Techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstance, you should be: hard as a diomand, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water, or as empty as space.
"The Art of Peace" by Morihei Ueshiba
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a unique, highly sophisticated method of self defense in which there is NO COUNTER-ATTACK! The goal of the Aikidoka in self defense situation is to neutralize the attacker's ACTION and render him harmless, WITHOUT CAUSING ANY SERIOUS INJURY if at all possible. Obviously, this may require a very high degree of skill, and very ethical intention.
In developing the skill needed to be really effective in Aikido, the Aikidoka must practice his/her art every bit as diligently as one would practice painting, piano or any other art, because Aikido is truly an art, a martial art. The Aikidoka must often replace his/her natural instincts with more subtle, refined learned responses, until this too becomes instinctive. For instance, a man's natural response to an attack may be to block a blow with his arm and counterattack with his fists. This man must first learn to sense the attack immediately, then evade it rather than have to block, and direct the attacker's force away from him, rather than counterattack. As he becomes more proficient his coordination improves and he is able to use more fluid, supple, functional movements which are free from rigidity, either physical or mental.
While practicing Aikido, great emphasis is placed on the "hara", or center of gravity in the lower abdomen, where it is said that our energy, called "ki", is located. The Aikidoka learns to "extend the ki", or use this energy smoothly, powerfully, and effectively. "Sphericity", or moving in circular motions, is also stressed in Aikido. It is this graceful circular fluidity which first catches the eye of the casual observer.
However, the uniqueness of Aikido does not truly lie in its centralization of energy, or in the grace and fluidity of the techniques used. What really gives Aikido its unmistakable identity and qualifies it as a superior method of integration and development is its ethical message. It is the ultimate motivation of the art, the striving to bring order where there is disorder, to integrate where there is seperation, to reconcile where there is strife, that marks Aikido as a unique and distinctive martial art. In synthesis we may say that the ethics of Aikido stress living and behaving well at every moment, in whatever circumstance one may find oneself. The word "Aikido" broken down into its parts translates as follows:
Ai: THE PRINCIPLE OF HARMONY AND INTEGRATION.
Ki: CENTRALIZED, COORDINATED ENERGY: CONSIDERED THE ENERGY OF LIFE ITSELF.
Do: THE METHOD, OR "WAY": A DISCIPLINE AND PHILOSOPHY WITH BOTH MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CONNOTATIONS.
The self defense techniques learned in Aikido can be lethal, if so applied. Therefore, the Aikidoka is given the freedom, the responsibility, of choice as to the way he/she reacts to the situation. Ideally the aggression, rather than the aggressor, will be "neutralized". As a result, the person's integrity as well as safety is preserved in an ethical manner and harmony is restored.
It is as a discipline of coordination that Aikido has perhaps its widest field of application. In this dimension, the emphases upon integration of mind and body, upon unity within the self, is expanded to include unity with a partner, with fellow men, and then that final flowering of unity of man and men with their universe. In this dimension, Aikido moves from the particular to the general and universal.
The improved physical/mental health, the deeper understanding and awareness of the problems facing everyone, the essential unity and identification of all people, their integration with, and necessity to one another, as well as a sense of "belonging" to their times and their world. This is the potential that the theory and practice of the art of Aikido can offer all men and women, wherever they may be.