Aikido (合気道) is a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平) that focuses on throws, pins and joint locks together with some striking techniques. Often translated as “the way of unifying (with) life energy” or as “the way of harmonious spirit,” Aikido is unusual among the martial arts because it was Ueshiba’s goal to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves and while also protecting their attacker from injury. Since 1965, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department incorporated Aikido into its training for riot police as the spirit of avoiding harm to the attackers matches the responsibility of the job.

Aikido’s techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack, and a throw or joint lock that terminates the technique. It looks a lot at wrist grabs due to its being based on samurai unarmed combat. Samurai armor was weak at the wrists and so it was common to attack here.

Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, but began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ōmoto-kyō religion. Ueshiba’s early students’ documents bear the term aiki-jūjutsu.

Among the most famous of Aikidoka (practitioners of Aikido) are Steven Seagal, a 7th degree black belt, the late Japanese Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi (小渕 恵三), the Hollywood actor Sean Connery, who attained the grade of Nidan (2nd degree black belt) and the late singer John Denver.

Steven Seagal

In order to establish heaven on earth, we need a Budo that is pure in spirit, that is devoid of hatred and greed. It must follow natural principles and harmonize the material with the spiritual. Aikido means not to kill. Although nearly all creeds have a commandment against taking life, most of them justify killing for reason or another. In Aikido, however, we try to completely avoid killing, even the most evil person. ~
Morihei Ueshiba, in The Art of Peace (1992), Part II: The Art of Peace versus The Art of War

Ueshiba’s senior students have different approaches to aikido, depending partly on when they studied with him. Today aikido is found all over the world in a number of styles, with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis, but all share techniques formulated by Ueshiba and most have concern for the well-being of the attacker.

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