The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as sword, staff and knife.
Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various 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 Aikido 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 swords 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 his life (but never honor) in the name of principle and duty.
Stepped 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 an idea warrior ultimately transcending dualistic conflict.
For O Sensei, Aikido was a path of self-development. He believe that it could be a means for anyone, of any race to follow the same path.
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.
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 ultimately brings us into harmony with ourselves and with our world, and helping us to become more complete and integrated human beings.
It offers a standardized test requirements, training seminars and and instructor training and certification. Shihan Philip, 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 Shinju-Kai is to promote Aikido to all over the world the Shinju-Kai Way.
Benefits of Aikido
Aikido: The Martial Way
To understand Aikido and its benefits, it must be said that as a traditional Japanese martial art, Aikido is more than simply an efficient method of self-defense. It is a form of Budo – a “martial way”. The word “DO” in Japanese is the same as the Chinese word “TAO”. It denotes a path of understanding, a way of life, and the Way of the universe itself.
In Japanese history, as in many cultures, the warrior arts were considered uniquely suited not only for practical use during times of war, but for the refinement and development of the human character. The qualities and principles of the ideal warrior – courage, decisiveness, strength, clarity of mind, compassion – are also the ideal qualities of the human being. In this way, the Japanese martial tradition has always stressed the applicability of martial principles to daily life. This understanding is the meaning of budo. A related word, Bushido (“the way of the warrior”) also expresses this. A warrior’s way of life is not simply fighting, but is the constant striving for self-perfection in all things.
These traditions today are carried on in the martial ways like Aikido. Everything in Aikido training is meant to develop not only a strong individual, but one with the wisdom and energy to positively benefit society. A true martial artist views conflict not merely as a contest with others, but as an opportunity to forge oneself and overcome our true enemies, which is within ourselves. A life lived fully in this manner naturally becomes shugyo: the deepest possible spiritual training. A favorite saying of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido, was Masakatsu, Agatsu: “True victory is self-victory.” This truly is the spirit of Aikido.
The human body in general can exert power in two ways: contractive and expansive. Many fitness activities, for example weight-lifting, emphasize the former, which means that specific muscles or muscle groups are isolated and worked to improve tone, mass, and power. The disadvantage of this, however, is that whole body movement and coordination are rarely stressed. Thus, while muscle size and power may increase, there is no teaming of the ways in which to use those muscles together most efficiently. Also, this sort of training tends to increase tension, decrease flexibility, and stress the joints. The result may be aesthetically pleasing, but when done to excess it is ultimately useless, and actually detrimental to overall health.
The second type of power, expansive, is mostly stressed in activities such as dance or gymnastics. In these activities, the body must learn to move in a coordinated manner and with relaxation. Aikido, also, mostly stresses this sort of training.
While both types of power are important, it is interesting to note that a person who masters the second type of power can, in a martial context, often overcome a person who is much bigger or stronger. The reason for this is that the contractive power which most persons know is only as great as the mass and power of your individual muscles. Expansive power, however, as used in Aikido, can be much greater than your size may lead you to believe. This is because you move with your whole body.
Rather than stressing and tensing only a few muscles, you learn to relax and move from the center of your body, where you are most powerful. Power is then extended out naturally through the relaxed limbs, which become almost whip like in their motion.
So Aikido develops the body in a unique manner. Aerobic fitness is obtained through vigorous training. Flexibility of the joints and connective tissues is developed through various stretching exercises and through the techniques themselves. Relaxation is learned automatically, since without it the techniques will not function. And a balanced use of contractive and expansive power is mastered, enabling even a small person to generate enormous energy and self-defense skill.
For this reason, the physical relaxation learned in Aikido naturally becomes mental relaxation. Likewise, the perseverance and confidence that develop mentally are manifested in a body that moves and holds itself confidently and strongly. Any psychological or spiritual insight must be reflected in the body, or else it tends to be little more than intellectualization; under pressure, such insights disappear, and the person reverts to previously ingrained habits and patterns.
Aikido training requires the student to squarely face conflict, not to run away from it. Through this very concrete, physical experience, an Aikido practitioner learns to face the situations of life in a proactive, constructive manner. Patterns of avoidance and fear are broken. The tense, defensive reactions to pressure and conflict which so often only create more violence are recognized and deconstructed. A new person – straightforward, brave yet humble, able to be both strong and yielding as circumstances require – can emerge from this training.
Today, Aikido has become known in psychological and business circles as a highly useful metaphor in devising conflict resolution strategies. People everywhere are using Aikido philosophy to improve the quality of their lives.
Unlike other arts, Aikido technique can be applied at varying levels of severity, in a continuum from the most gentle controlling techniques to the most severe countermeasures. Aikido is therefore ideal for application to a wide range of defensive situations, including law-enforcement/security/corrections, medical/mental-health environments, civilian self-defense, women’s self-defense, and children’s self- defense. Aikido can be flexibly adapted to whatever situation arises; this is the legacy of the samurai, who devised these techniques to face a bewildering array of assaults by single or multiple attackers. Today, we continue this tradition by instructing Aikido and specialized Aikido-derived technique to a wide-range of organizations which need decisive, effective defensive skills.
In order to develop the true human potential, some sort of discipline and refinement is necessary. In order to develop awareness, decisiveness, inner power and compassion, we must experience the hardship and work of facing life squarely. Life itself must be used to forge ourselves. This philosophy of Aikido means that, ultimately, our dojo (training hall) is much more than a building where we practice. Our true dojo is our life itself. And, Aikido consists of a unified training methodology designed to bring about this realization and put it to good use.
Viewed in this way, life becomes rich and filled with meaning. Every situation is used as a springboard to greater growth. We learn to open ourselves to experience, rather than shunning unpleasant aspects of life. Our minds expand, and we become strong.
This is the legacy of the martial ways, and the true value of Aikido training. The dream of O-Sensei was of all the peoples of the world, training together in peace for mutual benefit. Stressing the positive values of the martial ways, Aikido continues to grow and spread across the globe, fulfilling this vision.