Aikido – The Way of Peace
Perhaps the youngest of Japan’s martial arts, Aikido is known by many of its practitioners and students as ‘The Way of Peace’.
However this martial art can trace it’s heritage to Japans 9th century Feudal society and, in another form, it was practiced by the Samurai as a way of dealing with attackers weapons if they found themselves unarmed on the battlefield. Aikido’s philosophy however is more about avoiding violence in the first place.
Sensei Joe Thambu is a 6th Dan Black Belt in Yoshinkan Aikido, developed by Soke Shioda in Japan after World War 2. Shioda was a student of Aikido’s founding father, Morihei Ueshiba, known among the followers of Aikido as O-Sensei or ‘Great Teacher’.
The varying schools of Aikido all share at their core at least two fundamental threads:
– A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible.
– And a commitment to self-improvement through Aikido training.
Aikido is seen by many of its practitioners as a refinement of martial arts technique. The Aikido practitioner seeks to master Ki, or universal energy, for the betterment of his physical and spiritual self.
Time spent in the Dojo focuses on the practical application of the Art.
Before Sensei enters the Dojo, the class warms-up, this includes tumbling exercises. Thambu ensures his students don’t fall into the trap of only landing on the side they are comfortable with. A lot of contact with the floor can be expected in Aikido training sessions so the floor is padded.
As class begins a bow is made to the front as a sign of respect to the art, not as a sign of worship to any image. Then a bow to the teacher; in pursuit of learning. And a bow to other students; as a sign of respect and humility, asking forgiveness in case of injury.
Thambu observes the students demonstrating the basic positions and offers guidance. The Aikidoist develops a relaxed posture in which the weight of the body is directed towards its physiologic center in the lower abdomen. Breath into this space also establishes a centered state of mind for the participant.
Thambu demonstrates a technique and then builds on it in each class. Offering new information in small steps.
Yoshinkan Aikido has a large number of techniques, once the 150 basic techniques are mastered; there are 3000 more that follow directly on. It is a lifelong study.
Increased stamina, flexibility, and muscle development occur naturally as a result of training, but the techniques themselves do not depend on strength for effectiveness. Aikido is considered to be non-aggressive, as the Aikido student does not instigate the attack.
The basic principle of Aikido is Do not fight force with force. Aikido uses very few punches and kicks. Instead, the attackers force is redirected into throws, locks and restraining techniques. Size, weight, age and physical strength play only a small role, as the skilled Aikido practitioner is able to redirect the attacker’s energy, keeping his partner unbalanced and technically disarmed.
Initially the techniques are taught as static positions and then joined together. When fluid and performed up to speed, the dance-like precision of this art can be truly appreciated in the movements of an Aikido Master like Thambu.
Aikido founder O-Sensei firmly opposed conflict, and believed there was no place for competition in Aikido. One school went against this belief, but Aikido is largely non competitive and not classed as a sport.
The art is practiced with a partner not an opponent and one can participate to a late age because it does not rely on flexibility, muscle, speed, or strength. Thus it has become especially popular with women and senior citizens.
If you’d like to experience a Martial Art that offers mental stimulation whilst working up a sweat, without the bruises from over zealous sparring partners, Aikido could be what you are looking for.