Aikido is a true Budo (Martial Way) and was developed in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba, also known as O'Sensei (Great Teacher). The name "Aikido" which translates to "the Way of Unity with the Universal Force," was first used in 1942.
As a young man, O'Sensei trained diligently in other traditional martial arts. He was a gifted martial artist whose early mastery of kenjutsu (sword arts), jojutsu (wooden staff arts), sojutsu (spear arts), and jujitsu (traditional hand-to-hand combat arts) won him wide acclaim. He was also a dedicated student of the human spirit. Thus, Aikido evolved into a unique martial art form designed to refine one's martial skills, as well as to enhance one's personal growth.
Aikido is a non-competitive martial art that emphasizes blending with an opponent's attack. The essence of Aikido techniques are circular in nature. The movements are designed to coordinate the defending and attacking bodies in order to redirect the natural flow and energy of the attack and neutralize it. In this way, Aikido harmonizes all motion in a positive way instead of trying to conflict with it.
Daily Aikido practice is based on mutual respect, cooperation and friendship. Most of Aikido training is done through partner practice. Each member of the pair alternates in the role of "attacker" (uke) and "defender" (nage). This allows practitioners to explore both perspectives and develop skills required to make their training complete. Through this training process, practitioners also gain sensitivity to and awareness of their partner and themselves, both physically and emotionally. A basic premise of Aikido is that the mind, body, and spirit must act together. This applies not only to the individual, but to the partnership as well.
The philosophy, ideals, and ethics of Aikido are inseparable from the actual physical training. In order to "lead" another person into the circle, we must first be in control of ourselves and be the stable, energized center.
Because Aikido is a multidimensional martial training system, it offers the practitioner a myriad of benefits. Aikido students gain a deeper knowledge of many aspects of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some of the physical benefits are: improved coordination, increased strength, greater stamina, increased flexibility, better posture and balance, and improved overall cardiovascular fitness. Aikido techniques also facilitate concentration, develop sensitivity, and promote relaxation.
Through serious Aikido training, one develops the ability to respond positively to stressful situations. As one's awareness and focusing ability is enhanced, balance and calmness are easier to attain and maintain. Training in Aikido helps nurture a strong, yet supple and relaxed, body as well as a calm, clear mind. At its highest level, Aikido is a welcome alternative to violence. In the words of the Founder, "Aikido is the loving protection of all beings." It provides a powerful inner peace which can then be passed on to others.