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A History of Aikido

Aikido is a Japanese style of martial art formulated by Morihei Ueshiba, also known as O’Sensei or ‘The Great Teacher,’ in the early twentieth century. The art form is predominantly based
on his philosophical and religious beliefs of ‘unifying life energy’ or creating ‘the way of harmonious spirit.’ The term aikido is derived from three Japanese words, ‘ai’ meaning joining or unifying; ‘ki’ meaning spirit or energy; and ‘do’ meaning way or path.

Defending to attack

Unlike other major martial arts such as Karate, Ueshiba’s Aikido is not focused on skills for reciprocating attack on an assailant. Rather, Ueshiba’s techniques make use of the attacker’s momentum to hurt or stop him, rather than opposing force with force. For that reason, this martial art is ideal for people who are not physically well built. With practice, people of all ages and conditions are able to defend themselves using Aikido as it requires less strenuous and sustained, intense physical effort to perform.

This might sound strange for the character of a person who developed a martial art, but it is said that Ueshiba was a crusader of peace. The primary goal of his martial art is to defend against
an attacker in the least harmful way. There is an interesting story in support of this argument. Ueshiba was once challenged by an army officer who was also a fencing instructor. Throughout the duel, he deflected and evaded the officer’s strikes with his wooden sword. This continued until Ueshiba was finally able to disarm the exhausted officer and defeat him, all without ever harming him. He claims that as he observed, he could foresee the officer’s moves, helping him evade the attacks quickly.

An ideology turns into a martial art

O’Sensei was born in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan on December 14, 1883. It is said that many life incidents and the political and religious situations in Japan influenced in the creation of Aikido. As a child, he happened to witness his father being beaten up by some political rivals. This hurt him a lot and he decided to take up intense training in various martial art forms including jiujitsu (unarmed fighting), sojitsu (spear fighting), and jenjitsu (sword fighting). He later incorporated elements of these martial arts into his Aikido. His devotion to a religion known as Omotokyo taught him the importance of training people’s minds and spirits, along with their bodies.

Japanese martial artist Minoru Mochizuki was the first to cross the national boundaries for spreading Aikido. On his trip to France in 1951, he introduced the techniques to judo students. The mission of spreading the martial arts internationally was then taken up by some others including Tadashi Abe, Kenji Tomiki, Koichi Tohei, Hiroshi Tada, and Katsuaki Asai.

Aikido’s presence can today be seen in every part of the world with a broad range of emphases, interpretations, and variations in practice. Most Aikido being practiced today has deviated significantly from the original concepts devised by Ueshiba, but they all converge on the point that the attacker must not be harmed.