What is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art. The word itself means "the way (do) of harmony (ai) and energy (ki)." Primarily a defensive martial art, aikido utilizes some limited offensive tactics occasionally. Aikido relies on using your opponent's own movement, energy, and momentum against him/her in an effort to neutralize an attack. Aikido is not about "winning" or finishing your opponent off, but rather about being able to disengage from a chaotic and violent situation as quickly and safely as possible. Aikido involves manipulation of the joints (specifically the wrist, elbow, and shoulder), throws, and some limited striking (primarily a straight arm push to the face). Aikido differs from other martial arts through its tactics of avoidance rather than direct opposition (such as in Karate) or joining in the attack (such as in Judo). Aikidoka, do not oppose their opponents' movements or strength in an effort to impose some arbitrary technique or use pain compliance to achieve our goals; rather, we seek to avoid attacks and, if we cannot, we seek to blend with and use our opponent's own motion, strength, expectations and inertia against him.
A Brief History of Aikido
Aikido was founded by Morehei Ueshiba, a Japanese farmer who studied several types of martial arts, primarily Daito-ryu jujitsu (a school from which Kodokan Judo is also derived). Ueshiba took the Daito-ryu system and techniques along with principles of some sword and spear (Yagu-ryu) arts he had also studied to form what he originially called aikijujitsu, aikibudo, and aikinomichi, but later renamed Aikido. Profoundly affected by his experiences during World War II, along with being a deeply religious man, Ueshiba sought to form a martial art that would unite all people in peace and harmony. Thus he began the perfection of Aikido.
Prior to World War II, Kenji Tomiki was one of Ueshiba's students. Tomiki had been studying Kodokan Judo under Jigoro Kano. Dr. Kano instructed Tomiki to learn the ways of Aikido, going so far to call Aikido "the true budo." Tomiki eventually earned a teaching certificate from Ueshiba. Being a college instructor, Tomiki sought to distill the thousands of aikido techniques into some core principles. He also wanted to create Aikido competition to promote its popularity as well as use the principles and structure of Judo to teach Aikido.
Thus Tomiki founded Tomiki-Ryu Aikido, which included for the first time the introduction of kata into the Aikido curriculum as well as knife competition. Tomiki eventually created the junana hon kata, or 17 basic forms that distilled the seemingly infinite variety of Aikido techniques into a core technique foundation.