Aikido means “The Way of Harmony with the Universal Spirit” meaning that it is a martial art which emphasises harmony or non-resistance with your opponent and ultimately with the laws of nature and the universe.
Aikido is, in name, a modern martial art being derived and developed this century by Morihei Ueshiba, an immensely talented martial artist and deeply spiritual man. However, Aikido is directly related to very ancient forms of Budo (Ways of the Warrior) which Ueshiba developed and adapted into his own system, modern in name but deeply rooted in the wisdom of Japans indigenous religion of Shinto, Zen and in the ways and fighting techniques of the Samurai warrior.
At its most basic level, Aikido is an effective defensive martial art, which utilises the power of the attacker rather than offer resistance. This is accomplished by avoiding and “blending” with an attack whose force is then redirected as necessary to bring about a controlled conclusion. Aikido techniques end generally in either a projection (throw) or with a pin (immobilisation).
“When one disgards strength, one returns to the fundamental principle. If one does not rely on strength but uses ki, the enemies strength will rebound and he will fall by himself. This is known as winning by using the enemies strength” from the Densho Chushaku, an ancient text of the Kito Ryu (jujutsu)
Since no two attacks are identical, the Aikido repertoire has hundreds of techniques in order to deal with every possibility, however these have been distilled down into ten foundation techniques, which form the basics for training purposes. Despite all of these techniques, the true skills, which can only be learned over a long period of time, are connected to timing, control of space, effective use of the unified power of the body (Ki) and perhaps most important of all maintaining a clear and undisturbed mind under any circumstance (this is the hardest!)
Almost all modernised martial arts such as judo and karate have a strong competitive element within their training regime that prioritises beating your opponent and thus fuelling egotism and disregard for others. Aikido differs in that competition does not take place and instead, uke (attacker) and tori (defender) practice together for mutual benefit, blending together as one. In Aikido the only competition is with the self and the only victory is the subjugation of the ego.
Aikido training also incorporates the use of certain traditional Japanese weapons namely the Bokken (a wooden replica of the Japanese sword), the Jo (a 4ft oak staff) and the Tanto (Japanese dagger), involving both use of the weapon itself and techniques for disarming a weapon carrier.
As well as being a very effective and practical system of self-defence, Aikido offers the practitioner much more; in fact it can be practised purely for such benefits. Central to Aikido is the training of posture; this improves balance and makes for easy elegant movement. Another fundamental is breath control, which has far-reaching effects on the body, both physical and mental. A result of correct breathing and good posture is the development of personal energy or power known in the east as KI, enabling the body to function at levels beyond levels that thought possible. The general conditioning, which is part of a typical session, will also improve general fitness and flexibility. Overall a greater sense of confidence and peace of mind should be the result.
None of the above occurs overnight so be prepared to stick at it long term – There is no short path !!! Finally, if you seek the spiritual path, Aikido contains in its basic principles a philosophy, which can be applied to all aspects of life – not just the realms of combat.
“The Essence of Aikido, the unity of Ki mind and body must be realised by the whole person. If we grasp it as merely a spiritual reality we fall into abstraction. If we see it only as a matter of technique and physical prowess then we become satisfied with a simplistic explanation of motor movements. The essence encompasses the physical and the spiritual and we must realise it as the Budo unifying Ki mind and body from a philosophical and religious point of view“.
The late Doshu Ueshiba Kisshomaru
Some of the main styles of Aikido:
Commonly referred to as traditional Aikido and is generally considered to be a “softer” style of Aikido, with larger flowing movements.
This is the style taught by Morihiro Saito Sensei, based in the Iwama dojo. It is closely associated with Aikikai.
Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido
Founded in 1974 by Koichi Toihei Sensei, it is primarily concerned with harnessing “Ki”.
The Shudokan was founded by Thamby Rajah Sensei, an early student of Gozo Shioda Sensei in Yoshinkan Aikido in the 1950s.
The Japan Aikido Association was founded by Professor Kenji Tomiki in 1974. As a professor of physical education at Waseda University Kenji Tomiki created a randori (training match) system of aikido. His system of Aikido has become known as Tomiki System Aikido.
Tomiki was born in March1900 in Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture and started Judo at the age of 10. He was a highly regarded Judo player at Waseda University where he entered in 1922. He gained his 4th Dan in 1925 and 5th Dan in 1928. Being so talented and obviously involved in the Kodokan (Judo’s headquarters and the mecca for Judo students from all over the world), he was asked by Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) to study Aikido under Morihei Ueshiba, which he did from 1926. Through his study under Ueshiba Tomiki attained the rank of 8th Dan Aikido in 1940 from O’Sensei himself. He was the first disciple of O’Sensei to do so. Before this Tomiki was sent to China around 1936 at Ueshiba’s recommendation to teach Aikido at the Kengoku University in Japanese occupied Manchuria.
Tomiki was captured at the end of World War II and interned in a USSR detention camp for three years. It was during this time, in the confined space of his cell, that he distilled his knowledge of Aikido and Judo and devised the unsoku undo and tandoku undo exercises. His budo training helped him to survive and keep fit, returning to Japan in 1948.
In 1953 Tomiki went to the USA to teach Judo and Aikido. In 1958, as a professor of Waseda University, he founded the Waseda Aikido Club. It was during this period that he really developed his system of Aikido. He saw that Aikido taught in the conventional way of kata had no objective measure of power such as in Judo and Kendo. This, he felt, reflected the inadequacies of teaching methods and thus he devised a randori training system in which he combined his knowledge of Judo and Aikido to bring out the best in each.
Initially, his ideas were not well received by Ueshiba or the Kodokan (the world Judo headquarters), for whom he had developed the KODOKAN GOSHINJUTSU KATA. However, he was also very fortunate in having with him a devoted friend, Hideo Ohba, from the same prefecture, who also studied under Ueshiba during that same period. Hideo Ohba 9th Dan Aikido, was also a keen Judo exponent (6th Dan) and studied Kendo (4th Dan), Naginatado (3rd Dan) and also Iaido, Jukendo and Kyudo.
Therefore, Tomiki was able to enlarge his theory of randori, often demonstrating with his friend Ohba, to other budoka his 15-technique Randori-no-kata (it later became 17) which was derived from Aikido and other Jutsu. Today we know it as the Junana-hon-no-kata (Basic 17). He was most ably assisted in the propagation of his theories by Hideo Ohba, who experimented with various methods and also grouped a number of traditional Aikido techniques into six Koryu no kata.
Tomiki has often been misunderstood, especially by those who wish to stay in their own ordered way of practising Aikido. Such critics are right in their belief that there can be no competition in Aikido if one is to remember the principle of harmony with one’s opponent. However, as the majority of students started Aikido with the idea of self defence, especially in this modern world of violence, there was no objective yardstick by which one could measure progress in oneself. Apart from the formal gradings conducted by one’s teacher, or organisation one could go on believing in one’s ability within the structured kata practise of the dojo.
Tomiki believed that Aikido was so valuable that he wanted to spread it as quickly and as widely as possible, particularly among the younger generation because it would be from them that the future of Aikido would progress. Although it is true that one can start Aikido at any age, it would be foolish to expect someone starting older in life to attain the same level of proficiency as a younger person within the same practice period. The earlier one started, the more knowledge acquired and perhaps wisdom as the time of pratise lengthened.
Tomiki, with his background of Judo and Aikido, developed his double approach of kata and randori practised together so that one could learn Aikido more easily, enjoy the challenge of randori . Whether one is introduced to Aikido through the competitive sport element or through kata, is not important. What matters is that finally one will combine the two when one comes to understand Tomiki’s Aikido.
(Source: Dr Ah Loi Lee)
The Yoshinkan was founded by Gozo Shioda Sensei, an early student of Ueshiba Sensei. It is known as a hard style and is taught to an elite group of Tokyo riot police.
Developed by Mochizuki Minoru Sensei, it teaches Aikido with elements of Aikijutsu, Judo, Karate, and Katori Shinto-Ryu.