Aikido can be translated as "The Way of Harmony with Nature". The founder, Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei), combined the techniques and principles of the variety of martial arts he studied, plus his own ideas no doubt, to create aikido. The most significant feature of his art though, was the strong linkage with a philosophy that whilst applicable within the martial art, was equally applicable in daily life.
The martial art is simply a physical expression of the way we want to live our lives, i.e we are positive, we do not seek to damage those we work with, quite the opposite actually. We seek a way that promotes harmony and encourages the individual to maximise their own potential. From the individual point of view, we seek to promote a positive and healthy lifestyle from both a physical and mental perspective, and to maximise what we have got. We wish to be in a state of positive relaxation at all times, and learn that if we can deal with the physical stress of being attacked on the mat that we are more than capable of dealing with the problems that everyday living throws at us.
On a purely technical level many of the joint locks and throws have roots in jujitsu (especially Daito Ryu), yet the philosophy of Aikido adds extra dimensions to our practice. Aikido focuses on using the energy of your attacker to throw them. It is by no means a static art reliant on the strength and physical skills of the practitioner, but rather concentrates on blending our own power with that of our partner. By blending with an attack we can resolve conflict, at the same time protecting ourselves and our opponent. Aikido gives us choice by opening us up to different possibilities. Old and young, men and women and people of all shapes and sizes can practice and every individual brings something unique to the mat which will benefit everyone else.
Aikido is a graceful, dynamic, effective and powerful art based upon principles that our practice emphasises. At a high level practice can be extremely energetic - it is not unusual to be thrown several feet. However, we learn not only technique, but also the art of ukemi so that we can safely receive technique. Our practice is always a cooperative effort between partners in a safe and controlled fashion within each others' capabilities at that moment. As a uke (one receiving the technique) we attack in an honest and committed fashion with the aim of improving our partner and ourselves. There are no losers in Aikido - it is a non-competitive martial art - only winners. Above all, we try to make our practice a joyous and positive experience.
Whilst the techniques themselves provide a powerful self defence system, it is rare for most people to find themselves in a situation that they need to defend themselves physically, but we can use the philosophy in almost every aspect of our lives, whether it's diffusing a conflict without violence, dealing with problems at work or home. Ultimately the aim is not to practice Aikido for just a few hours a week on the mat, but to make it an integral part of our daily lives.
Everyone gets something different from Aikido and everyone has their own reasons for practicing it. Aikido, like many things, cannot be distilled simply into a few words. The best way to find out what Aikido is about, is to experience it yourself - we hope to see you on the mat soon!