About Aikido

In this section
  1. What is aikido?
  2. Aikido origins in jujitsu
  3. From jujitsu to judo
  4. Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
  5. From aikijujutsu to aikido
  6. Benefits of practising aikido
  7. Aikikai Foundation

What is Aikido?

O Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba)

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba between about 1920 and 1940. Aikido has its origins in traditional Japanese martial arts using weapons and unarmed techniques. By means of circular movement an attacker's force is diverted and turned back upon him. A variety of techniques may be applied to the attacker's arm joints; but although these can be extremely painful and induce immediate submission, they are not aimed at causing injury. Thus it is perhaps the most subtle and graceful of the various martial arts. Since Aikido techniques do not call for physical strength or aggressive spirit, it is practised by people off all ages or physical make-up, by women just as well as by men.

Aikido Origins in Jujitsu

Ancient jujitsu schools were focused on victory on the battlefield. 99% of practice was completed by the study of kata (forms). Then, someone would be challenged and would go directly from kata to a violent shiai (literally a street fight) . This gave life to kata and was the place to try to gauge objectively one's own real ability.

During the relatively peaceful Tokugawa period (1603 to 1868) martial arts evolved to promote the refinement of the warrior through the disciplined study of the martial arts. The emphasis of training shifted from waza (techniques) to 'do' (Way or path). A shift from techniques of killing and maiming to those of submission and restraint.

From Jujitsu to Judo

During the Meiji period (1968 to 1912), Jigoro Kano evaluated the many jujitsu schools and concluded that their techniques could be categorised as follows:

  1. Nage-waza (throwing techniques)
  2. Katame-waza (locking techniques)
  3. Atemi-waza (striking techniques)
  4. Kansetsu-waza (joint techniques)

Kano completed his randori system of training providing modern day competition judo. The emphasis was on nage-waza, the throwing techniques.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu

Atemi and the kansetsu techniques became formalized and staid, and their vitality wasted away. In response, Takeda Sogaku revived Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, a form which emphasises an early neutralization of an attack using timing to blend and use the force of the attacker's movement against them. Sogaku explained that "The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting."

Sogaku's leading student in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu was Morihei Ueshiba.

From Aikijujutsu to Aikido

Master Ueshiba was born in 1883 in a Japan which had not fully emerged into the modern world and where many of the martial arts were still taught by masters in the old tradition. In his early manhood he mastered several martial arts including swordsmanship and various forms of unarmed self defence. At the same time he developed into a deeply religious person and envisaged a new system of 'budo' (the way of the warrior) which would provide a basis for both physical and spiritual development. This he named 'Aikido': the way (do) of harmonising (ai) the spirit (ki). By 'ki' is meant the creative life-spirit of the universe: one's own life-energy.

"True budo is the way of great harmony and great love for all beings" wrote Ueshiba. That he meant Aikido to be much more than a method of self-defence is conveyed in his words: "I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind".

example technique using the opponents energy As his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba explains, the biggest difference between jujutsu and aikido is the shift in perspective from 'actual combat' to 'the perfection of the human character'. In other words, 'harmonisation between self and others' rather than 'survival of the fittest'.

The Benefits of Practising Aikido.

Since Aikido is based on full and natural body movement, it exercises every limb and joint of the body. Flexibility, muscle tone, coordination and quick reactions are all developed. It does not demand unnatural body-building preparation, but is an absorbing way to keep fit along natural lines and within a framework of aesthetic movement.

As we get older we lose the flexibility of out joints at an alarming rate. Aikido is an excellent way of restoring and preserving a supple healthy body. Moreover, there should be enough expenditure of energy in an Aikido practice to stimulate the heart and give it plenty of exercise.

Aikido is essentially a method of self-defence so that through regular practice one will acquire a sound basis of agile movement and speed of reaction which should prove useful if the occasion ever demanded it in real life.

In common with other Oriental philosophies (and indeed with modern science) Aikido teaches that there is no real separation between that which is body and that which is mind. In subjecting our bodies to the precise discipline of Aikido we may eventually influence our minds for the good: creating an inner calm and balance that may be carried into our daily lives, helping us to become better and more effective people.

The Aikikai Foundation

Founded in 1948 for the purpose of spreading the teaching of the Founder throughout the world, the Aikikai Foundation, with its headquarters at Hombu Dojo, Tokyo , is the guiding body of orthodox Aikido. It is represented in some fifty countries.

The head of the Hombu Dojo is Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, the son of Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei. He assumed this roll on January 18th, 1999.