Aikido is a Japanese Martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969), who is often referred to as O’Sensei (Great Teacher), following his many years of study in Kito ryu ju-jitsu, Yagu ryu ju-jitsu and Daito ryu Aiki-jitsu.
Aikido literally means ‘way of harmony. – “AI” means to meet come together and harmonise; “KI” literally means vapour, but in the Japanese psyche also means the mind, soul and spirit, the energy that is your essence of being and broader still to mean the spirit or force of the universe; “DO” means the way or path; All together the name means the ‘way of harmonising the body and the universal spirit’.
It is one of the most effective forms of self-defence taught today. Its effectiveness is due to the fact that it has no set rules, and therefore may be practised in a realistic way against any attack, with or without weapons.
Aikido is unique in that it is totally defensive, it is completely reflexive and related to defence against unprovoked attacks. When the techniques, which consist of various immobilisations (pins) and projections (throws) are correctly applied, they will leave no serious injury, only a swift neutralisation of an aggressive action, however the techniques – if so applied – can be lethal.
Aikido equips and insists that you must defend yourself, but also requires you to be compassionate and to not only protect yourself but as far as is possible protect your aggressor. The techniques allow you to harmonise with the aggressor and so neutralise the aggression, instead of meeting strength with strength. This makes it suitable for men and women of all ages and allows you to be effective when you are unable to match an opponent for strength. This is also why Aikido is not a sport as winning and losing can never be a concern.
O’Sensei’s spiritual explorations and religious beliefs led him to understand that each person is bound by his or her physical capabilities; but the potential for unlimited resources lies within the inner person and the real battle of life is to overcome the qualities of pettiness, ambition and selfishness that keep our full potential from blossoming.
He came to believe that the martial arts were to be used to purge one’s character of the undesirable traits and to ultimately take control of the entire self, both physically and mentally. In developing the spiritual aspects of the martial arts, he saw that budo (which literally means a martial way) should follow the laws of nature and be in harmony with them – Aikido is the physical reflection of these beliefs.