Aikido: 20+ Intriguing Facts (the way of …)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Men fighting at Aikido training in martial arts school
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It is safe to say that there is a lot more to Aikido than meets the eye. Originating from Japan, somewhere around the 14th Century, it has a fascinating history and unique impact on a lot of people’s lives still today.

Before students can truly immerse in the lifestyle of Aikido, they usually learn a bit more about the ancient art and what it is all about. There is so much to uncover about the martial art, its history, as well as its impact on its student’s lives.

I took the time to do a bit of digging around to find the most interesting tidbits of information for students looking at getting into Aikido. A lot of newbies to the ancient martial art of Aikido are sure to find these facts of interest – they are a good starting point to better understanding the art.

Do you want to learn more fun and interesting facts about Aikido? Read on – there are more than 20 below.

These are 20 plus facts about Aikido.

Table of Content

1. A person who practices Aikido is called aikidōka.

Even though “aikidōka” is the official term used for a practitioner of Aikido, it is most often used in foreign countries and not commonly used in Japan.

2. In certain areas, Japanese police officers are required to be proficient in Aikido.

It is a general requirement in some areas for Japanese police officers to have a black belt in Aikido.

Tokyo Police office patrol at Ryogoku Kokugikan Aikido
StreetVJ / Shutterstock.com

3. Aikido students are taught to bow as a sign of respect.

Aikido students are required to show respect to their training hall (the Dojo), by bowing before and after each training session.

4. Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba.

He based the art on his personal life philosophy, martial arts experience, and personal religious beliefs. After his death, Kisshomaru Ueshiba (his son) became the international leader of Aikido.

5. Ueshiba initially based Aikido on a martial art called Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu.

Definite parallels could be seen between Aikido and Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu right up until the end of the 1920s. After that, it appears that Ueshiba became more involved in a religion called Ōmoto-kyō, which lead to the art separating from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu and showing other religious influences.

6. The martial art was intended to be an effective self-defense art without aggression.

The intention was for people to learn techniques of defending themselves without harming their opponent. Instead of inflicting harm, a person would use the attacker’s efforts/energy (or “ki”) against them. In this way, Aikido focuses on defense and not offense.

Practitioners takes part in the Aikido Advanced Skills performance at the SportAccord
Testing / Shutterstock.com

7. “Aikido” translates to “way of unifying with life energy”.

Aikido can actually be translated to various similar definitions in English, including “art of peace”, “power of love”, and “the way of harmonious spirit”.

8. The direct translation of Aikido from Japanese consists of 3 parts (or “kanji”).

  • Ai – refers to joining and unifying.
  • Ki – refers to energy and mood.
  • Do – refers to the path and the way.

9. Aikidōgi is the name of the uniform that students wear to practice Aikido.

The typical Aikido uniform consists of a simple pair of loose-fitting pants and a wraparound jacket. Cotton tops are also worn, but the official Aikido shirt is white with sleeves that reach to just below the elbow.

10. The pants that an aikidōka wears to practice are called “Hakama”.

Hakama are originally samurai pants that are designed to intentionally hide leg movements from opponents. While these are commonly worn, there are instances where only shodans are allowed to wear them when practicing in the Dojo.

folded aikido hakama japanese martial arts uniform
Bonchan / Shutterstock.com

11. Beginner Aikido students are taught a falling method called Ukemi that is designed to minimize the impact of a fall.

This is one of the basic skills that students first learn when taking up Aikido. It is essential for protecting the student from the injuries associated with hard throws and falls. It is the first focus of beginner lessons.

12. Before every practice, students bow to the Sensei say “one gaishimasu”.

In Aikido, this is actually a question that the student asks the Sensei. The students are asking the Sensei to teach them the art of Aikido.

13. Aikido training involves the use of ancient weapons.

Training with weapons in Aikido is essential in learning correct stances and transference of energy.

The 3 main types of weapons that are used in Aikido are called Bokken, Jo, and Tanto. It is believed that practicing Aikido without weapons will result in the moves being incorrectly learned and the postures being incorrect too.

Aikido fighting pose with wooden sword bokken
Ravil Sayfullin / Shutterstock.com

14. An important part of Aikido is learning a series of strikes designed to unbalance or disrupt the attack of an opponent.

These strikes are referred to as “Atemi”. An Aikido Sensei teaches students that Atemi can resolve at least 80% of problems posed in Aikido sparring. The objective is not to attack or strike an opponent, but to unbalance and disrupt the opponent’s attack.

15. Aikido techniques take some time to learn but are designed to use an opponent’s energy and strikes against them.

The basic techniques to expect in a class are as follows:

  • Entering or “irimi”,
  • Turning or “tankan”,
  • Various joint locks and throws.

16. Those who practice Aikido must go through formal tests to determine how they progress through each grade.

Aikido practitioners must pass both kyū (the grades), and dan (the degrees) ranks when training.

17. An Aikido Sensei provides students with recognition for their progress through the awarding of various belt colors.

White belts usually determine a student’s kyū rank, while black belts generally determine a student’s dan rank.

18. The fitness goals of Aikido practice are not based on strength training.

two budokas fighters man and woman practicing Aikido
Ostill is Franck Camhi / Shutterstock.com

The practice of Aikido focuses on controlled relaxation, flexibility, speed, endurance, and the correct movement of the hips and shoulders. While strength is developed while learning the art, it is not the main focus of Aikido training.

19. Practicing the art of Aikido can make even the smallest person powerful enough to overcome a much larger assailant.

This is quite well illustrated by a story regarding a particular apprentice of Shioda Sensei called Jacques Payet. According to records, Jacques was just 157 cm tall, and 49 kg in weight, but is known to be one of the most powerful and effective Aikido apprentices, even when paired with much bigger opponents.

20. Aikido is a popular martial art among celebrities.

Martial arts have always been popular with celebrities, but Aikido seems to be a firm favorite. Famous celebs that have practiced Aikido for many years include Steven Seagal, Jerry Seinfeld, Sean Connery, and Joan Baez.

21. Aikido is, for the most part, a non-competitive Japanese martial.

Aikido is purely a defensive art, and as such, no offensive moves exist within the practice.

22. Tomiki aikido is a competition style of Aikido designed to assist students practice sparring.

The competition-style was designed by Tomiki Kenji, who was once a student of Ueshiba. It involves opponents practicing Aikido techniques while scoring points by touching the opponent with a wooden or rubber knife. Each opponent has turns to work with the knife and be the “attacker”.

This competition-style gives students the opportunity to practice Aikido techniques without having to inflict injury on an opponent.

23. Aikido is seen as an effective way to teach conflict resolution to children and even people with anger issues.

Two girls in black hakama practice Aikido on martial arts training
Ravil Sayfullin / Shutterstock.com

A Sensei teaches that Aikido offers an alternative choice when it comes to conflict. The energy contained in daily conflicts and communication problems can be harnessed and redirected effectively. That is something that can be learned through practicing the art of Aikido.

Aikido students must be in complete self-control and calm when practicing Aikido, so this too teaches an alternative way of dealing with conflict and problems.

24. In the 1950s, Aikido was introduced to the rest of the world.

While not too long ago (in the 1950’s to be more specific) Aikido made its way overseas, it’s currently followed by millions of people across the world. There is no denying that Aikido is here to stay and that many people realize its mental and physical benefits.

By and large

As you can see, there is a lot to learn about Aikido before you get actively involved. If you are just starting out with Aikido, it is best to give yourself time – do not rush it. Aikido is not meant to be quickly learned. It is a lifestyle, and if you learn as much as you can about it and truly dedicate yourself to practice Aikido regularly, it will positively change your life.

Hopefully, these facts brought a bit more about this ancient art to light for those interested in learning more about it.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.