Meaning of the Word Aikido
In Japanese, the word Aikido is made up of three kanji, or characters. The first of these kanji is "AI," which means to meet, to come together, or to harmonize. The second kanji is "KI," which means energy, spirit, mind, and (in a larger context) the spirit of the universe. The third and last character is "DO," which means the way. This signifies that the study of Aikido does not merely involve self-defense techniques, it also includes a path to positive character-building ideals which a person can incorporate into his or her life. Together, these three Japanese kanji, AI-KI-DO, mean "the way of harmonizing with the spirit of the universe."
AI KI DO
Aikido Movements and Techniques
Aikido is a traditional non-competitive Japanese martial art which emphasizes blending with and redirecting an attacking opponent. The movements of Aikido center on a flowing flexibility and the ability to maintain a stable, or centered, balance. The aim of the Aikido practitioner is to be in complete control of the mind and body, and to maintain a calm, alert posture. The techniques of Aikido can be broken into two main groups. The first of these consists of joint locks and pins, which are done off of various grabs and holds. The second group consists of throws, utilizing an attackers motion and energy back against them. Strikes, or atemi, can be used during the application of any of the above techniques, though generally speaking they are not the main focus of the technique. In an actual encounter, a strike may be either hard to cause damage, or soft to distract attention.
In order to safely receive the techniques of Aikido, students are trained in ukemi, a method falling designed to protect the body from injury. There are two basic types of ukemi, the first of which consists of forward and backward rolls somewhat akin to traditional somersaults. The second method is called a breakfall, wherein a student dissipates the energy of a throw by tucking his or her body in a protective manner.
Philosophy of Aikido
The most unusual aspect of Aikido is that although it is primarily a self-defense art, it takes as the basis of its philosophy the idea of being in harmony, rather than conflict, with your opponent. The idea behind Aikido is not to think of defeating your enemy, but rather to synchronize with his or her actions and defuse them. Through the physical practice of self-defense techniques, Aikido students incorporate these concepts into their minds and bodies.
Aikido utilizes the Kyu and Dan systems of ranking. An Aikido practitioner begins at the level of 6th Kyu and eventually progresses downward to 1st Kyu. After 1st Kyu, the student moves on to Shodan (1st degree black belt) and on through the Dan ranks. At present, the highest rank in Aikido is 10th Dan.
About Iwama Style
Iwama style Aikido gets its name from the Japanese town of Iwama, where O'Sensei Ueshiba operated a farm and dojo during the latter half of his life. O'Sensei's student Morihiro Saito Sensei continued to teach at the founder's Iwama dojo in the same manner in which he was trained. After the senior Saito Sensei's death in 2002, his son Hitohiro Saito continued teaching Aikido according to the methods and principles passed on from O'Sensei Ueshiba in Iwama. Today, there are many high level instructors preserving this training method around the world.
Iwama style is notable for its extensive use of kihon, or static, training, in the early stages. Students begin with holds from a solid position to learn the mechanics of techniques and movements. From there, students learn balance and stability and can then move on to the flowing, ki no nagare techniques that are often associated with Aikido.
Another noteworthy aspect of Iwama style Aikido is its extensive use of weapons training in bokken (wooden sword) and jo (staff). The use of these weapons gives students a good understanding of weight distribution, use of the hips in movement, stance and safe distance. Through the use of weapons, students also learn to extend their range of control beyond the confines of their own body. This is very important in learning to redirect the energy of an attacker.