Aikido. Encyclopedia of World Sport

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that includes techniques for bare-handed wrestling, using weapons, and
dealing with the armed enemy and also has a spiritual
component. Aikido is known for its joint-twisting and
pinning techniques (kansetsu-waza) and its thrusting
and stunning blows (atemi-waza). The advanced student is a master of techniques to break the opponent’s
balance or ward off a thrust or grasp.Aikido techniques can kill or injure, but fundamentally their purpose is to
seize and control the opponent. All of the principles of
swordsmanship (eye contact, proper distance, timing,
and cutting methods) are incorporated into aikido
movements. Various schools of aikido exist, and the
methods of training and spiritual teachings vary from
school to school.Aikido is a competitive sport, but controversy remains on the question of whether this conflicts with its origins as a solitary practice.
Aiki, the core concept of aikido, can be traced to martial arts literature of the Edo era. In Toka Mondo (Candlelight Discussion), the master of Kito-ryu Jujutsu
wrote in 1764 that aiki means that two fighters come to
a standstill in a martial arts bout when they have focused their attention on each other’s breathing. Many
other authors in the 1800s gave similar definitions. In
1982, the volume Budo-hiketsu Aiki no Jutsu (Secret
Keys to Martial Arts Techniques) gave a new definition
of the term: aiki is the ultimate goal in the study of
martial arts and may be accomplished by “taking a step
ahead of the enemy.” The prerequisites for such a preemptive move are to read the enemy’s mind and use a
battle cry. Unfortunately, no details on specific exercises have been recorded.
Aikido was promoted throughout Japan by Morihei
Ueshiba (1883–1969), a student of multiple martial
arts. He derived the major techniques of aikido from
the Daito-ryu Jujutsu style, which he learned from
Sokaku Takeda (1860–1943) in Shirataki, Hokkaido,
between 1915 and 1919.Aikido became an official term
when it was approved at a conference of the Dai-Nippon Butoku-Kai, the association of all martial arts in
Japan. Ueshiba and his gifted disciples are responsible
for the current position of aikido as a popular Japanese
martial art. Ueshiba and his followers decided that
aikido is a way to become one with the universe or harmonize with the movement and rhythm of nature.
Rules and Play
Aikido’s unique practice system is one of the features
that has drawn many followers. The training is made
up mainly of the practice of kata.A kata is a formalized
series of movements that imitate sword and spear cuts
and thrusts. Practiced in a formal manner that resembles a dance routine, kata contain 20 to 30 stopping,
pivoting, cutting, and thrusting movements. Participants repeat these movements many times to refine
technique and coordination.
Two issues complicate the practice of aikido. Diversification is one. Traditionally, the Japanese people are
inclined to favor a school of great prestige and authority. But recently, as part of a general shift toward accepting different values shared by people in other parts
of the world, young people are joining aikido schools
because they are operated by a truly gifted teacher with
a likable personality rather than large and traditionally
credited schools.
The second issue is the rigid policy of prohibiting
competition enforced by some aikido schools. Now that
more students are showing an interest in competitive
aikido, it will be increasingly difficult for the traditional
schools to justify this prohibition. Competitive aikido
does have a “negative” side in that contestants have a
tendency to place priority on winning. But trainees
also have a wonderful opportunity to develop unflinching courage, a tense and serious attitude, and practical
self-defense skills.
Aikido Today
Aikido, originally meant to be “a martial art of harmony and unification,” is currently suffering a chaotic
division while simultaneously growing in popularity.
The absence of an objective method to measure students’ skills and strength resulted in the phenomenal
growth of different styles and schools, each of which
has different philosophies and training methods. Miscommunication and mistrust abound among members of different organizations.
Aiki-kai, the association founded by Morihei Ueshiba,
has been promoted internationally since World War II,
and is said to be the school of aikido with the greatest
number of followers. Ueshiba’s son, Kisshomaru
(1921–) inherited his father’s foundation and demanded that his students practice aikido only for selfdiscipline and truth-seeking. This pacifist policy is now
widely accepted, but some of Morihei Ueshiba’s most
distinguished disciples disagreed with Kisshomaru and
left his school to establish their own. They include:
JAA (Japan Aikido Association)
Kenji Tomiki (1900–1979) founded the JAA in 1974.
and created a randori (training match) system of
aikido. His new proposal caused a sharp conflict of
opinions on what aikido should be.
Gozo Shioda (1915–1994), founded his own school in
Tokyo with the backup of businesses, emphasizing mastery of basic techniques. He made a great contribution to the promotion of aikido after World War II.
Ki no Kenkyu-kai (Ki Society)
Koichi Tohei (1920–) founded the Ki Society and left
Aiki Kai in 1974. He describes aikido as a way to assimilate man into the “Ki” of the universe.
Yoseikan Minoru Mochizuki (1907–) built Yoseikan in Shizuoka, where he developed a unique system
for all-around martial arts training with integrated
judo and karate techniques.
The increasing international popularity of aikido is
attributable to Aiki-kai and other aikido schools’ activities outside Japan. Aikido was introduced to the
United States by Kenji Tomiki in 1952 when he traveled
through 15 states with a team of judo instructors. According to the aikido magazine Aiki Journal, aikido has
the greatest numbers of followers in France, the United
States, Japan, Germany, and England, respectively. Beyond a general interest, westerners are drawn to aikido
because kata practice is well suited for the elderly or female trainees who learn aikido for physical fitness or
self-defense. Also, westerners view this type of aikido
as a way of Zen meditation or a means to gain insight
into Eastern mysticism and philosophies.
The traditional ban on aikido competition stymies
making aikido an Olympic event, although an increasing number of groups are working to organize international tournaments. At the same time, both the spiritual and physical components of aikido appeal to
westerners. The sport divided within itself is likely to
continue bridging the gap between East and West.
Bibliography: Pranin, Stanley. (1991) The Aiki News Encyclopedia of Aikido. Tokyo: Aiki News. Westbrook, Adele,
and Oscar Ratti. (1979) Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere.
Rutland, VT, and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle.