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Introduction to Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba founder of Aikido

What is Aikido?

Aikido is a relatively new self-defence art, founded in Japan by Professor Morihei Ueshiba. As a youth, Ueshiba Sensei, or O-Sensei ('Great Teacher') as he was called, applied himself to many arduous years of training in Budo, the Japanese martial arts. He mastered Jiujitsu, the use of the spear, the staff, and was considered unbeatable with the sword O-Sensei also delved deeply into religion; studying Zen Buddhism and Shintoism. Although he became very strong and won many matches, he was troubled with the idea that winning at someone else's expense was not really winning. He came to realise that true self-defence was not winning over others, but winning over the discord within one's self Though he was an acknowledged master, he began to practise movements, exploring them deeply, searching mentally, and sitting for hours in meditation. As a result, Aikido was born as a way to divert harm from one's self, while at the same time not inflicting permanent injury to an aggressor. As Aikido developed, it became clear that it was not only an effective means of self-defense, but a way to understand life through the study of the energy flow of the universe.

Meaning of the word 'Aikido'

These three Japanese characters, ai-ki-do, therefore mean 'the way of harmonizing with the spirit of the universe.'

The word Aikido in Japanese, is made up of three characters. The first is ai, which means 'to meet, to come together, to harmonize.' The second character is ki, which means 'energy, spirit, mind.' In a larger context, ki means 'the sprit of the universe,' and not just the spirits of human beings. The third and last character is do, which means 'the Way.' It signifies that the study of Aikido does not involve merely self-defence techniques, but includes positive character-building ideals which a person can incorporate into his or her own life. Philosophy of Aikido

The most unusual aspect of Aikido is that, although it is primarily a self-defence art, it takes as the basis of its philosophy the idea of being in harmony with your opponent, rather than being in conflict with him. The ideal of Aikido is not to think of defeating your enemy, but rather to be in harmony with him, spiritually, mentally, and physically. This is why Aikido is sometimes called the 'art of non-resistance' or the 'non-fighting martial art.' Aikido is not merely an art of self-defense. Into its techniques are woven elements of philosophy, psychology, and dynamics. As one learns the various arts, he or she will at the same time train the mind, gain improvements in health, and develop self-confidence. Through the physical practice of the self-defense techniques, the student of Aikido comes to appreciate and understand the mental or spiritual aspect of Aikido.

During Aikido practice, partners train in harmony with each other, learning when and how to yield, how to lead and guide another person's movements - how to defend themselves using nonresistant techniques. The student learns to position him or herself in a solidly grounded triangle, keeping the centre of gravity very low by relaxing the upper body, keeping the back straight, and breathing naturally. The power generated with natural breathing is called kokyu-ryoku ('breath power') and is the essential power cultivated and strengthened in Aikido. Unlike pure muscle power, kokyu-ryoku does not deteriorate with age, but increases with one's understanding of Aikido, regardless of age, sex, of muscular strength. Since Aikido does not rely on muscular strength for its effectiveness, one does not need to be physically large or strong to be effective in applying Aikido techniques.

Aikido Movements and Techniques

The movements of Aikido emphasize flowing, flexibility, timing and the maintenance of balance. The aim of the Aikido practitioner is to be able to be in complete control of his/her mind and body, while keeping a calm flexible and alert posture. Much of the beauty of Aikido movements comes from the coordinated motion of the entire body.

Techniques include throws, immobilisation, and joint flexing. Most of the joint techniques, such as those applied to the wrist or elbow, flex the joints in the direction of natural bending, and although such techniques are painful and effective if resisted against they result in no permanent damage to the joints

The most unusual aspect of Aikido is that, although it is primarily a self-defence art, it takes as the basis of its philosophy the idea of being in harmony with your opponent, rather than being in conflict with him. The ideal of Aikido is not to think of defeating your enemy, but rather to be in harmony with him, spiritually, mentally, and physically. This is why Aikido is sometimes called the 'art of non-resistance' or the 'non-fighting martial art.'

Because of the nature of the Aikido philosophy, which promotes harmony and nonconflict, tournaments ('shiai') are non-existent. Instead, a well-executed performance of the art's techniques become the criteria for promotion. In addition, consideration is given to the Aikido-ka's character, attitude, and the seriousness and diligence of the student during practice.

Perform exercises accurately. Deviation from proper form renders techniques ineffective. There is no need to practice with undue speed. When in doubt, return to the fundamentals. Basic Aikido Conduct and Etiquette

Please be punctual. You should be changed and on the mats at least 10 minutes before class. Take this time to do individual If you happen to be late, do your warm-ups off the mat. When you are ready, sit quietly on the edge of the mat, bow to O-sensei and remain sitting seiza until you receive permission to join the class. If you must leave the mats during class, first ask permission.

Observe good manners. Observing due respect is more than merely making a bow. It is essential for the trainees to receive their instructors and seniors with the utmost respect. This is difficult since excessive courtesy can lapse into polite insolence, and too modest a behaviour is apt to lose the chance of doing the civil. There are those who practice by virtually knocking their partners down. Their concept of hard training is utterly wrong. The essence of real training lies in the throwing process. When let loose mercilessly, Aikido techniques do not allow ukemi. It is up to you to throw your partner in such away that he or she can respond with ukemi without fear of injury.

Voluntary cleaning of the Dojo is encouraged and demonstrates your respect for Aikido training and the Dojo

Always be alert on the mats. Careless practice can be dangerous and cause injury to yourself and others.

If you become sick, overtired or injured and cannot continue to practice, let your partner and the instructor know and ask permission before leaving the mat quickly and quietly. If you need help, ask. If you just need a short rest, bow to your partner and the Sensei, move to the edge of the mat, and sit quietly until you are ready to resume practice. If you have a specific medical problem which may affect your practice, notify the Sensei before the class starts.

Hygiene is very important. Personal hygiene is a reflection of your respect towards Aikido, the Sensei, your fellow students, and yourself Keep your fingernails and toenails clean and short to minimize cutting yourself and others. Keep your gi clean and wash it regularly. Wear sandals to the side of the mats. Do not wear jewellery during practice.

Basic Aikido Terminology

Counting Ichi Ni San Shi Go Roku Shichi Hachi Ku Ju 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Uniform

Dogi - 'Clothes of the way' uniform Obi - Belt

Hakama - Pant-skirt, usually worn by black belt ranks.

Etiquette

Sensei - Teacher. A term conveying respect for the instructor. Rei - Appreciation with respect, usually referring to bowing. Onegaishimas - Literally, 'Please do me your favour.' This is said when class starts and before practicing with the Sensei or with other students.

Domo arigato gozaimashita - 'Thank-you very much.'

This is said when class starts and before practicing with the Sensei or with other students

Hail - 'Yes!' This is always the first response of the student called on by the Sensei.

Posture

  • Seiza - Basic sitting position on the knees.
  • Kamae - Guard stance.
  • Hanmi - Literally, 'half body.' Basic aikido stance.
  • Ai hanmi - Asymmetrical hanmi
  • Gyaku hanmi - Symmetrical hanmi (mirror stan ce).
  • Uke - The person who receives Nage's throw or technique. (The attacker).
  • Nage - The person performing a throw or technique on Uke. (The defender).

Receiving

  • Ukemi - Falling or receiving a throw or technique.
  • Mae ukemi - Forward roll or fall.
  • Ushiro ukemi - Backward roll or fall.

Ranking

As in other Japanese martial arts, Aikido utilizes the 'kyu' and 'dan' system of ranking. Generally, the Aikido-ka begins with 5th kyu (in Canada), and improves his or her standing through the 'kyu' ranks until reaching 1 st

  • kyu. After passing the black belt test, the Aikido-ka is awarded the rank of
  • 'sho-dan,' (1 st degree black belt).
  • Kyu (mudansha or white belt) ranks 5 4 3 2 1
  • Yudansha (black belt) ranks 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Categories of Movement

  • Suwari waza - Kneeling techniques.
  • Hanmi handachi waza - Techniques with Nage in kneeling position and uke standing.
  • Tai sabaki - Body movement. There are two types:
  • Irimi and Tenkan
  • lrimi - Moving straight behind or in front of Uke.
  • Tenkan - Turning and guiding the Uke in a circular direction.
  • Omote - 'Front.' Refers to movement in front ofUke.
  • Ura - 'Back.' Refers to movement behind Uke.

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