Aikido is the martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) in Japan last century. A superior martial arts exponent, known to his students as O’Sensei, he described the practice of Aikido as “the way of harmony with the universal energy“. As explained by O’Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to promote life and understanding, not to defeat others. In his words:“Aikido is not a technique to fight and defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.”
The development of Aikido spanned over a quarter of a century and reached a zenith in 1942, when Master Ueshiba, retired to Iwama, then a small country town, to engage in a simpler life revolving around farming and the study of budo (martial ways). It was in Iwama that O’Sensei expanded his practice to include the use of the ken and jo and principles of swordsmanship. From that time on he called this art, Aikido. This integrated Aikido encompassed techniques to deal with multiple attackers, through a spirit of integration and harmony of movement. The historical facts of the development of Aikido are now well known thanks to researchers like Stanley A. Pranin, the publisher of Aikido Journal. There are also many wonderful resources available on the internet that provide an interesting summary of its key aspects.
A wonderful overview of the practice and philosophy of Aikido is provided by this video produced by Barry Tuchfeld Sensei of the Aikido Sarasota dojo. The video, available from YouTube explains O’Sensei’s development of Aikido and the practice of his student, Saito Sensei at O’Sensei’s private practice hall, the Ibaraki Dojo in Iwama.
Iwama Dojo the home of Takemusu Aiki
Iwama is a small town about 100 kilometres north-east of Tokyo. It is here that O’Sensei constructed a dojo (training hall) and the Aiki Jinja, an Oomoto-kyo shrine next to the dojo. It is said that during this period, from 1942 to his death in 1969 that O’Sensei, completed his development of Aikido.
Iwama training was focused on mastering the basic forms (kihon) and being able to execute techniques powerfully from solid attacks before moving on to the more advanced flowing (ki-no-nagare) movements.
Also important was practice of the weapon curriculum of bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden staff) which O’Sensei introduced.
O’Sensei called the art that he developed during his time at the Iwama Dojo – Takemusu Aiki.
What is “takemusu aiki”
The translation of this term is difficult enough, the precise meaning of this concept is more so. According to Saito Sensei:In Takemusu Aikido, bit by bit, new techniques appear spontaneously. This never stops, it is infinite like a spring. This is Takemusu. Therefore, for every technique, there is a basic form. It is necessary to learn these basics in their correct order to be able to understand the real aikido.
O’Sensei said that “Aikido is a divine truth which spells out a sophisticated implementation of Takemusu Aiki. Takemusu, as identified in Shinto literature, is the unsurpassed martial art of Japan. The art therefore proliferates a multitude of techniques freely as Divine Will sees fit.”
At another time he said that: “Aikido is the martial art (bu) of truth; it is the work of love. It is the way to protect all living things of this world, that is, aikido is a compass that gives life to all things. It is the manifestation of takemusu that has given birth to all martial techniques that have so far been created. The martial arts born therefrom are the law to protect the growth of everything existing in the world in accordance with the law of life and growth of all nature.”
“Takemusu is training to cultivate the ability to use gravitation.“
(taken from Takemusu Aiki – Lectures of Morihei Ueshiba, transcribed and edited by Hideo Takahashi of the Byakko Shinkokai, see Aikido Journal #116 1999).