Reflections on Aikido

Essays by Dojo Members

Judith RobinsonBenefits of Aikido for Older Students: Robinson Sensei talks about her experience learning Aikido as an older student, and the benefits it can have for seniors and for all people who practice it.
Trisha RudeReflections on the Deshi Program: An essay on the experience of intense training in the deshi program, and how it affects everyday awareness.
Richard LeeA review of and personal response to O-Sensei's book, Budo.
Bryon LichtenhanIwama Style Aikido: Observations and discoveries about Iwama style Aikido after training with Saito Shihan.
The Way of Harmony: Reflections on aikido, the art of nonviolence.
A review of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's book, The Spirit of Aikido.
Mary Jane RidderAn essay about aikido and the natural state of grace.
Kristen Kuebler Iwama Aikido. Kristen reflects upon her recent experiences in Iwama, Japan.
Joyce Hartung Aikido For Seniors: Joyce has written a collection of essays about the benefits of aikido for seniors.

Benefits of Aikido for Older Students

Judith Robinson

Aikido is a Japanese martial art using throws and joint locks to immobilize an attacker. The strategy of Aikido is to turn the force of the attack against the attacker. To do this requires training in timing, balance, focus, and leverage. To become proficient in Aikido a student must have perseverance. Natural talent may or may not be an asset. Like other martial arts, Aikido combines physical training with mental and spiritual training, merging mind, body, and spirit.

Watching an Aikido demonstration with its swirling, dance-like movement and seeing attackers thrown into dramatic rolls and falls, one might immediately conclude that above all martial arts, this one is surely for the young. Not so. I myself began to study at the age of 47, after a persuasive conversation with my son, who was training in a college Aikido program at the time. Under the guidance of a wonderful teacher, I have been training for 16 years now, and have discovered for myself the benefits of Aikido for older adults. Please let me share what I have learned.

First, physical benefits. It is not necessary to do the flashy rolls and falls to become more flexible. The necessary warm-ups before each class slowly stretch muscles and joints and gently increase blood flow and awareness of energy in all parts of the body. As mentioned, Aikido is an art of timing and balance. It is necessary to teach the movements in slow motion in order to learn to be stable and strong while performing the technique. The rule, "first get position, then energize," means that the student must learn where their physical point of balance is and be able to find it and maintain it automatically while under pressure. This develops greater body awareness and body control both during class and after, improving one's chances of avoiding "I've fallen and I can't get up" situations.

Second, the mental side. When one loses or has never had superior upper body strength, one must learn to defend by using superior strategy and tactics. There is a mental as well as a physical side to learning fighting angles, proper distance, superior position, body mechanics, and all the other aspects of martial arts study. There are many, many excellent books written about various aspects of Aikido. Aikido is a martial art that always trains for group attack. Mental sharpness is decidedly a defensive advantage.

Third, the spiritual side. More than perhaps any other martial art, Aikido has a strong spiritual and philosophical base. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba, called affectionately O Sensei (meaning great teacher), was committed to peace and said that Aikido would bring the world together in harmony. Aikido is often called the "way of harmony," teaching us that we must protect the people who attack us as best we can because we are all interdependent. The principles of Budo -- sincerity, courtesy, loyalty, truth, bravery, compassion, faith, and discernment -- were seen by O Sensei as life values. Many of us, at this time of our lives, are particularly interested in looking at values and thinking about the right way to live, and Aikido, through the founder's philosophy, provides ample material to contribute to such seeking. In addition, Aikido practice requires development of an inner stillness, necessary for successful defense. Training can be a moving meditation.

So: mind, body, and spirit. All in one training. What else could anyone wish for? And, for some of us, discovering Aikido is also discovering who we are and a path for being the best we are capable of.

Reflections on the Deshi program

Trisha Rude

In Japanese calligraphy, the shomen at the front of or Aikido class reads masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi, "true victory is victory of self; may this happen at the speed of light!" This statement can be understood to mean a number of things and likely it holds different meanings for easterners than for westerners. To me, however, it has come to mean this: to gain victory in battle, to restore harmony in conflict, you must have certainty and self control. This requires you to battle those aspects of yourself that compromise what you can be. In an instant of danger, there isn't time to daydream, show off, worry, or doubt your abilities. You must act with confidence at a moment's notice.

This is one reason why I train in Robinson Sensei's deshi program. I want to be always ready for conflict when it arises, aware of potentially unsafe situations, and attuned to the concerns of others. This isn't paranoia. What I am aiming for is zanshin, a relaxed awareness of the world around me. Zanshin is something I notice and respect in my teachers and senior students. It is a state of self that I am working very hard to reach, something I will always be striving for.

Deshi students are expected to attend all classes and train as intensively as possible. We also attend an extra class on Saturday mornings, keep various responsibilities around the dojo, and write a journal of our training experience. The effect of this has been that I am always thinking about Aikido. When I read the paper or listen to radio news, I feel that I am practicing zanshin, keeping quiet tabs on the world around me. I am typically a quiet person, but now I am unlikely to let a wrong go by without saying something, or fail to notice when a friend is tired. In numerous small ways, I am learning to respond to friction and conflict. I am learning that Aikido is not just a hobby or a sport. It is a way of living life with grace and clarity that can change to martial ardor when the need arises.

Budo, by Morihei Ueshiba

Review by Richard Lee

Morihei Ueshiba was sent to a Buddhist temple at a very young age to study Confucian classics and Buddhist scriptures. There he experienced recurring dreams causing his father concern, so Morihei was forced into more physical activities such as sumo and swimming. At age nineteen he began studying martial arts, i.e., traditional jujutsu and kenjutsu in Tokyo. However, he developed beri-beri and had to leave Tokyo. In 1903 he enlisted in the fourth Division in Osaka, where he excelled in skill with the bayonet. He also pursued his interest in the martial arts. After his discharge, his father engaged an instructor in judo, and Morihei learned the Kokokan style of judo.

During the following hears he participated in the studies of the spiritual practices. His practice of the martial arts began to take a spiritual form. He became interested in spear techniques and practiced intensely in swordsmanship and jujutsu. His travels to Manchuria and Mongolia affected his mind, having faced gunfire in battle. His development of a sixth sense began in 1925 when he was challenged by a naval officer who was also a master of Kendo. Morihei defeated him without actually fighting. He would sense the direction of the sword before being hit.

Your mind and body are like water and fire. Budo is a divine path reflecting the unlimited absolute nature of the universe. In order to follow this path which is endless, you must train your mind and body until you harmonize with the forces of the earth and heaven.

A sword is made of iron, which contains impurities and weakens it; but through constant forging it grows stronger and becomes steel. It transforms into a razor-sharp sword. Human beings also develop in the same way. Train your body and mind until all weakness disappears, then when a thrust or cut is applied, your technique will be perfect.

Iwama Style Aikido

Bryon Lichtenhan

To be totally honest, it was not until I attended the Saito Shihan seminar in September of this year, four and a half years after I began my training in this style, that I really had any idea of what it meant to practice "lwama style Aikido." In our dojo Sensei has always been open to new ideas about aikido, and new ways to train in aikido, and I had failed to make a distinction between the purely "Iwama style" things that we practiced and those aspects that she had picked up from other sources. So it was not until this seminar, where I was surrounded by practitioners and teachers of Iwama Aikido, that I had a very clear idea of what Iwama Aikido was. Now that I have experienced pure Iwama Aikido I can say that, as a style it is in a league of its own. Saito Sensei has explained many times that the style he teaches is aikido exactly as the Founder taught it during the years that Saito trained under him. What makes this so special is that it allows students of modern aikido to take up the art right where O-Sensei left it, and then progress in our own individual directions. Most of the present teachers of aikido have learned the art’s forms and have continued to modify the techniques with lessons that they have learned over the years of their practice. The students then learn the techniques that their sensei has developed, as opposed to the technique as O-Sensei practiced it. I think that it is wonderful that aikido is still a living and developing budo, with so many different interpretations of the art, and I feel that O-Sensei would have been happy to see what his life's work has become. However, Iwama Aikido gives the aikidoka a direct link to the technique of O-Sensei, thereby allowing the student, once they have internalized the form, to expand the art with their personal experiences, as opposed to those of their teacher’s. This presents a truly unique circumstance for the aikido practitioner, and one for which we are entirely indebted to Saito Shihan.

In all styles of aikido that I have seen there have been aspects that I thought were very important to incorporate in my own practice. There have also been aspects of each style that I felt were not important to me at that particular time in my experience of aikido. One of the most important aspects of Iwama Aikido that I experience is the way in which those people with a lot of experience in this style are able to use their whole bodies in unison to execute technique efficiently and effectively. The power of their technique is therefore greatly enhanced, an aspect that often seems lacking in some other styles. In those aikidoka without many years of experience in Iwama Aikido, however, it seems that the techniques are performed quite forcefully with a lot of emphasis on physical strength, instead of on the proper technique, which would enable them to execute technique without the unnecessary physical strain. This is the single most common mistake that I have come across in my experiences in different styles of aikido, and the mistake that I am most often guilty of. The nice thing about Iwama Aikido is that with its emphasis on proper technique, the beginner can only get away with this mistake for so long.

Recently I discovered yet another aspect of this style, which makes me feel very honored it is to be a part of this tradition. I became aware of this after hearing about Kristen's trip to Iwama over the summer. I realize now that as a member of this tradition I have the opportunity to be welcomed as family in a traditional Japanese dojo. In the modern world the traditional way of training in an art has largely been lost. But as a student of Iwama Aikido I have the chance to go to Japan and be accepted to live and train in the way deshi have been doing in Japan for hundreds of years. To be welcomed as family in such a setting, even as a stranger is a most amazing opportunity that is only possible to those of us lucky enough to be associated with a student of Saito Shihan. Anyone can go to Hombu dojo, pay their dues, and train in aikido, but not everyone has the fortune to be able to go to a dojo where the teachers will take a personal interest in you and make sure that you are progressing in your training. Thanks to the sensei that I train under I have this chance.

As students of Saito Shihan and Iwama style Aikido we are truly blessed in ways that not many other aikidoka are.

The Way of Harmony

Bryon Lichtenhan

I first became interested in the martial arts due to action movies. I loved the control that the fighters possessed over their bodies. How they could perform such amazing feats, and work in such a precise way with each other, was something that I dreamed of being able to do. I had a little experience with Karate as a child, but I hadn't been able to really devote myself to it. To be honest I found it to be a little boring. In high school I had gone out for the wrestling team, and had taken to it quite naturally, but it was at that time that I realized that what I really wanted was to train in a martial art. I asked a friend of my father’s, who had trained in and taught Tae Kwon Do for a number of years, which martial arts he might recommend and he told me that he had always wanted to train in aikido. His Tae Kwon Do teacher had a little experience with aikido and had passed on what he knew to his students. Joe, my father’s friend, had been very impressed by what he had experienced, but had been unwilling to devote himself to another martial art.

And so it was that I came to my first aikido class. I had originally planned on just sitting in the back of the room to watch the class, but a man came up to me and invited me to join the rest of the class for training. He told me that the best way for me to find out if I liked aikido was to actually do aikido. After a few warm-ups and after being told how to roll, Sensei started demonstrating techniques to the class. For the second technique she demonstrated a young man grabbed her arm with both of his hands and tried to lock it in place. She effortlessly moved around the attack and in towards him. As she twisted her body back toward him he flew through the air and landed on his back. At that moment I knew that aikido was what I had been looking for.

I probably got involved in aikido for many of the wrong reasons. Luckily, I also wanted a peaceful world both within and outside of myself, and aikido is a perfect art for those that truly want to live in harmony. Through my training the egotistical desires that first interested me in the martial arts have been systematically confronted and dissipated.

For me aikido has been the driving force in my life's journey. I have learned so much about myself through my practice, and it has broadened my awareness of what a life can be. I have gone through many changes and discovered parts of myself that I doubt I ever would have realized had it not been for my constant practice. I have also had my doubts about myself and my practice, but more training has always allayed them.

I have had many different goals for myself in my aikido training. One of my first goals I had in aikido has now completely changed. When I first started my training, I, like many other young men, wanted to be able to beat my opponent if I were ever in a fight. Thanks to my training I now know many ways to avoid a fight altogether, but I also have come to the decision that if I am ever unable to avoid a violent confrontation I will not hurt my attacker even if it means that I might be hurt. My training and study of aikido’s principles has helped me to realize that violence will not put an end to the fighting mind in an attacker, the only way to change their mind is to allow their violence to exhaust itself. As far as I have learned this can be done in two ways. The first option is that you let the attacker hurt you until they can not continue to do so either because you have gone unconscious or died, or because they have realized that they don’t want to be hurting someone else. This is the nonviolent tactic that Gandhi used to free India from British rule. The second option is to never allow your attacker to successfully complete an attack, until they are unable to continue. This is how O-Sensei used his knowledge of aikido when the kendo master challenged him. I aspire to one day be able to apply my aikido in a way that does not cause any harm to my attacker, just as O-Sensei was able.

Another goal of mine that has changed has been my goal to one day become an aikido sensei myself. I have had this goal since around the time that I first became a brown belt. However I have realized that this is no longer a goal of mine. This does not mean that I will never teach aikido, indeed one day I may do so, but if I do I hope that it is only because I have something to offer that no one else has, and not to satisfy my desire to be a sensei.

Aikido has made me realize what I want to do with my life. I know that I will spend the rest of my life working in one way or another, to bring about a world in which all people live in peace with each other and the environment around them. I wish to work for a world in which wars are a thing of the past, in which all people have their needs met, in which everyone’s human rights are honored, and in which humans live in balance with nature. I know that it may seem unrealistic, but I believe that we have the responsibility and the ability to create such a world. I know, from my interactions with others that all people are good at heart (though some are very confused and angry) and wish for a peaceful, just world, so I know that such a world is possible. As O-Sensei once said:

All life is a manifestation of the spirit, the manifestation of love. And aikido is the purest form of that principle. A warrior is charged with bringing a halt to all contention and strife. Universal love functions in many forms; each manifestation should be allowed free expression.

Aikido has helped me to understand how to live in peace with my self and with others, though I am not always able to do so. I hope that through my continued training I will one day be able to honestly say that I do.

The Spirit of Aikido, by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Review by Bryon Lichtenhan

This book by the second Doshu of aikido is not a study of technique or exercises, like many other aikido books, but an exploration of the true meaning of aikido as passed on to Kisshomaru Sensei by his father. Kisshomaru also gives both a history of how aikido arrived at its present state and shares his vision of what aikido will be as it continues to spread throughout the world.

This book was a wonderful read, and really helped me to put my training back into perspective. It also reminded me of my reasons for training and of my goals as I continue my study of this budo. I really was influenced by Ueshiba Sensei's continued assertions that aikido's main purpose is to unify the practitioner's mind, body, and ki and those effects such as better health, and self-defense that might arise from this practice are secondary to the true purpose.

I feel that this is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand O-Sensei's vision of aikido. Kisshomaru investigates all of the aspects of this budo over the course of seven chapters. The first discusses how an individual's ki relates to that of the rest of the universe. The second explains the importance of the entering and turning movements in aikido. The next chapter takes a look at the importance of daily practice. The real meaning of what mastery of aikido means is the subject of chapter four. Chapter five focuses on the importance of connecting to the natural world in one's practice. Chapter six takes a look at what it might mean to inherit O-Sensei's aspirations for aikido by explaining the history of the art. The final chapter explains what O-Sensei felt the purpose of aikido should be as is spreads the world over.

For myself there was no one chapter or part of this book that stood out as more important than any other parts. Indeed I feel that all of this book were equally significant, each in their own ways. I was really impressed with Kisshomaru Sensei's ability to so clearly and concisely discuss the many aspects of this wonderful art. I would, and do recommend this book to everyone who wishes to have a better understanding of what it means to be an aikidoka in this modern age.

Essay by Mary Jane Ridder

....Once upon a time, in a small mountain village in ancient Japan, a recluse swordsmith offered his wisdom of his art to any who would make the arduous trek to his cave. He would polish the steel with great attention and, as a meditation, be would coat it with tallow to prevent any moisture from rusting the finely crafted blade, His swords would become one with anything they touched. While he appeared to be ageless, the time did approach for the swordsmith to make his transition to the next world. Thousands endured the harsh winds to bear witness to his final pronouncement. Almost inaudible his words settled upon the throng: "The purpose of sword making is to remind us that we are always in a state of grease."

....And so it was, eons later, that Morihei Ueshiba- 0 Sensei- following many years of his own spiritual and martial arts reflection and training, as well as deep observations of the natural world, developed the art of aikido. His greatest hope was that the world would practice his art of harmony, peace and love. And, calling upon the swordsmith's wisdom, 0 Sensei offered: "The purpose of aikido is to remind us that we are always in a state of grace."

....Grease....grace....the way to shift easily from one element to another....effortless movement....blending....creating a new space...the grace of an epiphany after months and years of training....that moment of knowing....of humility....that moment when the technique is no longer part of objective reality. Rather, it is part of subjective reality. Your body moves instinctively and naturally with great joy. You return to your original state of being.

....Watch an infant who feels safe, I watched my granddaughter. Sophie moves reflexively. When startled or surprised, she might assume a position which her mother calls "clutching the tree" - bringing her arms and hands together in front of her- protecting her center? Even when she enters, perhaps by kicking, her irimi quickly joins with the perceived other. She is truly one with her world. To indicate her awareness of her surroundings, she will draw in one arm across her chest while she moves the other out and turns her head in that same direction- the fencer's pose. Is this her own demonstration of zanshin? Within moments, a thousand expressions dance across her face. She offers no barriers....only harmony. This angel presents no resistance when held or carried- her body blends with the other. She absorbs the energy and places herself comfortably. Sophie's movements fall gracefully within the yin/yang continuum. Her only "atemi" is the gaze of her deep midnight blue filled with trust and love.

....What takes us out of this natural state of grace? How do we lose the innocence of living an authentic life? Where is the source of the imbalance? 0 Sensei shared that aikido is love. Gerald Jampolsky suggested that all life is driven either by love or fear. Is our practice- both on the mat and in our daily walk through life- an effort to regain our innocence? innocence without naivete? innocence borne of wisdom?....How do we know whether to irimi or to tenkan? Is it in that moment in between moments? Do we ask "What is the most loving thing I can do for myself? for this other person?....for this situation?" How do we know we are acting out of love? Is it when we feel in balance? When our technique flows? When we surrender to the wisdom of the energy and blend with equal wisdom? ....Once upon a time....each of our own respective the beginning....offered our own wisdom and magic....will aikido bring us home?....

Iwama Aikido

Kristen Kuebler

I did not begin my aikido training in the Iwama tradition. When I first heard about it, I was told that Iwama style was based on the knowledge that Saito Sensei gained from O’Sensei during the many years that he lived and trained as an uchi deshi at Iwama. Although I knew this definition, I didn’t understand what it meant until I saw Saito Sensei conduct a seminar. Seeing Saito Sensei in action and hearing his explanation of why he taught in a particular manner was a humbling experience. After just one day of training, I understood why it was important to Saito Sensei, and should be important to the whole aikido community, to preserve the styles and forms that O’Sensei taught at Iwama.

O’Sensei released aikido into the world through his students and he trusted them to take the art into the future. As we move farther from the life of the founder, it becomes more important to have a reliable record of how and what he taught his students. Aikido is a living and evolving art, but without the fundamentals of the form it is not possible to develop a free and spontaneous (takemusu) aikido. Saito Sensei wanted others to have the opportunity to learn the basics of aikido in the same way that he learned them from O’Sensei. By devoting his entire life to teaching and systematizing the art as he learned it, Saito Sensei has given the whole aikido community a priceless gift. The study of Iwama style allows for a deeper understanding of the way that aikido has evolved over time and through different teachers, because it strives to preserve the basic forms as O’Sensei taught them. After students have mastered these basic forms, they will be free to develop their own personal relationship with aikido.

Although the teacher/student relationship is important in all styles of aikido, it is a stated priority of the Iwama style to foster and emphasize this relationship. As a part of the Iwama community, I had been told that I could go to Japan and live as an uchi deshi at Iwama. I always thought that I would visit Japan someday to train, but my experience at the Saito seminar inspired me to actually do it. Armed with a letter of introduction from Goto Sensei, I went to Japan. In September of 2001 Saito Sensei accepted me as an uchi deshi at Iwama. Although I could only stay for four days, it was an experience which I will never forget.

I was immediately accepted as a member of the dojo family, and enjoyed both the privileges and responsibilities that this involved. Living as an uchi deshi at Iwama is not for everyone. You must give up the luxury of personal time and space in order to contribute to the development and health of the dojo community. In exchange, you receive a level of training and attention from both Saito Sensei and Hitohiro Sensei that you could not possibly gain elsewhere. The Iwama student/teacher relationship is highly reciprocal and both parties take it very seriously.

Before every practice, aikido practitioners everywhere bow, as a way to show respect and gratitude to O’Sensei for giving us the art. This means that he is often in our thoughts when we train, but it was an experience of a different level to live in his home and to train in the dojo which he built. At Iwama when you hear the crunch of gravel that heralds the instructor’s arrival, it is easy to imagine O’Sensei appearing in the teacher’s entrance. This is no accident, but the result of Saito Sensei’s success in keeping O’Sensei’s energy and style present in the dojo.

The Iwama dojo and Iwama style provide a more direct connection to the founder than I have found anywhere else. Although I did not come to aikido through Iwama style, I now understand the power that it has, both as a direct link to the founder’s techniques and as an organized system for teaching aikido, and I am proud to have the opportunity to help carry on this tradition as a student and perhaps, someday, as a teacher.

Essays by Joyce Hartung

Living longer is a goal most Seniors hope to achieve. Living longer however has taken on a new meaning. Today's Senior wants more than a shawl and a rocking chair, they want to be active, they want to enjoy each day with a freedom of movement that allows them to do the things they want to do. This is a time in their life when they have fewer responsibilities and the opportunity to do many things they didn’t have time for when they were younger. Unfortunately, time has taken a toll on their bodies. But all is not lost, it has been proven that Seniors can actually build muscle mass and improve their fitness level. It is never to late to start.

For Seniors, falling can have drastic results, breaking hips, arms, elbows and even head injuries may result in long periods of rehabilitation, loss of mobility and maybe even hospitalization. One thing that Seniors can do to help prevent falling is to keep the joints in the legs and especially the feet strong and flexible.

Aikido for Seniors

Aikido is a form of Martial Art. As with most Martial Arts it has its origin in Eastern Culture and is rich in tradition and ritual. Unlike most Martial Arts, there are no competitions in Aikido. That is because Aikido is more about self-defense than fighting. Aikido is all about respect, respect for the opponent, respect for ourselves and respect for all things. In Senior Aikido there is more focus on the “Art” than the “Martial”.

When you are watching an Aikido workout, you will see people wielding wooden weapons, you will see people using canes as defensive weapons, you will see people defending themselves from attackers and you will see people falling on the mats. When you are watching a Senior Aikido workout, you will see people wielding wooden weapons, you will see people using canes as defensive weapons, you will see people defending themselves and you will see people doing the traditional Aikido movements up to the point where they would “throw” the opponent. Falling and “throwing” are not required in Senior Aikido, they are optional.

There are many benefits for the Senior Aikido participant. One of the benefits is Aikido as a form of exercise. Aikido sessions start with a warm up that gently stretches all the major muscles and most of the joints. Particular attention is paid to the hands and feet. These exercises increase flexibility and improve strength. It is a known fact that a good percentage of falls taken by older adults are as a result of a loss of balance. A major contributing factor to the loss of balance is a lack of flexibility in the feet. Keeping the hands and feet moving is also good for arthritis.

Balance is a key component in Aikido. During an Aikido exercise, when one person loses their balance, the conflict is over. Keeping your “balance” involves physical and mental skills that are taught in the Aikido classes. Balance is also achieved through proper posture. This is accomplished by involving the trunk or core muscles. When these muscles are healthy they produce a slimmer looking body, straighter posture and healthier internal organs. The heart and lungs can function optimally, the digestive system works more efficiently and the individual has a better feeling about themselves.

Another benefit to Seniors is an increased feeling of self confidence. This originates from knowing self defense techniques. The more you study and practice self defense the less likely it is that you will ever need to use it. That is because you exude self confidence and that will make a would be attacker think twice about ever confronting you. If you currently use a cane, you will learn how to use that cane to defend yourself. After learning this technique you may want to start using a cane whether you actually need it for your daily assistance or not.

Traditional Chinese Medicine works on the theory that there are channels or meridians of energy that flow through the body. These meridians govern the health of the individual and it is believed that by influencing these meridians we can effect changes in our health. In Aikido, all the moves originate from the Hara or center of the body and the energy travels out to the extremities. Movement of the energy or Ki is necessary for good health and by doing the moves in Aikido we are encouraging that movement. For example, all of the meridians run through the hands and feet. Every meridian is affected during the warm up exercises by rotation of the joints and gentle stretching. This increase in the movement of Ki has energized the body and prepared it for the Aikido moves.

Senior Aikido has a lot to offer the mature adult with it’s physical attributes and it’s mental discipline enhancing and encouraging the mind/body connection. The Aikido practitioner will achieve the flexibility of both the mind and the body to maintain a harmony and balance that will carry over into their daily life.

In My Own Words

Aikido is the way of harmony. As a Martial Art it uses the blending of energies as a way to resolve conflict. In this way, Aikido teaches that respect is the primary focus in conflict resolution and in our life. Showing respect for all things, ourselves, our opponent, and everything we encounter in our daily life, is not just a gesture but a way of living. Living in harmony with our fellow beings and our environment.

Aikido is a multidimensional technique. First there is the Martial Art consisting of the form and movements. Second is the exercise and third is the movement of Ki or energy through the body.

The Martial Art form was developed and based on Japanese tradition. The moves have been passed down over time from one Master to another. It is rich with ritual and tradition. Unlike other Martial Arts, Aikido does not have competitions or tournaments. The philosophy of Aikido is to defend yourself and still show respect for your opponent. That is achieved by blending energies with the opponent instead of resisting or going head to head with them. By using the opponents energy and “taking their balance”, the conflict is over and both parties have “saved face”. In an Aikido encounter, there is usually only one move and then resolution occurs.

As a form of exercise, Aikido uses all the major muscle groups and involves many of the joints. Flexibility and balance are an important basis for successful completion of the different moves. You start with the warm up which uses isolation of the different joints and gentle stretching of the muscles to awaken the body and prepare it for the Aikido moves. During the warm up, special attention is paid to the feet and hands. The movements are beneficial for keeping the joints flexible and strong which encourages increased range of motion. All of the Aikido movements are performed with emphasis on correct posture. This is accomplished by involving the trunk or core muscles. When these muscles are healthy they produce a slimmer looking body, straighter posture and healthier internal organs. The heart and lungs can function better, the digestive system works more efficiently and the individual has a better feeling about themselves.

Traditional Chinese Medicine works on the theory that there are channels or meridians of energy that flow through the body. These meridians govern the health of the individual and it is believed that by influencing these meridians we can effect changes in our health. In Aikido, all the moves originate from the Hara or center of the body and the energy travels out to the extremities. Movement of the energy or Ki is necessary for good health and by doing the moves in Aikido we are encouraging that movement. For example, all of the meridians run through the hands and feet. Every meridian is affected during the warm up exercises by rotation of the joints and gentle stretching. This increase in the movement of Ki has energized the body and prepared it for the Aikido moves.

A participant in Aikido will receive multiple benefits. When focusing on the Martial Art aspect, you can increase your self-esteem by learning how to defend yourself, you can have a sense of accomplishment at mastering each of the moves and you can be part of a tradition. As an exercise form you can increase your range of motion, flexibility, and over all fitness level. You will experience benefits from a healthier body and a healthier outlook on life. And finally, as you are enjoying all of those benefits, your energy is flowing and supporting your health.

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