Aikido is a modern, highly refined martial art, developed early last century by Morihei Ueshiba (known as O’Sensei) as a means of self-defense and spiritual training. Aikido develops coordination of mind and body. Through its philosophy and techniques, Aikido brings us into harmony with our environment, other people and ourselves.
Aikido is a very effective martial art but at its heart it goes beyond the resolution of physical conflict. While the self-defence aspect of aikido is important, O’Sensei through his life, refined what he named ‘Aikido’ into a means of ‘polishing’, or purifying, the human spirit. Aikido is a path by which martial training is utilised as a ‘Way’ to spiritual growth and development. It is a path for personal development for people who sincerely aspire to constantly improve their own nature and through that considerably enhance the quality of their lives.
Unlike many martial arts, Aikido requires no advantage in strength or speed, and is practiced successfully by people of all ages and abilities. Aikido practice develops flexibility, coordination, concentration, improved health and fitness, effective communication skills, confidence and self-esteem. It is not competitive, and values harmony and peace with ourselves, others, the environment and the universe. It promotes the personal characteristics of compassion, and respect for self and others.
Aikido places great significance on ‘ki’ – the life force or breath. Aikido seeks to achieve the total unification of this universal ‘ki’ with the ‘self’. That is, harmony between the individual and everything else. Aikido shines as a source of harmony in contrast to the disharmony which seems so ever-present in our world. Seeking harmony is a physical and spiritual goal which is not religious but can be found in many religions and philosophies. In aikido, seeking harmony is about physically learning the principles of aikido but also about following the ‘aiki’ way. Doing both encourages and nurtures both our physical and inner selves.
The following is from the Aikido Goshinkai Student Guide and explains the concepts behind the Japanese word “Aikido’:
Ai – Harmony
Central to Aikido is the idea of being in harmony with your opponents, rather than in conflict with them. The movement and energy of an attack is redirected without the need for collision or the use of force. The physical practice of this fundamental principle of Aikido, leads to a better understanding of people and nature, while teaching essential skills for the resolution of conflict.
The movements of Aikido are circular and flowing. They are designed on the principles of nature and move in circles and spirals.
When Aikido is performed well there is great beauty and composure in the movements of both partners.
Ki – Life Energy
Ki is universal energy, which gives life and vitality to all things. Developing both an understanding of Aikido principles and the ability to direct and use Ki are an integral part of Aikido training.
Relaxation exercises, breathing methods, meditation, Yuki (healing with Ki), bokken (wooden sword), and Jo (wooden staff) are used to help students master Aikido principles by giving them the opportunity to experience Ki with their own minds and bodies.
Understanding and developing Ki is a way of enhancing your natural strengths and abilities. As you begin to understand Aikido principles, you will in turn develop creative and practical new ways to apply these principles to your daily life.
Do – The Way
The Aikido dojo (meaning ‘place of the way’) provides a secure and friendly environment where we can begin to see and understand our fears, anxieties, reactions and habits. Aikido training is entirely non-competitive and fosters an attitude of support and cooperation.
The concentration and discipline required for Aikido training brings focus to our daily life. Aikido challenges us to improve our skills and attempt new things. By achieving these new skills, we gain confidence in our ability to maintain stability and poise in the everyday challenges of our lives.