To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.” — Morihei Ueshiba

The Pursuit of Peace

Bushido is not learning how to die. Bushido is learning how to live, how to protect and foster life. Even in war, the taking of human life is to be avoided as much as possible. It is always a sin to kill. Give your opponent every chance to make peace.

Developed by the Japanese martial artist named Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido is the ‘way of unifying life energy,’ an art that aims to maintain a harmony between defender and attacker. Although Ueshiba initially used the teachings he received from Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu (founded by Takeda Sokaku) to create the technical foundation of Aikido, he deviated and changed the art later on due to shifting perspectives he had later on in life.

Largely influenced by his religious beliefs in Oomoto-kyo – a Shinto sect that focuses on the belief of harmony between humans, gods, and nature – and a few spiritual experiences, Ueshiba made it a point to focus on protecting the opponent, rather than hurting them. He believed that by creating and maintaining a harmonious spirit between yourself and the attacker even amidst battle, it would ultimately help develop the spiritual self.

“All at once, I understood the nature of creation: the Way of a Warrior [budo] is to manifest divine love, a spirit that embraces and nurtures all things.”

Throughout the years, as Ueshida grew older and wiser, he began to place less importance on the physical, technical aspects of the martial art. Instead, he began to put greater attention to developing the spiritual side of the practitioner, by concentrating on the ability to control one’s ki. For this reason, practicing proper breathing techniques and meditation was a crucial element to learning Aikido.

The Japanese shinto practice of misogi –  a spiritual ritual of purification by washing the entire body (usually under a waterfall) – was something Ueshida frequently did, and promoted within the martial art.


Defend Yourself

The ability to sense an attack is what the ancient masters meant by anticipation. If one’s mind is steady and pure, one can instantly perceive an attack and avoid it – that, I realized, is the essence of aiki.”

Due to the heavy emphasis in remaining calm and finding peace within ourselves, this controlled harmony of self provides practitioners the ability to deal with conflict. Students learn to reach a state of mental calmness, which in turn helps to diffuse stressful.

Furthermore, although punches and kicks were a part of the martial art training, Ueshida greater emphasized learning how to use the opponent’s own movement to throw them down. For this reason, many modern Aikido dojos teach students how to effectively throw and pin down their opponent, rather than simply strike.

When training, Aikido consists of two partners, a receiver and attacker – known as the uke and tori – to help one another blend and adapt accordingly. The attacker must learn to control the attacking energy while the receiver must learn to remain calm in the positions they are placed in. The whole point of the uke is to regain balance when put down by the attacker, while the tori aims to continuously place the receiver into vulnerable positions. Rather than freestyle, this struggle between the two is usually carried out in pre-arranged forms.


Aikido in Education

In a world where people are exposed to violence – whether through the news or their surrounding environment – instilling the teachings of Aikido is growing more prevalent than ever before. This holds true particularly amongst the youth, since uncontrolled behavior and underdeveloped minds result in greater aggression, and higher likeliness to act out with such aggression.

Usually, during their adolescence, those that get abused tend to find themselves with lower-self-esteem, which in turn places them able to get bullied even more, and those who abuse have a lack of control in their assertive behavior, which in turn could result in bigger problems as they get older.

For this reason, teaching Aikido to the youth serves great benefits to both sides – the abused and the abuser. Not only does it provide the abused the ability to defend themselves against those who come after them, but it also helps boost their confidence. Moreover, the abuser benefits by learning how to better control their aggressive tendencies and helps channel such hostility to a more peaceful, productive outcome.

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