Western culture tends to generate the attitude that tension and strength are related to each other while relaxation is associated with sleep, laxness, spacing out, or some form of vulnerability. Actually, the more relaxed you are, the more effective you can be in just about any activity. All masters, no matter what the art or skill, perform best in a totally relaxed and alert state. Only beginners try hard. Masters try easy. It is the mark of mastery to be calm, relaxed, and in a deep state of peace while doing what one does best. By giving yourself permission to be relaxed and alert now, you will facilitate your advancement in aikido and enjoy your training much more.
When learning new moves, take your time. Go as slowly as you want to, and see how relaxed you can be. Especially play with how soft you can be in your breathing, face, neck, and shoulders. As these relax, your personal movement and sleep patterns will become more comfortable, while your actions on the mat will quickly gain ease, speed, and effectiveness. At the same time as this is happening, your attentiveness will increase.
Aikido is a martial art which requires your full attention, readiness to respond, and willingness to be flexible. In your training as an aikido student, it will be beneficial for you to cultivate a new level of sensory attentiveness. This is facilitated by your relaxation.
This does not mean that you should not train hard or push yourself. In order to learn any martial art, you must train very hard. There will be plenty of sweat, challenge, effort, pleasurable exhaustion, and much to overcome. Simply remember that you are doing something completely new and that its results will be evident in you as soon as you are ready to replace old patterns with new ones. This is accomplished as a release, as a relaxation of old, unnecessary tension and patterns of struggling with your life.
Generally speaking, injuries in aikido are of the bump, bruise, strain, sprain variety: the nuisance injuries that plague dancers, joggers, tennis players, etcetera. If some part of your body is getting consistently sore or bruised, let us know. Perhaps we can see what you are doing that is causing the trouble. If you injure yourself in any way, please notify the instructor immediately. A first aid kit is available in the dojo.