Aikido translates roughly to ‘way of harmony,’ a name the art has more than earned with its philosophy of nonviolence. It is a martial art that emphasizes meditation and cultivation of the ki, the source of mental energy. Aikido is used to develop both physical and mental aspects of life, increasing flexibility and strength as well as positivity and relationship with nature. Additionally, people of all ages find that Aikido training helps them resolve conflict nonviolently, improve physical coordination and develop a positive approach to life's challenges, while having fun.
The earliest history of Aikido is unclear, but the roots of this martial art are found in 9th century Japan. Originally formed from combinations of open-hand movements and weaponry techniques, the style has transformed from combative to self-defensive, focusing on balance-breaking and pinning.
World War II and the Allied invasion of Japan helped spread Aikido out of Asia and into the West. At this time, Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of Aikido, was combining many classical fighting styles with Jui Jitsu, and he found a rapt audience in the visiting U.S. soldiers. Morihei and his students were nearly solely responsible for the positive response in the western world. Today, there are new divisions of Aikido schools and organizations, such as the Japan Aikido Association (Shodokan Aikido) and the International Aikido Federation (IAF).
Morihei formed Aikido based off a universal cosmic power called ki, which can be accessed for both mental and physical control of an opponent as well as for purification and uplift of the spirit and for bodily health. This is the origin of the “way of harmony,” because it is the union of the tangible world with its life force. Diligent practice is said to give the individual an understanding of the true laws of nature, make him or her impervious to assault and indifferent to fatigue, endow the person with a sixth sense of events about to occur, and make daily life free of anxiety.
Belt levels are not as integral in Aikido as they are in other disciplines. The first multi-rank levels are said to have been created in England to unite different styles of martial arts. While many schools today conduct graduations from color to color to show advancement in the art, traditionally all kyu (lower-rank) students are considered white belts until they become dan (black belts). Although the dan students begin to wear the hakama, the black pants that look similar to a skirt, the advancement is shown primarily in both betterment of self and of technique, an attitude that also contributes to the non-competitive philosophy.
Traditionally, Aikido is considered a non-competitive discipline. However, as the roots splintered into different interpretations, some styles grew to sponsor competitions to promote in-depth and consistent training. Not every branch of Aikido takes this non-traditional viewpoint, however, so factoring one’s desire for competition into an Aikido school search is a must.
Popularity Around the Globe
Although Taekwondo, Judo, and Karate tend to be more popular, Aikido is also growing in scope. Because of Aikido’s reputation as a “soft style,” the people who practice it tend to be less aggressive. This lack of aggression between peers makes Aikido an ideal art for those who unite to find like-minded martial artists who desire to avoid violence. For this reason, Aikido is also ideal for young children, older students, and those with disabilities.
Aikido technique is developed mainly through kata (forms), choreographed movements to demonstrate proficiency by working in pairs to replicate both the actions of assailant and attacker. The difficulty of kata increases as the student grows stronger; they begin to challenge balance, coordination, and rhythm. Kata enable the student to learn and develop Aikido skills in safe, controlled environments. In addition to weaponless skills, instruction for stick-fighting combinations is also provided by Aikido instructors who are dedicated to advancing Aikido globally. Formal training and diligent practice over many years are essential if one truly wants to master the art.
Aikido... A Popular Martial Art
Aikido is a popular form of Japanese martial arts taught by a plethora of martial arts schools, academies and gyms across the country. Roughly translated as “the way of unifying with life energy,” Aikido training is an interesting blend of spirituality, philosophy and martial arts that was designed by Morihei Ueshiba. It is the goal of Aikido schools to teach students how to defend themselves against an attacker while at the same time protecting their accoster from harm. In other words, Aikido moves and techniques are about maintaining harmony and peace.
How Does Aikido Martial Arts Work?
The martial art of Aikido essentially involves the neutralization of an attack by rerouting its speed and force. The opponent will therefore make use of the attacker’s impetus and momentum and use it against them. So, instead of meeting an attack in a head-on “collision”, it is peacefully deflected and redirected using simple turning movements. Combat Aikido classes also teach students how to neutralize an attacker using certain joint locks and throws. The result is a set of defensive skills that requires little physical strength and yet, can prove highly effective against even large, strong opponents.
As with many of the martial arts, Aikido has developed and evolved since its conception by Ueshiba in the early 20th Century. It has, to a degree, been evolved by many students of Ueshiba, depending on when they studied with him, which explains why it exists in a range of styles and techniques, such as combat Aikido and Yoshinkan Aikido. The core philosophy of Aikido is to preserve the well being of the attacker and for this reason, is often performed as a beautiful and elegant dance between two competitive opponents, rather than as a defensive skill to be used against real attack; although this can be done too! Those learning this martial art may be expected to invest in an Aikido uniform, but aikido equipment is typically provided by the school, gym or training academy.
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