The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff and knife. Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various armed and unarmed martial systems, Aikido represents a potent distillation of centuries of Japanese martial knowledge. It is one of the most widely practiced budo, or martial way, in the world. However, Ueshiba (commonly called O-Sensei, or “venerable teacher”) was determined that his “Progress comes to those who train and train. Reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.”
-Morihei UeshibaAikido be practiced as more than simply a method of fighting. The Japanese martial arts, influenced by the internal and meditative disciplines inherited from India and China, have often carried with them an emphasis on the development of internal, as well as physical, integrity. Wielding the life-taking sword with compassion and insight, the ideal warrior in Japanese thought is more than a simple killing machine; he is a model of uprightness, courage and loyalty, gladly sacrificing life (but never honor) in the name of principle and duty. Steeped in these traditions, O-Sensei conceived of Aikido as not only a means of vanquishing a foe, but as a means of promoting the positive character of the ideal warrior and ultimately of transcending dualistic conflict. For O-Sensei, Aikido was a path of self-development. He believed that it could be a means for anyone, of any nation, to follow the same path. Aikido is shugyo: an intense physical and spiritual training to perfect human character and develop true wisdom.
“To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.”
How does Aikido differ from other martial arts?
Traditional Aikido is non-competitive and promotions do not come through besting an opponent, but through demonstrating understanding of basic exercises and techniques, which become more demanding or difficult as rank increases. In Aikido we strive to work in cooperation with a partner, still employing effective technique against an energetic and realistic attack, yet doing so by blending with the attack and redirecting its energy back to the attacker. We practice techniques against a variety of attacks such as kicks, punches, strikes, single-hand or two-hand grabs from the front or rear, chokes, multiple person attacks, and attacks with weapons. In all of these we strive to resolve the conflict in a non-lethal, non-disruptive, yet effective manner. Techniques may end in joint locks or immobilizations, or in dynamic motions where the attacker is thrown forwards or backwards across the mat, or through the air into a spectacular breakfall. Rather than primarily linear motions, Aikido is comprised of blending, turning, pivoting, circling, and spiraling. We are learning to deal not only with our own energy, but with that of an attacker or another person (or people) as well. Aikido embodies concepts which are at the same time very simple, yet very complex. Because of these and other differences, Aikido can be very challenging to learn, yet at the same time can be very rewarding because it is ultimately bringing us into harmony with ourselves and with our world, and helping us to become more complete and integrated human beings.
Is Aikido good for self-defense?
Aikido is a very effective martial art for self defense, not only because it teaches us how to defend against a variety of attacks, but because it is also training our state of mind and physical condition. Improved posture and breathing help us to fit better into our bodies; a positive state of mind affects how we move in the world and how we are perceived by others. The ability to maintain physical center and mental calm helps us in meeting stressful situations or in resolving conflict in a variety of situations – in the dojo, on the street, at school, in a business meeting, or at home. Most martial arts can help us improve physical things like balance, timing, and reaction. One of the purposes of repeated training is to move these things from conscious processing to automatic reflex. Aikido also helps us develop our spirit, sense of well-being, awareness and compassion. The multi-faceted approach to Aikido training makes us stronger and more complete human beings, better able to diffuse or defend against negative situations.
How do I start training in Aikido?
To start training in Aikido, it is necessary to find a dojo (place to train) near you. Sources of information on dojo location include the internet, phone company yellow pages, street signs, and Aikido-related magazines. You should visit any school you are considering, to see first hand what the school, instructor, students, energy, and training are like. Stay clear of schools who do not let observers in or who do not give you a welcome or comfortable feeling. Remember that the energy or “vibes” of a school comes from that of its members, and those are the people with whom you will be working and training closely. Choose accordingly! The school should also be accredited by a national organization, and the instructors should have legitimate certifications. Ask whether the dojo offers an introductory or trial membership. Some offer introductory-level classes or six- to eight-week sessions as an “Introduction to Aikido.” This type of course is a good way for you to try the art and see if it is for you. Once you have found a dojo and decided that you’d like to train or continue training, you should try to attend classes at least two times per week. Once a week is good for a basic introduction, but for actually learning and retaining the material, it is better to attend classes more often, as your schedule and outside commitments allow.
How do I become affiliated with the AAA?
Thank you for your interest! The first step in your dojo joining AAA is to ask for affiliation. You should send us an official letter, which should include your contact information, reason for the request, and some brief information about your current Aikido and dojo status. Once we receive your request, we will contact you regarding the next step. Please contact us if you want to pursue affiliation. Thank you again for your interest in AAA. Be sure to read the information on our web site, especially AAA Services.
What is the difference between the AAA and other Aikido organizations?
Aikido Association of America was founded by Shihan Fumio Toyoda. Its goal, as defined by Shihan Toyoda, is to raise and maintain the quality of American Aikido instruction at its highest level. Towards this end, AAA emphasizes strong Aikido technique, legitimate instructors, and a clear teaching methodology. The organization provides support and guidance to its instructors, members, and affiliated dojo. It offers standardized test requirements, training seminars and camps (local, regional, and national), and instructor training and certification. Shihan Toyoda, known for his powerful and dynamic Aikido as well as for his unique and effective teaching methodology, was approachable by students of all levels. He was also more than willing to share his method of teaching and what he’s learned in his more than 40 years of Aikido experience. His personal goal, and the guiding vision of Aikido Association of America was to promote Aikido. Please see AAA Services for more detailed information on what Aikido Association of America has to offer.