Aikido is a modern Japanese defensive martial art, one of the best-known martial arts in the world, closely related to Japanese culture, religion, philosophy and tradition. The founder of Aikido was Morihei Ueshiba, also called The Great Teacher, who was a martial artist himself. He spent many years training various styles and as a result Aikido, by that name, came to existence in the early 1940s.
The word Aikido can be translated as “the way of harmonious spirit” or “the way of unifying with life energy”. The name itself suggests that this is not a striking-based martial art, although, if not done safely (by the principles of Aikido) could cause dangerous strikes.
The traditional martial arts are known for incorporating philosophy and religion into the practice and Aikido is no exception. The religious movement which influenced Ueshiba’s personal philosophy was Ōmoto-kyō and its spiritual leader Onisaburo Deguchi. Some of the beliefs related to Ōmoto-kyō movement were giving love and compassion, especially to those who want to harm others and attainment of utopia, a society based on equality.
When it comes to training, there are no enemies, only partners. Two practitioners repeat pre-arranged techniques safely. One is the attacker, the receiver of the technique, called “uke” and the the other one is “tori”, the partner who applies the technique. The goal is to blend in and make the attacker calm and to redirect the aggressive energy by joint locks, to make him off-balance, in order to achieve control over the opponent’s energy, and to give him a chance to blend in and to realize his energy is destructive. The attacker can remain calm and flexible while vulnerable or he can hurt himself by resisting joint locks which can be devastating because, in that case, bones can be broken. The practice of the fall is a significant part of Aikido as well, because it keeps the receiver of the technique safe, while in real life situation, without that knowledge, the strikes and throws could be very damaging. Weapons can be used, too and the Aikido practitioner’s main goal is to avoid and disarm the person attacking him.
In general, Aikido is based on practicing techniques in order to achieve harmony between body and mind. Its principles exclude representation of any kind of aggression, but courtesy and respect. There is no attack in order to dominate the opponent. The goal is to defend yourself while protecting the attacker from injury. The key to mastering this skill is in repetition, to make your moves calm, to make them flow and to be able to do the technique without any physical exertion. That’s why the physical and the mental parts of the training are inseparable and as a result you find out that the only victory is the victory over yourself.