Aikido is a true budo or martial way developed in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba, or O Sensei (great teacher) as he is called by his students. O Sensei was a gifted martial artist whose early mastery of the sword, staff, spear, and art of ju-jitsu won him wide acclaim.
It was the essence of budo O Sensei sought, not merely form. Intense and strong willed, he underwent rigorous physical and spiritual training, attaining levels of almost superhuman ability. Eventually, in the quest for mastery he gained enlightenment and insight into the nature of the martial artist’s path. He integrated these realizations into a science he called Ai-ki-do, “the way of unity with the Universal Force.”
Dynamics of Aikido
The fundamental nature of Aikido technique is spherical motion around a stable, energized center. As in a tornado or whirlpool, the forces created not only deflect the force of the attack, but also draw the attacker into the Aikidoist’s control. Aikido is known for its graceful techniques, swift, seemingly effortless movements that fling an attacker through the air, or, by means of subtle pressure applied to the joints that immobilize and control the opponent. Either effect is the result of precise timing, leverage, and the instinctive use of centrifugal and centripetal forces.
Aikido has been described as “moving Zen.” As with all Zen arts, though the final aim is personal transformation, the focus of the dojo (training hall) is practical. Repetition and hard work are required to master the fundamentals of movements, timing, and breathing. “This is not merely a theory,” O Sensei said, “you must practice it.”
Practicing with partners, each working at his or her own level, students alternate as the attacker and the one who receives the attack. Learning to take falls safely is an important aspect of training. Whether executing the technique, or taking the fall, the Aikidoist trains to blend with or capture the opponent’s energy and safely redirect it.
The rewards of Aikido training include increased stamina, improved flexibility, better muscle tone and a higher level of self-awareness. Effectiveness does not depend on size or strength. Ultimately it is the attack that brings down the attacker. Above all, training is an encounter with oneself. The student of Aikido seeks to identify and gain control of the ways in which he or she reacts to conflict and aggression, while remaining centered in all situations.
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