WHAT IS AIKIDO?
Aikido is a martial art which originated in Japan with its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, in the early twentieth century and has since grown to become one of the world’s most popular martial arts.
At its most basic level, Aikido is an empty-handed system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in the varying use of sword (bokken), staff (jo) and knife (tanto) techniques. The core principle of Aikido is not to resist the laws of nature but to harmonize without the undue application of aggressive strength. In practice, aikido techniques are applied by efficient redirection of the attacker’s power against him/her using minimal force and without being overly injurious.
The word “aikido” is formed of three kanji, namely 合 (ai) meaning joining or unifying, 気 (ki) which means spirit or energy, and 道 (dō) which is loosely interpreted as “the path” or “the way”.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AIKIDO
Modern day Aikido can trace its origins back to the feudal society of 9th century Japan. It is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daito ryu aikijujitsu, as well as elements of sword and spear fighting arts.
The system of techniques which would one day come to be called daito ryu aikijujitsu is said to have originated with Prince Teijun, the sixth son of Emperor Seiwa (850-880), and was passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto family. Over the following generations the techniques were eventually handed down to Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the younger brother of Yishiie Minamoto, who named his system daito ryu aikijujitsu after his house, the Daito Mansion.
The daito ryu techniques were handed down in secret to family members and retainers, and eventually reached Takeda Sokaku (1859-1943), who began teaching daito ryu arts as a synthesis or natural variant of his own vast training experience and technical innovation as much as a faithful continuation of his inherited martial tradition.
One of Takeda’s students was Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido who created his own art based upon daito ryu aikijujitsu techniques and his own study of kito ryu jujitsu, yagyu shinkage ryu kenjutsu, and other empty hand and weapon arts.
Ueshiba was held in very high regard by other martial artists of the time including Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, who sent many of his top students to learn aikido from O-Sensei. These students included Tomiki Kenji, who would later go on to develop the tomiki form of aikido, Mochizuki Minoru who later founded the yoseikan style, and Gozo Shioda the founder of yoshinkan aikido, a martial art placing special emphasis on practical efficiency and which is the style used to train the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police.
PRACTISING AIKIDO METHODS
The basic style of aikido training is “practicing pre-arranged form (also known as kata)”. Two partners practice the form of the technique becoming “shite” (the person applying the technique) and “uke” (the one receiving the technique). By training this way repeatedly, aikido techniques are acquired through repetition in a methodical and practical way for students.
Concurrently the art of falling or “ukemi” is developed by receiving the technique, and forms a necessary component of training to avoid injury by spreading the impact evenly. Ukemi comes from the Japanese root verb “ukeru” which means “to receive” – in this case, the receipt of breakfalls teaches uke to absorb force and redistribute that without sustaining injury.
There is no competition, no winning or losing, during training between shite and uke. Aikido students train to improve themselves by developing a pure heart and a pure mind in harmony with their body, their techniques and their partner.