Aikido in Brief: A Short Introduction to a Large Art
By Christopher Li
Introduction: A brief introduction to a large art.
The word “art” has been used in many different ways throughout history. Some have considered it as something purely physical, such as music or painting. Others have viewed it as something that involves mental activity, such as poetry or philosophy. Still others have considered it as something that involves both physical and mental activities, such as architecture or engineering.
However, most people today would agree that no other art has achieved the level of popularity and respect that aikido has enjoyed over the centuries.
What makes aikido so special? What sets it apart from all other forms of martial arts? How did one small group of men achieve such fame and influence?
These are questions which I will attempt to answer here.
In order to do this, I need to first define what aikido is. To me, aikido means “the way of the sword”. That’s not to say that there aren’t other styles of martial arts; rather, it refers specifically to the use of weapons in close combat. For example, karate (which is actually derived from jujitsu) uses kicks and punches in combination with various throws and joint locks.
These techniques were used when weapons were illegal, and developed so that the user would not need a weapon to subdue an attacker. Jujitsu uses holds and throws without the use of strikes, and does not endorse the use of weapons at all.
The word “aikido”, then, refers to the use of a weapon in close combat. The weapon serves as a focus, or a guide for how the attack is to be carried out. For example, if one were to attack an enemy armed with a sword from the front, one would be in great danger of being cut. However, if one were to attack the enemy’s sword arm (such as by grabbing his wrist) while striking at his head, one could subdue him with much less risk.
This is an example of using the enemy’s weapon against him.
Another example might be using the flat of a blade to block a weapon rather than attempting to stop it with one’s hand, which would almost certainly result in the hand being cut off. These principles are important to aikido.
Aikido was founded by Kannagara Sensei, who lived from 1550 to 1690. He began his martial arts training at an early age, first in archery and then in swordsmanship. Kannagara was highly skilled in both areas, and gained a certain fame for himself.
At the time, Japan was under attack by the allied forces of England and Spain. Firearms had recently come into use in battle, and both sides were anxious to try them out in a real conflict. The Japanese called these new weapons otteru zaibatsu (which has been translated as “potato Prussian guns”).
Sources & references used in this article:
The art of Aikido: Principles and essential techniques by K Ueshiba – 2004 – books.google.com
A study of perceived stress, anxiety, somatic symptoms, and spirituality in practitioners of the martial art aikido by HE Tapley – 2007 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org
Aikido and the dynamic sphere: An illustrated introduction by T Kohn – Sport, dance and embodied identities, 2003 – Bloomsbury Academic