A discipline that deliberately stays away from the podium runs the risk of going unnoticed by the general public. Indeed, although the name aikido is familiar to a great many people, it has to be admitted that many false definitions and commonplaces circulate about it.

Aikido is a young martial art, considering that its founder Morihei Ueshiba died in 1969. The latter had practiced a host of different martial arts, in particular certain schools of Ju-Jutsu (unarmed combat) and Ken Jutsu (sword fighting). The influence of the latter discipline can be seen in the unarmed practice of Aikido. However, weapons still play an important part in the practice, with the Tanto (dagger), the Jo (stick) and the bokken (wooden sword).

0 Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, who had demonstrated the effectiveness of aikido in the face of several experts in various martial arts eager to put his technique to the test, saw in his discipline an important spiritual component. He understood that sympathy and compassion for the aggressor were far more appropriate than hatred and the will to destroy.

In fact, aggression reflects an imbalance, frustration and fear that leads to violence. Of course, in the event of an attack, it would be ridiculous to let yourself be destroyed, and protecting your own integrity comes first. In Ueshiba’s concept, this is not enough. We must also accept the aggressor’s attack, integrating it into a spiral that renders the attack futile and restores calm where there was only violence, without destroying as much as possible, and using a minimum of force and energy.

This makes it easier to understand the literal translation of the word aikido into French: “La Voie de l’harmonisation des énergies” (“The way of harmonizing energies”).

A kendo (sword-fighting) teacher understood the principle perfectly when confronted by Ueshiba, after having tried to hit him unsuccessfully for over an hour with a wooden sword. He’d given up exhausted in the face of a smiling, unapproachable target who didn’t run away, but felt his attacks intuitively and systematically. The kendo teacher had become one of his most assiduous pupils. Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern Judo, had also sent several of his students to study Aikido with Master Ueshiba in order to understand these principles.

It’s interesting to see how these interdependencies and the interest shown in each other by the various disciplines reflect a spirit of openness and understanding that is, or should always be, present.

In practice between aikidokas, and this is undoubtedly what gives some people the image of a “ballet”, the one who carries the attack and finds himself sucked into the movement will in turn try to limit the damage and avoid finding himself in too exposed a situation. This is why, in Aikido, falls are always voluntary and serve to avoid the effects of wrist or arm locks, atemis (punches, kicks, knees or elbows). There is no direct opposition to force, and the attacker’s energy is used to the maximum. That’s it in a nutshell for “physical” efficiency.

However, it’s a fact that many books on Aikido are regularly published without any drawings, photos or technique descriptions. The modernity of Aikido highlights the fact that the sometimes daily aggression that each of us may feel against our individual freedom, in the workplace, in family life, in the city at large, is far more frequent than the physical aggression on the street corner.

In fact, it’s above all within ourselves that the most intense struggles and contradictions often take place. “The greatest enemy is within oneself”, as some Japanese masters used to say, and what was true for men who had to put their lives on the line on a regular basis is still true today in our workshops, at our desks and behind the wheel. Feelings such as fear, anxiety, anger, pride, depression, jealousy, envy and hatred, to name but a few, are internal adversaries that will try to distort our relationships with others and even lead to our defeat. It probably won’t be the loss of a lifetime, but it may be the loss of a customer, a contract, a friend, and in any case of our equilibrium and part of our self-esteem.

It is therefore in everyday life that Master Ueshiba’s teaching can take on its full meaning, and the practice of Aikido in its philosophical principles is largely useful outside the training room, in order to live in harmony with our fellow man without being either victim or executioner. This is the very opposite of a sectarian attitude, and the desire for openness to the world of a man who felt part of the universe, at one with its laws, beyond any short-term competitive spirit.

A fine program, you may think, but it’s much easier to describe than to implement, and you’d be right. It is no doubt for this reason that aikido teachers believe that a simple physical practice based on the acquisition of techniques alone is as useless as a frantic reflection on the fundamentals of this martial art without the practice of training. It is the balance of the two that can bring the aikidoka to feel what this moving meditation is, perfectly adapted to the difficulties of our time, and which perhaps only some of us will have the joy of mastering completely. But what an exciting quest.

The definition of Aikido expressed in these lines is inevitably reductive, since it appeals only to words and concepts; so we can only invite you to put your money where your mouth is and join in an adventure in which pleasure and good humour are never absent, as they are also part of the conception of an endearing martial art.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us