Aikido is a way for one to expand the spirit, to balance the body, and to quiet the mind. Our lives are governed by the forces of nature. Aikido is a way to recognize these forces and respond to them appropriately. Its premise is non-resistance. One does not compete with superior force, one blends with it and leads it to a harmonious reconciliation. This requires training of body and mind. Aikido is a martial art based on this philosophy.
Aikido is a relatively new martial art, founded in Japan by master Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). As a youth, Ueshiba Sensei, or O-Sensei (Great Teacher) as he was called, applied himself to many arduous years of training in the Japanese martial arts. He mastered Jiu-jitsu, the use of the spear, the staff, and the sword.
Although he became very accomplished in the martial arts, he grew troubled with the idea that winning at someone else’s expense was not a real victory. He came to realize that true martial skill is not the ability to defeat others, but to defeat the discord within oneself. Though he was an acknowledged master, he began to practice movements, exploring them deeply, searching mentally, and sitting for long hours in meditation.
For a long time he called his art “Aikibudo,” but was still trying to combine his beliefs, life experience, and physical training into one defining art. After years of thinking about what he wanted to accomplish, he decided to tailor his martial art in a way that would help his students improve themselves spiritually as well as physically. In 1942, satisfied with his accomplishments, he decided to call his art “Aikido.”
The word Aikido in Japanese is made up of three characters. The first is “Ai” which means “harmonize.” The second is “Ki” which means “spirit.” In the larger context, “Ki” refers to the spirit of the universe and not just the spirit of human beings. The third and last character is “Do” which means “the way,” to signify that the study of Aikido involves physical practice melded with philosophical examination over a long term. “Ai-Ki-Do,” therefore, means the way of harmonizing with the universe.
The movement of Aikido emphasize a flowing flexibility and maintaining a stable balance. The aim of the Aikidoist is to be in complete control of his or her mind and body, to maintain a calm, alert posture. The continuous and flexible motion centered at the waist is like a dance, a graceful spherical motion. Much of the beauty of Aikido movements derives from coordinated motion of the entire body, with each movement of the body part contributing to the integrated sequence of movements.
The secret of Aikido is not in how you move your feet, it is how you move your mind. I’m not teaching you martial techniques, I’m teaching you nonviolence…
If all you think about is winning, you will in fact lose everything. Know that you and your opponents are treading the same path. Envelop adversaries with love, entrust yourself to the natural flow of things, unify ki, body and mind, and efface the boundary between self and other. This opens unlimited possiblities…
Those who are enlightened to these principles are always victorious. Winning without contending is true victory, a victory over oneself, a victory swift and sure. Victory is to harmonize self and other, to link yourself to the Divine, to yoke yourself to Divine Love, to become the universe itself.
Morihei Ueshiba Founder of Aikido