What is Aikido?

The meaning of the word "Aikido"

The word Aikido is made up of three Japanese characters (or kanji). The first and most important is "Ai" which means "meet, come together, harmonize". The second kanji is "Ki" which means "soul, mind, spirit". In a larger context, Ki refers to the spirit of the universe and not just the spirit in human or sentient beings. The third and last kanji is "Do" which means "the way", to signify that Aikido involves an outer and inner practice over the long term. These three Japanese kanji "Ai-Ki-Do", can be interpreted as "the path, or way, of harmonizing with the universe".

The Nature of Aikido Practice

Aikido is a unique Japanese martial art formulated by Morihei Ueshiba (known as 'O Sensei "honored teacher" to students), based on universal principles of movement and harmonious energies. Students of Aikido learn graceful and powerful martial techniques that respect the power and intent of an opposing force, such as an attack, and use its energy to resolve differences and reach a harmonious state. Physical practice is thus accessible to people of all ages, genders, beliefs and abilities.

Aikido as a martial art is a form of budo, meaning that it is an art intended to train and to sustain transformation of the whole person... a discipline "for perfecting the spirit". As martial practice Aikido can provide technical skills appropriate to physical defense of self and others. As a budo it is meant to build character, discipline, self-confidence and awareness, self respect and respect for others. It teaches how to transform our own aggression or fear into an attitude of self-improvement and compassionate engagement with our self and with everyone around us. It promotes a calm, centered spirit which remains balanced in stressful situations or conflict, both on and off the mat. It fosters our ability to express body and mind, in a spirit of loving protection toward all, realizing our true nature as powerful, compassionate, self-aware beings.

Therefore in Aikido training there are no competitions, as ego and desire to "best an opponent" must be left behind. Students learn to focus their attention in the moment to maintain an open, flexible mind. They learn to focus their physical responses as always open to a partner's movement and intention, and to blend with that potential. They learn to work in a spirit of mutual assistance with partners of equal, greater and lesser experience. They learn to relax their bodies into a stable centered posture, and to move from that point gracefully and economically. They learn techniques of attack and response that are circular, flowing, controlled and designed to redirect energies rather than to avoid or oppose. They learn to accept the will to connect implied in apparent conflicts or opposition and to transform these without engaging in value judgments of the other person's actions or intent. The technical training of Aikido embodies a set of values and attitudes that work to make conflict unnecessary or untenable, and as the body trains so can the spirit follow.

O Sensei said "Aikido is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is a way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family". And he also said "This is not mere theory ... you must practice it."

Aikido Kanji

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