What is Aikido ?
Aikido is a true Budo or Martial Way developed in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba, or O-Sensei (Great Teacher) as he is called by Aikido students. O-Sensei was a gifted martial artist whose early mastery of the sword, staff, spear and the art of ju-jitsu won him wide acclaim. However, it was the essence of Budo that O-Sensei sought, not just its form.
Intense and strong willed, he continued rigorous physical and spiritual training to levels of almost superhuman ability. Eventually, out of the quest for mastery, he gained enlightenment and true insight into the nature of the martial artist's path. These realizations he incorporated into the science which he called Ai-Ki-Do (): "The Way ( = Do) of Unity ( = Ai) with the Universal Force ( = Ki)".
The essence of Aikido techniques is spherical motion around a stable, energized center. As in a tornado or a whirlpool, the forces created not only deflect the force of the attack, but draw the attacker under the aikidoist's control.
Aikido is known for its graceful techniques: swift apparently effortless movements that fling an attacker through the air, or immobilize and control by means of subtle pressures to the joints. These effects are the result of precise timing, leverage and the proper use of centrifugal and centripetal forces.
Aikido has been described as "moving Zen". As in all Zen arts, its final aim is personal transformation, and the focus of the training hall is practical. Repetition and hard work are required to master the fundamentals of movement, timing and breathing. "This is not mere theory", O-Sensei said, "you must practice it".
Training with a partner, each at his or her own level, students alternate as the attacker and the one who receives the attack. Learning to take falls safely is an aspect of training just as important as executing techniques correctly and effectively. Whether performing a technique or taking a fall, the aikidoist trains to blend with or "capture" the opponent's energy, and learns to harmlessly redirect it.
The physical rewards of training include increased stamina, flexibility and improved muscle tone. Effectiveness however, does not depend on size or strength, as ultimately, it is the attack that brings down the attacker. For this reason, men and women of all ages practice Aikido.
Above all, training is an encounter with one's self. The student of Aikido seeks to identify and gain control of the ways in which he or she reacts to opposition, and so learns to remain centered under all conditions. There are no contests in Aikido, no winners, no losers. Just honest practice, the exhilaration of learning new skills, and a lot of fun!
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