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What is Aikido?

There is probably only one statement about aikido with which all practitioners would agree: it is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969), now referred to as O-sensei (great teacher).

In its modern form there are a variety of interpretations of aikido.  This is inevitable, as aikido is not simply a matter of learning mechanically a series of set movements.  Each student must develop their own understanding of the martial art they are pursuing.

To an observer aikido involves throws, locks and pins to neutralise an attacker.  However this is only the outward appearance.  What you cannot see, and what is more important, is what is going on in the mind of the aikidoka (aikido practitioner).

The word ‘Aikido’ is a compound of three parts: ai, ki and do. 

 ‘Do’ means way or method. 

 ‘Ai’ means harmony.

 ‘Ki’ is more difficult to translate as it has many meanings in Japanese.  In the British Ki Society the word ki is used to mean something which is not clear ie something which happens but which it is difficult to put clearly into words.

      Therefore Aikido literally means the way to harmony with ki.

Ki is a difficult concept to explain.  Often it is described as life force or energy or spirit.  To me these ideas are too mystical.  There is nothing magical or mystical about ki.  It is not a mysterious force or power which some people possess and use.  If you are looking for mystical powers you will need to look elsewhere.

At the Burton Ki Society we study aikido from the point of view of its relation to daily life.  Your practice should help you to develop your own view of life and deal with the stresses of daily life, not just prepare you for a fight which may never happen.  You should be a better person because of your aikido, not just a more knowledgeable martial artist.

Aikido can be described as the art of creating a situation in which an attack cannot happen.  This depends on developing a non-fighting mind, with which you create a harmonious relationship with your partner.  It is important to understand that this does not mean you never fight: if you are attacked you must defend yourself.  However it is the mind which must remain non-fighting.  To develop this understanding requires a study of the relationship between mind and body, which we carry out through aikido.

If this sounds too abstract or ‘woolly’ you must come along and observe a class, or better still join in.  Aikido can be a very energetic practice, especially if you are young and fit!  However, the more ‘mature’ students are also catered for: you are allowed to develop at your own pace and will not be pushed to do anything you don’t feel ready to do.

Aikido can mean different things to different people and as you progress your understanding will change and develop.  This is one reason why it is so difficult to answer the question “What is aikido?”

Mike Hayes


Burton Ki Society