Aikido is a mentally and physically demanding modern martial art that teaches methods of unarmed defense while preventing the attacker from being harmed in the process. Aikido utilizes the attackers’ momentum using a well-timed approach and pivoting turning movements, and completed with various throws and joint manipulation techniques. Along with these specialist moves, training places an emphasis on the ability to relax the mind and body under the stresses of life-threatening and dangerous situations.
Aikido was developed in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s by Ueshiba Morihei and is based on the technical aspects of Aiki-jujitsu. Further influences came from movements involved in spear, quarterstaff and especially swordsmanship disciplines. It has been suggested that the Aikido practitioner moves like an empty handed swordsman.
The arts’ initial philosophy was greatly influenced by the spiritual thoughts of the Omoto-Kyo, a neo Shinto religious movement that Ueshima was exposed to. The Omoto-Kyo advocated extending love and compassion, especially to those who seek to harm to others. Aikido’s philosophy places emphasis on mastering the martial arts to the extent that one may receive a single or multiple member attack, and be able to harmlessly redirect it. The ideal situation being that neither the receiver, nor the attacker are harmed.
Because of this, Aikido is often criticized as suffering a lack of realism in it’s training procedures. Practice consists of a number of premeditated attacks and responses that fail to acknowledge the variety of possible real life situations.
A series of basic techniques are studied, and each mechanical application features various implementations. Therefore from the 20 or so basic moves, there are thousands of possible moves. There are some seven throwing techniques, others are wrist or joint locks, strikes and feints.
Weapon taking and retention training is often taught, and involves short staff, wooden swords and knifes, while modern weapons such as firearm disarming techniques and traditional weapons usage may also be on the curriculum depending on the school.
Practitioners of Aikido wear a Keikogi, a short kimono like shirt similar to those worn in most other martial arts, and the wide pleated skirt-like Hakama seen in Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo and many other fighting arts.
Aikido improves a practitioners speed, agility and power, as well as timing and distance perception. It is one of the more spiritual of the modern day martial arts and enjoys world wide popularity. The Hollywood movie star Steven Seagal holds Seventh Dan in Aikido, and the art is often depicted in his films.