Triangle, Circle, Square

Aikido - The Art of Peace

Aikido in Japanese means, literally, the way of harmony with spirit. This is as good a definition as any. It is a study in contrasts. It is a martial art based on the warrior skills of the Samurai, yet it is also called the Art of Peace. The study of Aikido includes rigorous training in sword, staff, and empty hand techniques, yet is practiced by men and women of all ages. Harmony is an apt word to describe Aikido, because harmony is the is a joining or concordance that leads to the resolution of tension. At its heart, Aikido is the product and life's work of one man, Morihei Ueshiba. The founder was born in the late nineteenth century, and lived into the modern era. He taught that Aikido is a way of reconciling the world. It involves give and take, aggression and peacefulness, strength and relaxation. Aikido cuts through opposites, to allow them to come together. As a martial art, Aikido employs joint locks and movement to unbalance an opponent, and emphasizes redirecting an opponent's strength and aggression to defeat them.


The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Tanabe, south of Osaka in 1883. At age 18 he moved to Tokyo for one year to work in a family business. At that time he enrolled in a Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu dojo. In 1903, he enlisted in the army, where he learned Jukenjutsu, the art of the rifle mounted bayonet. Though the army had been modernized around French and German practices, Jukenjutsu included elements of sojutsu, the traditional Samurai art of the spear. During his time in the army he also trained in Goto-ha Yagyu Shingan-ryu jujutsu, for a period of about four years. In 1911 he studied Judo with a young teacher in Tanabe. A year later, Ueshiba moved to Hokkaido in northern Japan. There, in 1915, Ueshiba began studying Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu with Sokaku Takeda, one of the most accomplished martial artists of his day. In 1919, having received word that his father dying, Ueshiba returned to Tanabe. During that trip he met Onasiburo Deguchi, the charismatic leader of the Omoto religion. In 1920, after the death of his father, Ueshiba moved to Ayabe and became a close associate of Deguchi. He began teaching his art to Omoto followers, calling it Aikibujutsu. At that time he engaged in intense spiritual training with Deguchi, as well as training in sojutsu. In 1922, Takeda spent six months living at Ueshiba's house in Ayabe. During that time he awarded Ueshiba a teaching certificate in Daito-ryu, and another in Shinkage-ryu jujutsu. In 1925, at age 42 Ueshiba was challenged by a naval officer and kendo expert. He defeated the kendo-ka with little effort, seeing the attacks before they materialized. This was a profound experience for Ueshiba, and reinforced for him the relationship between his spiritual and martial arts studies. At that time he renamed his art Aikibudo, the martial way of Aiki. During the mid nineteen twenties Ueshiba had gained notoriety as a martial artist and came to the attention of a number of high ranking military officers. Through their patronage he began teaching at a number of Japan's military academies. In 1927 he moved to Tokyo. Throughout the nineteen thirties he ran a very successful dojo, as well as teaching at military academies and dojos all across Japan. In the nineteen forties, with the war raging, the government took control of all martial arts organizations. Ueshiba retired to a country village called Iwama, where he owned land and where he built a dojo. He also renamed his art Aikido. In the years after the war Ueshiba refined both the technical aspects and weapons training in Aikido, and also the spiritual nature and purpose of the art. He declared that Aikido was a means of resolving conflict by achieving victory over oneself, and of making all peoples one. During the nineteen fifties he sent senior students overseas, to spread Aikido to the rest of the world. He was then in his seventies, and only made one trip to the United States himself, for a series of seminars in Hawaii in 1961. The founder continued to teach in Iwama until his death in 1969. After his death, Aikido continued to spread, and it is now practiced by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.


Students who personally studied under the founder say some of his ideas were difficult to grasp, and were expressed in esoteric metaphor. This can be seen in his Doka, or spiritual poems:

Watch not his flashing blade
Nothing can be seen there
His fists will reveal where he intends to cut

In a forest of the enemy's spears
Then realize that those very spearheads
Are your very shield.

His sword raised to the attack
The enemy flies at the man he thinks before him
But from the very start
I was standing behind him

Even the most powerful human being
has a limited sphere of strength.
Draw him outside of that sphere
and into your own, and his strength will dissipate.

Mobilize all your powers through Aiki
Build a beautiful world
And a secure peace

Aiki is the power of harmony between all things
Polish it ceaselessly
You people of the Way

Except for blending with the void
There is no way to understand
The Way of Aiki.

Always and always
Pour yourself into technical training
To face the multitude as if it were one
Is the Way of the Shugo-sha.

Sharply sparkling
The spirit of the person of the Way
Penetrates through to reveal
The evil devil that lurks inside the self

With links and ties too numberless to be known
Is found in the body and souls of the people
They who will enlighten the world

As soon as you concern yourself with the "good" and "bad" of your fellows,
you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter.
Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weakens and defeats you.

There are no contests in the Art of Peace.
A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing.
Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.

Aiki is not a technique to fight with or defeat an enemy.
It is the way to reconcile the world
and make human beings one family.