AIKIDO | 合氣道

ABOUT AIKIDO

Founded by Morihei Ueshiba, early in the 20th century, Aikido is a martial art that focuses on harmonizing with an opponent to bring no-violent resolutions to situations involving conflict.  In Japanese, Aikido means "the way of harmony with the force and principle of nature." Aikido is derived from Japan’s traditional budo (the way of martial arts), yet goes beyond the realm of budo; it is a path where the keen edge of martial art is used as a "Way" to spiritual growth.

Aikido is Japanese martial art comprising a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, combined with training with traditional weapons such as the Japanese sword, staff and knife.  Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various armed and unarmed martial systems, Aikido represents a potent distillation of centuries of Japanese martial knowledge.  Today it has become a budo, or martial way, practiced around the world.

Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to as O-Sensei, or “venerable teacher”) was determined that the system of Aikido he conceived would be practiced as more than simply a fighting method.  The Japanese martial arts, influenced by the internal martial arts and meditative disciplines inherited from India and China, carried with them an emphasis on the development of internal harmony, as well as physical integrity.   According to the traditions of the time, the Japanese warrior aspired to be more than just a killing instrument; but to be a model of uprightness, courage and loyalty - able to, when necessary, sacrifice his own life (but never his honor) in the cause of principle and duty.  Steeped in these traditions, O-Sensei conceived of Aikido not only as a means of vanquishing a foe, but as a means for people to cultivate the attributes of the ideal warrior, with the goal of ultimately transcending the dualism and disharmongy of conflict.  For O-Sensei, Aikido was a path of determined self-development and self-transformation. He believed that the path of Aikido could be followed by anyone, of any nation, and that Aikido is shugyo: the intense and focused physical and spiritual training (or forging), undertaken by sincere people to perfect their own character and realize true insight and wisdom.

WHAT IS AIKIDO TRAINING LIKE?

The most outstanding feature of the method of physical training in Aikido is the non-competitive practice of various motions known as kata (forms), the develop the ability of the practitioner to move the body in a natural, flowing and unforced way.  The fundamental intention of the training is toward the unification of body, mind and ki (internal energy), and by cultivating internal order together with physical balance, the full  potential of each person may be discovered and expressed through the dynamism of technique.

Using a combination of direct, spiral and circular motions, the forms of Aikido serve to harmonize and neutralize the force of an aggressor. Aikido training includes physical, mental and philosophical/ethical aspects and includes the practice of empty-hand techniques, sword, stick, and knife defenses as well as concentration, meditation and breathing exercises. Unique among martial arts, Aikido enables the practitioner to be responsive, adaptable and flexible in a wide variety of situations.

There are no competitions in Aikido -- this is a logical conclusion of its philosophy.  Since practitioners do not focus on 'winning' and 'losing', participants are able to dedicate their training efforts toward mutual improvement. It is therefore possible for men, women, and children of all ages to walk together along the path of budo, the heart Aikido.  This enables each individual to train and progress at his or her own pace, finding harmony through personal development in the training.

Attention to appropriate etiquette and conduct (reigi) are key aspects of self-discipline incorporated into Aikido training - and involve the nurturing of an attitude of respect (both for self and others), integrity, impeccability, gratitude, modesty, concern and compassion for others, as well as care and stewardship of the physical, social and natural environments in which we live.

In the words of the Founder – the aim of Aikido is: ”to unify the mind and body and to promote peace, harmony and cooperation among all beings".

AIKI-WEAPONS  TRAINING

Although Aikido techniques are most commonly performed empty-handed, Aiki-weapons training is an integral part of the training curriculum in many dojos, including Mountain Coast Aikikai.  The use of weapons is typically studied for what it can reveal about correct body posture, integrated body movement, the origins of empty-handed techniques, and about the roots of Aikido as a Japanese martial art.

The weapons training curriculum followed at Mountain Coast Aikikai comprises solo practice, two-person and multiple-person drills and encounters, and ranges from weapon to weapon encounters and to weapon disarming and retention techniques. We offer regular instruction in the use of bokken (wooden sword), jyo (wooden staff) and tanto (knife), usually for students at intermediate and advanced levels.

IAI BATTO-HO (Japanese Swordsmanship)

Iai Batto-ho, "sword-drawing method," is based on elements of Iaido, Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu.  The "way of sword-drawing" and other traditional forms of Japanese sword work are studied largely for the same reasons as weapons work with bokken and jyo: for what this reveals about the roots of Aikido as a martial art.

ZAZEN - Mindfulness and Meditation Practices

For contemporary martial artists, mindfulness and meditation training, such as zazen (zen meditation) offers practitioners a powerful way to augment their abilities to focus and calm the mind, improve mindfulness and deepen the training experience by bringing oneself closer to the roots of martial discipline.

Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial culture have long been closely associated, through Japan's traditional Bushido (way of the warrior), which developed between the 9th to 12th centuries.  Zen’s emphasis on the impermanence of life, non-attachment, the surrender of the ego and its emphasis on remaining focused in the present moment, suited it well for the early samurai whose life was constantly at risk and whose survival depended on the ability to act quickly, instinctively and without hesitation.

In the present day, many research studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness practices are highly beneficial and contribute physical and mental health benefits for individuals facing the demands and stresses of modern life.

An introduction to basic techniques of meditation and mindfulness practice is offered as part of the curriculum at the dojo.

All dojo members are strongly encouraged to incorporate a regular meditation, concentration, or mindfulness practice into their daily lives.

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

The philosophy and internal benefits of Aikido are accompanied by concrete positive physical benefits. Aikido training is an excellent program for the cultivation of all-around physical fitness, flexibility, coordination, balance, and relaxation.  Although Aikido does not require large amounts of physical strength, regular Aikido training helps to condition the body and develop all-round flexibility and strength, combined with an increased capacity to stay calm and focused, particularly in situations of crisis or stress.  Through sustained practice, the body 'remembers' how to move naturally and the mind remembers how to be calm and still.  Many practitioners report improvements in their self-confidence, physical fitness, well-being, ability to concentrate, sense of well-being and  poise in their daily lives.

So Aikido develops the body in a unique manner.  Aikido training can be vigorous, often performed in intervals of high intensity exertion. This has been shown to be excellent in developing cardiovascular and aerobic fitness capacity. Flexibility, resiliency and strength of the joints and connective tissues is developed through various stretching exercises and through the body movements required to perform Aikido techniques.  Relaxation while performing the movements is learned through repetition and is important, since without appropriate points of relaxation, Aikido techniques will often not function as intended.  Over time, the student masters the use of accurate and dynamic movement, combined with control of the breath, enabling even a smaller person to generate and focus enormous amounts energy and self-defense skill.

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS

Aikido training does not view the body and mind as separate. The condition of one will affect the other.

For this reason, the physical relaxation learned in Aikido naturally becomes mental relaxation. Likewise, the perseverance and confidence that develop mentally are manifested in a body that moves and holds itself confidently and strongly. Any psychological or spiritual insight must be reflected in the body, or else it tends to be little more than intellectualization; under pressure, such insights disappear, and the person reverts to previously ingrained habits and patterns.

Aikido training requires the student to squarely face conflict, not to run away from it. Through this very concrete, physical experience, an Aikido practitioner learns to face the situations of life in a proactive and constructive manner. Patterns of avoidance and fear are revealed and examined. The defensive reactions and tensions one often experiences in response to pressure and conflict, and which so often elicits a violet reaction, can be better recognized and de-escalated.  With dedicated and diligent training, a transformed person – straightforward, brave, yet humble, and with the ability to be both strong and compassionate or yielding, as needed in the circumstance – can be revealed through this training.

Today, Aikido has become known in psychological and business circles as a highly useful metaphor and method in devising strategies for de-escalation and resolution of conflict situations. People in many walks of life are finding the philosophy and training approach of Aikido useful in improving the quality of their lives.

 

You are welcome to observe any scheduled 'non-private' Aikido class at the dojo, by making an appointment by email, text or by phone.  Alternatively, you may arrive at the dojo about 10 minutes before the start time of the class you wish to observe.  Click to View our Dojo Calendar.