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Old 10-18-2001, 06:16 AM   #1
ian's Avatar
Dojo: University of Ulster, Coleriane
Location: Northern Ireland
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,654
how do we define aikido?

Reading the 'these fellows are interesting' thread and a latest poll, made me think of the value we place on the word aikido. Although I generally consider words as pretty unimportant, I did feel that if aikido changed its meaning I would be very dissapointed.

I don't know if there is an official definition of aikido (and would appreciate any such definition). However if I was to define it I would say it is no more or less than these two things:

1. a self-defence,
2. in which the defenders movement 'blends' with the attackers movement.

(possibly add a third, or minimising injury to the opponent - but I think this is more desirable than essential).

For this reason I'm suprised that around 25% (at present) of pollsters would still think of aikido being possible with no martial intent. I would hate to see Aikido going the same way that much of Tai Chi Chuan has gone - becoming a series of excercises for old people. It seems to loose its original goal of defending oneself whilst protecting your opponent (thus getting rid of the attacker/defender dichotomy). To me, the philosophy of aikido looses a lot of meaning when it is no longer applied as a self-defence.

Any views, thoughts?

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Old 10-18-2001, 08:12 AM   #2
Creature_of_the_id's Avatar
Dojo: Alnwick aikido club (UKAU)
Location: Newcastle, England
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 217
Ai symbol

a definition of aikido?

well, at first for me it was self defense, very similar to you.
but then after much training, it revealed itself to be a process of eliminating belief, expectation and therefore fear, allowing the experience not only of technique but of awareness to be focused on.

So aikido no longer became a self defense for me but a way of experiencing the world. I can choose to experience it with or without martial intent in any given moment, the exerience is still there for me to be aware of no matter what I choose.

but I'm not a fan of words either.

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Old 10-18-2001, 08:23 AM   #3
Ghost Fox
Dojo: Jikishinkan Dojo
Location: New York City (Brooklyn)
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 219
Re: how do we define aikido?

I do agree with your initial observation Ian. This very topic has caused quite a schism in my dojo. It seems we have two schools of thought on this matter.

The first school (Moon School) of thought thinks that aikido is a series of two person katas or dances that should be practice in total cooperation. They focus on the mental aspects of aikido. They tend to practice without any real intensity and do not enjoy practicing with people who attack or throw hard. Most people in this school are out of shape and have very little physical conditioning; they seem to dislike sweating. I fear that this is the most popular dogma in aikido today. If they have there way, in a few generation Aikido will be no more effective than Yang Style Tai Chi (Wu, Sun and Chen Styles of Tai Chi are extremely combat effective compared to the more popular Yang Style). It is this school of thought that has gained Aikido the reputation of being a yuppie art in the martial art community.

The second school (Sun School) of thought, treats aikido like a branch of jujitsu (Jujitsu being one of the most effective forms of self defense in the martial art community), but I think Ueshiba had more in mind for Aikido. The people under this school practice with great intensity. They are self defense oriented and have a confrontational attitude towards practice. They tend to be in better physical shape then people in the Moon School. Most people in the Aikido community fear these people. There is usually at least one in every school. Their wazas are usually quite effective and dynamic, but they tend to expend a great deal of energy during its execution. I've seen members of the Sun School ranked as sankyus and nikyus completely overwhelm yudanshas of the Moon School.

Let me suggest a third possible school of thought (Middle Pillar School), a theory that I have been trying to give shape. The Middle Pillar School attempts to combine the philosophical ideals of the Moon School with the physical intensity of the Sun School. When nage and uke face-off on the mat, it is in the spirit of loving creation. They exist in an ideal closed system. These moments are intense, passionate experiences. Both aikidoka need to participate fully and completely in this process. Uke extends yang (yo) ki fully in the direction of the nage (He does not attack, he extends). Nage receives the ki completely with yin (in). There is no attack or defense in the true sense of the word, only two people participating in a sacred moment. This philosophy must be understood. Uke should attempt not so much to hit nage, but to place all of his ki, without becoming unbalanced, in a location where nage just happens to be standing. In theory it is like uke striking thin air. There is no intend to do damage or to be confrontational. Nage must not see the approach of the uke as an attack; they should see it as an opportunity to unite their ki with that of the universe. They should embrace the energy completely. The technique that manifests is an expression of the moment, proof that both nage and uke have succeeded in creating something from raw spiritual materials.

By harmony, it is not meant for uke to follow along harmlessly and blindly as nage perform technique. By loving protection it is not meant for nage to be overly careful with uke. Aikido is a force or nature like gravity. When a person jumps off a step he will land without generating much force. If they then jump from a tall mountain or cliff face the force generated at impact will most likely kill them. Does one then blame gravity for being too gentle in the first case and too violent in the latter? No, gravity is gravity; aikido is aikido. Gravity just follows the rules of nature. It always strives for a state of equilibrium. Gravity is precise, intense, and ever vigilant; it is a perfect force of nature. Our aikido must be precise, intense and ever vigilant. If both uke and nage practice with this mind set, their aikido will be perfect. This non-confrontational attitude is very difficult for people raised with a western mind set. All of our lives we are taught, good against evil, man against nature, God against the Devil, man against man, first place is the best place. The new mind set should not be about winning and losing but of creation of a dynamic symbiotic relationship between all participants. It should respond instantaneously to changes in the balance.

This is only my humble and simple opinion on the matter.

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Old 10-18-2001, 06:18 PM   #4
Location: livingston, scotland
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 715

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Old 10-18-2001, 09:34 PM   #5
Dojo: Tulsa Aikido & Jujutsu
Location: Tulsa, OK
Join Date: Nov 2000
Posts: 33
i dont think we should.

why do we classify aikido?

Always be well,
Bobby David
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Old 10-19-2001, 12:41 AM   #6
Dojo: Chendokan Aikido, Costa Rica
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 34
Exclamation The meaning of Aiki?

I completely agree with dinippon99, well said! Why try to "label" Aikido, or make it fit into a neat little box? Are people afraid of unquantifiables?

Having said that, to remove the martial intent from Aikido is to effectively neuter it. O'Sensei said something to the effect that Aikido defines life or death situations (anyone care to help me out with the actual quote?). Only in the face of danger and crisis can you really grow. Hey, O'Sensei said it, not me.

Toregard Aikido as anything else is nothing more than complacent and meaningless posturing and self adulation. I for one would rather throw myself off the nearest convenient cliff, than see Aikido turn into a yuppie, effete, pretentious exercise for "Old Folks". What, did you think it was Ballroom dancing? Techniques aren't mere Kata; what the hell are you learning ukemi for, then? When Uke attacks you, you must die first: your ego, pretensions and self are lost in the immediacy of the moment. Same thing for who takes ukemi. Kill your ego, and you will escape unscathed.

Face it: Aikido is a Martial Art, born in confrontation, only to restore peace. What you do with Aikido is something else entirely. Do you do Aikido for self defense? For self discipline? As a hobby? A way of life? Whatever, just don't confuse Aikido's FUNDAMENTAL nature with YOUR reason for doing it. Just because Aikido is a Martial Art (or Way, actually) doesn't mean it is exclusively a method of self defense, or for discipline or a hobby. It can be USED for all these things, and more, or less. But AIKIDO IS NOT THESE things.

How big or small a box do you need to hold infinity?

Andy Hertz.
"Standing before me
enemies my mind does not ignore
I take a step forward
and act!"
Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 10-19-2001, 02:23 AM   #7
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 890
I find it alarming that many people supposedly think that Steven Seagal's Aikido is "too violent" while all he did in his earlier films was show a realistic application of it, instead of a flowery dance.

I think the aforementioned people are completely in denial of reality. I think, that sometimes, lacking traumatic childhood experiences can be a bad thing in the long run.
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Old 10-19-2001, 03:52 AM   #8
Dojo: NUI, Galway Aikido Club.
Location: Galway, Ireland.
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 334
Originally posted by shihonage
while all he did in his earlier films was show a realistic application of it, instead of a flowery dance.
His earlier films started my own teachers interest in Aikido.

His later films are all big guns, broken elbows and a general sense of "death as the only form of justice" kind of vibe. I think his aikido is fine. I think his films are usually quite nasty. (There's a few I like.)

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Old 10-19-2001, 05:25 AM   #9
Dojo: Porvoo Aikikai, Porvoo
Location: Porvoo
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 10
Hi all.

Defining Aikido is not easy and I guess everyone has his/her own definition of Aikido so a generalization is just impossible. And of course the definition changes as the times go by when people get more experiences or just get older (and hopefully wiser).

I voted that Aikido can exist even without the martial intent. The reason for my opinion is that to me Aikido is a part of everyday life, not just the physical techniques that we do at the dojo. It is part what I am and my Aikido is been tested all the time in everyday situations, work, hobbies…everywhere where there is more than one people interacting.

One very good example of Aikido I saw just yesterday in Finnish television. 25 years ago this german guy had been diagnosed with cancer and had been given an estimate of 1 year to live. He had decided that he will make the most of it and now after 25 years is still alive and in very good shape. All this time he has been travelling around the world by a bicycle with his dog (his first dog had passed away in Argentine so he had his second dog with him on his trip up north through Finland). One thing that he said in the interview was so Aikido to me that nothing can top that. He said: "First you have to accept, and only then you can change the way things are." The man had probably even never heard of Aikido but to me he was a living example of Aikido.


Saku Ohtonen
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Old 10-19-2001, 06:14 AM   #10
ian's Avatar
Dojo: University of Ulster, Coleriane
Location: Northern Ireland
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,654
Yes, excellent quote Saku!

I can't deny that aikido has infiltrated other parts of my life. I can also see where we aim to reach 'beyond' confrontation. However, could anyone who practised aikido without its self-defence aspect ever believe they could get 'beyond confrontation'? It would be my contention that such training would just result in fear and an inability to deal with a voilent/stressful situation as it was. However I do believe that regular martial training allows you to deal with the situation 'as it is' and not as you hope or fear it to be.


P.S. also the reason I felt I wanted it defined was partly because I practise a thing I consider to be 'aikido', and in the future when I either enthuse about aikido or go to a different club myself I don't find that to be so radically different such that it is more like a macrame or needlework class. I feel there is a tendency for aikido to go either the ju-jitsu direction or the yoga style excercise direction. For me it is not so much 'in-between' these, it is neither.

Last edited by ian : 10-19-2001 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 10-19-2001, 10:28 AM   #11
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 915
Well, I guess we could go with just translating it's name, which I've heard done as 'way of universal love', 'way of universal harmony', and a few other similar versions (please, someone who speaks Japanese give the correct version)...but this might not be too popular with some factions. Probably better to just accept the fact that if you travel to another dojo, their view might not fit yours. And if you are interested in avoiding confusion, ask what their view is (if not readily appparent) when you get there.
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Old 10-19-2001, 11:39 AM   #12
Location: Bay Area
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,200
Originally posted by ca
Well, I guess we could go with just translating it's name, which I've heard done as 'way of universal love', 'way of universal harmony', and a few other similar versions (please, someone who speaks Japanese give the correct version)...but this might not be too popular with some factions.
Hows this one?

Aikido is the art of harmony that you learn by kicking the shit out of yourself through countless hours of training yourself to be able to kick the shit out of the other guy.
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Old 10-19-2001, 12:50 PM   #13
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 42
If you refer to Suenaka Sensei's book, Complete Aikido, he speaks of the "Sun School" vs the "Moon School". He says, and I paraphrase, that O-sensei never said anytihng about never hurting anybody, that if one looks at films of O-sensei and Tohei, one sees Tohei in real pain.

Thus, I think that aikido divorced from its martial intetntions is no longer aikido, or a MARTIAL art, but a dance(Suenaka also says something like this). I would hate for a new student to aikido to say to his sensei, "Wow, I never knew you could fight with this stuff", like all too many Yang style Tai Chi Chuan students do today.

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Old 10-19-2001, 01:20 PM   #14
Location: Bay Area
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,200
Originally posted by Sid
Hi Sid. Suppose that instead of fighting we danced. Rather than going to war we would go to a dance. We'd have:

World Dance 1
World Dance 2
The Civil Dance
The Revolutionary Dance
The Middle East Dance
The 100 year Dance

In today's news, German dancers frollicked into Poland. Polish dancers immediately joined together and met the Germans at the Polish Dance hall. A great time was had by all.

Jeez, what a twisted world that would be.

Last edited by Erik : 10-19-2001 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 10-23-2001, 08:24 PM   #15
Dojo: Arlington Aikikai, Arlington Heights, IL
Location: Chicago
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 14
Originally posted by ca
Well, I guess we could go with just translating it's name, which I've heard done as 'way of universal love', 'way of universal harmony', and a few other similar versions (please, someone who speaks Japanese give the correct version)...
Okay, okay.... literally...

= ai = meeting, combining, 'blending'
= ki = spirit, 'energy'
= do = road, path, 'the way'

translations in quotes are figurative.

So, we can look at it semi-literally as 'the way of blending energy'. When I have to uke for my sensei, I call it 'the way of blending into the mat'.

Figuratively, however, it becomes much more difficult (as it is left upto the imagination on how to translate it), so I'll leave that to each person.
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