About Aikido

As a martial art, Aikido is of recent origin. However, it has incorporated in itself principles and methods that have a history of more than one century. It would be wrong to consider Aikido merely as a system of various techniques and methods. One must correctly understand the fact that a real battle hugely differs from a fight on the mat. When there are no rules limiting the actions of the fighters and the encounter is very likely to result in death, moral and psychological qualities come in the forefront. Thus, a physically weak person is quite capable of defeating a stronger one. Victory is not determined by physical power.

Being technically and physically fit is nothing as compared to spiritual power. Master Ueshiba used to say: “Do not stare into the eyes of your opponent: he may mesmerize you. Do not fix your gaze on his sword: he may intimidate you. Do not focus on your opponent at all: he may shatter your spirit. True Budo consists in the development of attention when the opponent is drawn into your sphere and you only have to continue the way.”

When the mind and attention are directed towards a concrete object it is easy to deflect them by a false movement or a lie. It is very hard to reach a state of calmness both outwardly and internally.

“When I am attacked, I remain calm; I am not bound up with life or death in any way. I pass everything to the spirit of the Universe” - Morihei Ueshiba.

The cornerstone of Aikido is the idea of harmony with the Universe during a combat, and that of the victory of technical mastery and mind. An aikidoka (the one who practices Aikido) must become one with the opponent, not being conscious of himself or herself at that moment, since self should simply not exist. Then, body and mind become a unified entity drawn by willpower and spirit. The one who is spiritually strong wins the battle before its start. That is why the main focus in Aikido is on the natural state of body and spirit through perceiving oneself as part and parcel of the Universe.

Aikido is undoubtedly a step forward if compared with all the other martial arts. Unlike traditional Budo, Aikido presupposes harmony in the world, while conflict is viewed as the violation of that integrity.

Principles of Aikido

From the very beginning, Aikido assumes that everyone has a certain reserve of the life energy of “ki” which is concentrated in the centre, known as “hara”. That energy can be channeled in any direction. Aikido uses the principle of leading control. The opponent is given the freedom of moving where he or she chooses to but every one of his movements is under constant control. Attention is not weakened, not even for a second.

“Ai”, translated from Japanese, means harmony. This harmony is disturbed when aggression is expressed. The task of an aikidoka is to reestablish harmony. The aggressive energy of the opponent is first controlled, and then passed on to the surrounding environment. Thus, your centre becomes the centre of neutralisation. All aikido techniques are connected with circular trajectories. The circular motion of the aikidoka not only ensures the evasion from hard confrontation but also makes it possible to fully keep track of the attacker’s movement.

Movements in Aikido are like the flow of water: soft, pliable, but at the same time, able to destroy firm rocks. One action seems to continue the other. In Aikido, all the techniques and motions must be elegant and beautiful. From the very beginning, great attention is paid to this. These principles apply to the psychological level as well. A true master sees the mind of the opponent and knows of all his actions in advance.

Technique is honed during the trainings. However, this is not the endpoint of Aikido. Aikido is a philosophy, psychology and physics at the same time. Here anyone can find their Self.

It is necessary to always understand that Aikido develops not only the physical but also the spiritual qualities. The development of these qualities is enhanced by the specific setting in the gym. A constant concentration and unconditional compliance with the instructions of the sensei are crucial during the training. That is the only way to avoid possible injuries and to reach success.

Studying aikido techniques starts with learning the basic postures: hidari-hanmi and migi-hanmi. The feet should be on the line of attack forming an angle of 90 degrees in relation to each other. The weight of the body is distributed evenly on both legs. The spinal column is upright and the shoulders are kept aback. The hands are directly in front the body, in the centre, and the palms are open.

The optimal distance for training in pairs is when the partners may slightly touch each other with fingertips.

Movements in Aikido consist in a combination of orbiting and linear motions. Steps must not be fettered or heavy. An aikidoka must be constantly ready to change direction. The head moves at one horizontal level. Every intermediate position should be very steady. In any movement, it is the centre of gravity that moves first. The body always remains in a vertical position.

There are no competitions in Aikido; instead, kata is practised which is the continuous repetition of techniques until they become habitual. The most part of the trainings consists in the cooperation of partners in pairs that aim at establishing harmony between themselves. As a rule, one of the partners attacks (and is called uke), while the other defends himself (and is called tori). Partners change roles in turn. It is important that the attackers perform their actions wholeheartedly and without the fear of falling.

Hence, ukemi (rolls and somersaults) - the techniques of safety - is a vital element in Aikido. You must always be ready to apply a safety technique at every moment.

Attacks in Aikido

Frontal holds:

- katate dori (ai-hanmi or gyaku-hanmi) - grabbing the wrist (homonymous or contralateral) of the partner’s hand
- ryote dori - grabbing both of the wrists of the partner
- katate ryote dori - grabbing one wrist of the partner with two hands
- kata dori - grabbing the shoulder
- ryo kata dori - grabbing both shoulders

Dorsal holds:

- ushiro ryo kata dori - grabbing the dorsal side of the partner’s shoulders
- ushiro ryote dori - grabbing both hands of the partner from behind
- ushiro eri dori - grabbing the partner by the lapel of the kimono from behind
- ushiro katate dori kubishime - grabbing the partner’s homonymous hand from behind with choking
- ushiro ryote hikiage - grasping the partner from behind with two hands (above the arms)
- ushiro shitate dori - grasping the partner from behind with two hands (under the arms)

Blows in Aikido

- ki avase shoumen-uchi - straight blow to the head, using conflation of “ki”
- shoumen-uchi - downward blow of hand - sword
- yokomen-uchi - circular blow of hand - sword
- chudan-tsuki - straight blow to the centre of the body
- jodan-tsuki - straight blow to the head