The Way of Harmonious Movement

It is always enjoyable to write about an activity that is well-represented in the Yukon. However, to do some form of justice to Aikido and those who teach it, I will need to touch on the history of this amazing martial art and the founder of it before I explore what is offered here.

Aikido is written with three distinct characters: “Ai” for harmony, “Ki” for life energy and “Do” for the way. Therefore it can be translated quite loosely as “the way of universal harmony”.

It is not a martial art wrapped in the swirling mists of history unless you include all of the influences that brought about its creation. No, instead, Aikido was developed within the last century by a young man from a farming family who borrowed from old arts to create Aikido.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, was born on December 14, 1883, on the main island of Honshu, Japan. Though his father was a strong, robust figure, Ueshiba was not. As his son was prone to sickness, his father encouraged him to practise swimming and sumo.

On the other side of physical activity, it was his mother who, because of her deeply religious interests, developed the spiritual interests that would later became a major factor in Ueshiba’s development as a person. It would also be an influencing factor in the major split within the Aikido ranks.

Ueshiba studied three forms of Jujitsu: Kito, Daito and Shinkage, as well as Kendo (fencing) and spear-fighting.

His religious influences were Buddhism, Shintoism and, most significantly, Omoto-kyo.

It was this diverse mix of martial and spiritual studies that shaped his final formation of Aikido principles and practice. Over his many travels and training with others, he developed Aikido and began to teach it throughout Japan.

The basic practice of Aikido is the avoidance and re-direction of an attacker’s energy.

For example, one of the characteristic principles is circular motion. Receive a straight attack, with a circular movement, and you can channel and control the attack. Also, the body and mind must be trained to be pliant – not rigid. This is a good philosophy for daily life, as well.

However, the master taught both the physical as well as the spiritual side of this art. Unfortunately, in many cases this is not done now.

Many of the schools teaching Aikido, today, do not emphasize the spiritual foundations of Ueshiba, but focus mostly on the physical aspect. This has brought about a split that can be seen in the ones that emphasis Ki energy and the ones that focus on technique.

That split was initiated by one of the most proficient and recognized students of Ueshiba. Koichi Tohei believed that the state of techniques at the main teaching hall was contrary to the master’s teachings and he began to stress Ki and Ki development, in his own teachings, to compensate for this. Ultimately, he and many others left the main teaching hall and developed their own Aikido.

Today there are schools that emphasize the techniques-only side, but pay lip service to the life force or Ki. There are also schools that place the development of Aikido directly around the training of this life force and use the techniques to practise that development

We, in the Yukon, are fortunate to have Aikido taught by accomplished instructors. Next article will be about the history of Yukon Aikido.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts for over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]

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