What is Aikido?
Rather than punching or kicking, Aikido focuses on blending with an opponent’s energy and using it to gain control over them or throw them away from you. It is however, not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.
In Aikido you do not need great physical strength or aggressive spirit so it can be practised by people of all ages. Meaning ‘the way of harmony and spirit’ Aikido does not look to meet violence with violence - it is largely based on circular natural body movements whereby an attacker's aggressive force is turned against them.
The principal Aikido techniques are joint immobilisations and throws using an opponent’s momentum. Practices with bokken and jo (wooden training weapons) help to support the understanding of techniques and their development.
Traditional Aikido has always been non-competitive since it was first created, however several styles have developed which have introduced competitive elements.
Where did Aikido originate from?
The origins of the Japanese martial art known as Aikido can be traced back as far as the 12th Century. Yet it wasn’t until the 1920’s that Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) and developed for both physical and spiritual wellbeing. From a purely physical perspective Aikido involves throws and joint locks derived from Jujitsu and uses other Kenjutsu-based techniques.
Aikido variations or sub styles
Because of Aikido’s dynamic nature, students have interpreted the art in many ways and as a result, different styles and organisations have been created over the years, yet all retain the basic principles of Aikido. Here are a few of them:
Aikikai Developed by Morihei Ueshiba’s grandson Moriteru as taught by the International Aikido Federation. Most practitioners recognise this school as the leading route in Aikido development. The Aikido taught by Ueshiba Sensei is generally large and flowing.
Iwama-ryu Taught by Morihiro Saito. Iwama-ryu looks a lot like the teachings of Aikido O Sensei from the early 1950s, mainly in the Iwama dojo. The technical range is wider than in most other styles with a large focus on weapons training.
Ki Founded by Koichi Tohei, Ki is a softer style characterised by milder movements that often involve the practitioner jumping or skipping during the move. Most schools are not overly-concerned with the practical application of the techniques, considering them exercises to further develop Ki.
The “Sporting” Styles Founded by Kenji Tomiki, and early student of O Sensei and of Judo founder Jigoro Kano. Tomiki Sensei believed that a “rationalization” of Aikido training, along the lines of Judo would make it more easily taught. He also believed that an element of competition would serve to sharpen and focus the practice since it was no longer tested in real combat.
Aiki-Budo This is the name given to the art O Sensei was teaching early in his development. It is very close in style to previously existing Jutsu forms such as Daito-ryu Aiki-Jutsu. It is considered to be one of the harder forms of Aikido. Most of the early students of O Sensei began during this period and much of the early practice overseas was in this style (e.g. Abbe Sensei’s teaching in the UK in the 1950s).
Yoseikan This form was developed by Minoru Mochizuki, an early student of both O Sensei and also Jigoro Kano Sensei at the Kodokan. It includes elements of Aiki-Budo along with aspects of Karate, Judo and other arts.
Yoshinkan This is a harder style of Aikido style taught by the late Gozo Shioda. Shioda Sensei studied with O Sensei from the mid-30s. After the war, he was invited to begin teaching and formed the organisation known as the Yoshinkan. The Yoshinkan, which, unlike some of the other Aikido associations, has always kept good relations with the Aikikai, is generally concerned with practical efficiency and physically robust techniques. Many branches of the Japanese Police are taught this style. Yoshinkai is the international organisation associated with the Yoshinkan style of Aikido and there are a number of active branches in operation throughout the world.