What are Jujutsu, Judo, Aikido, and Brazilian jiujitsu? 柔術、柔道、合気道、ブラジリアン柔術とは Part 3 Aikido

Part 3. Aikido (合気道)


ueshiba-aikido-imageAikido became more popular and better known than its predecessor, Jujutsu and developed into a very unique martial art. As many readers may know that this art was created by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平1883 – 1969). It is hard to determine exactly which year he created it but we can safely say it was around 1920. He created this art as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as “the way of harmonious spirit”. Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. Morihei is often referred to by some aikido practitioners as Osensei (大先生 “Great Teacher”).

Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daito ryu Aiki jutsu founded by Takeda Sokaku (武田 惣角 1859– 1943, photo below). As this article is about Aikido, I will not talk in depth about Takeda here but he was a very unique individual. One day I may write a separate article solely about him. Ueshiba met Takeda iTakeda Sokakun 1915 and began his martial art training under Takeda, training with him until 1920 when he had to leave Takeda because his father was dying. With his father’s passing Ueshiba was driven to religion when we was introduced to Deguchi Onisaburo, the spiritual leader of the Ohmotkyo religion.

After affiliating with Ohmotokyo in the early 1920’s, Ueshiba opened a dojo, Ueshiba juku (植芝塾) in Kyoto. Though he continued the jujutsu or aiki jutsu on his own, he began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ohmotokyo religion.

U eshiba began to call his art Aikido separating it from Daito ryu aiki jutsu. Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack, and a throw or joint lock that terminates the technique. However, Ueshiba’s senior students have different approaches to aikido, depending partly on when they studied with him. Today aikido is found all over the world in a number of styles, with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis. On the other hand, they all share techniques formulated by Ueshiba.

The word “aikido” is formed by three kanji:Busan aiki

  • – ai – joining, unifying, combining, fit
  • – ki – spirit, energy, mood, morale
  • –  – way, path

The practitioners have concern for the well-being of the attacker that they call “love” because the first word “ai合” in Aikido can be also written as 愛 (ai) meaning love.

Ueshiba envisioned aikido not only as the synthesis of his martial training, but as an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation. During Ueshiba’s lifetime and continuing today, aikido has evolved from the Aiki that Ueshiba studied into a variety of expressions by martial artists throughout the world.

Ueshiba developed aikido primarily during the late 1920s through the 1930s through the synthesis of the older martial arts that he had studied. The core martial art from which aikido derives is Daito ryu aiki jujutsu (大東流合気柔術), which Ueshiba studied directly with Takeda Sokaku, the reviver of that art. Additionally, Ueshiba is known to have studied Tenjin Shin yo ryu (天神真楊流) with Toueshiba-throwingzawa Tokusaburo (戸沢徳三郎) in 1901, and Gotoha Yagyu Shingan ryu (柳生心眼流) under Nakai Masakatsu (中井正勝) from 1903 to 1908. Very interestingly he also learned judo from Kiyoichi Takagi (高木 喜代市).

The art of Daito ryu was the primary technical influence on aikido. Along with empty-handed throwing and joint-locking techniques, Ueshiba incorporated training movements with weapons, such as those for the spear (槍 yari), and short staff (杖 jo). However, aikido derives much of its technical structure from the art of swordsmanship (剣術 kenjutsu).

Ueshiba moved to Hokkaido in 1912, and began studying under Takeda Sokaku in 1915. His official association with Daito ryu continued until 1937.  However, during the latter part of that period, Ueshiba had already begun to distance himself from Takeda and the Daito-ryu. At that time Ueshiba was referring to his martial art as “Aiki Budō”. It is unclear exactly when Ueshiba began using the name “aikido”, but it became the official name of the art in 1942 when Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (大日本武徳会) was engaged in a government sponsored reorganization and centralization of Japanese martial arts.

3 persons for AikidoAfter Ueshiba left Hokkaido in 1919, he met and was profoundly influenced by Onisaburo Deguchi (出口王仁三郎), the spiritual leader of the Oomoto kyo religion (大本教 a neo-Shinto movement). One of the primary features of the Oomoto kyo is its emphasis on the attainment of utopia during one’s life. This was a great influence on Ueshiba’s martial arts philosophy of extending love and compassion especially to those who seek to harm others. Aikido demonstrates this philosophy in its emphasis on mastering martial arts so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it. In an ideal resolution, not only is the receiver unharmed, but so is the attacker.

In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, the connection with Deguchi gave Ueshiba entry to elite political and military circles as a martial artist. As a result of this exposure, he was able to attract not only financial backing but also gifted students. Several of these students would found their own styles of aikido.


Aikido was first brought out of Japan in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki (望月稔) with his visit to France. He introduced aikido techniques to judo students for the first time in Europe. He was followed 富木Kenjiby Tadashi Abe (阿部正), the following year, who came as the official Aikikai Honbu representative. Abe remained in France for seven years. In 1953 Kenji Tomiki (富木健二, magazine cover left) toured with a delegation of various martial artists through 15 states of the United States. Later in that year, Koichi Tohei (藤平光一) was sent by Aikikai Hombu to Hawaii, for one year. Tohei set up several dojo on the islands. He continued to visit those dojo from Japan and his teaching is considered the formal introduction of aikido to the United States. The United Kingdom followed in 1955; Italy in 1964 by Hiroshi Tada, and Germany in 1965 by Katsuaki Asai (浅井勝昭). Designated “Official Delegate for Europe and Africa” by Morihei Ueshiba, Masamichi Noro (野呂正道) came to France in 1961 and Seiichi Sugano (菅野誠一) came to Australia as the official instructor in 1965.

Following is a list of known schools that sprang from the original Ueshiba Aiki-do:

  • Yoseikan (養生館) aikido, begun by Minoru Mochizuki in 1931
  • Yoshinkan (養神館) aikido founded by Gozo Shioda (塩田剛三, photo right) in 1955Shioda Gozo
  • Shin ei Taido (親英体道) is a style closely related to aikido, founded in 1956 by Noriaki Inoue (井上 鑑昭  1902–1994), a nephew and pre-war student of Morihei Ueshiba
  • Shodokan (昭道館) aikido, founded by Kenji Tomiki in 1967

The emergence of these styles pre-dated Ueshiba’s death and did not cause any major upheavals when they were formalized. Shodokan aikido, did cause some controversy as it introduced a unique rule-based competition that some felt was contrary to the spirit of aikido.

After Ueshiba’s death, more senior students branched out on their own to establish independent schools.

  • Iwama ryu (岩間流) – This style evolved from Ueshiba’s retirement in Iwama, and the teaching methodology of long term student Morihiro Saito (斎藤守弘). It is unofficially referred to as the “Iwama ryu”. Saito’s students have split into two groups; one remaining with the Aikikai and the other forming the independent organization Shinshin Aikishuren Kai (神信合気修練会?) in 2004 around Saito’s son Hitohiro Saito (斎藤 仁弘).

Ki Society (気の研究会) – Another event that caused significant controversy was the departure of the Aikikai Honbu Dojo’s chief instructor Koichi Tohei, in 1974. Tohei left as a result of a disagreement with the son of the founder, Kisshomaru Ueshiba (植芝 吉祥丸 1921–1999, photo below), who at that time headed the Aikikai Foundation. The disagreement was over the proper role of ki development in regular aikido training. After Tohei left, he formed his own style, called Shin Shin Toitsu aikido (心身統一合氣道), and the organization which governs it, the Ki Society.kisshomaru

  • In aikido, there are both physical and mental aspects of training. The physical training in aikido is diverse, covering both general physical fitness and conditioning, as well as specific techniques. Because a substantial portion of any aikido training consists of nage (投げ throws), beginners learn how to safely fall or roll. The specific techniques for attack include both strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and katame (固め pins). After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons.
  • Physical training goals pursued in conjunction with aikido include controlled relaxation, correct movement of joints such as hips and shoulders,flexibility and endurance, with less emphasis on strength or power training. In aikido, pushing or extending movements are much more common than pulling or contracting movements. This distinction can be applied to general fitness goals for the aikido practitioner.
  • In aikido, specific muscles or muscle groups are not isolated and worked to improve tone, mass, or power. Aikido-related training emphasizes the use of coordinated whole-body movement and balance similar to yoga or Tai chi. For example, many dojos begin each class with warm-up exercises(準備運動), which may include stretching and ukemi (break falls).


Basic techniques

The following are a sample of the basic or widely practiced throws and pins. Many of these techniques derive from Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu, but some others were invented by Morihei Ueshiba. The precise terminology for some may vary between organizations and styles, so what follows are the terms used by the Aikikai Foundation. Note that despite the names of the first five techniques listed, they are not universally taught in numeric order.power

  • First technique(一教 ikkyo) a control using one hand on the elbow and one hand near the wrist which leverages uke to the ground. This grip applies pressure into the ulnar nerve at the wrist.
  • Second technique(二教 nikyo) a kote mawashi (wristlock) that torques the arm and applies painful nerve pressure.
  • Third technique(三教 sankyo) a rotational wristlock that directs upward-spiraling tension throughout the arm, elbow and shoulder.
  • Fourth technique(四教yonkyo) a shoulder control similar to ikkyo, but with both hands gripping the forearm. The knuckles (from the palm side) are applied to the recipient’s radial nerve against the peritoneum of the forearm bone.
  • Fifth technique(五教 gokyo) visually similar to ikkyo, but with an inverted grip of the wrist, medial rotation of the arm and shoulder, and downward pressure on the elbow. Common in knife and other weapon take-away.
  • Four-direction throw(四方投げ shihonage) the hand is folded back past the shoulder, locking the shoulder joint.
  • Forearm return(小手返し kotegaeshi) a supinating wristlock-throw that stretches the extensor digitorum.
  • Breath throw(呼吸投げ kokyunage) a loosely used term for various types of mechanically unrelated techniques, although they generally do not use joint locks like other techniques.
  • Entering throw(入身投げ iriminage) throws in which tori moves through the space occupied by uke. The classic form superficially resembles a “clothesline” technique.
  • Heaven-and-earth throw(天地投げ tenchinage) beginning with ryote dori, moving forward, tori sweeps one hand low (“earth”) and the other high (“heaven”), which unbalances uke so that he or she easily topples over.
  • Hip throw(腰投げ koshinage) aikido’s version of the hip throw. Tori drops his or her hips lower than those of uke, then flips uke over the resultant fulcrum.
  • Figure-ten throw(十字投げ jujinage) or figure-ten entanglement (十字絡み jujigarami) a throw that locks the arms against each other.
  • Rotary throw(回転投げ kaitennage) Tori sweeps the arm back until it locks the shoulder joint, then uses forward pressure to throw.


Aikido makes use of body movement (体裁きtai sabaki) to blend with uke. For example, an “entering” (入り身 irimi) technique consists of movements inward towards uke, while a “turning” (転換 tenkan) technique uses a pivoting motion. Additionally, an “inside” (内 uchi) technique takes place in front of uke, whereas an “outside” (外 soto) technique takes place to his side; a “front” (表 omote) technique is applied with motion to the front of uke, and a “rear” (裏 ura) version is applied with motion towards the rear of uke, usually by incorporating a turning or pivoting motion. Finally, most techniques can be performed while in a seated posture (正座 seiza). Techniques where both uke and tori are standing are called 立ち技 (tachiwaza), techniques where both start off in seiza are called 座り技 (suwari waza), and techniques performed with uke standing and tori sitting are called hanmi handachi.

Weapons training in aikido traditionally includes the short staff (杖 jo), wooden sword (bokken), and knife (短刀 tanto). Some schools incorporate firearm disarming techniques. Other schools spend substantial time with bokken (木剣) and jo.

The founder developed much of the empty handed techniques from traditional sword and spear movements. Consequently, the practice of the weapons arts gives insight into the origin of techniques and movements, and reinforces the concepts of distance, timing, foot movement, connectedness or the “communication” with the training partner or partners.


Ueshiba photo

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