What is Aikido?

Aikido, a traditional Japanese martial art, was developed in the early part of the last century by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), now known as O-Sensei (venerable or respected teacher).

Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, was born in 1883 in Tanabe, a coastal town in southern Japan. From the time of his youth, he studied various martial arts, including sumo, swordsmanship, spear technique, staff technique, and various styles of jiujutsu, particularly the Yagyu and Daito styles. From youth, Ueshiba also appears to have been a deeply sensitive and spiritual person. Eventually influenced by the charismatic spiritual leader and artist Onisaburo Deguchi, he came to view his martial training as a means of personal purification and spiritual training. The time of O-Sensei's life saw Japan involved in some of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century, culminating in the Pacific conflict of World War II. However, it was during this time that he founded Aikido and declared it to be a way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace. In this way, Aikido is truly Budo - a martial Way - rather than simply a bujutsu (martial technique) or bugei (martial art).

When martial training is undertaken not simply as a means to conquer others, but as a means to refine and perfect the self, this can be said to be Budo. The famous motto of O-Sensei, "Masakatsu Agatsu", contains the essence of the spirit of Aikido: "True victory is victory over the self. " O-Sensei's incredible technical expertise and charisma brought him tremendous support from high-ranking military officers, government personnel, and the Imperial family during his lifetime.

Practicing Aikido

Aikido is typically practiced by pairs of students. A technique is demonstrated by the instructor and the student then practices it, attempting to bring it into his own body, to make it her own. The techniques are numerous. It has been said that there are over 2,000 techniques in Aikido. In addition to body techniques, Aikido also teaches the use of the wooden sword (bokken) and staff (jo).

The circular movements of Aikido feel natural and flowing. One of O-Sensei's rules for training was, "Always train in a vibrant and joyful manner". It is common to see people smiling during and after an Aikido class.