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Traditional Aikido

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Aikido is a Japanese Martial Art founded by Morihei Uyeshiba who was born in Tanabe, Kii Province (Wakayama Prefecture) on December 14, 1883. Aikido can be better understood by breaking the word "Aikido" into its three major components: Ai, meaning harmony or unity; Ki, meaning spirit or life force; and Do, meaning the way or path. Thus, Aikido is a way of life which uses a philosophy of harmony (peace) to deal with conflict. Aikido is very closely linked to the arts of the samurai (BUDO). M. Uyeshiba studied many different forms of sword fighting and unarmed combat methods (jujitsu) prior to the flowering of Aikido and official naming in 1942. Aikido emerged as a major martial art only after World War II. Aikido's jujitsu root's are the result of 2,000 years of training, teaching, and fighting. Important distinctions between Aikido and other martial arts are the focus on: wrist and elbow locks, wooden sword (bokken) and stick (jo) techniques, and a philosophy of not injuring an assailant (i.e., using only the amount of force necessary to protect oneself). The techniques of Aikido are soft and circular which allows a large segment of the population the ability to practice it without risk of injury (similar to motions in Tai Chi). In addition, Aikido practitioners typically practice a loving protection of all things in nature. Morihei Uyeshiba (also referred to as Osensei which means major or main teacher) was a deeply spiritual person who practiced Aikido as a path to enlightenment. As M. Uyeshiba aged, many of his techniques became softer.

As a result of these changes over time, those students who studied under Uyeshiba during different time frames learned somewhat different ways to apply techniques. This, as well as varied teaching philosophies, resulted in the development of several schools of Aikido besides Ueshiba's Hombu (i.e., Yoshinkan, Ki Society, Tomiki, Yoseikan, etc.). Most of these schools incorporate the traditional samurai uniform that looks much like a skirt, but is actually a large pair of pleated pants (i.e., hakama). However, some schools do not (e.g., Yoseikan, Tomiki). After the founders death in April, 1969, his son Kisshomaru Uyeshiba succeeded his father until his death in 1999. Kisshomaru’s son currently runs the Hombu Aikido World Headquarters in Japan. Several books are available which detail traditional Aikido (see recommended reading list in A.S.P. text). Ranking in "Traditional Aikido" follows many other Japanese martial arts. Six classes or Kyu ranks (classes) proceed the black belt (shodan). Ten black belt ranks exist as in most other martial arts. The founder and his heirs are considered above the ranking system (or as in Judo they are considered to be at the twelfth degree black belt level). Moreover, technical requirements typically only extend to the fifth degree of black belt (godan).

Ranking beyond godan is awarded based on other factors. Time requirements are an integral part for all traditional Aikido rankings. Testing requirements for third degree black belt and above are generally proprietary and student specific. The names of techniques are in Japanese and students are expected to learn them as well as cultural aspects of the art. Students are also generally restricted from practicing other martial art styles while practicing traditional Aikido. An instructor can generally promote up to two ranks below his or her own rank. However, black belt ranks are generally granted by godan level instructors (5th degree black belt) and above. This formula for promotion is very common in both Japan and Korea within many oriental martial arts.

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