The Birth of Aikido

By Rhys Jones

The name 'Aikido' is created by the permutation of three characters in the Japanese language. 'Ai', which means 'joining'; 'ki', which means 'spirit' and 'do', which signifies 'way'. These three characters really sum up the essence of Aikido as a kind of martial art: 'the joining of the spirit to find the way'. It was only in the period from 1930's to the 1940's that the name Aikido was formally accepted as the name of this martial art variety.

Aikido uses ways that do not mortally injure or kill not like other kinds of martial art. The movements and skills being taught are just intended to divert attention or immobilize attackers. This is possibly the explanation why most people prefer Aikido, because of its focus on peace and harmony as opposed to violence and hostility. In deed, Aikido teacher, Morihei Ueshiba, is of the conviction that to control hostility without causing any harm is the art of peace.

Ueshiba, who is also called Osensei, which signifies 'Great Teacher', developed Aikido from the principles of Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu. He integrated the ways of the 'yari', the spear; the 'juken', the bayonet; and the 'jo', which is a short quarterstaff. But what finally distinguishes Aikido from other kinds of martial art is the fact that its practitioners can strike while empty-handed. Proponents need no weaponry for their protection.

As a small child, he was much into physical fitness and conditioning. This was because of his vow to avenge his father's attackers. In due course, his studies and actions brought him to the discipline of the different martial arts. He studied a few of them. He even has qualifications for fencing, fighting with spears, etc. He has studied it all. This is maybe the reason why Aikido is such a disparate and multi-disciplinary form of martial art.

Yet in spite of his skill, he remained dissatisfied. He felt that there was still something missing. It was then that he turned to the religions. He studied under a spiritual leader, Onisaburo Deguchi of the sect named Omoto-kyo in Ayabe. Deguchi taught him to take care of his psychic growth. He then pooled his spiritual beliefs and his mastery of the different martial arts and Aikido was formed.

His relationship with this fascinating spiritual leader Deguchi also paved the path for his introduction to the elite political and military personnel as a martial artist. Because of this association, he was able to launch Aikido and even pass on his knowledge to students, who have, in turn, developed their own methods and movement in Aikido.

Aikido is a blend of the diverse styles of jujitsu as well as some of the methods of sword and spear fighting, of which Ueshiba was an expert. To get an general idea, Aikido combines the joint locks and throws of jujitsu and the movements of the body necessary when fighting with swords and spears.

Oriental in origin, it was brought to the West by Minoru Mochizuki when he visited France in 1951. He introduced the Aikido methods to students who were learning judo. In 1952, Tadashi Abe came to France as the official Aikikai Honbu representative. Then in 1953, Kenji Tomiki toured throughout the United States while Koichi Tohei stayed in Hawaii for a full year where he set up a dojo. Aikido then spread its influence in the United Kingdom two years after and in 1965, it reached Germany and Australia. At present, Aikido has centres all over the world. - 31520

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