Although aikido is a relatively recent innovation
within the world of martial arts, it is heir to a rich cultural and
was created in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). Before creating aikido,
Ueshiba trained extensively in several varieties of jujitsu, and in
swordsmanship. Ueshiba also immersed himself in religious studies and
developed an ideology devoted to universal socio-political harmony.
Incorporating these principles into his martial art, Ueshiba developed many
aspects of aikido in concert with his philosophical and religious ideology.
Aikido, as Ueshiba
conceived it in his mature years, is not primarily a system of combat, but
rather a means of self-cultivation and improvement. Aikido has no
tournaments, competitions, contests, or "sparring." Instead, all aikido
techniques are learned cooperatively at a pace commensurate with the
abilities of each trainee. According to the founder, the goal of aikido is
not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics
which inhabit one's own mind and inhibit its functioning.
At the same time, the
potential of aikido as a means of self-defense should not be ignored. One
reason for the prohibition of competition in aikido is that many aikido
techniques would have to be excluded because of their potential to cause
serious injury. By training cooperatively, even potentially lethal
techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.
It must be emphasized
that there are no shortcuts to proficiency in aikido (or in anything else,
for that matter). Consequently, attaining proficiency in aikido is simply a
matter of sustained and dedicated training. No one becomes an expert in just
a few months or years.
Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan
on December 14, 1883. According to the founder's son, Kisshomaru, when
Morihei was a boy, he saw local thugs beat up his father for political
reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He
devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice
of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of
jujitsu. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities,
however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes
of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue
his studies of budo, or the martial arts. By combining his martial training
with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial
art of aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name "aikido" in 1942 (before that he
called his martial art "aikibudo"and "aikinomichi").On the technical side,
aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is
also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu, as well as sword and
(possibly) spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that
aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with
the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, it may be that many
aikido techniques were the result of the founder's own innovation. At the
core of almost all philosophical interpretations of aikido we may identify
at least two fundamental threads: (1) A commitment to peaceful resolution of
conflict whenever possible. (2) A commitment to self-improvement through
A dojo can be defined as:
A place where the Way of Aikido is
A place for forging the body and spirit.
A place for enlightenment.
A dojo is not a gym for mere "working out".
It is more than just a building.
It is a sacred place that cannot be defined
by it's geographical location,
the height of it's walls, or the value of
It is defined by the spirit emanating from
collective, and it's universal spirit.
A dojo should be appreciated by seeing it
with one's heart.
It is the commitment and responsibility of
all students, and part of our training to make the dojo a better place,
physically and spiritually. The physical state of the dojo is a reflection
of itís students. We clean what needs to be cleaned, we fix what needs to be
fixed and participate in dojo activities. We shouldnít need to asked or
told, we should observe and respond accordingly.
In return for the
instruction that we receive it is our responsibility to maintain and improve
the dojo. Thus, the dojo should improve, grow and evolve as the student body
The instruction that we
receive from our sensei (and all teachers) is a gift that is given to us.
The value of that gift is not covered by our dues, and the value is
different for every student.
You must be prepared to
give as well as receive, as we are all teachers and we are all students. It
is part of your responsibility to help beginners and nurture interest and
comradiery in the dojo.
Aikido practice begins
the moment you enter the dojo! Trainees ought to endeavor to observe proper
etiquette at all times. It is proper to bow when entering and leaving the
dojo, and when coming onto and leaving the mat. Approximately 3-5 minutes
before the official start of class, trainees should line up and sit quietly
in seiza (kneeling) or with legs crossed.
The only way to advance
in aikido is through regular and continued training. Attendance is not
mandatory, but keep in mind that in order to improve in aikido, one probably
needs to practice at least twice a week. In addition, insofar as aikido
provides a way of cultivating self-discipline, such self-discipline begins
with regular attendance.
Your training is your
own responsibility. No one is going to take you by the hand and lead you to
proficiency in aikido. In particular, it is not the responsibility of the
instructor or senior students to see to it that you learn anything. Part of
aikido training is learning to observe effectively. Before asking for help,
therefore, you should first try to figure the technique out for yourself by
encompasses more than techniques. Training in aikido includes observation
and modification of both physical and psychological patterns of thought and
behavior. In particular, you must pay attention to the way you react to
various sorts of circumstances. Thus part of aikido training is the
cultivation of (self-)awareness.
The following point is
very important: Aikido training is a cooperative, not competitive,
enterprise. Techniques are learned through training with a partner,
not an opponent. You must always be careful to practice in such a
way that you temper the speed and power of your technique in accordance with
the abilities of your partner. Your partner is lending his/her body to
you for you to practice on - it is not unreasonable to expect you to take
good care of what has been lent you.
Aikido training may
sometimes be very frustrating. Learning to cope with this frustration is
also a part of aikido training. Practitioners need to observe themselves in
order to determine the root of their frustration and dissatisfaction with
their progress. Sometimes the cause is a tendency to compare oneself too
closely with other trainees. Notice, however, that this is itself a form of
competition. It is a fine thing to admire the talents of others and to
strive to emulate them, but care should be taken not to allow comparisons
with others to foster resentment, or excessive self-criticism.
If at any time during
aikido training you become too tired to continue or if an injury prevents
you from performing some aikido movement or technique, it is permissible to
bow out of practice temporarily until you feel able to continue. If you must
leave the mat, ask the instructor for permission.
Although aikido is best
learned with a partner, there are a number of ways to pursue solo training
in aikido. First, one can practice solo forms (kata) with a jo or bokken.
Second, one can "shadow" techniques by simply performing the movements of
aikido techniques with an imaginary partner. Even purely mental rehearsal of
aikido techniques can serve as an effective form of solo training.
It is advisable to practice a minimum of two hours per
week in order to progress in aikido.
Proper observance of
etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. In
many cases observing proper etiquette requires one to set aside one's pride
or comfort. Nor should matters of etiquette be considered of importance only
in the dojo. Standards of etiquette may vary somewhat from one dojo or
organization to another, but the following guidelines are nearly universal.
Please take matters of etiquette seriously.
1. When entering or
leaving the dojo, it is proper to bow in the direction of O-sensei's
picture, the kamiza, or the front of the dojo. You should also bow when
entering or leaving the mat.
2. No shoes on the mat.
3. Be on time for
class. Students should be lined up and seated in seiza approximately 3-5
minutes before the official start of class. If you do happen to
arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the
instructor grants permission to join practice.
4. If you should have
to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, approach the
instructor and ask permission.
5. Avoid sitting on the
mat with your back to the picture of O-sensei. Also, do not lean against the
walls or sit with your legs stretched out. (Either sit in seiza or
6. Remove watches,
rings and other jewelry before practice as they may catch your partner's
hair, skin, or clothing and cause injury to oneself or one's partner.
7. Do not bring food,
gum, or beverages onto the mat. It is also considered disrespectful in
traditional dojo to bring open food or beverages into the dojo.
8. Please keep your
fingernails (and especially toenails) clean and cut short.
9. Please keep talking
during class to a minimum. What conversation there is should be restricted
to one topic - Aikido. It is particularly impolite to talk while the
instructor is addressing the class.
10. If you are having
trouble with a technique, do not shout across the room to the instructor for
help. First, try to figure the technique out by watching others. Effective
observation is a skill you should strive to develop as well as any other in
your training. If you still have trouble, approach the instructor at a
convenient moment and ask for help.
11. Carry out the
directives of the instructor promptly. Do not keep the rest of the
class waiting for you!
12. Do not engage in
rough-housing or needless contests of strength during class.
13. Keep your training
uniform clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odors.
14. Please pay your
membership dues promptly. If, for any reason, you are unable to pay your
dues on time, talk with the person in charge of dues collection. Sometimes
special rates are available for those experiencing financial hardship.
15. Change your clothes
only in designated areas (not on the mat!).
16. Remember that you
are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of
receptivity and humility (though not obsequiousness) is therefore advised.
17. It is usually
considered polite to bow upon receiving assistance or correction from the
18. During class, if
the instructor is assisting a group in your vicinity, it is frequently
considered appropriate to suspend your own training so that the instructor
has adequate room to demonstrate.
There is literally a
world of information available about Aikido on the internet, below are some
of the better links.
The United States Aikido Federation
Aikido Online Magazine
Aikido Frequently Asked Questions
The Primer Disclaimer
Please note that this
Aikido Primer has been modified from itís original contents with the
original authorís permission.
The original version
was written by Eric Sotnak and can be found at:
sotnak @ bigfoot.com