What is Aikido?

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In 1905 Ueshiba met Sokaku Takeda, head of the Takeda family, and began his study of Daito Ryu Aiki-jujitsu. In addition, he continued to practice the other arts he had learned in Tokyo, particularly kenjutsu and jojutsu. After four years of intense training Ueshiba was granted his masters licence in Aiki-Jujitsu and in 1925 Ueshiba organized his own style of Aiki-jujitsu, largely for his own spiritual and physical development.

Ueshiba diligently applied himself to the reworking of the killing techniques he had been taught, and synthesized them into a form that taught harmony and reconciliation rather than violence and death. Ueshiba proclaimed that the true Budo (the way of the warrior) was the way of the peaceful reconciliation. He dedicated himself to the design of an art that would teach technical prowess and strength, and commitment to the self-discipline needed for personal growth. He dubbed this new “modern martial art” Aikido — which means “The Way Of Harmony”.

YOSHINKAN AIKIDO

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Ueshiba’s most outstanding student was Gozo Shioda (1915-1994). It was he who contributed much to bring about the increased popularity that Aikido has enjoyed since the war. This was especially so in the immediate post was years when the son of O-Sensei ceased any Aikido activities for several years and later came to train with Shioda Sensei and Saito Sensei.
Shioda entered Ueshiba’s dojo at the age of 18, and lived and practiced there for eight years. Because he stayed at the dojo longer than any other student, and at a time of Ueshiba’s greatest health and vigor, Shioda learned to sense the ways of the Master’s mind and spirit.
In recognition of Shioda’s progress, Ueshiba was to award him 9th Dan, the highest rank given by Ueshiba to any of his student’s, plus his “Master” instructor’s license.
Gozo Shioda Sensei’s style of Aikido is known as Yoshinkan, a name that he inherited from his father who owned a Kendo and Judo dojo by that name. Yo means cultivating; Shin means spirit of mind; and Kan means house; thus Yoshinkan is the house for the cultivation of spirit and mind.

 

A TRAINING DAY IN YOSHINKAN AIKIDO

All who take Aikido will find a special atmosphere in the Dojo, (training hall); were both formality and discipline are emphasized, but in a relaxed manner. Many of the instructor’s directions are spoken in Japanese. This is to keep the student in touch with the origins of Aikido and its founders. This is also a reminder of the traditions of the Samurai where it all began.

Classes begin and end in a similar manner. Students kneel in a line and prepare themselves for the upcoming class, they bow to the front of the dojo, then to the teacher. The class then proceeds with exercises, basic movements and breakfalls. The exercises are designed to develop stamina, improve flexibility and prepare the body for movement. The basic movements teach the basis of Yoshinkan Aikido techniques. Breakfalls are essential to strong Aikido techniques. These breakfalls are practiced many times, so that they become second nature, and may be executed in a dynamic but safe manner.

At this point the techniques of Aikido are taught.  A technique is first demonstrated by the Instructor, then practiced by the students. Student works with each another, so that they can explore the technique together. Beginners are often partnered with advanced students, which is a useful exercise for students at all levels of expertise. The Instructor is there for guidance, to answer questions and to provide individual instruction. It has been found that repetition for both beginners and advanced students is the only way to learn Aikido. In time Aikido manifests in the transitive for the student to harmonize with society.