Aikido – The dynamic sphere… Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba (O-Sensei) in the early 20th century. As the physical practice of philosophical principles developed by O-Sensei, Aikido strives for the ultimate goal of peaceful resolution rather than defeat. Composed of three Japanese characters: Ai, meaning harmony; Ki, spirit or energy; and Do, the path or the way, the word Aikido thus signifies the “Way of Unifying Life Energy”. In this regard, O-Sensei created a martial art in which the preservation of one’s attacker is equally important as one’s own self defense.

Aikido is more than the study of physical techniques; proper etiquette, attitude and behavior are also stressed. The basic movements of Aikido are circular in nature. The Aikidoist trains to harmonize with, rather than confront an aggressive line of force and converts it into a circular motion that renders attackers helpless. The Aikidoist trains to apply various wristlocks, arm pins or unbalancing throws to subdue and neutralize attackers without serious injury. Such practice is done in tandem with learning the art of falling, or “ukemi”, which trains the body and mind to receive such techniques in a safe manner.

The essence of aikido is not learning a thousand techniques to disable, maim or kill an attacker. It is about learning to stay calm in any threatening situation. This is probably the most critical aspect of self-defense. Although Ueshiba taught this in the mid-20th century, it was only in the 1990s or so that scientific research proved that calmness enables access to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, where our most resourceful and advanced mental processes work. Now the police, military, and emergency services are taught techniques to manage stress so that they can deal with situations appropriately and effectively.

In aikido, we are taught to face and deal with mild forms of threat, such as grasping the wrist, to increasingly intense forms of threat. The practices are safe and controlled. This gives the practitioner the opportunity to build their confidence, to stay calm, and to relax.

Integrated Martial Arts teaches that it is in relaxation that we can access our full power. This power is not used to clash with the attacker’s power, but to lead it effortlessly. When you have learned not to resist or clash with the attacker, they are left with nothing to attack. It is like their attack falls into a vacuum. Their mind, one second committed to hitting you, the next second finds nothing, has nothing to resist, and so is easily led. Their body follows willingly. This is the highest form of aikido, and takes a long time to learn, because we have to unlearn trying to move someone’s physical body and throw it.

Before you reach that advanced stage, aikido teaches you many ways to move out of holds, grasps, strikes and stabs. Many people, young and old, have told about how they defused or escaped from a situation, naturally and without effort.