Aikido is the traditional Japanese martial art of movement and power. Its characters translate as "the way of unity with the fundamental energy of the universe".
Aikido is a highly effective form of self-defense that teaches how to subdue even a much larger aggressor using minimum effort. Aikido, a true budo or martial way, evolved in the historic tradition of Japanese warrior arts. When studied in earnest, budo is not only a science of tactics and self-defense; it is a discipline for perfecting the spirit. The final aim of budo is the achievement of personal excellence, the development of a polished, balanced, and sensitive human character.
Aikido practice is conducted in an energized, non-competitive environment. Aikido believes that martial and personal development is best achieved by practicing cooperatively, with the practice partners helping each other learn its complex techniques. It improves physical conditioning: strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination, and mental conditioning: self-confidence, concentration, alertness, intuitiveness and concern for others.
Aikido teaches how to blend with an attack, and neutralize it without relying on brute strength. Consequently, Aikido is appropriate for men, women and children of all ages. Although the roots of Aikido techniques date to feudal Japan, present day Aikido is the creation of a remarkable man, Morihei Ueshiba.
Aikido's Founder, Morihei Ueshiba is referred to as O-Sensei, or "Great Teacher". As a young man he mastered Ken-jitsu (sword techniques), So-jitsu (spear techniques), and Ju-jitsu (unarmed body techniques), and became one of the most renowned martial artists of this day. However, O-Sensei was also a man of profound spiritual drive who brooded over the futility of a path based on victory over others. While leading a life of austerity and rigorous training, he struggled with this dilemma. It was resolved in a moment of profound awakening. Transformed by this spiritual insight, O-Sensei's technical mastery evolved into a martial art of unique refinement and astonishing power, fundamentally different from those that preceded it. Aikido became the physical expression of his spiritual beliefs.
"The secret of Aikido", he wrote, "is to harmonize with the movement of the universe and to bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself." O-Sensei maintained that budo is a work of love, a path to overcome discord in ourselves and a way to bring peace to the world: "Aikido is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the Way to reconcile the world, and make all living things one family". O-Sensei taught that true awareness is not grasped by intellect alone. "This is not mere theory", he said, "you must practice it".
O-Sensei continued practicing Aikido until his death on April 26, 1969 at the age of 86. The Japanese government bestowed upon him its highest honor, declaring him a Sacred National Treasure of Japan.