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Understanding Aikido
May 16, 2013

What You Need to Know about Aikido

There is no mistaking that Aikido is one of the most popular martial arts in the world today. Unless you have studied Aikido, you may not know much about where it came from. Most people assume that all Asian martial arts are centuries old. Although Aikido is rich in history and tradition, it is an art that originally started in Japan in the 1940s. The thing that distinguishes Aikido from other martial arts is that it is based more on a philosophy rather than a method of combat.

The only way to truly understand Aikido is to understand its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, who was born on December 14, 1883. As he was growing up, Japan was rapidly changing from an outdated feudal society into a modern industrial nation. He came from a wealthy family and his father was highly active in politics. After witnessing his father brutally attacked by thugs who were followers of a political rival, Ueshiba decided that he would study martial arts in order to seek revenge against the thugs.

Ueshiba moved from one jujutsu school to another, not satisfied with the training, until he settled upon the system of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu under the direction of Takeda Sokaku. Along with his martial arts training, Ueshiba remained politically active, though not in the same capacity as his father. This political involvement brought him into alignment with Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion. Deguchi became just as much of an influence on Ueshiba's thinking as his martial arts training.

A New Direction

Ueshiba founded the martial art of Aikido by combining both his religious beliefs and his training in martial arts. The style was quite different from his Daito-ryu training, incorporating several different styles of jujitsu, aiki-jujitsu, and spear and sword fighting techniques as well. The most important influence of his religious philosophy was on the previously accepted belief that the ultimate goal of a martial art is the 'destruction' of the enemy. Ueshiba challenged that belief saying,

"Budo (martial arts) is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature." He went on to say, "To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love."

Even though a lot of us think of Aikido as a martial art, it is ultimately an art that is based on religion and harmony. The most devastating techniques of jujutsu have been removed, and emphasis is made on techniques that allow control over an opponent without injury. Aikido uses joint locks, momentum, and throws to achieve its purpose, and its effectiveness as a method of self- defense is the result of Ueshiba’s creative innovation.

Where Will It Lead?

By achieving a higher spiritual power, Ueshiba believed that the human body is capable of anything. He stated that Aikido wasn't about fighting, but rather a way to reconcile with the world and make every human being one giant family. Aside from what many think, there really is no unified belief or philosophy in the martial art of Aikido. Different branches of Aikido have developed because there are competing opinions on exactly how to implement and achieve Ueshiba's concepts.

However, all agree that not only will Aikido teach you self-defense, but it will also teach you harmony of the spirit and how to find inner peace as well. If that fits your philosophy, then Aikido just may be the right martial art for you.

Mark A. Jordan

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