A History of Aikido
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 an expert at a number of styles of Ju Jitsu (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.
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.