What is Aikido?

The Encyclopedia of Aikido

A modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei UESHIBA incorporating joint-lock and throwing techniques applied in self-defense with the intent of not injuring or causing only minimal damage to the attacker. The techniques of aikido derive mainly from the DAITO-RYU AIKIJUJUTSU of Sokaku TAKEDA. Philosophically, Ueshiba was greatly influenced by the views of Onisaburo DEGUCHI, leader of the OMOTO RELIGION. The art evolved gradually during the late 1920s and 30s under various names. Its modern name was officially adopted in 1942 as a result of the reorganization of Japanese martial arts by the DAI NIHON BUTOKUKAI. Its emergence as a major martial art and its spread outside of Japan took place after World War II.(The Encyclopedia of Aikido)

The Aikido FAQ

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title 'O Sensei' or 'Great Teacher'). On a purely physical level it is an art involving some throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu and some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu. Aikido focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.

Upon closer examination, practitioners will find from Aikido what they are looking for, whether it is applicable self-defense technique, spiritual enlightenment, physical health or peace of mind. O Sensei emphasized the moral and spiritual aspects of this art, placing great weight on the development of harmony and peace. "The Way of Harmony of the Spirit" is one way that "Aikido" may be translated into English. This is still true of Aikido today, although different styles emphasize the more spiritual aspects to greater or lesser degrees. Although the idea of a martial discipline striving for peace and harmony may seem paradoxical, it is the most basic tenet of the art.

We could attempt to pigeonhole Aikido into a synopsis of X number of words, but that would not do it justice, so we leave the practitioner of Aikido to find out what Aikido is for themselves without any preconceived notions.(The Aikido FAQ)

The Aikikai Foundation

Aikido is a modern Martial Art created by the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba. After the Founder's passing, his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba was inaugurated as Aikido Doshu. At present, Moriteru Ueshiba has succeeded his father as Aikido Doshu.

The Aikikai Foundation is an association that was established in order to support inheritance of Aikido created by the Founder, to train body and mind through Aikido and to promote Aikido. Today, Aikido has become established in 130 countries around the world. Aikido Hombu Dojo was built in 1931. Under Doshu, a great number of Shihan and Shidoin unite in their efforts to commit to the development and enhancement of practice as the center of Aikido.(The Aikikai Foundation)

What to Expect

Training in the martial arts is always demanding. Excellence demands an extraordinary amount of dedication no matter what the art. In Aikido we are training in personal excellence: excellence at being ourselves. This means that our excellence unfolds throughout our entire lives. How (and if) it unfolds will depend on the nature and consistency of your personal training both in and out of the dojo. Perhaps by thinking about this you can understand three obvious, but often-ignored facts:

  1. All of the martial arts have a very high attrition (dropout) rate.
  2. All masters are highly disciplined in their training. It is the disciplined, consistent training over a long period of time, which produces mastery. The start-stop-start pattern of "training" is more akin to "trying" than training.
  3. For as long as you do Aikido, no matter what your age, you will improve.

To go the whole road will take (and give) more than we would ever have expected when we started. Whenever in doubt, go back to the basics. They will keep you on the path.

Relaxation

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.

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.

Observation

Observation is an active, not passive, skill. It is a skill that can be developed through training. To a martial artist, the ability to clearly see (not to be confused with look) and instantly evaluate a movement or situation is critical.

You will find that much of the teaching of Aikido is done nonverbally. That is to say that the instructor demonstrates a movement and the student has the responsibility to perceive the movement and to try to repeat it. Part of the teaching is to break your dependency on others to explain everything to you.

Martial arts movements are not learned by intellectualizing, conceptualizing, or by philosophizing, but rather by doing. The burden is not on the instructor to teach you, but on you to seek out the truth of the teaching yourself. The greatest gift your instructor has to offer is simply the demonstration of his or her art.

Speed

While on the mat, execute your movements only as quickly as you can while remaining in a relaxed state. There is rarely a need to rush. Speed will come naturally with proficiency. If you train at a faster speed than is appropriate for you, it will be an accident waiting to happen. Training too fast also reinforces mistakes, which would be corrected at a slower pace. Speed will come with time and careful repetition of techniques. Take it easy and be precise. In this way you will learn well.

Breathing

Ki is the Japanese word for spirit, energy, and life force. When ki is usefully active in your body, it is known as kokyu-ryoku or "breath power". When you breathe freely, your energy can also flow freely so you can experience centeredness, relaxation, and extension.

There is hardly a moment in which you will need to hold or restrict your breath in Aikido. We do engage occasionally in special breathing exercises in which we hold our breath, but these have specific purposes related to your breathing capacity and the stretching of your mind/body.

Always maintain a continuation of your breathing process when you practice your movements. All your movement techniques are easier when you breathe freely. This is especially true when rolling or taking falls.