WHAT IS AIKIDO?
The word "Aikido" is Japanese, and means the Way (or school) of Harmonizing with Energy.
Ai=Harmony Ki=Energy Do=Way
In practice, this means that when an Aikidoka is attacked, optimally, he will harmonize, or become one with, the force and direction of the attack, rendering it harmless. This aspect of Aikido is called Tenkan, and involves wheeling about, thereby dissipating the force of the attack. But that alone wouldn't stop the attacker from hurting you, and he might just keep trying til he was able to hurt you. So the Aikidoka will, at the same time, position himself so that he's alongside and slightly behind the attacker, and/or gain control of the attacker's body by any of a number of techniques, taking the attacker to the ground and putting him in such a position as to make it very painful for the attacker to continue to resist or try to escape, strike again, etc.
This may seem very soft. And so it is. O-Sensei, a Shinto priest, and the Founder of Aikido, taught that Aikido is a martial art, but that it's also a loving art. He explains that we have every right, and even the responsibility, to defend ourselves against an attack. Accordingly, we should execute the techniques of Aikido hard and fast. BUT, we should also try to catch the person before they hit the ground, try to prevent the attacker from cracking his head open on the concrete.
Make no mistake. Aikido is a very practical art, when practiced by an accomplished individual. The Irimi (entering) techniques of Aikido can be quite brutal, as can the Tenkan, if the attacker insists on resisting or continuing to attempt to hurt the Aikidoka. But since we are all One, it's never a proper attitude for an Aikidoka to want to injure the attacker any more than necessary. This loving intention to avoid injuring others is at the soul of Aikido, and the Founder and many of its practitioners believe such an attitude can go a long way towards the practical possibility of peace on earth. How much better a place would this world be if everyone did as little harm to others as possible, and then only when forced to do so by that person?
Although Aikido has its roots in the Japanese Shinto religion, I find it to be the most Christian martial art ever devised, due to these philosophies. I, myself, came to Aikido because I was not content with the concept of breaking someone up, perhaps crippling the person for the rest of his life. Just because someone was unlucky enough to have attacked me on that day or moment should not have such devastating and longlasting consequences. But back then, I had no effective non-destructive tools at my disposal. Aikido provided those tools, along with a philosophy for life.
Harmonizing with energy isn't just for in the dojo or a fight. It's also a way to move through a crowd, or get along with a verbally hostile person or egotistical boss. The longer I practice this art, the more I see this, and am able to incorporate its peaceful, harmonizing philosophies into my day-to-day life.
I've been practicing Aikido for about 12 years now, all told, having come from a lifetime in hard styles. Originally studying at the Tenshin dojo in North Hollywood, CA, Seagal Sensei and Matsuoka Sensei remain my Senseis, though I've learned from other Aikidoka.
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