Aikido is a sophisticated method of inner development and an art of self-defense. It is a modern Budo, or martial way of living, in which one’s character and spirit are refined through hard training and self-discipline.
The word “Aikido” is made from three kanji:
合 – Ai: harmony, coordination, unification
気 – Ki: spirit, energy, mood
道 – Do: way or path
Aikido then, can be seen as a “way of combining forces,” “a way of unifying with life energy,” or “the way of harmonious spirit.” It is a path that seeks to unify the body and mind with the universal laws of nature. Aikido’s principles are contained within its techniques, and it is through regular training and study that the Aikidoist comes to understand and embody these principles.
Aikido’s techniques have their origin in some of Japan’s most effective samurai arts. Its taijutsu (empty handed) techniques are largely derived from Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, a highly effective combat art characterized by joint locks and powerful throws, while Aikido’s weapons techniques are largely descended from the classical school of Kashima Shinto-ryu and include the use of Bokken, Jo, and Tanto. Though many of Aikido’s techniques resemble those of these other martial arts, the Founder emphasized the cultivation of “Aiki” in his art’s techniques, and when properly expressed, Aikido techniques can control and subdue an attacker without the need for aggression or violence. Indeed, techniques are not an end in themselves, but rather provide a framework for the study and development of Aiki.
The movements of Aikido mirror those found in nature. They are generally characterized by circular movements and spiral motions not unlike those seen in natural phenomena: for instance, the movement of a whirlpool or the orbit of the moon around the earth. They expand and contract like the ebb and flow of the tide. Aikido motions are smooth, relaxed, and integrated and they are expressed from a firm and stable center. Aikidoists gain the ability to move swiftly and generate great power with very little effort. They enter directly into an attack, but blend with the force of the attack rather than struggle against it. This emphasis on blending and rotating allows even smaller individuals to handle much larger attackers.
Training in Aikido is collaborative and free of competition, which can often hinder a martial artist’s development. Aikidoists work together to improve each other’s technique, and this supportive atmosphere makes Aikido a popular martial art for men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Aikido is one of the few martial arts in which practitioners can continue regular training well into their senior years– and these Aikidoists only become more skilled with time!
Aikido training strengthens the body, sharpens the mind, and increases martial prowess, but the true aim of Aikido is much grander. Aikido seeks to polish one’s spirit and strike down the ego, leading to greater awareness of the interconnectedness of life. It strives to end conflict before it begins, and to bring people together rather than split them apart. In the Founder’s own words, “Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family.”