Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art the modern form of which was founded in 1925 by Master Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei). The techniques that form the basis of modern Aikido are derived from centuries old tactics developed by Samurai warriors. It has evolved in the historic tradition of Japanese warrior arts, but is more than just a science of tactics and self-defense; it is a discipline for perfecting the spirit. The Japanese word Ai-ki-do consists of three Kanji characters which can be translated as “the way of unity with the fundamental force of the universe”. Aikido practitioners train to integrate their body, mind and spirit through harmonious practice of basic principles. Aikido teaches us to be aware of our surroundings and to use our bodies to move with physical confrontation instead of against it.
Aikido is a true Budo or “Martial Way”. The essence of all Aikido technique is the use of total body movements to create spherical motion around a stable, energized center. Even when a technique appears to be using only one part of the body, close observation reveals the Aikidoist’s movements are, in fact, whole body movements.
Aikido is a purely defensive martial art. Rather than meeting violence with reciprocal violence, the Aikidoist learns to evade and redirect the power of the attack, resulting in the attacker being unbalanced and either projected (thrown) or immobilized. The results are achieved through precise use of leverage, inertia, gravity, and the action of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Inevitably, it is the attacker’s own force and momentum that neutralize his aggression. Because of this principle of “active non-resistance”, Aikido can be effectively performed even against larger, stronger attackers. At the higher levels of the art, it is equally effective against multiple attackers.
Aikido is not a sport or a game. There are no tournaments or competitions. Rather, practice is conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and co-operation. Aikido has been proven to be an effective means of self defense and its’ techniques form the basis of many police “control and restraint” tactics. It is also distinguished by a highly developed moral code which seeks to protect the assailant while simultaneously neutralizing his will and ability to attack. Beyond being merely a form of self protection, Aikido is a method of personal development that teaches the practitioner balance and character, which enhance all aspects of daily life.
Most practice is done with a partner. Each works at his or her own level of ability, alternating as Uke (the attacker), and Nage (the one who receives the attack). Both roles are stressed as each contributes skills that enhance overall sensitivity and control. Practice is non-competitive with partners working in a cooperative manner to encourage the physical, mental and spiritual growth of each other.
Morihei Ueshiba (14 December 1883 – 26 April 1969). Philosopher, martial artist, author, and the creator of the discipline of Aikido. He is often referred to as O’Sensei (Great Teacher) by aikidoists.
Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan on 14 December 1883. During his childhood, the Ueshiba family lived in Maizuru (Kyoto Prefecture). His interest in martial arts stemmed from witnessing a beating of his father which affected him deeply. However, it was only after moving to the northern island of Hokkaido in 1912 with his wife, as part of a settlement effort, that his martial art training took on real depth. For it was here that he began his study of Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu under its reviver Takeda Sokaku.
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Ayabe. In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, this connection was to have a major effect in introducing Ueshiba to various elite political circles as a martial artist. The Ueshiba Dojo in Ayabe was used to train members of the Omoto-kyo sect. He was involved in the first Omoto-kyo Incident, an ill-fated attempt to found a utopian colony in Mongolia.
Although Ueshiba eventually distanced himself from both these teachers, their effect on him and his art can not be overstated. The real birth of Aikido came as the result of three Enlightenment experiences of Ueshiba. The first happened in 1925, after Ueshiba had defeated a naval officer’s bokken (wooden katana) attacks unarmed and without hurting the officer. Ueshiba then walked to his garden and:
“Suddenly, the ground began shaking. A golden vapor wafted up from the ground and enveloped me. I was transformed into a golden image, and my body felt as light as a feather. All at once I understood the meaning of creation: the Way of a Warrior is to manifest Divine Love, a spirit that embraces, loves, and protects all things.”
His second experience occurred in 1940 when:
“Around 2am as I was performing misogi, I suddenly forgot all the martial techniques I had ever learned. The techniques of my teachers appeared completely new. Now they were vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, and virtue, not devices to throw people with.”
His third experience was in 1942. During the worst fighting of WWII, Ueshiba had a vision of the “Great Spirit of Peace”:
“The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love.”
In 1927, Ueshiba moved to Tokyo where he founded his first dojo, which still exists today under the name Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Between 1940 and 1942 he made several visits to Manchukuo (Japanese occupied Manchuria) to instruct his martial art. In 1942 he left Tokyo and moved to Iwama in the Ibaraki Prefecture where the term “Aikido” was first used as a name for his art. Here he founded the Aiki Shuren Dojo, also known as the Iwama dojo. During all this time he traveled extensively in Japan, particularly in the Kansai region teaching his Aikido.
Morihei Ueshiba died on 26 April 1969.
Kawahara Shihan (8th dan) was the Technical Director of the Canadian Aikido Federation and the British Columbia Aikido Federation. He was designated by the Hombu Dojo in Japan as their official representative to Canada.
Kawahara Shihan began Aikido in the 1950′s as a student of Bansen Tanaka in Osaka. Tanaka Shihan started studying with O’Sensei in 1935 and continued until the War. After WWII he built the Osaka Aikikai in 1951 under O’Sensei’s direction. O’Sensei would frequently stay in Osaka for extended periods during those years.
Before coming to Canada in 1975 Kawahara Shihan taught for a period in Taiwan. His first 2 years in Canada were spent in Montreal but he re-located to the West Coast in 1977. He traveled extensively to encourage the growth of Aikido in Canada. He taught a yearly summer camp in British Columbia that drew participants from across the continent as well as from overseas. The first of these camps was held in 1979 in the small town of New Denver. Since that time the camp has grown and included such guest instructors as the present Doshu, Fujita, Miyamoto, Masuda, and Osawa Shihans from Hombu dojo as well as North American Shihan such as Yamada, Kanai, Chiba, Tohei, and Sugano.