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Morihei Ueshiba, now called O-Sensei ("Great Teacher"), founded the martial art known today as Aikido. Born in 1883 in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, he dedicated himself to becoming strong after seeing his father assaulted by political opponents. He sought out and studied under masters in many traditional martial arts eventually becoming expert at a number of styles of Jujitsu (in particular Daito Ryu-Aiki jujitsu), kenjitsu (sword fighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting). Dissatisfied with mere strength and technical mastery, he also immersed himself in religious and philosophical studies. The stories of his immense physical strength and martial prowess are impressive enough, but more important is the legacy of non-violence and human integrity he left to mankind.
Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also realize that many Aikido techniques are the result of Master Ueshiba's own innovation. A not very well known fact is that the circular movements of Aikido can also be found in Pa Kua, an internal Chines Martial Art.
Dynamics Of Aikido
The essence of all Aikido technique is the use of total body movements to create spherical motion around a stable, energized center. Even when a technique appears to be using only one part of the body, close observation reveals the Aikidoka’s movements are, in fact, total body movements. Properly executed, some techniques are spectacular; sending an opponent flying thorough the air. Others are small, deft movements that immobilize the aggressor. Both results are achieved through precise use of leverage, inertia, gravity, and the action of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Ultimately, it is the energy of the attack itself, which brings down the attacker.
The final aim of Budo is personal transformation. Its goal is the creation of integrated human beings who are able to bring the totality of their wisdom and capabilities in order to resolve a problem. Yet philosophical discussion is rare in the dojo, (training hall). The focus is highly practical. Constant repetition to master the fundamentals of movement, timing and breathing is the fundamental requirement. Students train themselves to capture the opponent's action and redirect it with techniques of martial efficiency and power. At the same time, they become aware of the tendency to overreact to opposition, and learn to remain centered under all conditions.
Most practice is done with a partner. Each works at his or her own level of ability, alternating as uke (the attacker), and nage (the one who receives the attack). Both roles are stressed as each contributes skills that enhance overall sensitivity and control.
Increased stamina, flexibility, and muscle development occur naturally as a result of training, but the techniques themselves do not depend on strength for effectiveness. Since Aikido's movements and techniques arise from the most efficient utilization of the entire being, the practitioner, regardless of physical strength, can develop great power. Aikido practice encompasses a broad range of training styles, and allows people to train based on their individual stage of development. As a result, men, women and children of all ages can practice Aikido.
The Aikidoka develops a relaxed posture in which the weight of the body is directed towards its physiologic center in the lower abdomen. Gravity is no longer a force to be overcome. Rather it serves to support and stabilize posture. As a result, ordinary movement assumes an appearance of grace and economy. The effects of centering are mental as well as physical. In addition vitality increases, the senses are sharpened, and one is less affected by the irritations and annoyances of daily living. This state is referred to in Japan as having hara, or strong ki. It is a manifestation of the inner quality, which aids the student of Aikido to develop to his or her fullest potential in every area of life.
Though aikido is normally practices in kata form, this does not mean that the movement is 'dead'; on the contrary, each repetition must be effective. The essence of aikido practice is that both partners perfect their movements and try to obtain real strength by applying the techniques correctly. Though aikido differs from other sports in that it goes beyond the normal concepts of victory and defeat, the object of controlling the opponent and gaining superiority must never be forgotten. At the same time, as mentioned before, the aikido-ka must always strive for 'metal harmony'.
When performed correctly aikido technique requires no undue effort. Furthermore, no aikido technique requires abnormal physical power; anyone who can left approximately 16 lbs has sufficient strength - and if at any time a great deal of power is required to execute a technique, it is safe to conclude that the execution is bad. Thus, since aikido can be practiced as energetically or as gently as desired, people of all ages and of both sexes can enjoy it.
The secret of being able to take advantage of the opponent's physical strength in aikido lies in the principle of marui ('circular') motion. Almost no movement in aikido follows a straight line: movement of feet, trunk and arms all describe an arc and, furthermore, are three dimensional in that they follow the lines of a sphere or at time a spiral. Circular motion allows the aikido-ka to add his power to the opponent's pushing or pulling movement without fear of collision.
Changing direction illustrates the efficacy of circular movement. If the initial movement of the body is in a straight line it is necessary to pause to change direction; but if the initial movement is circular it is not necessary to interrupt the flow of movement. Pivoting of the body on either foot , moving along and arc and movement of the hands as though following the contours of a globe are frequently occurring examples of circular motion.