Brief overview of aikido, a Japanese art

If you’re not familiar with martial aikido, you may erroneously think that it is just another way of exchanging punches and kicks. However, once you discover its non-competitive philosophy, you will quickly see the differences it has with other forms of combat.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art, founded by Morihei Ueshiba during the period of Pacific War, when Japan was experiencing some of the most violent conflicts in the 20th century. Ueshiba continued to develop aikido, proclaiming it to be a way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace. Aikido is thus considered to be truly budo – a martial way, rather than simply a set of martial techniques. This budo is not aimed at defeating the adversary, but at reducing his attempt at aggression to nothing.

The term aikido is composed of three kanjis meaning:

ai: harmony, concordence (合)
ki: energy (気)
dō: the way (道).

Aikido can therefore be translated as “the way to harmonize energies“.


In practice, here are some basic aikido principles:

  • Strategically calm an attack.
  • Never respond to force or aggression with a similar energy.
  • Join and combine with the energy of the other.
  • Rapidly use and redirect the force of the attacker.
  • Turn or pivot with the force of the attacker, letting them continue their stride.
  • Protect the attacker from injury.
  • Consider the attacker as a partner

O-Sensei (venerable teacher), as Ueshiba came to be known, died in 1969. A specific goal that the he had for the art was that it would enable practitioners to defend themselves while also keeping the attacker from harm. Indeed, you will not find competitions in mainstream aikido; rather seminars where the techniques are exchanged between practitioners for mutual benefit. Martial aikido around the world now has literally millions of practitioners.

With his teachings, Ueshiba professed incessantly about peace and aikido’s philosophical ideal of “refining one’s mind to foster a spirit of harmony”. The essence of the spirit of aikido may be found in one of O-Sensei’s most remembered mottos, “Masakatsu agatsu” – True victory is victory over the self.