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Aikido Japanese Martial Arts: Principles, History & Philosophy

In a world where people tend to favor martial arts which train you how to attack and cause harm in just a couple of classes; Aikido ushers in a change. It is a form of modern Japanese martial arts, which has surfaced as late as the 20th Century and primarily focuses on self-defense techniques instead of moves to attack and injure. But that is not what sets Aikido apart from the more popular forms of martial arts.

Aikido is more of a way of life. It teaches one not only to defend themselves but to also protect their opponent by using the energy of the opponent to break the fight. Aikido is a technique which unifies the energies of the body and the heart. It is a form of martial arts with a soul.

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The Background of Aikido

Aikido, when broadly translated, means the art of unifying the energies of life. It was created and developed in early 1920 by Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba himself was a student of the form of marital arts known as Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. However, along the line he believed that he sought something more. 

Ueshiba discovered some of the answers he sought during his involvement with Ōmoto-kyō. Ōmoto-kyō is a neo-Shinto religion prominent in Ayabe. It encourages its believers to seek utopia in their current life. Ueshiba was inspired by this philosophy and was excited by the notion of creating a form of martial arts which used the energies of life to reach closer to this Utopia. 

Through 1930 he took efforts to develop the first forms of Aikido, he called “Aiki Budō”. Aiki loosely means unifying or combining and Budo refers to martial arts in general. Ueshiba started to be recognized by his students as Ōsensei or the Great Teacher.

His association with Ōmoto-kyō also introduced him to Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the religion. Deguchi gave access to Ueshiba to elite political and military circles and interact with them as an artist of the martial arts. This exposure was a huge boost to garner the necessary financial backing to further his learning and his teaching and it also gave him access to the right kind of students to further Aikido.

The Ki of Aikido

The knowledge of Aikido is incomplete without understanding the Ki. Ki cannot really be classified either as a physical or mental training. It comprises in equal parts of both. The Japanese symbol which represent ki resembles a lid over a pot rice, which releases the nourishing vapors contained within it.

Ki, in Japan, is broadly used in correlation with health and mental and physical wellbeing. Through traditional martial arts, Ki has been interpreted as the energy of life. Though the conventional forms of marital arts use harsher styles to express the Ki, Ueshiba adapted a gentler, softer interpretation of Ki in his teachings of Aikibo. Over the years his students honed his interpretation of Ki and uncovered new techniques to implement it better in this lifestyle.

The Uke and Tori

Aikido is perhaps the only form of martial arts which places equal importance on both halves of the training – the attacker and the receiver. Tori is the attacker or the student implementing the attacking techniques while controlling the energy used in the attack. The Uke is the receiving student. He has to learn to be calm and flexible. His primary goal is create on off-balance or a disadvantageous position in the situation created by Tori. The receiving technique has been further defined as Ukemi. 

Ukemi involves detailed attention to the opponent, the technique and the environment of the fight. It teaches a receiver to accept safely, what could have potentially been a devastating attack. 

The struggle between Uke and Tori continues as one tries to regain a balance, while the other tries to create the off-balance. As a student advances he is also taught to apply reversal techniques or kaeshi-waza to regain the lost balance.

Weapons used in Aikido

Though Aikido deals primarily with self-defense, it does permit the use of certain weapons. This includes:

- Wooden Sword

- Knife

The training of the use of weapons involves intense training in timing, distances, foot movement and connection with one’s opponent, especially during the training.

Training for Aikido requires submitting oneself to the philosophy of peace and a higher purpose of existence. It requires patience and tremendous discipline. But the change that this lifestyle brings about, is worth all the practice.

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