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What is Aikido?

Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art developed in the early part of the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba (also known as "O-Sensei").

Although Aikido is relatively new in the world of Martial Arts, its beginnings are rooted in the unarmed combat systems used by the ancient Samurai and dates back to the 12th century. In physical terms Aikido uses throws, locks, chokes, immobilizations and atemi (strikes to the body), although the true secrets of Aikido are found in the subtle yet precise timing and blending that translates into very powerful martial techniques.

In stark contrast to most other martial arts, Aikido places little emphasis on punching and kicking. Instead, Aikido relies heavily on precisely timed body movement, or taisabaki, which allows one to evade the attacker and harmonize with his/her energy, or "ki" (pronounced "key"), in order to control an attacker.

Of all the Martial Arts, Aikido is perhaps the most associated with the spiritual aspects of Budo (Martial Ways). This became apparent through O-Sensei's emphasis on harmony, peace and the resolution of conflict by non-violent means. This is still seen in modern day Aikido, although different schools of Aikido place varying degrees of emphasis on it. Despite the stress placed on peace, harmony, etc., Aikido can, when applied correctly, be a truly devastating form of self defense. Aikido, like all other Martial Arts, promotes the ideals of self-growth, improvement and respect for yourself and everything around you.

 

History of Aikido

The founder of Aikido, was born on in Japan on 14th of December in the year 1883. After his father was attacked by a group of thugs, he immersed himself in the study of Martial Arts. Over years of dedicated study he attained mastery in a number of different Martial Arts and was considered to be the best Martial Artist in all of Japan. Yet, in spite of his great knowledge and experience, he grew disappointed with the competitive nature and aggressiveness of the Martial Arts.

O-Sensei began to focus more on the spiritual aspects of Budo. Aikido was formed through the merging of his martial training and philosophical beliefs.. O'Sensei continued to teach Aikido, even into old age. He was still giving demonstrations at age 86, shortly before his death. Because of his outstanding contributions to Japan and other countries through his teachings, the Japanese government honored him posthumously by declaring him a "Sacred National Treasure of Japan".

There are no shorts cuts to proficiency in Aikido. It has been said that of all the Martial Arts, Aikido requires the longest study to achieve proficiency. No one becomes an expert in a few months, or even a few years.

 

Training Levels

There are three basic levels of practice that can be applied to almost every technique. Through familiarization of these categories, one can grasp the stages of development most aikidokas go through. The first is the solid or rigid type. It is the fundamental level of practice, in which the partner is allowed to get a firm grasp or hold before the technique is started. The subsequent movement permits one to practice stable hip movements, "ki" extension, coordinated body movements, breathing, and other basics. The solid practice lets one move slowly against strength and power in order to feel the proper movement. The second level is the flexible approach. This intermediate step allows one to add timing and movement to the previously mentioned basics. This level is practiced by having the aggressor get close enough to almost grab or hold the aikidoka. This practice has the defender moving slowly, yet deliberately just before a complete grip is established. The third level is the flowing approach. The attacker is led even before actual physical contact is made. The attacker's intentions are drawn in and led to a throw or a hold down technique. Rhythm and timing are very important as is reading the attacker's intentions. It is at this level that one can practice "free wheeling" technique. The ability to perform flowing movements and to efficiently respond to attacks is quickly developed. When one trains and studies these fundamental parts of Aikido, one can progress to the art of "Takemusu Aiki" described later.


Riai

Riai is a concept unique to the type of Aikido practiced at the Aiki shrine. It's underlying principle stresses that Aikido technique and movements remain the same whether armed or unarmed. If a sword or staff is lost during a confrontation, the techniques and movements remain the same. One trains in this method by learning the empty-handed, the sword, and the staff techniques. With this sort of practice, natural comparisons will arise. Having this knowledge the aikidoka will progress very quickly.


Takemusu Aiki

When the foundation has been laid, the Aikido practitioner can look forward to greater developments in the art. The next step is "Takemusu Aiki" (Aiki that is bound to the roots of the way of the warrior). At this stage techniques are performed effortlessly and spontaneously. The true form is elegant to watch in its beauty and power to feel in its effectiveness.


Aiki Shrine

The Aiki shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan embodies the spirit of Aikido and serves as its source of inspiration. It was at Ibaraki Shuren Dojo that O-sensei refined and perfected Aikido. After teaching and traveling throughout Japan, he would return to the dojo shrine for further refinement and study. Even now practitioners from all over the world come to the shrine to pay homage to the memory of O-sensei and to revitalize their training in Aikido.