the way of harmonY
The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques. Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various armed and unarmed martial systems.
Aikido is non-competitive and promotions do not come through besting an opponent, but by demonstrating an understanding of basic exercises and techniques, which become more demanding or difficult as rank increases. In Aikido we strive to work in cooperation with a partner, still employing effective technique against an energetic and realistic attack, yet doing so by blending with the attack and redirecting its energy back to the attacker.
In Aikido, as in virtually all Japanese martial arts, there are both physical and mental aspects of training. The physical training in Aikido is diverse, covering both general physical fitness and conditioning, as well as specific techniques. Because a substantial portion of any Aikido curriculum consists of throws, beginners learn how to safely fall or roll. The specific techniques for attack include both strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and pins. After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons.
Aikido techniques are usually a defense against an attack, so students must learn to deliver various types of attacks to be able to practice Aikido with a partner. Although attacks are not studied as thoroughly as in striking-based arts, sincere attacks (a strong strike or an immobilizing grab) are needed to study the correct and effective application of technique.
Aikido training is an excellent program for all-around physical fitness, flexibility, and relaxation. Aikido develops the body in a unique manner. Aerobic fitness is obtained through vigorous training. The flexibility of the joints and connective tissues is developed through various stretching exercises and through the techniques themselves. Relaxation is learned automatically since without it the techniques will not function. And a balanced use of contractive and expansive power is mastered, enabling even a small person to generate enormous energy and self-defense skill.
Aikido training does not view the body and mind as separate. The condition of one will affect the other. For this reason, the physical relaxation learned in Aikido naturally becomes mental relaxation. Likewise, the perseverance and confidence that developmentally are manifested in a body that moves and holds itself confidently and strongly. Any psychological or spiritual insight must be reflected in the body, or else it tends to be little more than intellectualization; under pressure, such insights disappear, and the person reverts to previously ingrained habits and patterns.
Aikido training requires the student to squarely face conflict, not to run away from it. Through this very concrete, physical experience, an Aikido practitioner learns to face the situations of life in a proactive, constructive manner. Patterns of avoidance and fear are broken. The tense, defensive reactions to pressure and conflict which so often only create more violence are recognized and deconstructed.
This makes reinforces the practitioner to become straightforward, brave yet humble, able to be both strong and yielding as circumstances require. Aikido has become known in psychological and business circles as a highly useful metaphor in devising conflict resolution strategies.
People everywhere are using Aikido philosophy to improve the quality of their lives. Every moment of life involves some sort of conflict with others, with our environments, with our bodies, with ourselves. And yet, it is our choice to see this conflict as something to be avoided and struggled with, or as the creative force of change which makes true growth and learning possible.