Aikido is a martial art originating in Japan, created by Morihei Ueshiba. The word aikido consist of three ideograms. Ai (jap. 合) means connection, unification, ki (jap. 気) – energy, and dō (jap. 道) – path of development. In a physical sense, it means capturing of attack and smooth transition to the control of the attacker. Idea of connection means that we don’t oppose directly the power of attack. In a mental sense,it means also lack of direct confrontation. Idea of unification with energy of the attacker let us go away from opposing attacker to the defender and going from separating „either-or” to unifying „both of us.
The ethical ideal of aikido is to deal with aggression with such a way that both, the defender and the attacker, will not suffer any injury. At best, this means avoiding physical confrontation. If it is not possible, desirable is a level of technical skill that allows one to deal with an attack without harming the attacker. Practice should be about approaching this ideal. At first, the goal of aikido adept is effective defense regardless of the consequences. Ethical attitude is required from the winner. The loser doesn’t make a decision. The winner has to decide what to do with his victory. Aikido is a discipline, in which the ability to defend against any attack without getting hurt itself, is only an intermediate step. Another goal is to avoid injuries of attacker and the ultimate goal – no confrontation.
So formulated ethical goal means, that physical training, although it is the basis of work of aikidoist and requires great commitment, is only part of his task. Forming right atitude is also necessary. Aikido is contemporary martial art, created in times when the effectiveness of techniques and tactics of combat was no longer verified directly on the battlefield and physical activity was restricted to the work on training. Aikido is manifestation of Budo or Way of the Warrior, who has to master Bujutsu or Martial Techniques and form his attitude on the basis of ethical code, what Bushido or The Warrior Code was for samurai.
Neglecting training of the body will make it impossible to perform techniques effectively and thus will take away ability to make decisions. Our ethical attitude will not matter, because it will not be able to be realised. Neglecting training of the mind leads directly to improper behaviours. Lack of reflection on the right conduct causes lack of ability to answer key questions for every martial artist. Questions about values worth to fight for, the situations in which you need to be ready to fight, the moment when fight is to be decided and the moment you have to finish it. One cannot stop at the theory. Practice or proper daily conduct out of the mat is also necessary. Adept of martial art is always on training. He doesn’t end it after leaving the dojo. The hour of training techniques on the mat means many hours of training of proper attitude outside the mat. The trained body enables effective self-defense. The trained mind means the ability to make right decisions in difficult and sometimes dramatic life situations.
The technical repertoire of aikido covers only defense techniques that do not require the use of force. Everyone can effectively perform them, regardless of physical parameters. Aikido is universal. This is a proposition to everyone, who wants to be ready to deal with the danger, including physical aggression. Technique of aikido involves depriving the attacker of the balance, when the attack has the most energy. Unbalance is a necessary condition for effective technique. If the attacker is in balance, he may use his physical condition to block the technique or perform a counter-technique. Balance control allows you to throw oponent, lock his limb, immobilize or suffocate.
Aikido gives possibility to defend against any attack in standing or sitting position. These are usually attacks using arms, legs, sword, stick or knife. Do not confuse the ethical ideal of aikido with technical capabilities. Avoiding harm is a pattern of conduct, but the gentle and fluid way of performing the technique, resulting from the decision of aikidoist, does not mean that their effects cannot be dangerous. The end of aikido technique means usually potentially dangerous lock on any joint, throw or strike at the vital point.
Aikido techniques are based on techniques of japanese sword. Each of them can be interpreted using sword. Body postures are the same as in kenjutsu or martial art. of japanese sword, and a sphericity of techniques is based on sword cuts. Control of the center, often mentioned in aikido, is the control of central line, linking our center and the center of an attacker, valid during sword fight. Center is understood in simplification as a center of gravity, and more generally means energetic center of the body. The winner of swords duel is the one, who controls center line. The slightest deviation from this line results in loss. The same in aikido. The way of moving in aikido, identical as in kenjutsu, are designed to avoid the attack and immediately control the opponent.
This essay is an attempt to capture the essence of martial art aikido in a verbal framework. It is a reflection resulting of the passion that has turned into a many years of fascination. But everyone makes his own choices. There are many paths leading to the top. One cannot speak of the superiority of one martial art over another. Each of them has its own specificity. Meeting one man with another is decisive. An agreement or a confrontation can be its effect. Aikido and other martial arts strive for the agreement as an ultimate effect of any confrontation.