What is Aikido (Shodan test essay)
By Colin Bauer

Aikido is a Japanese martial art predicated on the techniques of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu of the Takeda Clan. It was created by Morihei Ueshiba (also referred to as O sensei or great teacher) between 1920 and 1930. When I first began to train in Aikido, I had a heavily intellectual and spiritual perspective of martial arts. In my first three classes I eagerly let anyone flop my body all over the mat. I was humbled and surprised at how uncoordinated my own movement was. It was during these first three classes I realized that if I saw martial arts as a philosophy, it was a philosophy of action. . Aikido is not simply another school of thought on how jujutsu techniques should be executed or emphasized. To some degree all martial arts strive to form a bridge between the spiritual plane and the physical plane via the conduit of the mind. This bridge is a significant part of the nature of Aikido, and gives the art distance from its jujutsu roots.

The unification of body, mind, and spirit is practiced through Aiki literally translated to "blending ki". The Japanese word "ki" has many translations. Fundamentally, ki is the energy that causes. Matter and forces are held together by ki. Things are born, live with intention, and die by the movement of ki, and the spirit is primarily comprised of ki. Ki is the breath of the universal creator and keeps the symphony of the universe in harmony, moving with divine intention. At the same time it is also the electricity that holds an atom together. Aiki exists everywhere in nature and can measured by force. Elements that produce or carry high levels of internal force have less or negative aiki. These elements change their environment very quickly and cause turmoil. A forest fire breaks down the inhabitants of the forest as well as its own ability to preserve its' form. Negative aiki carries a significant physical effect. Elements that have minimal amounts of force have more or positive aiki. These elements don't alter their physical environment drasctiacally but rather influence them subtly causing change to their nature or spirit. Plants can be a wonderful example of aiki as they respond very accurately to their environment. Consider hiking through a mountain pass to find a meadow filled with wild flowers. There is an aiki you can feel in the harmony of this scene. It changes the spirit of the meadow as well as that of the lucky traveler. However it is important to look beyond the substance of an element to understand it degree of aiki. A forest fire has a similar discord to a weed in a garden while conversely a wildflower has a similar harmony to a candle. Aikido proposes that in a martial setting you have a choice between harmory and discord. When an opponent attacks your center if you use your center to absorb the attack you will experience the discord physically. More importantly from the stand point of aiki you will add your ki to that discord creating a new system. That system is made up of two opposing energies without any outside, objective view. Now you have been injured and can only succeed over your opponent by trying to overwhelm his attack with more force (or discord). A better option (especially if your opponent bigger or more forceful) is to disengage and allow your opponent to complete his attack while moving around it while entering his center. If you blend with you opponents center while avoiding his attack you can bring his balance into yours and control him with very little force and minimize the physical damage. The system developed by the founder uses this principle emphasizing extension of ki through body movement. The most important part of aiki is how bodies move in accord with one another. One who has attained the enlightenment of Aikido can foresee the arrival of discord and create harmony.

Aikido is not simply another school of thought on how jujutsu techniques should be executed or emphasized. With the emphasis on the spiritual nature of aiki, O sensei created a martial system that transcends the martial environment and encourages us to find balance and create harmony through the physical, mental, and spiritual. Aikido teaches us to be aware of our environment and act in a ways that effect change with less force and less resistance.