What is Aikido?

Devoted to cooperation rather than competition, Aikido is a martial art and movement meditation created in the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei (1883-1969). His creation is Aikido, a defensive art form and a practice of mental and spiritual development rooted in the ancient Bushido tradition of Japan. Through training, practitioners cultivate self-awareness and resiliency, a powerful center and a calm spirit. We also develop what are first just techniques, but later become intuitive responses to resolving conflict in ourselves and in our environment. Aikido is the study of harmony within each person (the unifying of mind, body and spirit), and ultimately, harmony with the universe. Known worldwide as the Art of Peace, Aikido invites us to recognize the power of applied nonviolence as a way to foster peace in the world.

An effective method of self-defense, Aikido can be rigorous, direct and practical in its application. The self-defense techniques learned in practice provide us with a broad range of responses to address conflict. The unarmed techniques, throws, joint locks, and pins are emphasized in our practice. Learning to handle a sword (bokken), a staff (jo or bo) and a knife (tanto) is also an integral part of our training. Inherent in our art is the principle of protecting both ourselves and our attackers from harm.

What makes Aikido unique as a martial art? Rather than meeting force with more force, one learns to blend one's power with that of the attacker through proper posture, timing and breath control. Students play the role of both attacker and defender, learning to strike, punch, blend with, and redirect the oncoming energy of an attack. Over time, we learn to feel the appropriate timing in the encounter: how close is too close and how far is too far to effectively unify with the oncoming energy. 

A simple analogy is a handshake, a ritual of social engagement. We've all experienced someone reaching out from too far away to touch our hand, or when they are standing too close, gripping our hand for just a second too long. So much valuable information is transmitted nonverbally. Aikido training invites us to hold our center and maintain an appropriate distance in each of our interactions. This very skill also applies to self-defense training. Aikido is about learning how to be in the right place at the right time.

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