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Aikido (合氣道) is a gendai budo - a modern Japanese martial art. It was created by Morihei Ueshiba (called by Aikidoka by the respectful title "O Sensei" or "great teacher") over the period of the 1930s to the 1960s. Ueshiba created aikido from his experience in Daito ryu aikijutsu[?] and sword work.

Aikido is a defensive art, in which the defender redirects the attacker's motion and energy back into the attacker. It is practiced by men and women of any size or age. It is one of the most difficult of the martial arts and it takes several years of practice to really be able to defend oneself.

Traditional Aikido shuns competition. It is a martial art for its own sake. The emphasis is on developing mind, body and spirit until perfect harmony is achieved. Classes involve watching a demonstration of techniques from a teacher and then working with a partner(s) to try and replicate these, thereby improving your technique and understanding of the art. Movement, positioning, precision and timing are all important to the execution of techniques and students learn to be flexible and adaptable in their application.

Aikidoists train together as partners. The "attacker" (uke) initiates an attack against the "defender" (nage), who neutralizes it with an aikido technique. In practice, uke generally attacks nage four times and then the roles are reversed and uke becomes nage for 4 times.

Aikido practice attacks include various standardized strikes and grabs. There are generally three parts to an aikido defensive technique. First, nage avoids the attack by either moving away from uke ("tenkan", turning), or moving inside the attack, close to uke ("irimi", entering). Second, nage takes uke's balance away from him. Third, nage either throws uke or uses a wrist, arm or leg lock to bring uke down to the mat.

Aikido emphasizes that while nage executes the aikido defense and theoretically "wins" each encounter, uke is also gaining valuable experience in coping gracefully with being repeatedly "thrown" or subjected to locks. In a real-life encounter an experienced Aikidoka should instantly return to a poised and ready standing position automatically upon being thrown.

History and Styles

The name Aikido is formed of three Japanese characters (or Kanji), 合氣道, written with Roman characters as Ai, Ki and Do, often translated as meaning Harmony, Energy and Way (or Method), so Aikido can be translated as "The Way of Harmony with Energy". This draws attention to the fact that Aikido's techniques are designed to control an attacker by controlling their energy and not by blocking it. An analogy is often made of the way a flexible willow bends with the storm whereas the stout oak will break if the wind force is too high.(The martial art commonly known as Hapkido uses the same three characters. There may even exist a historical link through the Daito Ryu)

Mr. Ueshiba developed Aikido from Daito Ryu aikijutsu, incorporating the training movements of Yari (spear), Jo (a short quarterstaff), and Juken (Bayonet). Daito ryu[?] had strong influence from sword schools; as result, many of the flowing movements of the bokken, a wooden katana or "samurai sword" have been translated into unarmed aikido defense. Traditional Aikido training is mainly unarmed practice, but the three weapons, sword, staff and knife (usually wooden training weapons) often play an important part. Some styles place less importance on weapons training than others.

The roots of Aikido as a sword art play an important role in the development of the techniques. Most Aikido techniques can be performed equally well either unarmed or armed with a sword. This also bears on the fact that Aikido techniques rarely involve blocking an opponents strike, as if the opponent were armed with a weapon; the blocking limb would be severed.

The major styles of aikido each have their own Hombu Dojo in Japan; these define their various syllabi. Aikido was brought to the United States in the 1960s, to Australia in 1965 and to many other countries. Today there are many aikido dojos available to train at throughout the world.

Aikido as formulated by O Sensei is not a sport and competition is not allowed in traditional aikido. Partners work together so each can perfect their technique and progress in rank is made by demonstrating techniques with a partner who is not an opponent in the sense of sporting opponents. However, there are a number of styles of sports Aikido. Aikido training can be a very vigorous cardiovascular workout and improves flexibility.

Shodokan Aikido the main sporting form has on a system of rule based competition. Tomiki Aikido, as it is popularily known, tends to place more emphasis on kata training than more competitive or sports oriented martial arts. People tend to compete to train rather than to train to compete.

In kata training, the objective of the student is to perfectly copy the style demonstrated by their teacher during a series of formal set movements. This form of Training is usually reserved for work with weapons. Its purpose is the preservation of traditional technique rather than training in the usual sense. The degree to which variations to this form appear varies between styles and teachers. Yoshinkan has a reputation for being the most rigidly precise.

As with most martial arts, Aikido is not without differences of opinion. Over time instructors have split off from the mainstream organisation Aikikai to go their own way, and this has resulted in a great diversity of Aikido styles. For example, at one extreme of training is the approach followed by the Ki Society, which emphasises very soft flowing techniques with very few blows. At another extreme are styles of Aikido with very martial and physical techniques, more similar to the original "Aiki Jujutsu" from which Aikido was derived. Most Aikido schools are somewhere in between.

"Ki" in Aikido

No article about Aikido can be complete without a discussion of the concept of Ki.

Ki is often translated as 'breath power' or 'power' sometimes even as 'soul'. The kanji for Ki (氣) is the pictograph of a steaming rice pot - steam above, the handle of the pot to the right and the star-like sign stands for rice. When Aikidoka say that someone (usually high ranking teachers) is training with a lot of Ki they usually want to express that the respective person has developed a high level of harmony in the execution of his technique. Timing, a sense for the correct distance and a centered (undisturbed) mind and body are particularly important. Most teachers locate Ki in the Hara (the center of gravity of the body, lower abdomen, right under the navel). In training it is constantly emphasized that one should keep ones Hara in order not to lose the Ki. Very high ranking teachers sometimes reach a level of coordination that enables them to execute techniques with very little or sometimes even without touching an opponents body. A related martial art is the art of KiAi or war cry which specialices in transporting Ki via the voice.

(From Aikido FAQ): "you may not believe in Ki, but you sure as hell cultivate it" Aikido makes extensive use of the concept of ki. Aikido is one of the more spiritual martial arts and has been referred to as 'moving zen'. The name Aikido can be translated as 'the way of harmony of ki'. Exactly what ki 'is' is a somewhat controversial issue.

Some believe that the physical entity ki simply does not exist. Instead, it is a concept used to teach spirit, intention, the bio-physico-psychological coordination through relaxation and awareness are concepts being used needed. These aikidoka sometimes tend to frown upon the philosophical/spiritual aspect of ki.

Other aikidoka believe that ki does exist as a physical entity and can be transmitted through space. They, on the other hand, make use of concepts such as ki of the universe, extending ki etc.

The fact of the matter is that there is a large portion of aikidoka who are still, and no doubt will continue to be, on their 'quest for ki'.

External Links: Ki Exercises (http://www.bodymindandmodem.com/KiEx/KiEx)

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