Aikido A Modern Japanese Martial Art Practiced in a Traditional Way
by L. Kline
Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art that is practiced by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Aikido has attracted much attention in the past decade through its association with action films, progressive philosophy, and celebrity practitioners. But the real story began with the birth in Japan of Morehei Ueshiba, also known as O-Sensei.
Ueshiba, born in 1883, five years after the Meiji restoration, studied a variety of classical martial arts modeled on the traditions of the Samurai warriors. But Ueshiba's experiences in the Russo-Japanese War and the two World Wars added a strong sense of pacifism to his martial arts interests.
Starting in the early 1930s, Ueshiba began searching for the true meaning of budo (the Way of the martial arts) as a path for the spiritual development of man. Ueshiba's art was named "aikido" in 1942, using Chinese characters that mean "the way of harmony with the force and principal of nature."
What is Aikido?
Aikido practice is based on the repetitive practice of various techniques and forms until natural and effortless movement flows throughout the body. Using circular motions, aikido harmonizes and neutralizes an aggressor’s force. Training involves physical, mental, spiritual, and ethical disciplines. It includes empty hand techniques, sword, stick, and knife defenses.
The fact that there are no competitions in aikido is a natural outgrowth of its philosophy. Since winning and losing is never a concern, the trainees are free to work on personal and mutual goals.
Regular practice brings a sense of health, well-being, and self-confidence that permeates all aspects of daily life. Aikido training strives for growth through self-discovery: learning one's true nature and potential and utilizing this knowledge in daily life.
T.K. Chiba, chief instructor at San Diego Aikikai, was born in Tokyo in 1940. He studied both judo and Sho To Kan karate as a young man, but became dissatisfied with his martial arts training. At the age of 18 he happened on a book by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the son of Morehei Ueshiba. He had found what he was looking for.
After several rejections, Chiba was accepted as a student of O-Sensei. He spent seven intensive years as a uchideshi, or private student, of the founder at the Hombu Dojo (Headquarters) in Tokyo. He established a school in Nagoya, Japan, and then was assigned to Great Britain. There he formed England's first national Aikikai organization, and promoted aikido all over Europe.
Chiba Sensei returned to Japan in 1975 to serve as secretary of the International Department of Hombu Dojo. He also began intensive study of Zen meditation under Reverend Hogen Yamahata.
San Diego Aikikai
In 1981, Chiba Sensei responded to an invitation from the United States Aikido Federation and moved to San Diego. After holding classes in Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, and North Park, the dojo found its permanent home in City Heights in three years ago.
Classes are offered mornings, afternoons, evenings, and weekends in aikido, iaido (Japanese sword), meditation, and Japanese calligraphy. There are beginners classes, weapons classes, and an "over 40s" class.
Since its founding, San Diego Aikikai also has been a training ground for new teachers. In order to cultivate teachers and strengthen the future development of aikido in the United States, a Kenshusei (advanced teachers) program was established in 1988. Kenshusei training involves iaido, meditation, diet, and regular aikido practice. Students are graduated as qualified teachers after successful completion of the program.
San Diego also is home to the United States Aikido Federation Western Region, an organization of more than 30 dojos all over the country. Affiliated dojos are located in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. Close ties also are maintained with dojos in Great Britain, France, and Japan.
Regular bi-monthly seminars are conducted jointly with Chiba Shihan and I. Shibata Shihan, 7th Dan and chief instructor of Aikido of Berkeley. Summer camp, hosted annually by the USAF Western Region, attracts students and instructors from all over the world.
Aikido is stimulating physically, mentally, and spiritually, and it is definitely a great workout. Hope to see you on the mat!
If you are interested in aikido, the first step is to come to the dojo and watch a class. Classes are Monday through Saturday. Call to find the most convenient time to visit.
San Diego Aikikai, 3844 Adams Avenue, (619) 280-0082.
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