Aikido is a form of martial arts developed in the 20’s by Morihei Ueshiba. It is rooted in several styles of Jujutsu as well as forms of sword and spear fighting. Simply put, Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from Jujutsu and merges them with movements of spear or sword fighting. Ueshiba’s Aikido bases its philosophy on peaceful conflict resolution and only using martial training to improve oneself. The emphasis on gaining control and causing minimum harm is one of the reasons why it is used in law enforcement.
History / Origins
The word “aikido” is a combination of three distinct Japanese characters or “kanji”:
• 合 – ai – refers to the joining or unification of things
• 気 – ki – refers to spirit, mood or energy
• 道 – dō – refers to a path or way
This means that from a linguistic point of view Aikido can be described as the way of combining forces to achieve a singular purpose.
Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba was born in 1883. Growing up in Japan, he saw his father subjected to an attack wherein he was unable to defend himself or fight back the aggressors. The incident prompted him to devote his life learning martial arts. He decided to condition his body in a way that he could avenge his father and never turn out to be a victim.
He went on to study Daitō-ryū aiki-jujitsu under Takeda Sōkaku where he learnt the empty handed, joint-locking techniques that are unique to jujitsu. He then went on to study Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū under the tutelage of Tozawa Tokusaburō, Gotōha Yagyū Shingan-ryū with Nakai Masakatsi and Judo with Kiyoichi Takagi. All his teachers were highly regarded masters of their own styles, but Ueshiba found a way to combine the best of each of these styles to create his own Aiki.
Aikido got its official name in 1942 when the Japanese government set out to sponsor the organization and centralization of Japanese martial arts. It was introduced to Europe in 1951 when Minoru Mochizuki travelled to France. In 1952 Tadashi Abe followed Mochizuki. Kenji Tomiki set out to introduce and teach Aikido in 15 continental states of the United States in 1953. Others like Koichi Tomei, Hirishi Tada, Masamichi Noro, Seiichi Sugano, Katsuaki Asai went on to teach Aikido in countries like Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and Africa.
Ueshiba devoted time to the study of martial art, but he also sought to find a spirituality that he could apply to his physical world. He discovered a religion called Omotokyo which advocated that man should strive to attain Utopia or “heaven on earth”. Omotokyo taught love and compassion should be shown to every man, whether they seek to harm us or not. In Aikido, people learn to receive attacks and deflect them without causing any harm to the attacker. This was a great influence on Ueshiba’s martial arts philosophy of extending love and compassion especially to those who seek to harm others. Aikido demonstrates this philosophy in its emphasis on mastering martial arts so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it.
Aikido began evolving into different styles. Yoseikan Aikido was formed in 1931 and the controversial Shodokan Aikido was founded in 1967. A lot of the development or evolution that came to be was a result of some students adopting teaching methodologies that were contrary to the original founder’s methods. At this present moment, there is no one true form of Aikido. This seems to be apt for this martial art which was, after all, initially created from combining different aspects of different types of martial arts.
Shikko (“knee-walking”), which is an integral part of Aikido, was a position that feudal lords required their subordinates to assume in their presence. It became a formal movement in ceremonies held by Samurai.
Legend has it that Ueshiba once pinned a Sumo wrestler with one finger.
Ueshiba was awarded the Medal of Honor and the highly acclaimed Order of the rising sun by the Japanese government in recognition for developing what would become one of the most important martial arts in Japanese history.
The Japanese Government has such high regard for Aikido that Police men are required to attain a Shodan (black belt) level. It has made its impact on U.S martial law systems by being the only form of martial art allowed in U.S. Federal prisons.