Every technique of a martial art must be in accord with the truth of the universe. - Ueshiba Morihei
"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win."

What is Aikido

The Principles of Aikido

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Ueshiba Morihei. On a purely physical level it is an art involving some throws and joint locks that are derived from jiu-jitsu 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-defence technique, spiritual enlightenment, physical health or peace of mind. O-Sensei emphasised 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 emphasise 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 further define Aikido, but we 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 benefits of Aikido

Aikido practise can benefit everyone, male or female, young or old, of any ethnic or national origin. All can enjoy and improve their health and fitness by attending regular and well run classes. The formal and more cerebral aspect of our system appeal to certain students. Its full and natural body movement has aerobic benefits for all. When practised regularly it will assist in developing a fitter, more supple and stronger body with improved flexibility, reflexes and reactions.

Aikido is essentially non-violent, encourages harmony and avoidance of confrontation. Force is never opposed by force. Resolving a conflict quiescently is better for all concerned and students soon learn how to improve their self-awareness, and with the techniques learnt, also grow in self-confidence. In this Aikido teaches self-defence. Aikido is today's fastest growing recreational activity with Japanese origins that go back many centuries. Aikido as practised today includes joint locking techniques and body movements from many of the ancient fighting methods taught, used, and perfected by the Samurai in feudal Japan.

Ueshiba Morihei

O-Sensei Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, (or "O-Sensei" which means "Great Teacher") was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial arts. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of aikido.

O-Sensei technique Ueshiba decided on the name "aikido" in 1942 (before that he called his martial art "aikibudo" and "aikinomichi"). On the technical side, aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu (aiki)jujitsu, as well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also realize that many aikido techniques are the result of Master Ueshiba's own innovation.

O-Sensei in garden On the religious side, O-Sensei was a devotee of one of Japan's so-called "new religions," Omotokyo. Omotokyo is part neo-shintoism and part socio-political idealism. One goal of omotokyo has been the unification of all humanity in a single "heavenly kingdom on earth" where all religions would be united under the banner of omotokyo. It is impossible sufficiently to understand many of O-sensei's writings and sayings without keeping the influence of Omotokyo firmly in mind. Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which are only more or less shared by aikidoists, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about aikido.

Some quotes related to Aikido:

  • "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."
  • "The essence of aikido is the cultivation of ki [a vital force, internal power, mental/spiritual energy]."
  • "The secret of aikido is to become one with the universe."
  • "Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological self-mastery."
  • "The body is the concrete unification of the physical and spiritual created by the universe."
At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of aikido, however, we may identify at least two fundamental threads:
  1. A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible.
  2. A commitment to self-improvement through aikido training.