What is Aikido?
As the peaceful martial art Aikido doesn’t know competitions or the concept of winner or loser. Already the meaning of the name AIKIDO shows this clearly:
AI = harmony, love, friendship
KI = vital energy, spirit
DO = art, way of life
Most of the Aikido-techniques originate from old samurai sword-techniques. Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), the founder of Aikido, developed the Aikido- techniques we know today during the 20th of last century. After years of practice in several martial arts including training with weapons he started to create his own way of Budo. One of his most influential teachers was Sokaku Takeda. Among the existing martial arts of those days, Takeda’s Daito-Ryu was the one that came the closest to the Aikido Ueshiba was to develop later on. But for several reasons Ueshiba and Takeda parted early. And from then on Daito-Ryu and Aikido have been developing rather independently from one another, and they have become quite different kinds of martial arts. There are now both Daito-Ryu and Aikido dojos all over the world, although the latter became more popular.
The principle of Aikido
What matters in Aikido is not to defeat and floor an attacker (or partner during training). What matters is to realize the inner battles we are all fighting and to learn to overcome them, maybe transform them and put them to use. So one could say, we are not “fighting” somebody else but ourselves. The intention of an attacker is to hurt and maybe to kill. But if you don’t react on the same level, you won’t become a victim, because then you are able to change the situation. Change it from conflict and separation to harmony and a feeling of togetherness (Aiki). To be more precise, this means not to block an attack but to take its energy and use it to do the technique. This way the energy of both people becomes one, and so do the former opponents.
This is one of the basics of Aikido: the principle of Aiki.
At the beginning of any Aikido practice stands physical education. So you start with learning simple but essential and effective breathing exercises. These are accompanied by concentration and relaxation exercises as well as exercises to improve coordination and sense of balance. And you have to learn several falling techniques (Ukemi) that will allow you to practice Aikido effectively and without getting hurt. Especially the falling techniques are difficult for beginners. But as through all these exercises your body becomes more flexible and balanced, the Ukemi becomes easier in time.
To practice the techniques Aikido uses an attacker-and-defender scheme. The defender changes the direction of the attack into a spiral movement up to a point where the attacker loses control of his body. All this is done in a way that gives the attacker the possibility to safe his health and life by doing ukemi (falling techniques).