"In Aikido we never attack. If you want to strike first, to gain advantage over someone, that is proof your training is insufficient, and it is really you yourself who has been defeated. Let your partner attack, and use his aggression against him. Do not cower from an attack; control it before it begins. Nonviolence is the true practice of Aikido."
- Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido
The idea of a non-violent martial art seems at first to be paradoxical and self-contradictory. But in this respect, Aikido is perhaps the most unique and beautiful of all the martial arts: it is defensive and non-aggressive both in its philosophy and techniques, yet incredibly versatile and practical.
Aikidoists do not try to initiate attacks, win fights or defeat opponents. Instead, they seek to control and neutralize an attack not through sheer physical strength, but rather through flowing circular motions that blend with the energy of an attack and redirect that energy back against the attacker.
Instead of directly controlling an attack, the techniques of Aikido are designed to harmonize with the power and direction of the attack and convert it into a force that will unbalance the attacker and render him or her helpless. Attacks are then neutralized by the use of various wristlocks and arm pins, rather than crippling kicks or blows.
The Japanese word "Aikido" is made up of three characters: Ai, Ki, and Do. Ai means to join, unify, or harmonize. Ki means energy or spirit, particularly a universal life force, essence, or the forces of nature. Do means a path or way of life, and signifies that Aikido involves that not only self-defense techniques, but also positive character-building ideals which a person can incorporate into his or her life. Taken together, the three characters mean THE WAY OF HARMONY WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE UNIVERSE.
Although Aikido does not require physical strength, with regular practice strength will develop as well as agility, coordination, flexibility, balance, stamina, and alertness.
Aikido practice is as much a mental and spiritual exercise as well as a physical one. Regular and continuous practice teaches Aikido students to coordinate and unify their minds and bodies so that they remain centered and calm in the face of physical attacks or other forms of aggression. Sustained practice not only improves concentration, self-awareness, and self-confidence, but also provides practitioners with a sense of well-being and a heightened resistance to stress.