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What Is the Martial Art Aikido?

Founder of Aikido.

Founder of Aikido.

Aikido Founder

The Aikido martial art was created by O Sensei (Grand Master) Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). He created this martial arts from years of training in different styles of fighting, martial arts and philosophies of war, he also served in the Japanese Army, and learned many techniques and strategies of modern war.

Instead of focusing on the attack, Ueshiba created Aikido to be a peaceful art, an art of reconciliation with the universe. He used his knowledge of Daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu, to begin the evolution to the modern form of Aikido, adapting several other martial arts like judo and karate.

Ueshiba Sensei was more interested in using "Ki" or Inner force, to gain the advantage in a fight, but he is most famous because he created an art that discourages the enemy from fighting because it would be like fighting "a ghost". He mastered the art of fighting bare handed, throwing techniques and joint-locking techniques.

Master Ueshiba even incorporated training with several weapons, thereby creating very effective techniques, weapons such as the spear (yari), short staff (jo), bayonet (juken) , and especially the Japanese sword (katana). Many techniques of the Aikido derives from old techniques of the art of swordsmanship (kenjutsu).

The name of "Aikido" became official in 1942 thanks to the Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society (Dai Nippon Butoku Kai) who organize and sponsored several martial arts to be promoted all around the world.

This is an image of a Hakama used in Aikido.

This is an image of a Hakama used in Aikido.

Uniform and ranks.


There are two types of uniforms that are worn by aikidoka all around the world. The aikidogi is similar to the training uniform (keikogi) used in many other martial arts, which consist of trousers and a jacket, usually these are white but in the weapons class sometimes it can be indigo in color.

The aikidogi (aikido uniform) can be thick (made of two layers of cotton, with extra protection at the elbows, knees and upper back, or it can be thin similar to the karategi (karate uniform).

Most aikido systems and schools add a pair of wide pleated black or indigo trousers called hakama, this piece is used only by black belts (dan rank students) or for instructors, but sometimes in some schools they allow all practitioners to wear a hakama regardless of the rank.


The aikidoka (aikido students) progress in a series of ten ranks called "kyu" (10-1 kyu) and followed by a series of degrees or black belt ranks called "dan" (1-10 dan). In some schools and systems they use different color belt to distinguish practitioner's beginner's ranks, but as it was originally it should be only white belt (low level students) and black belt (high level students).

To advance, progressively more difficult tests are required, roughly comparable or interchangeable between organization or systems. In some dojos (Martial arts schools) you need to be at least 16 years old to perform a black belt (dan) level test.

Illustration of an Aikido Technique.

Illustration of an Aikido Technique.

Uke y Nage

Aikido training involves two types of students or participants.

Uke: The one who attacks and receives the technique.

Nage: The one who neutralizes the attack with a technique.


In Aikido training there are several key parts, the physical training, mental training and ki training.

Physical Training.

The student needs to be in good physical condition, with good command of controlled relaxation, flexibility, endurance and with a good balance of strength training. In Aikido are two types of physical movements: External (pushing, throwing, etc..) and Internal (pulling, contracting and locking, etc..).

Balance and coordinated body-eye movements are of extreme importance in Aikido, that's why the physical training can be a mix of warm-up exercises, with stretching and training in falling techniques, sometimes in some dojos they add military training to foster optimal fitness.

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Mental and Ki Training.

Each system or school has their unique style of training related to ki development, it depends on the goal of each school, but normally it takes years to see a simple change, but it's combined with physical movements to improve the internal flow of ki (energy).

At this level, the strategy and more difficult movements in Aikido are also added, like the training in key points of the body to neutralize an enemy, stopping the flow of energy thanks to the knowledge of the nervous system.

Martial Arts

Attacks in AIkido.

AIkido is more a defense art more than an attack art, but every student needs to practice all around attacks to improve the experience and possible real world situations. Some basic attacks in Aikido are:

  • Front-of-the-head strike (Shomen-uchi) a vertical openhanded attack to the head.
  • Side-of-the-head strike (Yokomen-uchi) a diagonal open handed attack to the side of the head or neck.
  • Chest thrust (Mune-tsuki) a direct punch normally to the chest or abdomen.
  • Face thrust (Ganme-tsuki or menuchi) a direct punch to the face.

The are also several grabs to begin an attack in Aikido, sometimes with grabs there can be a weapon involved in the technique.

  • Single-hand grab (Katate-dori) one hand grabs one wrist.
  • Both-hands grab (Morote-dori) both hands grab one wrist. Also as (Katateryote-dori)
  • Both-hands grab (Ryote-dori) both hands grab both wrists. Also as (Ryokatate-dori)
  • Shoulder grab (Kata-dori) a shoulder grab. Also for both shoulders (Ryokata-dori)
  • Chest grab (Mune-dori or munadori) grabbing the clothing of the chest. Also for strangulation (Eri-dori.)
Standard Set of Aikido wooden weapons (staff, knives, and swords)

Standard Set of Aikido wooden weapons (staff, knives, and swords)

Weapons in AIkido.

The weapons in Aikido are used to practice the attack and more importantly the techniques used for disarming of these weapons. Normally the standard set of Aikido weapons include:

  • Short staff (jo): similar to a cane, and a common weapon easily found almost everywhere, it's useful to train for the disarming of baseball bats or sticks.
  • Wooden sword (bokken): a wooden replica of a katana, for security it's used a wooden version, but it is good to practice with the bokken because almost all the aikido techniques have a similarity to kenjutsu (swordsmanship).
  • Knife (tanto): the most common weapon nowadays, this weapons needs to be the most practiced because of the modern use of this weapon, small and lethal.
  • Fire-arms: some schools included the disarming of firearms to their aikido programs, because as with the knife, it's the most used weapons for criminal usage. It's important to practice for years to master these techniques,and to never put your life in danger.

NOTE: All of the weapons above may be replicas or wooden models of the real version weapons, but in the right hands these weapons can be as deadly as the real ones. Caution is advised.

About the Author.

My name is David Zermeño and I'm a 4th kyu rank student in Aikido practicing for the next tests, I love this art and the use of this in real life, it's not only a martial art, it's also a way of life. I'm learning a lot of this art, right now I'm researching more in the mental and Ki training of Aikido, a harder way but with great rewards.

I hope you liked this Hub, and it would be good to hear your comments, also I will be adding more Hubs about more techniques and weapons, with videos and much more about other martial arts, like Karate-do and Jiu-jitsu.

Thanks, and good training.

"A good martial artist is the one who defeats the enemy before they launch the first attack"

Special thanks

To Parks Sensei for reviewing this article and for being my mentor and example in my time training Aikido. He's the head Instructor in Aikido Seikikai Dojo in San Luis Potosí, México, another home for all the aikidokas in México.

To Alvarez Sensei for being my Aikido instructor and by giving me the interest and tools to practice this incredible martial art.

© 2013 David Zermeño


Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on August 13, 2013:

Very nice hub, well-done, informative, and good explanation of Aikido. I practice tai chi and find the concepts you mentioned are similar. Voted up and interesting. Welcome to HubPages. Continue to write and find your voice as a writer.

David Zermeño (author) from Mexico on August 11, 2013:

That's great you are going to love the Kenjutsu Class, I have other Article/Hub about Pure Kenjutsu, check it out if you like, thanks for the comment and good luck in your class. I love the double sword style or Baton and sword style by Miyamoto Musashi, it's a real challenge and it's awesome for practicing.

Jeffrey Lamar from Chandler, Arizona on August 09, 2013:

Gonna be taking a Samurai Sword class soon, the timing on this article is impeccable.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 10, 2013:

Will Do. Happy hubbing.

David Zermeño (author) from Mexico on July 10, 2013:

Nice to meet you too! I will be writing more Hubs about Aikido Kenjutsu and the Art of Falling, keep in touch aikidoka brother.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 10, 2013:

I have a bokken I called Chops. He's m favorite, I got him when I was just 13 years old. I started with aikido then moved to judo and jujitsu. It's nice to meet another aikidoka.

David Parks-Kennedy on June 29, 2013:


I get to make the first comment.

I heartily approve of David's article. It is completely written and researched by him and is a good introduction to the concept of Aikido and Kenjutsu.

I thank him for acknowledging my few corrections as the original was well thought-out and very informative.

Let's give him some more comments and support.

David Parks-Kennedy,

Aikido Seikikai

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