Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the 20th century. As such, it is a newer martial art, rooted in the Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu style and with elements arguably based on Kenjutsu. The word "aikido" is derived from three Japanese words: "ai," meaning to harmonise or unite; "ki," literally "steam" or "vapour," but now referring to mind, spirit, or energy; and "do," a way or method. It is roughly translated as "the way of harmony with spirit," or "the way of harmony with the universal energy."
There are many styles of aikido, stemming from various students of Ueshiba, or O Sensei (Great Teacher). As O Sensei was teaching for decades, many styles reflect the aikido that the student knew from his own time studying under O Sensei. Many students have since incorporated elements from other martial arts into their aikido, making the array of styles quite broad. The most commonly recognized styles are: Aiki-Budo; Yoseikan; Yoshinkan; Aikikai; Iwama-Ryu; Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido; and Tomiki-ryu.
Aikido is an internal martial art. The art is focused on using an attacker's energy against him, rather than on developing attacks of one's own. With the exception of Tomiki-ryu style, there are no competitions in aikido. Aikido uses throws and joint manipulation, rather than kicks or strikes. The Aikikai style, which I study, is considered one of the "classic" styles of aikido; it is the only style still directly based in Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, where O Sensei's first school was located. The Aikikai style is currently headed by O Sensei's grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba. Like many Japanese martial arts, most Aikikai schools use a five kyu, ten dan grading system, and color belts are not used.
The following essay details my own personal journey into aikido, and offers a glimpse of Aikikai Aikido fundamentals.
Copyright Nathan Simpson September 2005 (used by permission)