What Is Aikido?

When considering the many martial arts one can choose to practice, Aikido is still on of the most popular choices in the United States today. Aikido is so rich in both tradition and history, yet it is newer than most others. This art originally started in Japan at some point in the 1940s.

Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba (often known as Great Teacher or O Sensei) was born on December 14, 1883. Growing up in modern Japan, he was witness to much violence, including some local vandals attacking his own father. It was at this time he decided to grow strong enough to seek revenge for his father’s sake, spending as much time as possible training in martial arts. He received numerous certificates in jujitsu, fencing and spear fighting during this time of intense physical training.

Even with all of his achievements he felt there should be more to it. Turning to religion, he hoped to find some greater sense of significance of life. Yet he did not stop his training of martial arts during this time. Ueshiba founded the martial art of Aikido by joining his religious beliefs with his intense trainings in martial arts. This style was known as aikibudo until around 1942, when he chose to go with the name of Aikido. It was the incorporation of jujitsu, aiki-jujitsu along with spear and sword fighting.

The fundamental requirements for the practice of Aikido are dedication and respect in regards to the techniques and principles of the art. Other than these requirements, anyone of any age or strength can participate in the practice. There are no limits except those you impose upon yourself.

The movements related to the techniques of Aikido are derived from movements used while wielding the Japanese sword or spear fighting arts. The bokken (replica sword) and the jo (a stick) are used in practice as aids to enhance the understanding and skill required for fluid use of techniques.

There are two other elements which are considered essential while training for the correct execution of techniques in Aikido: The Ki or flow of energy and the Budo or martial way of practicing each technique with dedication and absolute commitment.

Once the participants or aikidokas have made the commitment to their training, their first lesson involves learning how to fall appropriately. They need to know how to absorb the effects of the various techniques which will be experienced. This is followed by different exercises which are done in a free-standing method of solo body movements. With these the aikidokas learn how to appropriately shift their weight and balance, as well as fundamental disciplines behind each individual technique.

Although many people think of Aikido as one of the ultimate martial arts, it is an art more thoroughly based on religion and harmony. Aikido uses joint locks, manipulation of weight, and various throws in order to achieve its purpose. It’s a very effective martial art, which were the intentions of Ueshiba from the start. 

There are differences in what many think, and there is no real unified belief or philosophy in the martial art of Aikido. While it is indeed rich in heritage and religion, its belief system revolves around harmony and peace of the spirit. With the achievement of a higher spiritual power, Ueshiba always believed the human body was capable of anything. Although he wanted revenge, he still took a stand by stating Aikido wasn’t about fighting. It was a way to reconcile with the world, making every human being one giant family.