History of Aikido – 合気道

Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba, who was highly skilled in a large number of traditional martial arts. Aikido came to incorporate both armed and empty handed techniques. Mr. Ueshiba developed his art to be a means of developing the character of the practitioner as well as a means of self defence.

Although a relatively young martial art (Ueshiba only died in 1969), there has been significant evolution as a result of differing translations of Ueshiba’s teachings. There are broadly four ‘forms’ of aikido although they are all very similar:

  • Tomiki aikido – originally designed for competition but in reality the most distinctive element of Tomiki aikido is the structure of the syllabus which is divided into 9 kata (sequence of techniques). Each kata has its own character and focus. Newbury Aikido Club is graded against the Tomiki syllabus.
  • Traditional aikido – distinctively circular in nature and very fluid. This is the aikido you will usually see in demonstrations.
  • Yoshinkan aikido – aimed at practicality and trained with great intensity.

Aikido is one of the youngest martial arts, developed by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba from many ancient martial arts. It is a peaceful, non-violent martial art. An aikidoka never attacks. The goal is to control the aggression, not to destroy. This principle is reflected in the techniques. The attacker isn’t taken out permanently, but one keeps the attacker under control. This is done to emphasize that aggression is useless.

The literal meaning of ‘Aikido’ is:
合 – Ai – Harmony
気 – Ki – Inner strength
道 – Do – The way

This self defence art is about practicing and refining, to get mind and body in a better state of harmony. This has a beneficial effect on the total functioning of the person. It is a very healthy sport. The emphasis lies on the interaction between thinking and acting and on its force, the Ki, the inner energy.

With aikido, the emphasis lies on circular, turning movements. You’re working wiht lines of attack, weapons and locks. You need to move a lot with aikido, getting off the line of attack. Often, the attacking force and energy of the opponent is used. The techniques therefore require little physical strength. For this reason, it can be practiced by both young and old. For the youngest pupils, lessons are very playful, as there is a risk of injury with arm- and wrist locks; children are still growing.

You don’t fight just to fight!

Aikido tells you that you can and should defend yourself, and you’re given a good method to do this with good results, without harming your opponent unnecessarily. With lots of practice and training, you strive for a self-defense based on skill, self-confidence and technical refinement.

Aikido has its demands on its practitioners. You have to learn to control yourself very well, to understand what you’re doing, attain the right posture and apply the technique as well as possible during a fight, to minimize any damage. When you’re not in control of yourself, things can go wrong. This is the challenge for advanced aikidokas.

Aikido by nature is a difficult martial art owing to the objective of ‘blending’ with an attack and using an opponent’s force/momentum against them. This is more difficult than, for example, blocking a punch. But when mastered, blending with an attack allows a greater range of responses than simply hitting someone back.

It is said of aikido that it is designed to protect the practitioner without causing injury to the attacker, this is largely a misunderstanding as whilst aikido does teach how to restrain an attacker, this is largely achieved through pain compliance and much of aikido can cause severe injury. For this reason it is important that it is trained safely.