Aikido a traditional Japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei. Along with Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, and Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of karatedo, O Sensei brought Japanese bujutsu (the traditional Japanese warrior arts) into the 20th century. These revolutionary teachers taught the warrior principles of the samurai while adding to them a social dimension that emphasized peaceful resolution of conflict and living in harmony with others. Today these arts are collectively referred to as budo (martial ways), emphasizing their focus on individual self-development rather than just military application and fighting.
Aikido's movements appear soft and flowing due to their non-confrontational nature. However they are at the same time very subtle and powerful. The movements and spirit of aikido is deeply rooted in the Japanese sword and battlefield arts. They have been synthesized into a complete budo that – while effective for use in self-defense situations – develops awareness, intent, focus, coordinated movement, and physical engagement without the use of strength or resistance. True aikido technique is executed with a martial "mindset" that has been honed to resemble the Japanese katana (sword). More importantly for our present day survival, however, the path of aikido cultivates a similarly honed spirit that is committed to reconciling conflict without responding with reciprocal violence and injury.
The Founder of Aikido stated,
To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is aikido.
Ultimately, aikido teaches us to replace resistance and control with physical and spiritual connection. In the pursuit of this ideal we discover that self-defense is not found in the defeat or protection from others. Rather, true self-defense is found in freedom from our own internal, physical, and emotional conflicts. Self-defense begins within ourselves.
Aikido represents a synthesis of fighting principles that date back over hundreds of years. The art’s present form is the product of a life-long pursuit of the samurai warrior arts by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), referred to by his students as O sensei, or “great teacher”. O Sensei explored several traditional schools of jujutsu, spear, staff, and sword arts – most notably Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu – and from these arts modern-day ai-ki-do – translated as "the way of harmony" – was born.
A profoundly spiritual man, O sensei often lamented the futility of bujutsu, who's sole purpose was victory and overcoming others. Throughout his life O sensei struggled with this dilemma deeply and, during somewhat of an epiphany, surmised that winning at the expense of others was—at best—a temporary victory that ultimately lead to one’s own destruction. It was to the essence of this revelation that the Founder’s would later offer a solution. O sensei termed the phrase, masakatsu agatsu, which translates as “true and correct victory is the victory over oneself.” Transformed by this spiritual insight, O Sensei’s began to focus on a martial art of refinement, preservation, and astonishing power that was fundamentally different from those that preceded it.
In his later years, the Founder maintained that the warrior’s path is a path of love (which subsequently is another translation of the kanji “ai” in Japanese). O sensei believed aikido was a way to overcome the discord of humanity and a means by which to bring lasting peace to the world.
Upon O Sensei's passing on April 26, 1969, the Japanese government posthumously declared him a Sacred National Treasure of Japan. Each year following his passing, a memorial celebration is held in his honor at the aiki-jinja (Aikido shrine) located in the town of Iwama, Japan (Ibaraki Prefecture).
Upon the Founder's death his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1921-1999), assumed the title of Aikido Doshu, or leader of the way. Many believe that had it not been for the dedication, heroism, and selfless effort of Kisshomaru sensei the martial art of Aikido would have possibly not survived, much less prospered to the levels seen at present. This was particularly the case during World War II when the Allied Forces regularly "carpet-bombed" the major suburbs of Tokyo. On more than one occassion, it was Kisshomaru sensei who kept the fires at bay and preserved the Founder's Tokyo home and dojo. Kisshomaru Doshu continued his father’s work up until his passing in 1999 and was largely responsible for the restructuring and organization of aikido's technical canon during the late 1960's and 1970's.
Today O Sensei’s grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba (1951- ), has assumed the role of Aikido Doshu and is both the figurehead of Aikido to the world as well as the General Director of the Aikido World Headquarters in Shinjuku-ku, Japan (a suburb of Tokyo). From the world headquarters, or Aikikai Hombu Dojo, Moriteru Doshu oversees the continual spread of aikido all over the world. Presently, the art is practiced in over seventy countries.