The Way of Harmony: The Beginner’s Guide to Aikido

Aikido is a Japanese martial art first developed and introduced by Morihei Ueshiba.
He was also often referred to as “O Sensei” or “Great teacher.”

On a physical level, aikido involves joint locks and throws derived from Jujitsu and techniques and throws derived from Kenjutsu.

However, aikido’s primary focus is not on kicking or punching the opponents.

Rather, its key focus is to use one’s own energy to gain control or to keep the opponents away.

Essentially, aikido is not a static art.

On the contrary, it puts emphasis on motion and movement dynamics.

Upon closer inspection, many practitioners discover aikido offers many of what they are looking for—spiritual enlightenment, peace of mind, physical health, and self-defense techniques.

Morihei Ueshiba placed great emphasis on both the spiritual and moral aspects of the art he has created and put a lot of weight on the development of harmony and peace.

True enough, the art has been seen for what it truly is—the way to harmony.

The principle still rings true to this day, albeit different styles emphasize the spiritual aspect of the art to a lesser or greater degree.

While the concept of a martial art discipline thriving on harmony and peace may seem nothing short of paradoxical, it is surprisingly aikido’s most basic tenet.

Different Styles

Originally, aikido was developed by only one man.

However, a lot of students who trained under O Sensei impart their knowledge of the art by opening their own dojos.
And since aikido is dynamic in nature, it was interpreted in numerous and diverse ways.

From the interpretations, different styles of aikido were born.

While each style comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses, they are all rooted in the core concepts that make aikido the unique art that it truly is.

That being said, no style is considered superior or inferior from the other.

Basically, it will all boil down to finding a style that will suit you best.

Old Schools

Below are the schools that emerged from aikido’s pre-war teachings.

In its early development, aiki-budo was the name O Sensei first gave to aikido.

The style is very close to existing Jutsu forms like Daito-ryu Aiki-Jutsu.

It is considered one of hardest forms of aikido.

Many of O Sensei’s early students started during this period and majority of the practices overseas embraced this style.

This style was developed by Minoru Mochizuki.

He was one of O Sensei’s early students.

Minoru Mochizuki was also a student of Jigoro Kano of the Kodokan.

This style is comprised of elements of aiki-budo, judo, several aspects of karate, and other martial arts.

This style was taught by Gozo Shioda.

He studied under O Sensei in the mid-30s.

When the war ended, he was invited to teach.

From there, he formed the organization known as the Yoshinkan.

Unlike other organizations, the Yoshinkan has kept a friendly relation with the akikai during O Sensei’s life and even after his death.

The Yoshinkan puts great emphasis on physically robust techniques and practical efficiency.

As such, it has gained the reputation as one of the most challenging styles of aikido.

The international organization that is associated with this aikido style is the Yoshinkai.

They have several active branches in different parts of the world.

Modern Schools

This list includes most of the variants that are being taught today.

Many of these styles are taught by senior students of O Sensei.

Surprisingly, while most claim to teach aikido as taught to them by O Sensei himself, some styles share minimal similarities with others.

The aikikai is the name of the style introduced by Moriteru Ueshiba, O Sensei’s grandson.

This school is regarded by many as the mainline in the development of aikido.

In reality however, akikai is more of an umbrella as opposed to a specific style since many individuals in the organization adapted different methods of teaching.

The aikido taught by Ueshiba Sensei is considered large and flowing, with much emphasis placed on standard syllabus and zero emphasis on weapons training.

Other teachers however placed more emphasis on weapons practice.

While technically still considered a part of aikikai, this is stylistically different.

This style is taught by Morihiro Saito, a long time uchideshi of O Sensei (beginning in 1946 until his death).

Many considered Saito Sensei as the student who got to spend the most time directly learning from O Sensei himself.

Saito Sensei claims to want to preserve the art by teaching it exactly as it was taught to him by no less than the founder.

Technically, iwama-ryu closely resembles the aikido O Sensei taught in the early 1950s.

The technical repertoire is also considered larger compared to other styles and great emphasis was placed on weapons training.

This style is founded by Kenji Tomiki, also one of O Sensei’s early students.

However, while he studied under the founder himself, he believed that to sharpen the art, competition should be introduced.

The view caused the split between him and O Sensei who firmly believed that competition has no place in aikido.

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