Aikido is a modern Japanese martial arts rooted in several styles of jujitsu (Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu), sword and spear fighting arts. Daito-ryu-aikijujitsu originated from various traditions handed down among warriors of the Aizu clan. The curriculum of Daito-ryu was modernised and disseminated by Sokaku Takeda in the late 1800s. Morihei Ueshiba or O’Sensei (great teacher), the founder of Aikido was one of the leading students. O’Sensei trained under many teachers before developing Aikido, studying under many proponents of martial arts during his time. He continued developing Aikido until the day he died.
Aikido adopts the joint locks and throws from jujitsu in combination with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. Originally called ‘aikibudo’ and ‘aikinomichi’, it was eventually termed ‘Aikido’ by O’Sensei in 1942.
The essence of aikido is the cultivation of oneself, it is a way to achieve physical and psychological unification. Aikido makes use of body movement (tai-no sabaki) to harmonise with the uke (person receiving the technique ‘waza’). Entering techniques (irimi), move the tori (person who applies the technique) towards the uke. Turning (tenkan) movements use a pivoting motion around the incoming force of the uke. Inside (uchi) and front (omote) techniques take place in front of uke, outside (soto) techniques on the sides, and rear (ura) technique at the rear of uke. All techniques follow a circular motion and therefore can be quite graceful to watch as a spectator. Long-term training in Aikido’s joint locks and projection techniques are very useful defence against weapons such as knives, swords and spears. However, unlike other martial arts, “Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family”. Consequently, there are no sparring matches in Aikido. In Aikido practice (keiko) therefore, the tori learns to control the degree (do度) of the waza, and care for the uke’s safety and well-being. A connection of ki (a vital force, internal power, mental/spiritual energy) is involved between a well-trained tori and uke so much so that during a demonstration (embukai), a warm aura is observed.
Philosophical Interpretations of Aikido
The philosophical interpretations of Aikido have two fundamental threads. Firstly, it is a commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible, secondly, it is a commitment to self-improvement. Aikido is often compared to the flow of water. Water flows around and over barriers, over conflicts and hindrances. As Aikido is a ‘way of life’, the long-term practice of aikido transforms our mentality and the way we manage real-life scenarios.
Ningbo Aikikai is headed by Eugene Ch’ng (dojocho, niidan), also a Professor at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.
Personal History of the Dojo Cho
I first saw Aikido being practiced at a venue in Toronto, Canada in 1999 and found it to be quite appealing. In 2003 whilst completing my Master degree at Multimedia University Malaysia, a student brought me to the university Aikikai dojo where I had my first experience of Aikido for a year. The dojo was led by Thian Seng Low sensei, the president of the Malaysia Aikido Association (MAA). I immediately found Aikido to have a much deeper philosophy than any of the martial arts that I have learned (Karate, Shaolin Kung Fu). The principle of oneness and harmony is of high interest to my beliefs. Oneness, as Morihei Ueshiba taught relates to the statement “Aikido will come to completion when each individual, following his or her true path, becomes one with the universe”. Harmony, as I have come to experience happens when the Tori and Uke are in sync in their practice of the Kata (the pre-arranged form) – there is no competition, only harmony, unlike martial arts of any other kind. In this way, bonds and friendship occurs naturally. A greater cultivation of this philosophy through years of practice leads to the union of a family of Aikidoka(s). I have never seen any other social activities bringing people of all backgrounds into such a harmony. My fellow Aikidokas are not only my friends, but also my family.
From 2003-2007, I stopped practicing Aikido due to a demanding PhD programme and an initial employment, but Aikido remained in my heart and mind. I started practicing Aikido again in 2008 at Wolverhampton Aikido Club taught by V. Leadbeatter (Aikido Fellowship of Great Britain). Due to job relocation, I began practicing with the NIA Association in 2010 under Kevin Christie who heads the NIA Association in Birmingham UK. The NIA Association was closely affiliated and in friendship with Terence Dion Bayliss Shihan who is an appointed formal visiting instructor for a dojo in Kyoto. The NIA and the affiliation provided me with very good training and practice in my formative years. I am greatly indebted to the tutelage of my sensei, Kevin Christie. I now travel to Shanghai monthly, attending Nokura Kuniyoshi Sensei’s seminars at the Shanghai International Aikido Club‘s dojo, which also hosts yearly seminars by many Shihans from Hombu dojo, Japan. I also visits Saku dojo, Endo Seishiro Shihan’s seminar yearly. I believe that our growth in Aikido depends not just on our weekly practice, but also on opportunities to attend seminars taught by the masters. We also have to assume a position of humility in order to learn from both our seniors and also juniors, and our openness and ability to absorb the techniques being taught.
My love for Aikido cannot be adequately expressed in this brief article. However, one of my important goals in life is to learn Aikido to the end as it is one of the rare martial arts where age and physical strength is insignificant to the Aikidoka.
The city of Ningbo has never had an Aikido dojo in her 2,000 years of history. When I came from the UK in December 2013 to take on my employment at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, I had to begin my teaching of Aikido as I needed to continue my practise. I have since taught Aikido at our dojo, receiving all kinds of students, many of whom came with good martial arts background (Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, Thai boxing, boxing, Taichi, etc).