Founded in the first half of the twentieth century, Aikido is one of the most graceful of the many martial arts that have arisen over the centuries in Japan. Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was a master of several other martial arts, including Judo and swordsmanship. In founding and developing Aikido, he sought to create an art in which conflict is resolved without harm to either recipient or attacker. His name for his new martial art, Aikido, translates as "The Way of Love and Harmony."
Aikido is uniquely suited to the goal of self-development. Along with Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido is considered to be one of the principal "soft" style, or defensive, martial arts. Aikido promotes self-awareness and blending with one's opponents, and de-emphasizes competition and aggressive conflict. The goal in Aikido techniques is to meet and harmonize with an attacker’s energy, leading the attacker's ki in such a way that neither person is harmed.
Aikido for Self-Discovery is filled with practical self-study exercises and the concepts behind the practices, told in both stories and explanatory text. In the following excerpt, author Stan Wrobel, Ph.D., discusses means of developing self-awareness that are central in the practice of Aikido.
Art is not restricted to any one form of expression. There are many tools that can be used for self-exploration and expression. Aikido is one such tool.
Aikido is a martial art that relies upon harmonious movements and minimal muscular effort to resolve conflicts. It challenges our perceptions of strength and power to learn new ways of leveraging relationships to understand and resolve confrontations.
Through the opportunities it presents in its interactions with others, whether opponents or partners, it offers a reflective mirror to examine oneself. It is a tool that creates situations by which we make use of something external to help us look inward in order to find ourselves. Our expression of what we find along the way will then become the reward of the effort and adventure. The practice of the art becomes our initiation rite into our maturation towards expressing our true selves.
Aikido is the way of harmony. For some, it is the blending of their physical body with the force of an attack as they practice Aikido as a martial art. Yet Aikido is also the handshake by which we engage others in every interaction of our lives. It is the rapport we establish in negotiations and in our communications. It is the patience or pacing that we establish as we dance the tango, encircle each other in a wrestling match, or move in a rhythmic embrace with our lover.
Aikido has its techniques. They are the means by which we learn to view ourselves—and by which we try to preserve our integrity—in relation to our interaction with others and with the universe. They are the means by which we examine our own constitution, whether physical, bio-mechanical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. They are the two-way mirrors that allow us to see through to our opponent while at the same time allowing us to observe our own behavior, intent, and attention in the interaction.
Process & Test
Aikido is about process. Preconceived notions of goals or outcomes of endeavors can detract from the act and the art of living. The outcome of an interaction with an opponent can be reconciliatory, supportive, or violent. It can raise the emotional energy of your being or it can provide you with a pervading sense of calm and peaceful resolution. Between the beginning and the end, there is life, there are observations, there are experiences, and there are lessons. After the beginning there is a flow in which we experience life with all of its opportunities.
Aikido has its tests, whether formally given by the teaching committee or informally experienced during regular practice and in how we apply our learning when we leave the training hall. As we engage the unscripted, multiple attack of randori—simultaneous attack by multiple partners—we can demonstrate our abilities to weave through multiple challenges, preserving our image of self, projecting our emotional, spiritual, and physical maturity, and living in moment after moment, and thus, experiencing the flow.
And, as part of the flow, while observing, sensing, learning, practicing, experiencing, we seek to accrue benefits that come with the revelation of personal attributes that are closer and closer to those represented by our true being, our true essence. In this sense, our practice of a martial art, as a way of self-defense, is a way of harmonizing the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects within ourselves. With such harmonization, a peaceful union with others and with our environment becomes more probable. Our practice of such an art is a way of revealing to ourselves fine and clearer representations of who we truly are.