Aikido is a Japanese martial art founded and developed by Morihei Ueshiba. One of most common translations for Aikido is “the way of harmonious spirit”.
Ueshiba’s idea was to create an art that could defend not only the one using it but also the attacker so he would not get any injuries. The techniques of Aikido are based on redirecting attackers force and making throw or joint locks.
I personally have trained in this martial art. It happened to me when I was 13 years old. I was very skeptical about it when my father brought me to the dojo.
The whole placed was covered in mattress looking things that actually are call tatami. I joined the training in the middle of it. As I was 13 and I could say I was a bit chunky I was put into older group.
That group contained mostly adults, so I was terrified that I will get injured. But in practice after almost correctly repeating the technique instructor showed us, I realized that it is working pretty well on a bigger opponent. That is what got my attention. I bought a training form I waited for the next lesson.
Then I realized that Aikido is not only about techniques. There was the picture of the founder of Aikido in the dojo. Facing it we started with a meditation where all participants must close their eyes; sit in silent and think of nothing. I could not do it in first time, as a teenager there was always something mumbling my mind.
Then we bowed in respect to the picture. The training started with preparing our bodies; otherwise the practical usage of techniques could injure us. As our instructor said, the first thing you need to learn is to move. It made me grin. Learn to move. That sounded awful.
But in practice those movements were different. He taught us 3 ways of movement in sitting position and 3 ways in standing position. Also while moving we needed to be in a special position. It was kind of hard to always maintain it. After that we started to learn techniques.
I realized that one of the biggest challenges for me would be to learn all the Japanese terminology. The delivered attacks were not usual attacks.
Those were either seizures or special strikes that represent cuts from a sword or other grasped object. After the technique practice we had physical activities and after them sparring.
The physical activities were just make us fitter so we could move faster and so we would become flexible.
In Sparring we could use any technique we knew. The goal of sparring was to disable opponent and prevent him from moving.
And then again there was meditation in the end of training. The thing is that in this meditation I was relaxed I could not think of anything even if I wanted to.
I started to go to these trainings regularly. People in our group were young so instructor taught us mostly only the basics from white belt which is called 6th kyu.
The ranking system is that the smaller is your kyu the higher in rankings you are. After 1st kyu comes dan.
Dans are rankings for those people who already have a black belt. They also wear a hakama, pair of wide pleated black trousers similar to ones in kendo. Our instructor also had one. To pass to next kyu one needed to learn technics and go to the examination.
There no competitions or championships in Aikido. Our instructor was getting 3 of us including me getting ready to pass examination for the 6th kuy.
The most of techniques that I was taught are based on controlling your opponent when he is on the ground and of course techniques to get him there.
All of the techniques could be done in 2 ways-omote, when you do the technique in the opposite way of opponents movement and ura, when tori extends opponent’s movement by stepping behind him and continuing the technique the way uke was heading.
Our instructor also showed us more advanced techniques that included weapons such as a knife (tanto). We also learned the right movements. First of all we were taught 3 different movements which help dodging opponent’s attacks. Besides dodging we gained knowledge of how to do save and fast flips.
If you flip over your shoulder instead of your head there is high possibility that you will be able to stand up at the spot. We did both sitting position and standing position.
In sitting position one sits on his knees with one knee looking to the viewing direction and the other is in a 90 degrees angle to the first one. Hands are placed imitating the holding of a sword, but with open palms.
Standing position is almost the same, but this time knees and toes must be in 90 degrees angle. Also one must be a little bent in knees and no part of his body must be tense. In both positions navel must be looking in the same direction the movement will follow.
Every movement in aikido must be done with a light and freedom. I would say it is similar to the flow of water. We also did some more energy connected exercises.
One of them is connected hand, when one person needs to connect the outer side of his palm to other person’s outer side of the palm and try keeping them together while other person can move his hand freely.
I also remember us doing light-heavy exercise. 2 people are trying to pick up third person and he needs to make himself heavier or lighter. And sometimes it really worked. You just needed to concentrate your thoughts and think that you are heavy.
Finally we were learning to make an iron hand. One placed his hand on other’s shoulder and tried imaging a metal pole inside it, while other tried to bend it. We also had practice with different weapons.
Short staff (jo) – we learned how to spin it and some series of attacking with it. Wooden sword (bokken) – we had mostly evading exercises when a person has several attackers with swords who attack in turns from different directions.
I got 6th kyu ranking on my first try but that is not the only thing I got from Aikido. I consider myself calmer than before.
Also in latest trainings after being exhausted and then participating in sparring, my mind was free of techniques and they came out automatically almost on subconscious level. I moved freely and lightly.
Also in Aikido I learned how to meditate. Sometimes when I need to overthink something or I just have a headache I sit on my knees place my hands as if I was holding something and connect my thumbs, close my eyes and breathe. It transports me to the nothingness and relaxes for a while.
Our instructor also showed us how to fall correctly so when you are uke you don’t get injured.
We practiced it a lot and several times it prevented me from injuring myself, for example, while running to catch the bus I slipped and automatically positioned myself to fall on the side correctly, stood up cleaned myself and provided with amused looks went into the bus.
Also Aikido taught me evasive movements on a subconscious level, so that for example people who want to tackle me usually end up throwing their weight into plain air.
I would say that as a martial art Aikido is marvelous. It has its own philosophy. It states that we must be careful with everybody, even our opponents. Life is priceless.
The techniques are beautiful and teach us things about human body. It teaches us to move less harshly. On the other side I would not say it is well integrated to be good at self-defense.
The situations in which it is taught are pretty specific, so if the opponent is acting differently it creates difficulties for Aikido student.
Also every person’s physical appearance is different and some techniques would end up with a very different result than they ended with your partner.
In real life if your opponent does not get any injuries after your technique, he will just stand up and continue harassing you.