About Aikido


Aikido was founded in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba. He studied many martial arts and fought in the Russo-Japanese war in 1903. In 1927 he began teaching a method of which amalgamated several martial arts, including 3 different schools of ju-jitsu (esp. Aiki Jujutsu Daitoryu), fencing (kenjutsu) and spear fighting (yarijutsu), also adding new aspects to the training. Intrinsic within his training was a concept of ‘non-violent resistance’ and ‘blending’. He later taught self-defence to the Japanese Military and Police Force. In the 1960s Aikido became known in the West, attracting westerners to train (such as Steven Segal). Ueshiba died in 1969 at the age of 86.

O-Sensei, The Founder of Aikido
Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

What is Aikido?

Aikido is most readily compared to ju-jitsu, with many of the techniques deriving from aiki jujutsu daitoryu – a style of ju-jitsu which was originally only taught to members of the Japanese Imperial Guard. Ueshiba developed aikido from this as a martial art which could potentially be used without killing or seriously injuring your opponent. This is probably why it appeals to people working in the police, in hospitals and in security. It utilises the opponent’s force of attack to throw or pin them by ‘blending’ with their movement.

Since many of the techniques were used by the samurai in feudal Japan they are especially useful for disarming armed attackers. Some of the techniques apply pain to joints (especially wrist joints which were not protected by armour) and allow restraint and control of the opponent. Integrated within aikido training is defence against knife attackers, as well as defence against jo (short staff) and bokken (wooden sword). In order to understand the dynamics of movement and aspects of the unarmed technique, aikido students also practise attack techniques with jo and bokken.

Aikido is not primarily just a series of techniques, but instead relies on principles of body movement, response and reaction. Practitioners improve these body movements until they become natural and instinctive.

Ueshiba himself was a very spiritual man, however he did not enforce his religious beliefs on any of his students. It has links with Zen and Taoism, though Ueshiba was a member of a Christian/Shinto religious sect. The philosophy within martial arts is often considered to avoid confrontation, but when necessary to use lethal force to protect yourself. However, within aikido, the objective is to cause minimum injury such that aggressors can be supplicated. Aikido can also prevent aggressive action occurring as it does not require a violent response from the defender. Instead the response can be appropriate to the level of aggression. It was Ueshiba’s contention that Aikido was ‘for the whole human family’.

O-Sensei with a jo

Basic Principles to Keep in Mind when Training

  1. Centre – your ‘hara’ or centre of gravity, about 2 inches below your bellybutton. Arms should almost always be kept in line with your centre (allowing vertical movement) to provide maximum power. Your motion (and ukes) should revolve around your centre.
  2. Hips – large strong hip movement is used to drive the rest of your body (e.g. arms).
  3. Maai – fighting distance. Be aware of whether your opponent is close enough to strike. You should start partner practise just on the boundary of this area.
  4. Te Gatana – Using the blade of the hand. Important when being grabbed and extending to cut and be powerful with the blade of the hand.
  5. Ki – Internal Energy. Whether you believe in it or not, it is essential to visualise both the opponents ki (direction and power of attack) and your ki (direction of power) and to blend these together.
  6. Blending – see ki. Prevents nage having to use excessive force.
  7. Extension – Associated with ki. Enables many techniques to be done through the use of an ‘unbendable arm’ (imagine ki flowing out of the arm).
  8. Leading Control – rather than letting an uke ‘plant’ themselves, you should lead their grab or attack to help generate more motion, and facilitate blending.
  9. Atemi – distracting strikes to vital points. Although often brushed over, it is always important to consider where you can strike uke at any point in the technique (and also where you can be struck).
  10. Zanshin – ‘Awareness’. Without this you can’t see an attack coming. Additionally it prevents you being hit by someone else that is being thrown. Essential in multiple attacks where focusing on just one person can leave you open.

Useful Words

Tae-sebaki – turning exercise during the warm up. Either stepping in and turning to the rear, or just turning to the rear.

Ai-hanmi – a stance where both uke and nage have same (e.g. left) foot forward.

Gyakyu-hanmi – a stance where uke and nage have different feet forward

Migi hanmi – right stance (right foot forward)

Hidari hanmi – left stance (left foot forward)

Ukemi – a forward roll, as performed in Aikido

Irimi – ‘Entering’ movement. A direct movement towards the uke, often to get inside an attack, or unbalance them.

Tenkan – ‘Turning’ movement. Involving a strong hip turn, often throwing uke around nage.

Dojo – training hall (taken from the same name in Zen Buddhism for meditation hall)

Seiza – Kneeling position; derives from the standard sitting position in ancient Japan.

Hakama – A divided ‘skirt’ worn over the gi. In our club it is worn by 1st Kyu (one below black belt) and above. It is part of traditional Japanese dress and was worn by the samurai.

Kamiza – ‘upper seat’ of the mat where a picture of O’sensei (Ueshiba) is placed.

Gi – the white training outfit. Based on traditional Japanese dress (but excludes the hakama)

Uke – the person receiving the throw or aikido technique.

Nage – the person performing the throw or Aikido technique .

Jo – a short staff used as weapon in Aikido training

Bokken – a wooden sword used as a weapon in Aikido training

Tanto – a wooden knife

Sensei – instructor

1-10 in Japanese:

  1. ichi
  2. ni

  3. san

  4. shi

  5. go

  6. roku

  7. shichi

  8. hachi

  9. kyu

  10. ju

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