Aikido, a word that translates to “the way of harmonious spirit,” is a Japanese martial art that was developed by Morihei Ueshiba. Training focuses on using the force of the attacker rather than one’s own strength, making it a grappling art that shows concern for the well-being of the attacker, with students learning to protect themselves rather than harm another person. Aikido training involves not only the learning of certain techniques, it also involves cultivating awareness of one’s opponent as well as self-discipline.
Like almost all martial art practices, aikido involves both physical and mental training. One of the first skills students learn is how to safely fall or roll, because aikido consists mostly of throwing one’s opponent rather than striking them. After this technique has been mastered, students move on to learn specific techniques for striking and grabbing as well as learning defensive moves such as pinning and throwing.
These techniques are taught by partnering two students together following a demonstration by upper level students or teachers. This partnership is known as uke and tori, or the receiver and the attacker. In these pairings, one student will attack and the other will utilize a prearranged form, or kata, as a defense. While aikido training does involve some amount of drills, this collaboration among students is the primary way that aikido is taught and learned.
Outside of specific techniques, learning flexibility and endurance are highly important in aikido training. These physical fitness goals are reached through stretching, similar to yoga and Pilates, rather than weight training or standard cardio exercises. This focus on physical conditioning is at the heart of aikido training, which as a practice focuses more on whole-body movements rather than on isolating certain body parts or muscle groups.
Following the beliefs of Morihei Ueshiba, aikido training is not only physical but mental as well. Students are taught controlled relaxation, which allows them to eliminate stress even under dangerous circumstances. This ability is the key to aikido, because it allows the student to meet any attacker with confidence and a sense of calm, which is inherent to the physical techniques used in aikido. This state of mind enables students to execute the techniques learned in aikido training without hesitation, giving them the upper hand in almost every dangerous encounter.
The mix of both physical and mental discipline in aikido training has made it one of the most popular martial arts practices. It not only improves the physical health of its students but their mental abilities as well, influencing almost every aspect of their lives outside of the aikido dojo. At its core, aikido training is all about confidence, learning to utilize one’s entire body and valuing the safety of not only oneself, but one’s opponent as well.