Aikido

O-Sensei throwing one of his students.

Aikido is a Japanese martial path (do) which addresses conflict by harmonizing (ai) the energies (ki) of the conflicting parties. When practicing aikido with vigor and sincerity, the aikidoka (practitioner) grows in two fundamental ways:

  1. Technical growth in how to move the body, express power, and perform effective techniques.
  2. Personal growth in achieving calmness, clarity, and harmony with the world.

Aikido was developed in the early 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba, a master of the arts of jiujitsu (grappling), kendo (sword arts), and sojitsu (spear arts). Ueshiba, now called “O-Sensei” (“Great Teacher”), survived great hardships and tragedies in his youth. O-Sensei’s experience, determination and spirituality ultimately led him to question the philosophical and technical foundations of traditional Japanese martial arts. Though undefeated in battles with masters of other martial arts, O-Sensei questioned the wisdom of meeting force with force. Surely, he believed, no matter how forceful you were, there would always be someone bigger, stronger, or younger who could defeat you in a match of force.

O-Sensei understood that life’s battles were many, both mundane and serious, and that victory in battle required that the whole person be developed — their character, values, and mental state — not just their martial arts skills. O-Sensei taught that only by releasing pettiness, malice, and strife can the individual realize their full potential. This understanding forms the foundation of aikido as a path of both martial and spiritual development.

The Power of Aikido

O-Sensei demonstrating a joint-control technique.

Rather than meeting force with force, aikidoka seek harmony in training through blending with the energy of an oncoming attack. By accepting and redirecting the energy of the attacker, the aikidoka moves efficiently and effectively. This enables the aikidoka to quickly end physical confrontation while exerting minimal physical strength.

Blending is frequently achieved in Aikido using graceful, spherical, full-body movements. These spherical movements are focused around the  calm and stable center of the practitioner. The cultivation of calmness and stability, even in difficult and adverse circumstances, is one of the fundamental tasks of the aikidoka.

The martial power of Aikido is not mystical or magical — it’s physics. Circular movements create centripetal force. Joint techniques exercise leverage to control the opponent’s body. Inertia — the tendency of objects to continue in their direction of motion — allows a skilled aikidoka to blend with an attack, thereby using the oncoming power of the attacker to end conflict.

By practicing the techniques which embody these principles, the aikidoka also develops their character. Centeredness, blending, and connection are not only principles for effective martial technique — they are principles for daily living. Sincere endeavor, on and off the mat, helps the aikidoka to better engage with those around them; defuse conflicts without violence; and ultimately act as a force of peace in the world.