The Nanaimo Aikikai Crest O-Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba) - Aikido's Founder
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Why Learn Aikido?             A Beginnner's View of Aikido

Aikido in ActionAikido is a relatively new self-defensive art, founded in Japan by Professor Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). As a youth, Ueshiba Sensei, or O-Sensei (Great Teacher) as he was called, applied himself to many years of intense training in budo, or the Japanese martial arts. He was a master of Jiu-jitsu, the spear, and the staff, and was considered unbeatable with the sword. O'Sensei also delved deeply into religion and the meaning of life, studying Zen Buddhism and Shinto. Although he became very strong and won many challenges, Ueshiba Sensei was troubled with the idea that winning at someone else's expense was not true victory. Though he was an acknowledged master, he began to study movement and technique even more intensely, and he eventually came to realize that true self-defense was not winning over others, but winning over the discord within oneself.

Ai-Ki-Do - The Way of Harmonizing KiThe word Aikido in Japanese is made up of three kanji (characters). "AI" means "to meet, to come together, to harmonize"; "KI" means "energy, spirit, mind" (in a larger context "KI" means "the spirit" or "the nature" or "of the universe," and not just the spirit of human beings). "DO" means "the Way" which signifies that the study of Aikido does not involve merely self-defense techniques but includes positive character-building ideals which a person can incorporate into his or her own life. AIKIDO therefore means the way of harmonizing with the spirit of the universe.

Why Learn Aikido?

By Kim Riddick, 1st Dan: Instructor SFU Aikikai 

       SFU has many martial arts clubs, but to someone who has never tried a martial art, the choices can be almost overwhelming. Each martial art offers a distinct history and philosophy as well as physical techniques. Aikido is one of these martial arts.

The word Ai-Ki-Do means the way of harmony with the universal spirit and energy. It is a physical and spiritual discipline taking the form of a martial art. Aikido is more than simply a system of self-defense; it promotes peace and harmony amongst people.

To understand a little more about Aikido, it is necessary to know something about the life of Master Ueshiba, Aikido's founder. He devoted his life to martial arts. However as he learned some of the most sophisticated and devastating fighting techniques of Japan, he found himself questioning their values - aggression, physical force, the need to defeat others. In his spiritual pursuit of the true martial art, Master Ueshiba was profoundly inspired by Shinto, an ancient Japanese religion based on love and harmony with nature.

After many years of studying the martial arts and reflection, Master Ueshiba concluded that love is the essence of the universe. Furthermore, martial art training must consist of nourishing the love of God and one's being. From these philosophical tenets, he adapted the techniques of jujitsu and the Japanese sword into a universal system where all movements reflect this philosophy.

Through training, the Aikido practitioner becomes stronger, but more gentle, more alert, but more intuitive, more solid, but more harmonious. Without adversial relationships, Aikido unifies opposing forces in unresisting harmony. The students learns to hold himself stable but mobile, this centre of gravity low and to breathe naturally.

During practice, the student marries his movements to those of others. He avoids collisions and conflicts, and directs others' energy so that it reinforces his own. The techniques include falls, immobilization of the joints of both the left and right sides. The complexity and the intensity of practice varies with experience.

In Aikido, there are no tournaments, no winners and no losers. It provides a medium in which students can discover his or her own strengths and weaknesses. As he or she masters the art, he or she masters himself or herself. In this way, Aikido, the way of harmonious energy, reaches out from the practice hall to enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.

Choosing a martial art is a personal choice. Hence, I encourage anyone who is interested in a martial art to observe or experience a class offered by the different clubs on campus. As an Aikido instructor, my goal is not only to teach techniques, but also to provide a safe, enjoyable, and non-competitive environment where people can practice. Through training, I essentially hope my students acquire an awareness of their bodies, learn to relax, and eventually obtain greater control of their bodies. The dojo is also a place to share my enthusiasm for Aikido. 

Kim Riddick, 1st degree blackbelt, and has practised Aikido for nine years and instructed Aikido at SFU for four years.

A Beginnner's View of Aikido 

By Nigel Fogden 

    I remember how awkward I felt at my first Aikido class. The instructor would demonstrate a technique that would seem more like a tornado of movement than anything I could ever do. Or sometimes the teacher would show things down and make one simple but fluid movement. "Ah ha!" I would think, "I can do that." Much to my surprise however, I found that I couldn't even turn around correctly. There were a couple of other beginners who started at the same time as I did and they were stumbling along with the same awkwardness as I was. But other than our little group of beginners, everybody else seemed to know what they were doing. It was frustrating and very humbling.

Yet for all of the frustration I stayed with it. I saw something in Aikido that I had not seen anywhere else. I had started because I was looking to get in shape and try something new. This however was something different entirely. Far from being a way to hurt people, Aikido seemed like the essence of peace in motion. In its spirals and circles, it resolved aggression into harmony in a powerfully physical way. This was not just a philosophy or a collection of pleasant words. The challenge I saw in Aikido was the challenge to meet physical force with understanding and grace. What aikido was and is to me is an example of the true strength of peace.

To begin learning Aikido I had to re-learn how to learn. It seems strange to say that I would need to re-learn how to learn, after a life filled with "education", but in spite of all the books I had read and classes I had taken it had been along time since I had started anything from scratch. Starting as a complete beginner was both frustrating and liberating. It was hard to acknowledge how much I had to learn, but it was wonderful to allow myself to make mistakes. I first had to accept how much I did not know before I could begin to learn.

There are different ways to learn. I have spent most of my life learning with my mind but Aikido taught me that another one of those ways is to learn with your body. Now to a dancer or a boxer, this is probably no surprise, but to me it was a revelation. Skill in Aikido, like that of dance, is not something you can gain through reading. Aikido can only be learned through practice and experience.

The training hall, or dojo, can be the laboratory. It is a place where I try to leave my stress, my fear, as well as the sense of my own importance at the door. This is crucial because Aikido is a martial art and because of this it deals with life and death. Aikido demands focus. But through dedication and focus a kind of alchemy occurs. Through Aikido we are taught how to transmute force into peace and violence into harmony.

Nigel Fogden, 5th kyu, has practiced Aikido for a year.

Page updated Mar. 4, 2007 by Glenn Chapman 

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