Aikido is a true "budo," or martial way, developed in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba, or O Sensei ("great teacher") as he is called by Aikido students. O Sensei was a gifted martial artist whose early mastery of the sword, staff, spear, and art of ju-jitsu won him wide acclaim. It was the essence of budo O Sensei sought, not merely the form. Intense and strong willed, he continued rigorous physical and spiritual training -- progressing to levels of almost superhuman ability. Eventually, out of the quest for mastery, he gained enlightenment and insight into the nature of the martial artist's path. These realizations he incorporated into a science he called Ai-ki-do: "the way of harmonious spirit."

Dynamics of Aikido

The essence of Aikido technique is spherical motion around a stable, energized center. As in a tornado or whirlpool, the forces created not only deflect the force of the attacker, but also draw the attacker into the Aikidoist's control. Aikido is known for its graceful techniques: swift, seemingly effortless movements that fling an attacker through the air or, by means of subtle pressure applied to the joints, immobilize and control the opponent. Either effect is the result of precise timing, leverage, and the instinctive use of centrifugal and centripetal forces.

Aikido Training

Aikido has been described as "Moving Zen." As with all Zen arts, though the final aim is personal transformation, the focus of the dojo (training hall) is practical. Repetition and hard work are required to master the fundamentals of movement, timing and breathing. "This is not merely a theory," O Sensei said, "you must practice it."

Practicing with partners, each working at his or her own level, students alternate as the attacker and the one who receives the attack. Learning to take falls safely is an important aspect of training. Whether executing the technique, or taking a fall, the Aikidoist trains to blend with or capture the opponent's energy and harmlessly redirect it.

The rewards of training include stamina, flexibility, improved muscle tone and self-awareness. But effectiveness does not depend on size or strength. Ultimately, it is the attack itself that brings down the attacker. Above all, training is an encounter with oneself. The student of Aikido seeks to identify and gain control of the ways in which he or she reacts to opposition while remaining centered under all conditions.