Aikido is a dynamic martial art based on harmony and reconciliation. Literally translated, Aikido means the Way (Do) to Harmony (Ai) with Life Energy (Ki).
Aikido is a modern expression deeply rooted in the ancient tradition of Japanese budo. Although usually translated as "martial art," budo encompasses much more than fighting prowess. In budo, the warrior arts are used for self-refinement and for the protection, enhancement and understanding of life.
The uniqueness of Aikido is that it does not oppose force but harmonizes with it, redirecting and neutralizing an attack. Aikido aims not only to save one's own life, but to bring an attacker under control without necessity of inflicting injury. Aikido seeks to end cycles of aggression and violence.
Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), called O Sensei or "great teacher," was an extraordinary martial artist who studied and mastered many styles of jiu-jitsu, sword and spear fighting as a young man. He was also a deeply spiritual man, engaged in a lifelong search for true understanding. Although Ueshiba came to be regarded as invincible, he remained dissatisfied with his achievement, feeling that the questions at the heart of budo remained unresolved. He probed with great intensity into the nature of the fighting arts and their role in human life, undertaking fiercely demanding physical and spiritual training.
In his mid 40s, Ueshiba had a deep insight which profoundly altered his life and work. He found that true strength was the strength of harmony with nature, and that in this harmony was discovered not a winner and a loser but the substance of love. The function of budo was loving protection, not killing and struggling with each other. He devoted the remainder of his life to developing the art of Aikido.
Aikido techniques are the dynamic application of natural law, reflecting the ebbs and flows, curves, waves and spirals of nature. Aikido training develops flexibility, relaxation, strength without aggression and a vibrant integration of body, mind and spirit. Aikido training is a practical exploration of personal and social responsibility and provides tools for living more harmoniously with ourselves and others in the larger world.
Ultimately, Aikido is journey toward the heart or center of existence. Aikido seeks an understanding of life that transcends dualities of offense/defense, weak/strong, self/other, opening a path toward wisdom and compassion. In the words of O Sensei, "There are neither opponents nor enemies in true budo. True budo is to be one with the universe; that is, to be united with the center of the universe."