Aikido is a modern, non-violent, defensive martial art which was developed in Japan in the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba. In Japanese, Aikido literally means ‘harmony’, ‘spirit’, ‘way’ or ‘the way of harmony with the force of nature’.
Aikido uses a system of holds, throws and locks as its principle movements. The art focuses on controlling one’s ki (vital energy within the body that is centered in the abdominal region) to subdue an opponent. Aikido principles hold that the mind and body are one – when a person acts in this manner, great power is possible. By joining with the motion of an attack and taking control of its force, it is possible to redirect the power of the attack safely and effectively.
Aikido was developed in the early 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), known to his students as O-Sensei (Great Teacher). A legendary master of several schools of martial arts, O-Sensei was also a deeply spiritual man. An early experience of war forged his opposition to the use of martial arts for destructive purposes. His pursuits of these passions led him to the development of Aikido, a discipline designed to control aggression and violence, as well as help people realise their full
potential as individuals – physically, mentally and spiritually.
Aikido is derived from Japan’s traditional budo (the way of the warrior; the way of martial arts), yet goes beyond the realm of budo; it is a path where the keen edge of martial art is used as a ‘way’ to spiritual growth.
It is an art that does not seek to meet violence with violence, yet retains its martial origins. The main form of Aikido techniques are joint immobilisation and throws, both of which are executed by using spherical movements to turn an opponent’s own force against him, despite the aggressor’s strength, weight or size. This makes Aikido a practical and effective method of self-defence for both men and women, young and old.
While Aikido’s throws and locks are effective and sometimes painful, they are applied so as not to cause injury. In contrast to many other martial arts Aikido places little emphasis on blocking, punching and kicking opponents, but instead relies heavily on body movement (taisabaki) which allows practitioners to evade an attack and harmonise with the aggressor’s energy, thus controlling him or her. In addition, Aikido has, since its conception, been non-competitive – the only competition in Aikido is really with one’s self.
Practising Aikido naturally fosters quick reactions and its full and natural body movements exercise the whole body leading to increased flexibility, improved co-ordination and better balance.