Resolution of conflict through harmony
O’Sensei passed away in 1969, leaving a diverse range of approaches to understanding what he had created. Common to all iterations however, is the emphasis that Aikido embodies non-violence, and the resolution of conflict through harmony. Ai-Ki, translated loosely, means ‘Harmony of Spirit,’ a principle reflected in the flowing, soft, but often very energetic and powerful movements seen in Aikido techniques. Students learn to diffuse incoming attacks by extending an opponent’s balance and intention beyond their control, using the attacker’s own strength to subdue them.
To a beginner, this may initially appear counter-intuitive; martial arts are usually associated with physical strength and competition, so it may seem surprising that Aikido training is for the most part co-operative. Students work together, learning the gross movements of techniques as structured forms under pre-established conditions. Aikido discourages the reliance on physical strength, so this kind of training is suitable for men and women of any size. No prior experience in martial arts is required, nor is physical fitness, as everybody trains holistically, and develops at their own pace. The emphasis on sensitivity and connection in Aikido training requires that, in the beginning, techniques can be practiced slowly, allowing detailed exploration of their constitutive principles. As practitioners become more advanced, both in their ability to perform techniques and receive them safely, more intensive powerful training will emerge.
Cultivating sensitivity for timing, distance, and ultimately, awase, the ability to join with an attack while using the attackers’ own force and strength against them, is where Aikido distinguishes itself from other martial arts, and thereby embodies the martial principles O’Sensei transformed and preserved from the more lethal traditional arts of Budo (‘warrior’s way’).
The spirit of selflessness and charity persists as an ideal in Aikido, which eschews competition and violence in favour of training towards a traditional ethics of martial awareness and self- improvement. There is no competition in Aikido, and no fighting; Aikidoka train in search of a mastery which extends beyond victory over others.