Aikido - Aiki Jutsu
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title ‘O Sensei’ or ‘Great Teacher’). On a purely physical level it is an art involving some
throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu and some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu. Aikido focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather
on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.
Upon closer examination, practitioners will find from Aikido what they are looking for, whether it is applicable self-defense technique, spiritual enlightenment, physical health or
peace of mind. O Sensei emphasized the moral and spiritual aspects of this art, placing great weight on the development of harmony and peace. “The Way of Harmony of the
Spirit” is one way that “Aikido” may be translated into English. This is still true of Aikido today, although different styles emphasize the more spiritual aspects to greater or lesser
degrees. Although the idea of a martial discipline striving for peace and harmony may seem paradoxical, it is the most basic tenet of the art.
We could attempt to pigeonhole Aikido into a synopsis of X number of words, but that would not do it justice, so we leave the practitioner of Aikido to find out what Aikido is for
themselves without any preconceived notions.
What are the different styles in Aikido?
Aikido was originally developed by one man, O Sensei. Many students who trained under O Sensei decided to spread their knowledge of Aikido by opening their own dojos. Due,
among other things, to the dynamic nature of Aikido, different students of O Sensei interpreted his Aikido in different ways. Thus different styles of Aikido were born. The more
common are listed here along with a brief explanation of what is different about the style. Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses, but all are firmly rooted in the basic
concepts which make Aikido the unique art that it is. None should be considered superior or inferior to any other, but rather an individual must find a style which best suits him or
her. Outside factors such as geographic location may of course limit one’s options.
No matter which style you choose, you are going to be taught that particular instructors interpretation of it, and you yourself are going to develop your own particular Aikido. One
might say that there are as many different styles of Aikido as there are practitioners.
Since this list is going to be challenging enough without looking for extra work, we’ll restrict our definition of Aikido to mean styles that clearly trace their lineage to Ueshiba O
Sensei. The classification into categories is fairly arbitrary.
The “Old” Schools
Here we’ll list the schools that developed from the pre-war teachings.
This is the name given to the art O Sensei was teaching early in his development. It is very close in style to previously existing Jutsu forms such as Daito-ryu Aiki-Jutsu. It is
considered to be one of the harder forms of Aikido.
Most of the early students of O Sensei began during this period and much of the early practice overseas was in this style (e.g. Abbe Sensei’s teaching in the UK in the 50s).
This form was developed by Minoru Mochizuki, who was an early student of O Sensei and also of Jigoro Kano Sensei at the Kodokan.
This style includes elements of Aiki-Budo together with aspects of Karate, Judo and other arts.
This is the style taught by the late Gozo Shioda. Shioda Sensei studied with O Sensei from the mid-30s. After the war, he was invited to begin teaching and formed the
organization known as the Yoshinkan. Unlike many later organizations, the Yoshinkan has always maintained friendly relations with the Aikikai both during and after O Sensei’s life.
The Yoshinkan is a harder style of Aikido, generally concerned with practical efficiency and physically robust techniques. It is taught to many branches of the Japanese Police.
The international organization associated with the Yoshinkan style of Aikido is known as the Yoshinkai, and has active branches in many parts of the world. In recent years, there
have been a number of offshoots of this style, usually developing for political reasons.
The “Modern” Schools
This includes most of the variants taught today. Most of these “styles” are taught by various senior students of O Sensei, with the divergences coming after the death of the
Founder. Most would claim to be teaching the art that O Sensei taught them - and this is probably true even though some have little in common with others! Taken together with O
Sensei’s notorious obscurity in teaching style, the story of the elephant and the blind men may give us some clue as to how this could have come about.
Most of us have our biases and preferences amongst the various styles but can recognize that all have their strengths and weakness and we all have something to learn from all of them.
The “Traditional” Schools
The Aikikai is the common name for the style headed by Moriteru Ueshiba, O Sensei’s grandson, as taught under the auspices of the International Aikido Federation. Most regard
this school as the mainline in Aikido development.
In reality, this “style” is more of an umbrella than a specific style, since it seems that many individuals within the organization teach in quite a different manner. The Aikido taught
by Ueshiba Sensei is generally large and flowing, with an emphasis on a standard syllabus and little or no emphasis on weapons training. Other teachers within the auspices of the
Aikikai (like Saito Sensei) place much more emphasis on weapons practice.
The style taught by Morihiro Saito, based in the Iwama dojo, is generally considered sufficiently stylistically different from mainstream Aikikai that it is named individually, even
though it still is part of the Aikikai.
Saito Sensei was a long time uchideshi of O Sensei, beginning in 1946 and staying with him through his death. Many consider that Saito Sensei was the student who spent most
time directly studying with O Sensei Saito Sensei says he is trying to preserve and teach the art exactly as it was taught to him by the Founder. Technically, Iwama-ryu seems to
resemble the Aikido O Sensei was teaching in the early 50s mainly in the Iwama dojo. The technical repertoire is larger than in most other styles and a great deal of emphasis is
placed on weapons training.
The “Ki” Schools
One of the most noticeable splits in the Aikido world occurred in 1974 when Koichi Tohei, then the Chief Instructor at the Aikikai, resigned from that organization and founded the Ki no Kenkyukai to teach Aikido with
strong emphasis on the concepts of Ki. Since that time, there has been little interaction between the traditional schools and the Ki schools.
All of these arts tend to refer to themselves as Ki Aikido, even though there is little contact between some of the styles.
Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido
The style founded by Koichi Tohei - Aikido with Mind and Body Unified. Tohei Sensei places a great deal of emphasis on understanding the concept of Ki and developing this aspect independently of the Aikido training
for application to general health and daily life.
This style is one of the softest styles of Aikido and is characterized by soft movements that often involve the practitioner jumping or skipping during the movement. Most schools are not concerned with practical
application of the techniques, considering them exercises to further develop Ki.
In recent years, Tohei Sensei has been moving further and further away from Aikido and has devoted himself almost exclusively to Ki training. The latest news is that Ki no Kenkyukai has started an initiative to make
Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido into an International Competitive sport
The “Sporting” Styles
One of the other big breaks in Aikido history occurred during O Sensei’s life when Kenji Tomiki proposed “rationalizing” Aikido training using Kata and Competition. Since that time, there has been little commonality
between the Tomiki schools and the mainline Aikido schools.
In recent years there have been a number of offshoots of Tomiki-ryu that have abandoned the idea of competition.
Founded by Kenji Tomiki, and early student of O Sensei and of Judo founder Jigoro Kano. Tomiki Sensei believed that a “rationalization” of Aikido training, along the lines that Kano Sensei followed for Judo would
make it more easily taught, particularly at the Japanese Universities. In addition, he believed that introducing an element of competition would serve to sharpen and focus the practice since it was no longer tested in real
combat. This latter view was the cause of a split with O Sensei who firmly believed that there was no place for competition in Aikido training
Tomiki-ryu is characterized by using Kata (prearranged forms) in teaching and by holding competitions, both empty handed and with a rubber knife.
Aikikai Also known as Hombu (which actually means headquarters). This is ‘classical’ Aikido as taught by the Ueshiba family. Today it is governed by the Aikikai Foundation which is run by O Sensei’s son, Doshu
Kisshomaru Ueshiba. There are several different organisations which teach this style of Aikido such as USAF and ASU (in the United States) and BAF (in the United Kingdom).
Iwama As taught in the town of Iwama by Morihiro Saito, a close student of O Sensei. Includes an emphasis on the relationship among taijutsu, ken and jo movements. This style of aikido reflects the art of the
Founder as taught approximately between the years of 1946-1955 and the number of techniques is more numerous than those presently taught at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.
Ki Society Also known as Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (Aikido with Mind & Body Coordinated), founded in 1971 by Koichi Tohei a 10th dan student of O Sensei who, at O Sensei’s request, brought Aikido to the U.S. in
1953. Ki Society stresses the use of Ki not only in technique but in daily life to remain calm & relaxed in stressful situations.
Kokikai A style founded by Shuji Maruyama Sensei. It is a particularly soft style that emphasizes ‘minimum effort for maximum effect.’
Tomiki Tomiki Ryu Aikido was founded by Kenji Tomiki, a high ranking judoka, whom Jigoro Kano (the founder of Judo) sent to Ueshiba to learn Aikido. The primary focus of Tomiki Aikido is kata (forms) that strive to
teach and capture the fundamentals of Aikido. Tomiki deemphasized the concept and importance of ki, and instead decided to concentrate on the physiological side of Aikido.
Yoshinkan Places emphasis on the use of Aikido as a method of self defence and less on the more esoteric and philosophical elements.
Aikido development and history
Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take
revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive
physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial
arts. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name “Aikido” in 1942 (before that he called his martial art “aikibudo”
On the technical side, Aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu, as well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may
say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also realize that many Aikido techniques are the result of Master
Ueshiba’s own innovation.
On the religious side, Ueshiba was a devotee of one of Japan’s so-called “new religions,” Omotokyo. Omotokyo was (and is) part neo-shintoism, and part socio-political idealism. One goal of omotokyo has been the
unification of all humanity in a single “heavenly kingdom on earth” where all religions would be united under the banner of omotokyo. It is impossible sufficiently to understand many of O Sensei’s writings and sayings
without keeping the influence of Omotokyo firmly in mind.
Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of Aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which are
only more or less shared by Aikidoists, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about Aikido.
Some examples: “Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family.” “The essence of Aikido is the cultivation of ki [a vital force, internal power,
mental/spiritual energy].” “The secret of Aikido is to become one with the universe.” “Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological self- mastery.” “The body is the concrete unification of the physical
and spiritual created by the universe.” And so forth.
At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of Aikido, however, we may identify at least two fundamental threads: (1) A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible. (2) A commitment to
self-improvement through Aikido training.