Brief Overview of Aikido


Japanese Martial Arts of Weaponless Self-Defence
"Aikido" is a modern martial art founded by Morihei UESHIBA early in the Showa period. It's a comprehensive martial art centered on taijutsu (a method of using the body for self-defense), based on the ancient Japanese jujutsu (classical Japanese martial art of samurai, usually referring to fighting without a weapon), kenjutsu (samurai swordplay), Jojutsu (martial art using a cane staff), etc. It is characterized by the belief that 'small can beat big' regardless of body build or strength, through the rational use of the body. Harmony with nature, world peace, etc., are its main principles.

'Small Can Beat Big', Regardless of Body Build or Strength
Through the rational use of the body, it is believed that 'small can beat big' regardless of body build or strength, and that with throwing techniques and grappling one's opponent can be controlled without being hurt. It is centered on kata (a form) training in pairs. It generally consists of throwing techniques and joint-locking techniques, and training in striking techniques is scarce. There are no matches. It employs the grading system of kyu and dan, which is same as Karate and Judo. The aikido clothing is similar to that of judo (a Japanese art of self-defense) and karate (a traditional Japanese martial art), with white bleached tubular sleeves and an open-front top, and a bleached-white trouser-shaped loincloth. An adult beginner wears a white belt, and a rank-holder wears a black belt and black hakama (formal men's divided skirt). There is no strictly fixed etiquette.

aikido in training

The Importance of Mentality and Spirituality
Compared to other martial arts, spirituality is valued, and it's believed that the spiritual state can be seen in the techniques. This reflects the personality of Morihei, who was involved in Shinto, Oomoto, etc., and aspired to the spiritual world. While being based on martial arts, in principle it denies disputes using force, or winning and losing. Its ideal is to resolve conflict with the enemy through aikido techniques, and to reach a state of realizing 'harmony' and 'loving and protecting all things' in nature and the universe. Based on this principle, Aikikai, the mainstream faction, is dismissive about matches. It is reputed to be the 'martial art of harmony' and the 'martial art in which there is no conflict.'

Aikido Nage-waza against the enemy with nife
Aikido Nage-waza against the enemy with knife
Demonstration of Aikido Throwing
Demonstration of Aikido Throwing
Aikido School in Japan
Aikido School in Japan
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Video Contents
Documentary of Aikido (28:35)

History of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba's photo

Aikido was Brought From ‘Jujutsu’, The Same Origin with Judo
The founder of Aikido, Morihei UESHIBA, was born into a wealthy farming family in 1883, in Tanabe-cho, Wakayama Prefecture (the present-day Tanabe City). Having studied jujutsu from the Kito-ryu school, Yagyushingan-ryu school, etc., in his youth, he later became a disciple of Sokaku TAKEDA of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu (the Daito style of self-defense) during the development of Hokkaido in 1915, and was accepted as a substitute instructor in 1922. In 1917, he joined the religious group Oomoto, and continued his own training in Ayabe City and Kameoka City in Kyoto while teaching 'Aikibudo' with his nephew Noriaki INOUE (founder of the martial art called Shinei Taido) in the area.

Aikido Became Widespread After the WWII
The reputation of this 150cm martial artist who, with his small build, performed peculiar techniques, attracted attention in Tokyo, and in 1927 he moved there with support from the full admiral Isamu TAKESHITA and others. He established Kobukan dojo in 1931 and Aikikai in 1940. Kobukai (皇武会) was renamed as 'Aikikai' in 1948, and since then the name 'Aikido' has been used. Aikido, which had until then only been taught to a limited number of people in the wealthy class, was disclosed to the public after the war by Kisshomaru UESHIBA, the third son of Morihei, who later became the second Doshu, and subsequently the practice gained many disciples.

aikido and MoriheiAikido is Adopted to The Military and Police Training
During the war, Morihei taught martial arts at Rikugun Nakano Gakko (Military Army Nakano School), Naval War College, etc., upon request by the military. After the war, it greatly influenced the techniques of the combat skill of the Self-Defense Forces and taihojutsu (arresting art) of the police, and training continues today among riot police, etc. Most of today's 1,000,000 domestic aikido practitioners are members of Aikikai, and are the majority or mainstream in the Aikido world. Meanwhile, there are multiple organizations and factions that had separated from Morihei's disciples or Aikikai ("major factions").

Aikido is Now an Worldwide Martial Art
As a result of the efforts by Morihei's disciples (beginning in the 1950s) to spread it abroad, it spread globally to Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia, etc., and Aikikai alone has branch training halls in about 80 countries. Some countries, such as France, have more aikido practitioners than there are in Japan. In 1976, the International Aikido Federation (IAF), an affiliate of Aikikai, was established, and the IAF became an official member of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), participating in all the World Games since 1989.

Founder of Aikido 'Morihei Ueshiba'
Founder of Aikido 'Morihei Ueshiba'
Morihei's demonstration in U.S.A
Morihei's demonstration in U.S.A.

Forms of Technique and Training

The techniques include taijutsu, the art of weaponry (swordplay, Jojutsu), and is a comprehensive martial art assuming cases of multiple opponents. However, in reality the percentage of grandmasters instructing in the art of weaponry isn't high, so most training includes instruction in taijutsu only.


Aikido Techniques
The unique use of power and sensation in aikido as a means to efficiently control the opponent without wasting energy is called 'breath power' or 'aiki.' It is believed that by mastering this one can disable the opponent's attack through the "rational" use of the body "without fighting the force of the opponent," and that 'small can beat big' regardless of age, gender, body build or strength. In aikido, there is a phrase, 'voluntarily offer what the opponent wants,' and defensive techniques and kaeshi waza (returning the opponent's waza (technique) immediately) are common forms. By warding off the opponent's direction of attack with unique body movements such as 'irimi' (entering straight into a technique) and 'tenkan' (entering indirectly into a technique) while simultaneously functioning within the opponent's blind spot, one maintains the position and posture to one's advantage. By breathing in sync with the opponent to maintain the contact point, one leads the opponent's center of gravity and posture in the direction needed for it to collapse via the contact point. However, in doing so, needless force will cause a reflex reaction by the opponent and will create issues such as facing resistance with force, separation of the contact point, etc., thereby interfering with the flow of the technique. Therefore, 'datsuryoku' (relaxation) is especially encouraged. Additionally, by facing the opponent from a blind spot such as the side or the back, and capturing the opponent along the line extending from one's center, the opponent's center of gravity and posture can be controlled and led to collapse with minimal force. Throwing techniques or grappling can be performed against the opponent whose posture has lost balance. The techniques do not easily succeed when they are used without this kuzushi (balance breaking). Such subtlety and series of processes for applying techniques to the opponent through the contact point are called 'musubi' (a link between the attacker and the defender), 'lead' and 'kuzushi,' and are emphasized as important elements of aikido techniques and in connection with the spiritual principle.

Aikido Trainings
TrainingsTraining is generally centered around a yakusoku kumite (prearranged fighting) form of kata training done in pairs, and it is repeated, switching the roles of 'tori' (attacker, the one who applies the technique) and 'uke' (defender, the one to whom the technique is applied). Randori (free practice) training, as used in judo, is usually not done. It basically starts with several kata for controlling the opponent's wrist, elbow and shoulder joints, then various application techniques and henkawaza (changing from one technique to another) (throwing techniques, grappling, etc.) are acquired through repeated training. Most are standing techniques and sitting techniques performed sitting straight, and newaza ((in wrestling or judo) pinning technique) are rare. Striking ('atemi' (blow to the body)) is commonly used for the sake of diversion, and therefore training doesn't place any emphasis on striking. Kicking techniques and grappling with the legs are basically not used, either.

Aikido Technical Chart
Aikido Technical Chart

The Basic Techniques

Irimi (entering straight into a technique) from behind the opponent is used to grab the rear collar and pull the opponent backwards. Place the arm on the opponent's neck and throw the opponent down in the direction he was falling.
Kaiten-nage (rotary throw)
Hold the opponent's arm and rotate it in a large movement from up to front, front to down, and use that force to lower the opponent's head. When the head is down, hold the head with the other palm; move the rotated arm down, back and up, lift the arm vertically and, fixing the shoulder joint, throw forward.
Hold the opponent's arm, and go under the opponent's arm from outside. The opponent's arm will twist outward, but by bringing the opponent's arm toward the back of the opponent the elbow bends, and the opponent will not be able to use force. Bring it down diagonally, backward.
Take the opponent's wrist and place the other hand on the back of opponent's hand, twisting the wrist while moving the shoulder joint outward and rotating it outward. Bend the elbow joint, rotate the forearm outward, bend the hand joint, throwing diagonally forward, then put the opponent on his/her stomach and hold him/her down.
Ikkyo (aikido's first basic technique)
Take the opponent's arm and extend the elbow joint as far as it will go, then place the opponent on his/her stomach and hold him/her down.
Nikyo (aikido's second basic technique)
Take the opponent's wrist and twist it; bend the hand joint, and rotate the forearm inward; bend the elbow joint; move the shoulder joint outward, and then place the opponent on his/her stomach and hold him/her down.
Sankyo (aikido's third basic technique)
Take the opponent's wrist and twist it upward while turning one's body to rotate the forearm inward; bend the elbow joint 90 degrees, move the shoulder joint outward and rotate it inward, make the opponent stand on his/her toes, then place him/her on his/her stomach and hold him/her down.
Demonstration of Aikido Technique
Demonstration of Aikido Technique

Aiki and Breath Power


Principles of Aikido, “Aiki” and “Breath Power”
Aiki' and 'breath power' are elements of aikido techniques as well as concepts that are important principles of aikido. Aiki' is a martial-arts term from ancient Japan, originally referring to the state in which force and kamae (posture) are competing. In recent years, influenced by its use in Daito school and aikido, it refers to the techniques and principles of disabling the opponent's attacks by 'matching the "qi"' of oneself to the "qi" (including the will to attack, timing and vector of force) of the opponent, instead of competing against the opponent's force with force, especially in martial arts using bare hands (it is used for its original meaning in kendo (the Japanese art of fencing) and in the ancient arts of weaponry). In aikido, going beyond the implications above, it came to stand for the spiritual principle of 'realizing the ideal state through harmony with the principles of nature and the universe (equivalent to "qi"), in which there is no conflict with others.'

Aiki and Breath Power is Brought From “Shinto”
Breath PowerBreath power' is a coined termed created by Morihei in the process of establishing his martial art, and it's an expression of 'aiki' through Morihei's unique point of view. While 'aiki' in aikido is mainly used in the sense of a principle, 'breath power' is mainly used to mean 'a source of power for techniques.' There are many theories as to which specific power this 'breath power' refers. Morihei often borrowed terms from Shinto when describing the principles and rationale of Aikido to his disciples, and because this was a mystic and abstract expression it led to various interpretations in later years. For example, there are various opinions such as 'the power of the breathing (muscles),' 'power of "qi,"' the 'way of using power in a natural and subconscious way like actual breathing,' and 'unification of the power of the entire body.'

aikido and samuraiMysterious Techniques of Aiki and Breath Power
Aiki and breath power are commonly thought of as mysterious techniques that enable a small, elderly man to easily throw and hold down a succession of tough men, thus raising the doubt of suspicion in their regard. In order to clarify aiki and breath power as concrete technical principles, there have been many attempts to explain them from various angles such as datsuryoku, the use of body weight, the shifting of one's center of gravity, the abdomen and lower back inner muscles, the leverage theory, the use of illusion and reflex, and psychological manipulation, but research from the perspective of empirical science has not been sufficient. Additionally, opinions are divided over whether the "aiki" of Aikido and the "aiki" of other martial arts such as Daito school are the same or different.

Woman Throwing a Man Using Aikido Technique
Woman Throwing a Man Using Aikido Technique
Aikido's Nage-waza Technique Using the Opponent's Stick
Aikido's Nage-waza Technique Using the Opponent's Stick

Exchanges with Other Japanese Martial Arts


Exchanges with Judo
Jigoro KANO, the founder of Judo, once visited the dojo of Morihei UESHIBA, and Kano, who was fascinated by the techniques, instructed several high-ranking practitioners from the Kodokan Judo Institute--such as Minoru MOCHIZUKI, Aritoshi MURASHIGE and Yoshio SUGINO--to practice Aikido. Thus the exchanges between aikido and the judo of the Kodokan Judo Institute were relatively active. It is said that when Jigoro KANO saw Morihei UESHIBA's aikido he shouted, "This is what I've been searching for!" Powerful disciples of Morihei, such as Gozo SHIODA, Kenji TOMIKI and Minoru MOCHIZUKI, were judo yudansha (judo black-belts) before becoming Ueshiba's disciples. Tomiki and Mochizuki, in particular, continued their activities as judo practitioners even after becoming high-caliber disciples of Ueshiba, and their philosophies were reflective of both aikido and judo.

Kinteki Dojo

Exchanges with Kendo
Morihei UESHIBA allowed kendo training in his dojo 'Kobukan' for the study of swordplay. Actual training was conducted by Kiyoshi NAKAKURA (who was at the time Morihei's adopted son-in-law), Junichi HAGA and Gorozo NAKAJIMA: These comprised the so-called 'trio of Yushinkan,' who were the three high-caliber disciples of a close friend, Hiromichi NAKAYAMA (of the Shindo-Munen school of swordsmanship).

Udegarami Throwing practicing in U.S.A.
Udegarami Throwing practicing in U.S.A.
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Encyclopedia of Japan