaching ideas and enjoying being part of something to which you are devoting your life’s work.

Aikido instructor demonstrating moves in front of class

United States Aikido Federation is a not-for-profit organization providing technical and administrative guidance and support to members. The USAF oversees the practice of Aikido and its instruction as established by Hombu dojo, the international headquarters in Japan, and develops and maintains rigorous technical standards, while advancing and promoting the practice of Aikido. The USAF also organizes, promotes and conducts Aikido demonstrations and international seminars, encourages activities of member dojos, and researches, studies and publishes information and materials about Aikido. Applying to the USAF begins with contacting the USAF administrative office by calling 860-567-2416 or emailing

The Aikido Kokikai Federation USA helps develop the Kokikai Aikido style in the United States. The federation maintains a list of active dojos, educators and students in Kokikai Aikido, and helps members in training Sensei (teachers) and other senior Aikido Kokikai educators through national camps and local courses.

A list of regional associations and branch organizations can be reviewed here.

There are also many informal networking groups you can join online to make new friends and swap ideas for teaching Aikido. More than three dozen groups are listed here.


You’ll find job openings for Aikido instructors at martial arts studios, public recreation centers, the YMCA, and larger gyms with fitness programs. Some dojos offer classes for children.

Aikido instructor working with partner to demonstrate a takedown move

You’ll need to make copies of your resume, both printed and for online distribution. When sending resumes by email, the best way to attach documents is by creating a .pdf file of the documents with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are much likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Follow this tip and you’ll improve your chances that your online correspondence lands in front of a real person, not a spam folder.

Also make photocopies of your professional certifications and memberships in Aikido organizations. These extra materials can help your application rise to the top of the pile and set you apart from competitors.

Finding Clients
Business cards and a basic website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as an Aikido instructor operating a dojo. The website should be attractively designed, with photos of your dojo and students practicing their moves (get their permission in writing to use their photos), plus a few images of you in action, teaching students. Your business location and contact information should be at the top of every page on your website. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching near you for an Aikido instructor.

In addition to your business website, you’ll want to set up an Instagram page to showcase your Aikido dojo. Instagram is the #1 online venue for professionals to present themselves. It’s a free promotional tool that’s always promoting your business.

Next, create a Facebook page for your dojo. This is a great way to build a following and keep people up-to-date on your offerings.

Now set up a Google My Business page, where you can add your hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location.

All of the above services are free and setting up a page on each site takes less than an hour.

Aikido sensei instructor performing moves with mountains in background

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Create a referral program with discounts for returning students who bring new people to class.
  • Ask students to review your Aikido training online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.

Good to know

As a new Aikido instructor you can save time in developing your talents by learning from instructors with years of experience. Here are some of their tips:

Visualize an Outcome

What do you want the outcome of each class to be? What does a successful class feel like?

Turn Complex Tasks into Manageable Steps

Almost every challenge becomes easier when it can be broken into individual steps. If you plan to teach new techniques for stopping certain types of attacks, for example, learning the techniques will be easier for students if you can separate each step and allow time for everyone to master that step before advancing to the next.

Be a Sensei

Making the transition from student to teacher (sensei) may be challenging for new instructors. The wise teacher approaches class with humble confidence and leaves ego at the door. The teacher is nothing without the student. The reverse also holds true.

Give Positive Feedback

Try not to rely automatically on “that’s wrong.” Instead, refocus the learning on the right move, the right technique, the right approach. Encouragement will help students make progress faster than any negative feedback. We are all works in progress.

Show Enthusiasm

Excitement and love of an activity are contagious. Turn your classes into sessions of joy through your own enthusiasm for Aikido.

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