okay, so i promised you guys some hot aikido action, so here we go. enjoy...
aikido is what's known as a 'soft style'. soft as opposed to a hard style like
karate, tae kwon do, or kickboxing, to name a few. there's probably a few soft
styles you're already familiar with, but maybe just didn't know what they were
called. soft styles include jui-jutsu, tai chi, and chi kung (qi gong).
the ideas behind aikido can best be understood by thinking about an opponent
facing you. okay, let's say he tries to punch you. a typical karate defense
would involve blocking the advance forcefully, with a powerful strike of your
by comparison, a typical aikido strategy would be to apply your counter in a
curving arc that blends with the attacker's momentum, changing the direction of
since it's easier to change the trajectory of an object in motion than it is to
stop a moving object. the physics are sound.
once you can take control of your opponent's movements, you can direct him or
her into a 'circuit of neutralization', which is basically a joint lock. or
you can simply let go (in which case he or she will simply careen off in
whatever direction their movement is carrying them).
aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) after a rough childhood.
his father was beaten, for political reasons. o-sensei, as aikidoka (
practicioners of aikido) call him, witnessed this as a boy.
he decided then that he wanted to be strong enough to protect himself, and to
take revenge on his father's enemies. he began to study martial arts (various
forms of jujitsu, among other things, as well as fencing, staff, and possibly
somewhere along the way, o-sensei also began to get into several philosophical
and religious ideologies. slowly, his desire for revenge got lost in his
obsession with perfecting his new art.
literally, aikido translates as harmony (ai), energy (ki--also qi or chi), and
the way (do). i've also heard it interpreted as 'the way of unity with the
fundamental force of the universe,' and 'the art of peace'.
aikido differs from most other styles in that it has very few direct attacks.
some schools don't teach _any_. instead, aikidoka are encouraged to develop a
strong sense of their centre. aikido techniques are non-resistant, fluid, and
aikido works smarter, not harder, in the respect that it's a lot easier (from a
physics standpoint) to control the motions of others while allowing their own
momentum to move them, than it is to try and physically control their body
position and movement through your own strength.
maintaining such a conscious mentality of the centre also helps to sustain a
central awareness, lending aikido's usefulness in a multi-opponent situation.
simply by rerouting attacks away from their original direction, a skilled
aikidoka can control the fight, essentially controlling the order of attacks.
bodies out of control (but in the control of the aikidoka) can collide, causing
further disadvantage to the attacking party.
in a one on one environment, fierce joint locks, known as circuits of
neutralization' can be applied from virtually any angle. performed properly,
the techniques cause no permanent, serious harm. after all, if one can control
all the attacks of his enemy, and subdue him when necessary, what's the point
of physically harming him? to do so would be irresponsible.
but control is essential in aikido. it is a very dynamic, fluid art. just a
minor mistake could cause irreversible damage to an opponent. aikido, like
anything, takes an enormous amount of practice. the techniques have to become
aikido helps you to expand and hone your senses, your _awareness_. it also
develops kinaesthetics (the ability to control your motor skills based on
tactile response) to a very high degree. and, like any other skillset which
requires much practice, the hours spent and all the hardships endured helps to
create a sense of confidence and build character.
let me just take a moment to talk about ki (also qi and chi), often described
as internal power. many people disagree as to what ki actually _is_. some say
it is a fundamental force of the universe (use the force, luke?) flowing
through everything, some think of it more as a state or condition of events,
the right thing, if you will. some circles of science refer to ki as kinetic
linking. i've even heard it called 'soul'.
personally, my beliefs lean more toward the right thing (for more about 'the
right thing' read up on the mit tmrc hackers in the '60's) ideology. athletes
call it the 'zone'. zen masters call it 'no mind'.
ki is that perfect way of doing something (anything) that works just right,
just being 'on-point'. and aikido only works when energized with ki.
the techniques require you to be loose and fluid, yet still controlled, not
haphazard. that's again why kinaesthetics take such a big role.
aikido is a very recent art, in the scheme of things, but it is basically the
culmination of centuries worth of japanese martial knowledge, and in japan, is
treated as such. here in the states, however, it has not received the
attention of many traditional styles, therefore it may be difficult for you to
find a school that teaches aikido, but there are plenty of good books out
there, some good resources on the web, and i'll warrant some like-minded
individuals in your neighborhood, just use your head about it.
i'll be posting more when i can (actually, this is a rewrite--my first copy got
wiped out, so this one may not be complete) but rest assured, this won't be the
last. in the mean time, here's a short list of online resources...
aikido today magazine
more as it develops. aikido may not be the perfect style, but it's pretty close...