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What is Aikido… and what can it do for your life?

Updated on January 22, 2014
Aikido kanji
Aikido kanji

Also Known As the “Art of Peace”, it is a Japanese martial art derived from different martial styles. The goal here is to avoid fighting. Aikido does not seek a fight, but it does not fear one. It can finish a fight in a second, and the opponent will not even know what happened.

Most of the time when we think about martial arts, we tend to think about fighting, or practicing to fight. But let's be honest, if we are not proffesional fighters, how often do we fight in the streets? Rarely, or never. But how often do we face struggles in our life? Almost everyday. It has been

said that the Aikido principles apply to

every area of our life.

Morihei Ueshiba
Morihei Ueshiba

About Aikido

Its kanji is 合気道, meaning: 合 ai, 気 ki, 道 do. “Ai” means combine, unite, join together, meet… Some people like to use the word harmony, I like it better too. “Ki” means energy. And “Do” means way, path. So, it could be translated or interpreted as something like: “The Way of Unifying (with) Life Energy”, some people say it is “The Way of Harmonious Spirit”, my favorite interpretation is: “The Way to Harmonize the Energy”.

Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), who is called O’ Sensei (Great Teacher). The aikido practitioner is known as aikidoka. Master Ueshiba said that if you are strong enough to lift up a briefcase you can practice Aikido, that’s because you don’t need to use a lot of strength to overcome a battle. This martial art uses locks, holds, throws, and the opponent’s own movements. It does not matter if you are tall or short, fat or slim, old or young, and it does not even matter if you are male or female. I have seen short slim girls throw away huge guys with no trouble at all.

What can it do for me?

If you practice it long enough, with consciousness, and in the right way, Aikido is an excellent way of self-defense. Master Morihei Ueshiba used to say: “The best aikidoka is the one who avoid a confrontation, but if it is inevitable he will neutralize the attack without being harmed and without harming his attacker”.

One of the basics lessons you learn in Aikido, and probably the most important, is to get out from the attack line. Your attacker holds energy and is using it against you, if you stay in the way that energy is going to hurt you ‑or hurt your attacker; some people say: “I really don’t care if my attacker gets hurt in his attempt of hurting me”, but that is why this is called the "Art of Peace", this is not about fighting and hurting everybody who tried to hurt you in the first place; the world already has too many people trying to hurt other people. Aikido presents a way to finish a fight in a couple of seconds without getting hurt and protecting the attacker as much as possible.

"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered; those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win."

–Morihei Ueshiba

Does it really work as a self-defense technique?

If you are familiarized with Aikido, then you know it is very controversial, and it is completely understandable the position of those people who don’t believe it is real, because this martial art is completely different from what we are used to see in the world of martial arts and fights. It just does not seem real, so people think it is not real.

Is this really a martial art useful in a fight? If you see videos or if you have the chance to see it in person, it is very likely you will be skeptical, but if you get in the tatami (the mat) to try it yourself with somebody who really knows it, you will see the difference. I have seen black belts on karate fighting an aikidoka, and they get surprised with what they see and feel, they say they didn’t know what was going on, something was pulling them down, yet the aikidoka was not using that many physical strength. Once again, you really need to try it to see whether it could work for you or not.

Note: I am not trying to compare martial arts, I respect all of them, actually I think no martial art is better than the other, there is no martial art that can be called as the best; one thing I learned from my first sensei ‑and current friend‑ when I was just getting started in the martial arts, was the following: “Find your own way, see what martial arts can do for you, see how you can use it in your daily life. Remember: a martial artist is not just someone who can fight, martial artist can really live that art”. At first I only understood 2 or maybe 3 things he meant by that, but over the years I have practiced different martial arts, and I have understand more and more, and I am sure there is still much more to discover. To compare martial arts trying to find the best one would be as absurd as to compare painting and music to determine which one is better. They are just different, they bring different things into your life, and it is up to you what you want to bring into yours.

Robert F. Kennedy Anecdote

In 1962, US Senator Robert F. Kennedy visited an Aikido Dojo during a trip to japan. He became skeptical when he saw a petite aikidoka throwing big students all over the place. With no previous notice he told his bodyguard to get in the tatami to give it a try to probe whether it was true or not. The big bodyguard tried with all of his power to take the little aikido man down, but the visitors were surprised by the result; the bodyguard did not move the aikidoka at all, and no matter how much the big man tried, he always ended lying on the floor, and Mr. Kennedy was laughing out loud.

Gozo Shioda demonstration in front of RFK


In your life...

How many times do you have to face situations that can hit you (like a problem with your wife/girlfriend/husband/bodyfriend, or an argument with your brother/sister/father/mother/son/ daughter, or maybe your boss is breathing down your neck, or you get stuck in a traffic jam, or you suffer health problems, or economic problems, or… you name it)? I am sure most of us have to deal with at least one of those situations. I tend to say that those are attacks we receive on a daily basis, and we all face it in different ways. Me? I used to take all those attacks right in middle of my chest. What about now? I still do! But now I am working a lot on the first lesson of Aikido: “Get out from line of attack”. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but when I do it the result is no surprising, I don’t get harmed.

Let’s take an example… Is early in the morning, there is a couple, she did not sleep very good and it gets very difficult for her to get up from the bed; he gets dress, and he is used to go to the kitchen and see the breakfast over the table, but this time is different, she does not have the breakfast ready for him, so he goes to the bedroom and see her asleep, and he starts to yell at her: “why my breakfast is not ready!?” –“Honey, I didn’t sleep well last night, I am really tired”, she answers. Then he replies (yelling some more): “Tired of what? You spend the whole day in the house while I go out there and spend the day working, is it too much to ask if I want to have my breakfast ready?” Ok, I think you got the picture and where this is going to. I choose this example because it is very common to start fighting over something with such a simple solution. The solution here was simple: Make your own breakfast for a change, man! And take the chance to make her breakfast too! She had a bad night! Be a gentleman. She will love that reaction, she will feel grateful at him, and she will feel that he is grateful at her! He will have his breakfast and go to work (he’ll have to do it either way, or he will walk out from his home with an empty stomach), and she can rest enough to face her day in a good way. But if he acts like the example, bad things are going to happen, maybe he won’t eat at all, he’ll run late, he’ll be on a bad mood, etc.

He felt an “attack” (an attack that in this case was not even there), his breakfast was not ready (she did not hurt him, he hurt himself by the bad feeling he fed), he should have let it pass him by (get away from the line of attack), using the solution we mentioned earlier he can avoid being harmed and she could be safe as well, but he choose to get the "attack" in his chest, go to her, and attack her back, injuring her as well. That is why Aikido is a way of love; that is a very good reason for you not to want your “attacker” to be hurt. Get out from the line of attack! When you feel the anger coming right at you, step aside. Avoid that confrontation; you can talk instead of yelling, and you won’t hurt your girl and she won’t hurt you back.

To sum up...

Ealier we said the principles of Aikido can be used in every single area of our life. Is not violent, yet it is really powerful. I would highly recommend everyone to practice Aikido, and to find out what it can do for each one. I started practicing Aikido to find a way to relax, and it did! But I found so much more... I found it really is the “Art of Peace”.


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