Aikido is a modern, non-competitive Japanese martial art. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was known to his students as O-Sensei. Although often portrayed as a gentle aging teacher, O-Sensei was a warrior, legendary for his martial skills within his own lifetime. He passed away in 1969 at the age of 86, having devoted the latter half of his life to developing and refining the art of Aikido. Aikido continues to evolve under the guidance of O-Sensei’s original live-in students (uchi deshi).
Aikido is a true form of Budo, a path in which the keen edge of martial training is utilised as a Way, or process, by which to achieve spiritual and personal growth. The oriental concept of ki (energy, spirit) is central to Aikido practice, which seeks to harmoniously unite the ki of the individual with that of the universe. In the words of the founder, ‘The Art of Peace is a celebration of the bonding of heaven, earth and humankind.’
Aikido training requires a self-disciplined approach and continuity of practice. Techniques are repetitively practiced in a variety of forms, ensuring that movement becomes spontaneous. Through training, one aspires to flowing movement and a relaxed and centered posture. Aikido is a dynamic art, and control over an assailant is achieved by redirecting their energy and movement, rather than by the use of brute force. Accordingly, an individual’s body size and strength is of less importance than in many of the defensive arts. Improvements in fitness, agility, flexibility and muscular strength number amongst the benefits of consistent training. Over time, practice also enhances mental focus and alertness.
Aikido techniques are grounded in the ancient traditions of Samurai warriors. A series of hand-combat (tai jutsu) techniques have evolved from sword movement and form the basis of Aikido training. Practice with Japanese wooden weaponry (jo – staff, bokken – sword, tanto – knife) is often a component of training sessions.