What is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art created by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei (who is usually referred to by practitioners as O'Sensei, or 'great teacher') in the early 1930s. Combining elements of Jujutsu (locks and throwing techniques) with intention, momentum and energy, Aikido was adopted by Japan's military and municipal elites as a powerful martial discipline. The popularity of Aikido attracted students from all over the world, who visited the founder in both the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo and in the smaller Iwama Dojo in the Ibaraki Prefecture, often staying for several years to live and learn the martial art from its source. Fast forward 80 years, where Aikido now enjoys a global following.
O'Sensei passed away in 1969, leaving a diverse range of approaches to understanding what he had created. Common to all iterations, however, is the emphasis that Aikido embodies non-violence, and the resolution of conflict through harmony. Ai-Ki, translated loosely, means 'Harmony of Spirit,' a principle reflected in the flowing, soft, but often very energetic and powerful movements seen in Aikido techniques. Students learn to diffuse incoming attacks by extending an opponent's balance and intention beyond their control, using the attacker's own strength to subdue them.
To a beginner, this may initially appear counter-intuitive; martial arts are usually associated with physical strength and competition, so it may seem surprising that Aikido training is cooperative. Students work together, learning the movements of techniques as structured forms. Aikido discourages the reliance on physical strength, so this kind of training is suitable for men and women of any size and age. No prior experience in martial arts is required, nor is physical fitness, as everybody trains and develops at their own pace. The emphasis on sensitivity and connection in Aikido training entails that, in the beginning, techniques can be practiced slowly. As practioners become more advanced, both in their ability to perform techniques and receive them safely, more intensive, powerful training will emerge.
Aikido distinguishes itself from other martial arts through developing a heightened sensitivity for timing, distance, and ultimately, awase - the ability to blend with an attack and using the attackers own force and strength against them. These are the martial principles O'Sensei pioneered.