Aikido is a Japanese martial art, quite modern compared to others arts came from Eastern countries. The word «Aikido» can be divided into three parts: «Ai» stands for harmony or balance, «Ki» means energy, spirit, and «Do» can be translated as a way or path. United in one word, Aikido means «The way of harmonious spirit». This translation reflects in itself the main idea and philosophy of aikido – usage and connection of energies and spirits of people.
Aikido is firmly linked with its founder – Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969).
From his childhood he started to practice in martrial art, took part in Russo-Japanese War 1904 – 1905, but after four years of service he left the army. In 1915 he was introduced to Sokaku Takedu, master of Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu. Ueshiba was fascinated by the teachings of Takedu about peace and harmony, he spent a lot of time in meditations and reflections. Also, he slowly began to make new technics and moves to Daito-Ryu martial Art.
The first milestone the history of aikido can be placed in year 1920.
This is the date, when aikido began to divide from Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu. Also, in this year Morihei Ueshiba opened his first dojo and got first students, mostly sailors from nearby bases.
Spiritual part of aikido – ideas and philosophy.
Aikido is the least martial of all martial arts, and there are several reasons for that.
The first one is more material – every completed aikido technic will cause traumas and bone fractures, so there aren’t any competitions or sparring at all.
The second reason is way more important and deeper.
Aikido is often called an Art of Peace, and this is the main idea of philosophy of this art. Aikido isn’t about harming others – it is about improving yourself. There are no enemies in aikido – only uke, partners. The only purpose of any your partner is to make you know yourself better, to make something better. And so goes with any event in this world – not problems, not obstacles – but ways of improving.
The third reason – every other martial art is built on meeting aggression with aggression, on attacking first and taking your opponent down. In aikido you never feel aggression to no one – you only use the force of your spirit and energy, aggression and emotions of your partner against him, very little of your own energy.
So the main idea of aikido is the balance – an aikidoka stays in balance all the time, and the aggressor comes back in balance after losing his will to attack with the successful defense.
Important part of any technic is breathing and Ki – it has a lot of meanings, both material and spiritual. Material comes as increasing strength after exhalation and intimidation of opponent. Spiritual means an opening yourself to the world, to your surroundings, to your partner and his spirit. Also Ki helps to throw energy and to deny emotions – to stay in balance.
Material part of aikido – technics and controls.
Basically, aikido is built on throws and controls afterwards. Usually everything is based on evading opponent’s attack – then making your uke to lose his balance, throw – and painful control of the wrist, elbow, shoulder or any other part. And in case of continued resistance – all these parts can be broken, though it never comes this far on trainings in dojo. The most useful and most commonly used throws in aikido named kokyu-nage, which means «throw with the breath power» and shico-nage, which means «four-side throw». There are a lot of variations of these throws, they can be done with different attacks, different defenses and different endings. If we talk about controls – there are a lot of them, some named by numbers, some of them have got unique names. For example, ikkyo, nikkyo and sunkkyo are the first three controls: ikkyo stands for the «first control», nikyo stands for the «second control» and sankyo – for the «third control». They can be done as separate technic – or as ending of another throw.
There are two kinds of ranks in aikido. Each beginner starts with kyu. In classic aikido there are six kyu, and all students make their progress from sixth to first. Each kyu is obtained with an exam, also there is a period of time of necessary trainings – and it’s getting bigger every time.
Each kyu can be marked with a color belt: white for beginners, yellow for sixth, orange for fifth, green for fourth, blue for third and brown for second and first. After getting first kyu, reaching adulthood and training for about a year student can take an exam on dan, or sho-dan. Dans came from first to tenth, but eighth, ninth and tenth were granted only to students of Morihei Ueshiba himself. So nowadays there are very few owners of 8 dan, not to mention higher ranks. Also, exams for first dan may be conducted only in Japan, with special commission of experts and trainers.
With getting the first dan student gets right to have his own students, to wear a black belt and hakama – special cloth for sensei, a master with his own students.
In addition to throws and controls aikido devotes a lot of time for weapon technics. In classic aikido there are three types of weapons: jo – a wooden staff with lengths around 1.5 meters; boken – a wooden sword, repeating katana in shape and tanto – a wooden knife. As an addition also can be used bo – a long, more than 2 meters wooden staff, repeating glaive in shape.
There are a lot of different technics with jo and boken – and different combinations: jo against empty hands, jo against jo, jo against boken, tanto against empty hands – and different technics are used in all these situations, for example, if one is empty-handed – then his primary objective is to disarm his partner – and there can be again different variations: an aikidoka can use weapon against its owner – or come to hand-to-hand situation.
After all we can say, that aikido combines a lot of material and spiritual aspects: it helps in self-defense, allows to get more control over your body and tempers the muscles – but it also tempers the spirit, teaches one to control emotions, to keep balance in all-life situations and also it helps to understand other people – even if it is expressed in communications of spirits by performing technics on each others.