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Aikido (合氣道:あいきどう, aikidō?) is a gendai budō, a modern Japanese martial art, developed by Morihei Ueshiba. The art consists of striking, body throw and joint locking techniques and is known for its fluidity and blending with an attacker, rather than meeting force with force.
Spirit of Aikido
The word aikido is formed of three Japanese characters,
- 合 - ai - joining
- 氣 - ki - spirit
- 道 - dō - way.
Aiki is a martial arts principle or tactic. It typically describes an idea of oneness or blending in the midst of combat. This principle finds expressions in such lethal concepts as ai-uchi (相撃ち:あいうち, ai-uchi?), meaning "mutual strike/kill", but in aikido it generally describes the more elevated notion of blending rather than clashing. Emphasis is upon joining with the rhythm and intent of the opponent in order to find the optimal position and timing with which to apply the technique.
The techniques of aikido can, when applied judiciously, divert or immobilize rather than damage or kill. As a result, some consider aikido to be a practical symbol of meeting aggression (physical, verbal, etc.) with an effective but merciful response, and finding harmony in conflict. Ueshiba declared, "To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace."
Aikido, as envisioned by its founder, is not only the synthesis of the founder's martial training, but also the expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation. Today, aikido continues its evolution from the koryū (old-style martial arts), to a wide variety of expressions by martial artists throughout the world.
Martial studies of aikido's founder
Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei, 14 December 1883–26 April 1969), also known by aikido practitioners as Ōsensei ("Great Teacher"). Ueshiba developed aikido primarily during the late 1920s through the 1930s through the synthesis of the older martial arts that he had studied. The core martial art from which aikido derives is Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu, which Ueshiba studied directly with Takeda Sokaku (武田 惣角 Takeda Sōkaku, 1859–1943), the revivor of that art. Additionally, Ueshiba is known to have studied Tenjin Shin'yo-ryū with Tozawa Tokusaburō (戸沢 徳三郎, 1848–1912) in Tokyo in 1901, Gotōha Yagyu Shingan-ryū under Nakai Masakatsu (中井 正勝, fl. 1891–1908) in Sakai from 1903 to 1908, and judo with Kiyoichi Takagi (高木 喜代子 Takagi Kiyoichi, 1894–1972) in Tanabe in 1911. 
The art of Daitō-ryū is the primary technical influence upon aikido. Along with empty-handed throwing and joint-locking techniques, Ueshiba incorporated training movements with weapons, such as those for the yari (spear), jō (a short quarterstaff), juken (bayonet) and most notably kenjutsu. Aikido practitioners move as 'empty-handed swordsmen'.
Ueshiba moved to Hokkaidō in 1912, and he began studying under Takeda Sokaku in 1915. His official association with Daitō-ryū continued until 1937. However, during the latter part of that period, Ueshiba had already begun to distance himself from Takeda and the Daitō-ryū. At that time, Ueshiba was referring to his martial art as "Aiki Budō". It is unclear when exactly Ueshiba began using the name "aikido", but it officially became the name of the art in 1942, when the Dai Nihon Butokukai (Great Japanese Martial Virtue Society) was engaged in a government sponsored reorganization and centralization of Japanese martial arts. 
Philosophical and political developments
After Ueshiba left Hokkaidō in 1919, he met and was profoundly influenced by Onisaburo Deguchi (出口 王仁三郎 Deguchi Ōnisaburo, 1871–1948), the spiritual leader of the Ōmoto-kyō religion (a neo-Shinto movement) in Ayabe. Significantly, one of the primary features of Ōmoto-kyō is its emphasis on the attainment of utopia during one's life. This is the primary influence upon Ueshiba's martial philosophy of love and compassion, especially for those who seek to harm others. Aikido demonstrates this philosophy in its emphasis upon mastering martial arts so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it. In an ideal resolution, not only is the receiver unharmed, but so is the attacker.
In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, the connection with Deguchi was to have a major effect in introducing Ueshiba to various elite political and military circles as a martial artist. As a result of this exposure he was able to attract not only financial backing but also gifted students in their own right. Several of these students went on to found their own styles of aikido (see Styles).
The international dissemination of aikido
Aikido was first brought to the West in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki (望月 稔 Mōchizuki Minoru, 1907–2003) with a visit to France where he introduced aikido techniques to judo students. He was followed by Tadashi Abe (阿部 正 Abe Tadashi, 1926–1984) in 1952 who came as the official Aikikai Honbu representative, remaining in France for seven years. Kenji Tomiki (富木 謙治 Tomiki Kenji, 1900–1979) toured with a delegation of various martial arts through fifteen continental states of the United States in 1953. Subsequently in that year, Koichi Tohei (藤平 光一 Tōhei Kōichi, born 1920) was sent by Aikikai Honbu to Hawaii, for a full year, where he set up several dojo. This was backed up by several further visits and is thus considered the formal introduction of aikido to the United States. The United Kingdom followed in 1955; Germany and Australia in 1965. Today there are many aikido dojo available to train at throughout the world.
Aikido training is based primarily on two person kata rather than randori. Uke, the receiver of the technique, usually initiates an attack against nage (also referred to as tori or shite depending on aikido style), who neutralises this attack with an aikido technique.
Some common techniques and their Aikikai terminology:
- Ikkyō- (first technique) a control using one hand on the elbow and one on near the wrist which leverages uke to the ground. This grip also applies pressure into the ulnar nerve on the medial side of the arm.
- Nikyō- (second technique) an adductive wristlock that torques the arm and applies painful nerve pressure.
- Sankyō- (third technique) a pronating technique that directs upward-spiraling tension throughout the arm, elbow and shoulder.
- Yonkyō- (fourth technique) a shoulder control similar to ikkyō (see illustration), but with both hands gripping the forearm. The knuckles (from the palm side) are applied to the recipient's radial nerve against the periosteum of the forearm bone.
- Gokyō- (fifth technique) a variant of ikkyō in which the hand gripping the wrist is inverted. Common in tanto and other weapon take-aways.
- Shihōnage- (four-direction throw) The hand is folded back past the shoulder, locking the shoulder joint.
- Kotegaeshi- (wrist return) a supinating wristlock-throw that stretches the extensor digitorum.
- Kokyūnage- (breath throw) a term for various types of flowing "timing throws".
- Iriminage- (entering-body throw) throws in which nage moves through the space occupied by uke. The classic form superficially resembles a "clothesline" technique.
- Tenchinage- (heaven-and-earth throw) From uke grabbing both wrists of nage. Moving forward, nage sweeps one hand low ("earth") and the other high ("heaven"), which unbalances uke so that he or she easily topples over.
- Koshinage- (hip throw) aikido's version of the hip throw. Nage drops his or her hips lower than those of uke, then flips uke over the resultant fulcrum.
- Jūjinage- (shaped-like-'ten'-throw) a throw that locks the arms against each other. (The kanji for "10" is a cross-shape.)
- Kaitennage- (rotation throw) nage sweeps the arm back until it locks the shoulder joint, then uses forward pressure to throw.
Aikido makes use of tai sabaki, or body movement, to blend with uke. An irimi (entering-body) style technique consists of movements inward towards uke, while tenkan (turning) style uses a pivoting motion. An uchi ("inside") technique takes place in front of uke, whereas a soto ("outside") technique takes place to his side; an omote technique is applied in front, whereas an ura version is applied using a turning motion; and most techniques can be performed while in seiza (seated). (Seated techniques are called suwari-waza.)
Thus, from less than twenty basic techniques, there are thousands of possible implementations. For instance, ikkyō can be applied to an opponent moving forward with a strike (perhaps an ura-waza type of movement to redirect the incoming force), or to an opponent who has already struck and is now moving back to reestablish distance (perhaps an omote-waza version). Specific aikido kata are typically referred to with the formula "attack-technique(-modifier)". For instance, katate-dori ikkyō refers to any ikkyō technique executed when uke is holding one wrist. This could be further specified as katate-dori ikkyō omote(-waza), referring to any forward-moving ikkyō technique from that grab.
Atemi are strikes (or feints) employed during an aikido technique. Some view atemi as attacks against "vital points" meant to cause damage in and of themselves. For instance, Gozo Shioda (塩田 剛三 Shioda Gōzō, 1915–1994) described using atemi in a brawl to quickly down a gang's leader. Others consider atemi, especially to the face, to be methods of distraction meant to enable other techniques. A strike, whether or not it is blocked, can startle the target and break his or her concentration. The target may also become unbalanced in attempting to avoid the blow, for example by jerking the head back, which may allow for an easier throw.
Many sayings about atemi are attributed to Morihei Ueshiba, who considered them an essential element of technique. 
Students will learn the various attacks from which an aikido technique can be practiced. Although attacks aren't studied as thoroughly as in striking-based arts, honest attacks (a strong strike or an immobilizing grab) are needed to study correct and effective application of technique.
The 'uchi' strikes of aikido are often said to resemble blows from a sword or other grasped object, which may suggest origins in techniques intended for armed combat. Kicks are generally reserved for upper-level variations: reasons cited include that falls from kicks are especially dangerous, and that kicks (high kicks in particular) were uncommon during the types of combat prevalent in feudal Japan.
- Shōmen'uchi- (front-face-strike) a vertical knife-hand strike to the head.
- Yokomen'uchi- (side-face-strike) a diagonal knife-hand strike to the side of the head or neck.
- Mune-tsuki (or chūdan-tsuki)- (chest-thrust) a punch to the torso. Specific targets include the chest, abdomen, and solar plexus.
- Ganmen-tsuki (or jōdan-tsuki)- (face-thrust) a punch to the face.
Beginners in particular often practice techniques from grabs, both because they are safer and because it is easier to feel the energy and lines of force of a hold than a strike. Some grabs are historically derived from being held while trying to draw a weapon; a technique could then be used to free oneself and immobilize or strike the grabbing person.
The kata- (single-) prefixed forms are listed below. The prefix ryō- indicates "both" instead; e.g., katate-dori (single-hand-grab) becomes ryōte-dori (both-hands-grab). (Note: another kanji, 肩, also pronounced kata, means "shoulder", which may lead to some confusion.) Common variants include mochi instead of dori.
- Katate-dori- (single-hand-grab) one hand grabs one wrist.
- Morote-dori- (both-hands-grab) both hands grab one wrist.
- Ryōte-dori- (both-hands-grab) both hands grab both wrists. (sometimes called ryōkatate-dori)
- Kata-dori- (shoulder-grab) a shoulder grab. (both-shoulders-grab is ryōkata-dori)
- Mune-dori- (chest-grab) grabbing the (clothing of the) chest.
Ukemi (lit. "receiving-body"), is a martial arts term for protective techniques, such as parries or safe falls. One of the first skills taught to beginning students of aikido is how to land when thrown so as to avoid injury. Familiarity with different types of breakfalls allows sincere execution of techniques that could otherwise be prohibitively dangerous. In applying the technique, it is the responsibility of nage to prevent injury to uke by employing a speed and force of application that commensurate with their partner's proficiency in ukemi.
Both halves of the technique, that of uke and that of nage, are considered essential to aikido training. Both are studying aikido principles of blending and adaptation, applied from different sides of the technique. Nage learns to blend with and control attacking energy, while uke learns to become calm and flexible in the disadvantageous, off-balance positions in which nage places them. (This "receiving" of the technique is called ukemi.) Uke continuously seeks to regain balance and cover vulnerabilities (e.g. an exposed side), while nage uses position and timing to keep uke off-balance and vulnerable. In more advanced training, uke will sometimes apply kaeshi-waza ("reversal techniques") to regain their balance and pin or throw nage.
One feature of aikido is training for multiple attackers. Randori, or jiyūwaza (freestyle) practice done with multiple attackers, is a key part of most curriculae and is required for the higher level ranks. Randori exercises a person's ability to intuitively perform techniques in an unstructured environment. Strategic choice of techniques, based upon how they reposition the student relative to other attackers, is important in randori training. For instance, an ura technique might be used to neutralise the current attacker while turning to face attackers approaching from behind.
Shodokan Aikido randori differs in that it is not done with multiple persons, with defined roles of defender and attacker, but between two people with both participants able to attack, defend and resist at will. In this respect it resembles judo randori.
Weapons training in aikido traditionally includes wooden jō (short staff), bokken (wooden katana), and tantō (knife). Today some schools now incorporate gun disarm techniques. Both weapon-taking and weapon-retention are sometimes taught, to integrate armed and unarmed aspects. Some schools of aikido do not train with weapons at all while others, such as the so-called Iwama style of the late Morihiro Saito (斉藤 守弘 Saitō Morihiro, 1928–2002), usually spend substantial time with bokken, jō, and tantō. The founder developed much of empty handed aikido from traditional sword and staff movements so practice of these movements gives both insight into the origin of techniques and movements, and vital practice of these basic building blocks.
The vast majority of aikido styles use the kyū/dan ranking system common to gendai budō, however the actual requirements for each belt level differs between styles, so they are not necessarily comparable or interchangeable. Some organisations of aikido use coloured belts for kyū levels.
The aikidōgi used in aikido is similar to the keikogi used in most other modern budō arts; simple trousers and a wraparound jacket, usually white. Both thick (judo), and thin (karate) cotton tops are used. Most aikido systems also add hakama. The hakama is usually black or indigo, and is usually reserved for practitioners with dan (black belt) ranks, although some styles allow all female practitioners to wear hakama.
The Japanese character for ki, (Qi in Chinese) is a symbolic representation of a lid covering a pot full of rice. The steam being contained within, is ki. This same word is applied to the ability to harness one's own 'breath power', 'power', or 'energy'. Teachers describe ki as coming from the hara, situated in the lower abdomen, about two inches below and behind the navel. In training these teachers emphasize that one should remain "centered".
The precise meaning of ki within aikido is the subject of debate amongst the various disciplines and teachers. Ueshiba himself appears to have changed his views over time, and styles originating from each of those periods bear certain associated marks. For example, Yoshinkan Aikido, which largely follows Ueshiba's teachings from before the war, is considerably more martial in nature, reflecting a younger, more violent, and less "spiritual" man. For example, Gozo Shioda, having analyzed the techniques of aikido, decided that the secret to kokyu, or "breathing", lay in the use of timing and the application of the whole body's strength to one point. As Ueshiba evolved and his views changed, his teachings took on a much more ethereal feel, and many of his later students teach about ki from this perspective.
Physical training goals pursued in conjunction with aikido include relaxation, flexibility, and endurance, with less emphasis on weightlifting-style strength. In aikido technique, pushing or extending movements are much more common than pulling or contracting movements, and this distinction can be applied to general fitness goals as well.
Some fitness activities, for example weight-lifting, emphasize contractionary power, in which specific muscles or muscle groups are isolated and worked to improve tone, mass, and power. Aikido-related training instead emphasizes the use of coordinated whole-body movement and balance, more similar to something like yoga or pilates. For example, conditioning methods used during aikido classes often include repetitions of breakfalls, or sustained randori.
Aikido training is mental as well as physical, emphasizing the ability to relax the mind and body even under the stress of dangerous situations. This is necessary in order to enable the bold enter-and-blend movements that underlie aikido techniques, wherein an attack is met with confidence and directness. Morihei Ueshiba once remarked that one "must be willing to receive 99% of an opponent's attack and stare death in the face" in order to execute technique. As a martial art concerned not only with fighting proficiency but also with the betterment of daily life, this mental aspect is of key importance to aikido practitioners.
The major styles of aikido each have their own honbu dojo in Japan, have an international breadth, and were founded by direct students of Morihei Ueshiba. Although there has been an explosion of "independent styles" generally only the first six listed are considered major.
- Aikikai is the largest aikido organisation, and is led by the family of the founder. Contains many affiliated and sub-organizations.
- Yoshinkan founded by Gozo Shioda, has a reputation for being the most rigidly precise.
- Yoseikan was founded by Minoru Mochizuki, who was an early student of Ueshiba and also of Jigoro Kano at the Kodokan.
- Shodokan Aikido founded by Kenji Tomiki, use sparring and rule based competition in training as opposed to most others.
- The Ki Society founded by Koichi Tohei, emphasizes soft flowing techniques and has a special program for developing ki.
- Iwama style emphasizes the relation between weapon techniques and barehand techniques.
- Shin'ei Taido founded by the late Noriaki Inoue, nephew of Morihei Ueshiba.
- Yoshokai Aikido, founded by Takashi Kushida, a Yoshinkan aikido senior instructor.
- Tendoryu Aikido Headed by Kenji Shimizu.
- Shin Budo Kai headed by Shizuo Imaizumi.
- Kokikai Aikido, founded by Shuji Maruyama in 1986.
- Seidokan Aikido, founded by Rod Kobayashi.
- Nippon Kan Headed by Gaku Homma.
- Takemusu Aiki Tomita Academy. Academy for the development of Takemusu Aiki founded in 1992 by Takeji Tomita.
- Aiki Manseido Headed by Kanshu Sunadomari. Independent style centred in Kyūshū, Japan.
- Fugakukai International Association. Has roots in the Shodokan style, but without the competition element.
The above styles can trace their lineage through senior students back to the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Two further well known martial arts use the name aikido but do not have this direct connection. They are Korindo Aikido founded by Minoru Hirai and Nihon Goshin Aikido founded by Shodo Morita. These schools, with some historical justification, suggest that the name aikido is not the exclusive domain of arts derived from the teachings of Morihei Ueshiba.
It is sometimes said that in Japan the term aikidōka (合氣道家:あいきどうか, aikidōka?) mainly refers to a professional, while in the west, anyone who practices may call themselves an aikidōka. The term "aikidoist" is also used as a more general term, especially by those who prefer to maintain the more restricted, Japanese meaning of the term aikidōka.
- See List of aikidoka
- See List of aikido organisations
- ^ a b The Art of Peace - a translation of selected "doka" (sayings) of Ueshiba by John Stevens.
- ^ Pranin, Stanley. (2006). "Ueshiba, Morihei". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- ^ Pranin, Stanley. (2006). "Aikido". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- ^ Aikido exercises for teaching and training by C.M. Shifflett
- ^ An article by Ellis Amdur on the conceptions of irimi and tenkan.
- ^ a b Aikido Shugyo by Gozo Shioda
- ^ Ueshiba's quotations on atemi
- ^ Aikido: Tradition and the Competitive Edge by Fumiaki Shishida and Tetsuro Nariyama
- AikiWeb Aikido Information is a comprehensive site on aikido, with essays, forums, gallery, reviews, columns, wiki and other information.
- AikidoFAQ an informational aikido website, including articles, tips, and multimedia.
- Aikido Journal Website An extensive source of aikido historical information.