Aikido (合気道) also referred to as The Art of Peace, is a traditional, non-competitive Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba, known as O Sensei (Great Master) by Aikido practitioners. Aikido was created at a time when Japan was involved in some of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century, Morihei Ueshiba's vision was to create a Martial Art that would unite people by turning them in better human beings, and bring peace to the world. Good Aikido techniques are very efficient and effective, and can be applied in self defense without inflicting injury to an attacker.

 

Aikido is much more that a self-defense system, it is a system that offers an opportunity to explore how to relay with conflict at a deeper level. It is a dynamic art that provides a way to welcome conflict. Instead of clashing with conflict, we instead go right to the center of it, we connect with it and move with it dynamically and powerfully, not in opposition, but in deep connection. Aikido offers people a path that can lead them to greater awakening and evolution of themselves. Aikido can be practiced by everyone to equal effectiveness, regardless of physical skill or age.

 

The physical training in Aikido is diverse, covering both general physical fitness and conditioning as well as specific techniques. Because substantial portion of any Aikido curriculum consists of throws, the first skill most students learn is how to fall safely. Techniques utilized in attacks include strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and pins. After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons.

Iwama Dojo

Morihei Ueshiba built a dojo in a small village called Iwama located in the Ibaraki Prefecture and taught Aikido there from 1941 until his passing in 1969.  Morihiro Saito, who served 23 years as a live-in student to the Founder is known to be the one who preserved the Aikido techniques as it was taught in Iwama by the Founder. This style of Aikido became known as Iwama-ryū (岩間流 "ryū" is style or school), Iwama Style (岩間スタイル "style" - transliterated into Japanese from English). The term Traditional Aikido or Dentō (伝統, lit. traditional) is also used.

 

Iwama style Aikido is known for it's rigid or stiff practice, known in Japanese as "katai-keiko" – and, for it's emphasis on "kihon" basic practice. Throughout his lifetime, Morihiro Saito Sensei was very strict regarding the practice of basics and often said that the Founder would not allow a student to practice the flowing form of Aikido until reaching at least 3rd dan (3rd level) black belt. During several interviews, Saito Sensei often stated that he did not have the freedom to change his teacher's Aikido, and taught Aikido as he learned it studying under the Founder.

 

After the Founder's death in 1969, Morihiro Saito Sensei was appointed as the guardian of the Aiki Shrine and chief instructor at the Iwama dojo. He did so until his passing in May of 2002.

Class Structure

  • Before each class, a basic warm up that consists of stretches and light falls takes place to get students ready for practice.
    Students sit upright in a row, facing the front.
  • Everyone bows to the "Shomen" which is considered the front of the dojo, and Iwama Aikido dojos traditionally has pictures of the Founder of Aikido and of Morihiro Saito Sensei. This is done with respect for the art, teachers and fellow students.
  • There is an emphasis on basic exercises. The basic stance and movements in Aikido that are considered to be the building blocks of techniques.
  • From here practice include a mixture of basic and flowing techniques from the training syllabus.
  • Exercises are traditionally practiced in pairs and students take turns practicing techniques on each other. In addition to learning how to perform techniques, students also learn how to receive techniques safely and learning how to fall in different ways.

Weapons Practice

"Bukiwaza" refers to the practice of Aiki-ken and Aiki-jo techniques developed by O-Sensei. At his dojo in Iwama, Morihei Ueshiba taught a technically rich system including weapons over a protracted period of time with Morihiro Saito Sensei as his leading student. Saito Sensei categorized and catalogued these weapons forms as he incorporated them into his daily practice. The practice of Aikido weapons (aiki ken and aiki jo) is now deeply rooted in the Iwama Style Aikido training curriculum.

 

In the 1938 technical manual titled “Budo” there is a large number of historical photos where the Founder demonstrates key basic techniques, including weapons practice that look virtually identical to the Aikido forms taught by Saito Sensei at the Iwama dojo.

 

The practice of Bukiwaza was central to the Takemusu Aikido practice, the forms and techniques were handed down from O Sensei to Saito Sensei, and he continued to teach those same forms and techniques at the Iwama dojo after the Founders passing in 1969.

For a period of time since 1961, Saito Sensei also taught weapon classes on a regular basis at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. As a matter of fact, Saito Sensei was the only teacher, besides the Founder, allowed to teach Aiki bukiwaza at the Aikikai Hombu dojo.

This integration of weapon and empty hand (body) practice is well explained by Saito Sensei in his  first series of five instructional books, TRADITIONAL AIKIDO •Sword •Stick •Body Arts first published in 1973. Under the heading RIAI – The Combined Aikido System, Saito Sensei wrote:

Generally speaking, Aikido is known by its taijutsu [body] techniques. However, the taijutsu movements are based on movements of the ken [sword].It is difficult to separate those movements which are based on the ken from those of taijutsu. Rather it is a harmonious blending of both that creates a single Aikido. In other words, both systems agree with each other.
If one were to mix present forms of Kendo and Judo, and expect the result to be similar to Aikido one would be making a mistake. Even when using the same ken, Kendo and Aikido are very different even though they may appear to be similar.It would also be very difficult to explain Kendo in terms of Judo and vice versa.

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