The essence of all Aikido techniques is spherical motion around a stable, energized center. Properly executed, some techniques are spectacular, sending an attacker flying through the air. Others are like sleight-of-hand; small, deft movements that immobilize the aggressor. Both results are achieved through precise use of leverage, inertia, gravity and the action of centrifugal and centripetal forces. Ultimately, it is the attack itself which brings down the attacker.
Increased stamina, flexibility and muscle development occur naturally as a result of training, but the techniques themselves do not depend on strength for effectiveness; Aikido can be practiced by both men and women of all ages.
The final aim of Aikido is personal transformation; it is a discipline for perfecting the spirit which allows for the creation of integrated human beings. The focus of training is highly practical: constant repetition to master the fundamentals of movement, timing and breathing.
Students train themselves to capture the attackers action and redirect it with techniques of martial efficiency and power. At the same time, they become aware of the tendency to overreact to opposition, and learn to remain centered under all conditions.
Most practice is done with a partner; each works at his or her level of ability, alternating as uke (the attacker) and nage (the one who receives the attack). Both roles are stressed; each contributes skills that enhance overall sensitivity and control.
The Aikidoist acquires a relaxed posture in which the weight of the body is directed toward its physiologic center in the lower abdomen. Gravity, no longer a force to be overcome, serves to support and stabilize posture. As a result, ordinary movement assumes an appearance of grace and economy.
The effects of centering are mental as well as physical: vitality increases, the senses are sharpened and one is less affected by everyday irritations and annoyances. This inner quality allows the student to develop to his or her fullest potential in every area of life.
The dojo is much more than just a building in which we train, much more than a gym facility or recreation center. You may obtain many different descriptions of the word dojo from many different people. However, with constant practice and reflection you will find your own definition; it is very personal. What is important is that the place where we are training is conducive in developing our full potential through rigorous training and through our interactions with teachers, fellow students and the dojo itself.
At first, etiquette may seem confusing, but if you follow the examples of the instructors and senior students it will become more natural over time.
Weapons practice includes the use of bokken (wooden sword), jyo (wooden staff) and tanto (wooden knife). Emphasis is placed on the weapon itself being an extension of the body. Instruction in weapons provides students with the opportunity to deepen their study of balance, timing, distance, weight distribution and body movement.
Weapons practice can aid in the development of “martial awareness,” which is crucial in the student’s understanding of Aikido as a martial art.
In Iaido practice, the student uses an Iaito, practice sword (not sharpened), or a sharpened sword (katana) and a wooden sword (bokken).The Iaido student does not wield the sword to control opponents but to control herself/himself. The techniques of Iaido are highly refined and the student focuses on smooth, controlled movements when drawing the sword and within the forms. The moments prior to drawing the sword and after the physical form is complete are equally important. As in Aikido, Iaido training provides the opportunity for the student to develop their mental and physical awareness (presence).
Zen has a strong link to the martial culture of Japan. Zenʼs emphasis on simplicity and self-control, full awareness at every moment and tranquility in the face of death set well with the warrior culture.
Zen discipline emphasizes the impermanence of life and teaches us to be present in this moment, here and now. Zen is a non-intellectual practice; through sitting it is possible to see oneʼs true nature.