Doshu Kishumaru Ueshiba performing Nikyo.

Aikido cannot be encompassed by words, written or said.

Do not get into an idle talk

grasp the essence through exercise

Morihei Ueshiba

   
 

Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba performing Ikkyo.

 

Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art developed by O'Sensei (the Great Teacher) Morihei Ueshiba between 1930s and 1960s. Like other Japanese martial arts except a method of self-defence Aikido is also a way of spiritual and physical self-perfection. The name Aikido is made up of three Japanese characters AI-harmony, balance, proportion; KI-energy, strength and DO-the way. It is often translated as The Way of Harmony with Universal Energy. Movements from some ancient martial art schools Dayto-ryu Aiki-juzu, Iwama-ryu Kenjuzu, Kito-ryu, Jagyu-ryu, Shinkage-ryu, Hodzoin-ryu, Takenouchi-ryu, Tenshin-ryu where Morihei trained when he was young underlie in Aikido.

Aikido is considered as one of the most difficult Japanese martial arts to be mastered. Thus if we compare Aikido with Judo or Aikido with Karate a few similarities may be found. For example, while in Judo techniques for grabbing the lapel or collar are used to throw the attacker, in Aikido the contact is in timing. A bigger difference is seen when we compare Aikido with Karate. The movements in Karate generally come down to strikes and kicks. That's why most movements look rectilinear although there are some circular movements. The essence of Aikido techniques is in the whole complete circular and spherical movement. The rectilinear movement in Aikido is very rare. Many Aikido movements are derived from the traditional Japanese fencing. Explaining the techniques in Aikido is easier through knowing the Japanese fencing. O'Sensei had always claimed: Those who study Aikido and practice with sword must move in accordance with the techniques of Aikido-fencing. If they practice with Jo they must master the weapons techniques with Jo. The sword and the Jo are continuation of our bodies and if you don't learn how to deal with them as if they are parts of your body you haven't learnt Aikido.

Aikido trainings follow certain rules inherited by the Japanese traditions. Observing those rules shows the practitioner's attitude to the martial art and helps for the quality of the training and education. In most of the cases, the so-called pre-arranged practice, in which is clear who attacks and who performs the technique, is used while training Aikido. The one who performs the technique is called Tori (Nage) and the one who attacks is called Uke.

 
 

Yoshimitsu Yamada 8th dan performing a throwing technique Tenchi nage.

The Sensei is usually the person who demonstrates and explains the techniques. Then the students practice them together trying to repeat what they have been shown. Working out of a technique aims to increase the deftness of the movements and flexibility of the body. It also builds up the right stance of the torso. It promotes the sturdiness and suppleness of the limbs but at the same time it teaches practitioners how to use the strength of the center (Hara) not only their arms and legs. Through many repeated exercises the aikidoka learns to move in a proper way which shows a good stance of the body without losing balance and at the same time performing the techniques efficiently.

 
 

Morihiro Sayto 9th dan performing Sankyo.

While learning a technique the practitioner must observe some of the fundamental principles like Ma Ai (distance) and Zen Shin (be aware) as well as keep in mind the main characteristics of the technique itself. Aikido has a wide range of techniques - unarmed and armed. Both follow the same principles of performing.

The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, said: Fighting unarmed is the same as fighting armed. The precise movements for performing the techniques are not defined in details so there are varieties in different schools.

The techniques usually follow this order:

1.Leaving the attack line
2.Unbalancing
3.Throws or joint locks

Performing a technique usually starts with an attack. These attacks during training are done by Uke to enable Tori to perform the technique which he/she has been taught. Using strikes by Tori is not the base of the technique but an extra means. The attack must be as real as possible i.e. Uke must be concentrated while performing it and use strength to strike or grab Tori.

There is a great variety of holds used as attacks in Aikido. Here are some:

  • Katate dori single hand grab right hand grabs left wrist and vice versa
  • Katate Kosa dori right hand grabs right wrist and vice versa
  • Ryote dori both hands grab both wrists
  • Morote dori both hands grab one wrist
  • Kata dori shoulder grab
  • Ryo kata dori both shoulders grab
  • Sode dori sleeve grab at the elbow
  • Hiji dori elbow grab
  • Mune dori one hand grab for the lapel
  • Eri dori one hand grab for the collar from the back
  • Shime dori different kinds of choking grabs

Techniques against attacks with arms and legs are studied as well. For example:

  • Shomen uchi overhead strike to the head
  • Men uchi strike to the head
  • Jokomen uchi Diagonal strike to the side of the head
  • Shuto uchi knifehand strike
  • Tsuki punch
  • Mae geri front kick
  • Mawashi geri round (house) kick
  • Joko geri side kick
  • Ura mawashi geri reverse roundhouse kick
  • Ushiro yoko geri reverse/spinning side thrust kick

     

 
 

Shoji Nisho 8th dan performing a pinning technique Osae waza.

 
 

Seigo Yamaguchi 8th dan performing a throwing technique Tenchi nage.

For more advanced practitioners there are techniques against combination of holds and attacks from:

  • Kata dori Men uchi a shoulder grab and a direct upward strike to the head (with an open hand)
  • Kata dori Shomen uchi a shoulder grab and a direct downward strike to the head (with an open hand)
  • Kata dori Yokomen uchi a shoulder grab and a side strike to the head (with an open hand)
  • Kata dori Jodan tsuki (Ganmen uchi) a shoulder grab and a punch to the face
  • Kata dori mune tsuki a shoulder grab and a punch to the chest

Typical for Aikido trainings is learning different techniques from:

  • Tachi waza Tori and Uke are in a standing position.
  • Hanmi handachi waza Tori is in Seiza and Uke is standing.
  • Suwari waza Tori and Uke are in Seiza.

In most of the Aikido schools round the world weapons training is an integral part of Aikido teaching. Morihei Ueshiba had never carried out separate weapons trainings although that kind of trainings were everyday practice in Hombu Dojo. Teaching weapons practices vary considerably in different schools. The most popular weapons are Jo (wooden staff), Bokken (wooden sword), Tanto (wooden knife) and Katana (Samurai sword). They are used generally for the purpose of giving insight into the attacker as well as improving the movements and having proper distance between Uke and Tori. As in most of the rest martial arts Kata training is practiced in Aikido, too. It is a form against imaginable non-existent attacker only with Jo, Bokken and Katana.

Aikido Weapons
  • Jo
  • Bokken
  • Tanto
  • Katana

A typical part of the trainings for advanced students is Jui waza free-style practice of techniques usually against one attacker. There are also Randori free-style techniques against one or more attackers.

Ranking in Aikido is according to kyu/dan system. Testing requirements for students grades (kyu) vary in different schools.

 
 

Morihiro Saito 9th dan during an outdoor training with Katana.

Aikido can benefit everyone male or female, young or old. Aikido techniques follow the principle of non-resistance. The one who performs the technique uses the energy of their opponents attack which requires no force.

Aikido is ideal for application to a wide range of defensive situations. Aikido trainings help practitioners to build up their skills to survive in any critical situations; to be able not merely to disarm the attackers but to discourage them from attacking again. Aikido training doesnt view the body and mind separately. The physical relaxation learnt in Aikido naturally becomes mental relaxation. The skills acquired in Aikido give a feeling of confidence, self-control, spiritual purity, clarity of mind and develop the inner power and harmony of a strong individual. An objective of Aikido is to proove practically the true human potential and to perfect the human character. Through its methods Aikido enables our personality to identify within itself. It appears to be an art of self-discipline in which the various techniques are only the way to get to know our limits, to develop and master our physical and mental abilities and to refine our SELF.

 

 

Demonstration of Doshu Kishomaru Ueshiba - 1994. Demonstration of Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba - 2009.
Demonstration of Morihiro Sayto 9th dan - 1985. Demonstration of Kanshu Sunadomari 9th dan - 1985.