Aikido was developed in the 1920s and ’30s by Morihei Ueshiba in an attempt to synthesize his previous martial arts training into a succinct and encompassing form. Most commonly translated as “the way of harmony”, Aikido promotes life, understanding and deep gratitude while also engaging the body in a natural way.
Aikido implements harmony by teaching us to accept an attacker’s incoming force and return the force back in a peaceful way (when practicing with a partner, that is). To perform the individual movements, a strong sense of timing, distance and direction must be developed. While it can prove useful at times, strength is hardly a priority for aikido practitioners. When used in self-defense, aikido can actually be quite lethal. However, all dojos practice control and harmony as a base.
All physical practice of aikido builds upon a stronger sense of self-awareness, both physically and mentally. A stronger physical awareness can help you avoid a dangerous street mugging situation, catch yourself from a nasty fall or avoid a flying projectile. On the other hand, the mental benefits of aikido include better emotional control, overall calmness and patience with frustrating situations. These mental and philosophical aspects of aikido are so integral to the proper study and practice of aikido that the founder Morihei Ueshiba often said, “No Philosophy, no aikido.”
If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks,” says Morihei Ueshiba. “And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth.”
Because of it’s gentle nature, aikido is an ideal martial art to practice well into your later years in life. Additionally, by exercising the mind and the body in sync, you can keep your brain healthy as it ages by continually teaching it new techniques and movements. Aikido can also be highly beneficial for younger students as well, as it teaches them the importance of discipline and hard work while also helping to prevent childhood obesity, an epidemic that is raging through the United States during the past decade.
The practice of aikido is not confined to the rectangular matted area of the dojo but also into your homes and offices where you interact with others on a continual basis. Aikido is highly relevant and applicable to daily life and how you relate to the emerging global culture and interact with people we have little in common with. Whether you are navigating a personal relationship or protecting yourself from danger, aikido will help you develop both physically and mentally.