What is Aikido? | Self-Defense, Energy, Peace, and More!

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

Aikido Advanced Skills performance
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Martial arts are certainly a popular form of keeping fit, learning to defend oneself and make friendships that last far longer than just the time spent in the Dojo. For many years, people in the Western world have been taking up martial arts for these very reasons. Aikido is one particular martial art that has gained popularity. But, is it the proper martial art for you? 

Before you can decide, perhaps you need to learn a little bit more about the art. 

Back in the 1920s Morihei Ueshiba, a martial artist, developed the Japanese art of Aikido. At the time, Ueshiba was well versed in martial studies and deeply ensconced in his religious beliefs. It is said that the creation of Aikido was based on a combination of Ueshiba’s personal experience, life philosophy, and religious beliefs.

What is Aikido? Aikido, which was invented by Morihei Ueshiba in Japan, is a self-defense martial art that discourages violence and focuses rather on practitioners harmonizing with the opponent. The objective of Aikido is to resolve conflicts peacefully and without violence. 

This martial art involves complex techniques involving throwing, joint-locking, pinning, and striking. Wooden practice weapons are used when learning Aikido, instead of the original Japanese sword, staff, and knife. 

Fight between two aikido fighters on black
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There is so much to learn about Aikido that the above-mentioned information only really scratches the surface. If you are thinking about getting started with martial arts, particularly Aikido, it will help to learn as much about the philosophy, history and what is taught as possible. 

The most important take-away for newbies to the martial art is that Aikido is a form of self-defense that can help practitioners protect themselves without injury either party. While that is the objective of Aikido, it must be noted that the art can actually be deadly. 

If you want to learn more about Aikido, it’s history and what it is all about, even now in modern times, read on. 

Everything You Need to Know About Aikido

There is so much to learn about Aikido that it is difficult to know where to start. You should find a variety of introductions to Aikido online, and it is strongly recommended that you watch a few YouTube videos to get a closer look at the actual practice of Aikido. 

We suggest taking a quick look at the following short clip.

Video source: Howcast / YouTube

If you would like to expand your knowledge on the martial art, simply read through the information gathered below. Here you will find some useful pointers on what new (and old) students need to (and should) know.

What Makes Aikido Different to Other Forms of Self-Defense

You would be excused for thinking that all martial arts are the same. The simple reality is that they aren’t. Take, for instance, the martial art of Bokator, which is highly combative and has been responsible for many deaths. Aikido could be deadly if used in a particular way, but when practiced according to the instructions in class, it focuses more on defense and peace .

The creator of Aikido wanted the martial art to be more than just a highly-effective form of self-defense. It was his aim to ensure that learning the art brought about a complete inner transformation in students. Students of Aikido are taught both internal development as well as physical strength. Aikido practitioners are expected to be aware of their place in the world while also being compassionate, insightful, upright, loyal, and dedicated. 

In short, students do not just learn Aikido to defend them, but to live in the Aikido way, which involves positive character development and respect.

How is Aikido Different to Other Forms of Martial Arts?

Most commonly known forms of martial arts are competitive sports, with the objective of being able to overcome an opponent. In most martial arts, students are taught to fight, not just for self-defense, but to injure or “takedown” an opponent. Aikido is quite the opposite.

In Aikido, practitioners are encouraged to work in unison with a partner. While the techniques taught are effective in fending off an attacker, they are done by “blending” with the attacker and using his energy against him instead of reacting and impacting on/striking an opponent. 

The main objective is for both parties to walk away unscathed and without injury. Aikido teachings ensure conflicts are resolved in a non-lethal and non-aggressive manner. This makes it completely different from other forms of martial arts.

Weapons Used in Aikido

People in kimono on martial arts weapon training Aikido
Ravil Sayfullin / Shutterstock.com

Aikido is first and foremost a non-violent form of fighting, but it can actually be deadly. This makes it a good form of self-defense in many people’s eyes. Traditionally, Aikido is fought with a variety of Japanese swords, staffs, and knives. In training classes, students are taught to use these weapons, but real weapons are not used for the safety of students. Instead, wooden versions of these weapons are used, including:

  • Wooden staff called a “Jo”,
  • Wooden sword called a “Ken”,
  • Wooden knife called a “Tanto”.

Most instructors believe that teaching students with real weapons would be too dangerous and certainly result in injury. Even working with wooden weapons often results in injuries, especially when students are not entirely sure of or comfortable with working with weapons while learning complex techniques.

Aikido as a Form of Self-Defense 

Aikido is considered not just a good form of self-defense, but a highly effective one. However, many believe that it is not useful for self-defense in standards terms. This is because unlike other forms of self-defense, Aikido is not combative or violent as it is purely defensive

Students are expected to assess the situation they are confronted with and find a peaceful resolution that’s void of violence or injury. This means that Aikido techniques are well-thought-out and often complex. As a result, it can take a long time to learn the techniques and then further learn how to apply Aikido techniques in real confrontations with a person who is not trained in Aikido.

What is taught in Aikido?

Before attending Aikido classes, you might wonder what it is all about. What is actually taught in the classes? 

Naturally, you may expect to be taught how to kick, punch, or be similarly responsive to an attack. That is just not the Aikido way. Instead of kicking and punching, classes focus on teaching students how to use their own energy and the movement of the opponent to gain complete control of the situation

Trainer shaking hands. Aikido
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

In most instances, this technique results in the Aikido practitioner throwing the attacker away from them, instead of impacting them in any way. Dynamic movements are used in this particular form of fighting, so students are typically taught how to move swiftly on their feet, fall without getting injured, and roll out of the way of danger. Practitioners of Aikido are also taught how to safely throw an opponent without the intention of hurting them. 

How do Aikido Students Work Their Way through the Levels?

Most martial arts students want to progress in the art and level up. Is this possible with Aikido? It actually is. Aikido students will wear a different colored belt, depending on their specific skills level reached. 

When practicing Aikido, your specific school might have a variety of colors that denote your current level of skill – these are unique to the school and not official Aikido belt colors

Traditionally, there are only 2 belt colors in Aikido; white and black. The belts in Aikido work as follows:

  • White belt – this is the rank called Kyu and actually consists of 6 degrees (otherwise known as grades) within it. This means that when a student starts with a white belt, they will need to effectively pass through all 6 degrees or grades, before they can be awarded a black belt. 
  • Black belt – this is the rank called Dan and usually consists of 3 degrees. The 3 degrees within the Dan are called Shodan, Nidan, and Sandan).

Benefits of Aikido

There are numerous benefits to practicing Aikido, and for many, that’s what it is all about – what they can derive or get out of it. Below are a few of the many benefits of practicing Aikido:

  • Improved physical strength and fitness,
  • Increased muscle mass and bone density,
  • Improved concentration and memory,
  • Improved posture and balance,
  • Increased range of motion and joints flexibility,
  • Improved ability to keep a level head in combative or confrontational situations,
  • Character development,
  • The potential to build lifelong friendships.
Hugging aikido trainer
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

All things considered

If you take a look at Aikido on a deeper level, you will quite easily see that it is far more than just a form of fighting or self-defense. Aikido teaches effective methods of self-defense, but it’s more than that – it’s a way of life

Learning to live in a manner that is aware, compassionate, controlled, and disciplined is exactly what Aikido is all about. 

If you are looking to develop yourself as a person, get fit and learn some useful self-defense mechanisms at the same time, book yourself Aikido classes and prepare for complete life transformation.

JC Franco

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.