Aikido is a Japanese martial art that was created by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) after a lifetime of studying martial arts. Ueshiba (O’Sensei) studied a number of classical Japanese bujutsu (warrior arts) under noted masters of the day, including kendo (sword), jujutsu and judo. Ueshiba was a deeply religious man and throughout his life spent much time in study, prayer and meditation. After many years of learning martial arts with the aim of becoming an invincible warrior, he was moved to create a martial art based on non-resistance and harmony with the universe. He called this art Aikido.
Today there are many styles of Aikido, some soft and flowing, others harder and more unyielding, but all with the same principles and philosophy of meeting an attack with minimum force and extending ki to blend with the movement of an attacker.
The following passage on Aikido is adapted from a discussion of love and the work of attention by M. Scott Peck in his seminal work The Road Less Travelled. It describes the importance of working hard to overcome mental barriers in our practice and of attending continually in order to obtain the many benefits Aikido has to offer.
“When we extend ourselves, we do so in opposition to the inertia of laziness or the resistance of fear. Extension of ourselves or moving out against the inertia of laziness we call work. Moving out in the face of fear we call courage. Aikido, then, is a form of work or a form of courage. Specifically, it is work or courage directed toward the nurture of our own or another’s spiritual growth. Since it requires the extension of ourselves, Aikido is always either work or courage.
The principal form that the work of Aikido takes is attention. When we practice Aikido with another, we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s growth. We also attend to our own growth. The act of attending requires that we make the effort to set aside our existing preoccuptions and actively shift our consciousness. Attention is an act of will, of work against the inertia of our own minds. The effort which goes into the exercise of the will is really the effort of attention. The strain in willing is the effort to keep the consciousness clear, i.e. the strain of keeping the attention focused.”