This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
(contributors: Eric Sotnak - firstname.lastname@example.org,
Alex Jackl - email@example.com)
Aikido emphasizes evasion and circular/spiral redirection of an
attacker's aggressive force into throws, pins, and immobilizations as
a primary strategy rather than punches and kicks.
Aikido was founded in 1942 by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). Prior to
this time, Ueshiba called his art "aikibudo" or "aikinomichi". In
developing aikido, Ueshiba was heavily influenced by Daito Ryu
Aikijujitsu, several styles of Japanese fencing (kenjutsu),
spearfighting (yarijutsu), and by the so- called "new religion":
omotokyo. Largely because of his deep interest in omotokyo, Ueshiba
came to see his aikido as rooted less in techniques for achieving
physical domination over others than in attempting to cultivate a
"spirit of loving protection for all things." The extent to which
Ueshiba's religious and philosophical convictions influenced the
direction of technical developments and changes within the corpus of
aikido techniques is not known, but many aikido practitioners believe
that perfect mastery of aikido would allow one to defend against an
attacker without causing serious or permanent injury.
The primary strategic foundations of aikido are:
(1) moving into a position off the line of attack;
(2) seizing control of the attacker's balance by means of
leverage and timing;
(3) applying a throw, pin, or other sort of immobilization
(such as a wrist/arm lock).
Strikes are not altogether absent from the strategic arsenal of the
aikidoist, but their use is primarily (though not, perhaps,
exclusively) as a means of distraction -- a strike (called "atemi") is
delivered in order to provoke a reaction from the aggressor, thereby
creating a window of opportunity, facilitating the application of a
throw, pin, or other immobilization.
Many aikido schools train (in varying degrees) with weapons. The most
commonly used weapons in aikido are the jo (a staff between 4 or 5
feet in length), the bokken (a wooden sword), and the tanto (a knife,
usually made of wood, for safety). These weapons are used not only to
teach defenses against armed attacks, but also to illustrate
principles of aikido movement, distancing, and timing.
A competitive variant of aikido (Tomiki aikido) holds structured
competitions where opponents attempt to score points by stabbing with
a foam-rubber knife, or by executing aikido techniques in response to
attacks with the knife. Most variants of aikido, however, hold no
competitions, matches, or sparring. Instead, techniques are practiced
in cooperation with a partner who steadily increases the speed, power,
and variety of attacks in accordance with the abilities of the
participants. Participants take turns being attacker and defender,
usually performing pre-arranged attacks and defenses at the lower
levels, gradually working up to full-speed freestyle attacks and
There are several major variants of aikido. The root variant is the
"aikikai", founded by Morihei Ueshiba, and now headed by the founder's
grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba. Several organizations in the United States
are affiliated with the aikikai, including the United States Aikido
Federation, the Aikido Association of America, and Aikido Schools of
Other major variants include:
* the "ki society", founded by Koichi Tohei,
* yoshinkan aikido, founded by Gozo Shioda,
* the kokikai organization, headed by Shuji Maruyama,
* "Tomiki aikido" named after its founder, Kenji Tomiki.