What is Aikido?
Aikido合気道,is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as "the Way of unifying (with) life energy (Ki) or 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.
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.
Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu, but began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba's involvement with the Omote-kyo religion. Ueshiba's early students' documents bear the term aiki-jūjutsu.
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. However, they all share techniques learned from Ueshiba and most have concern for the well-being of the attacker.
Yoshinkan (養神館"Hall of Spirit Cultivation") Aikido is a style of Aikido that developed after World War II in the Yoshinkan Dojo of Gozo Shioda (1915–1994). Yoshinkan Aikido is often called the "hard" style of aikido because the training methods are a product of Shioda's grueling life before the war. Shioda named his dojo "Yoshinkan" after a dojo of the same name that was built by his father, a physician, who wanted to improve both physical and spiritual health. The Yoshinkan style is currently the second largest aikido organization worldwide.
As a style of Aikido, Yoshinkan is more akin to the pre-war aikibudo techniques taught by Morihei Ueshiba, and therefore also generally closer to Aikijujitsu than those styles of Aikido developed after the war. The unusual emphasis placed on correct form prior to practicing correct flow and timing further contributes to its image as a "hard" style.
Gozo Shioda created a structured method in which beginning students would learn the foundation techniques. Techniques are performed by a pair of students called Uke (受け, the partner on whom the technique is performed) and Shite (仕手, the partner who performs the technique). They are categorized by elements such as the initiating attack, the applicable control and whether it is a pin or throw. They are further divided into two groups called ichi (first) and ni (second) techniques. Ichi techniques have a feeling of the energy moving towards uke, while ni techniques have a feeling of energy moving towards shite. For example, in an ichi technique, shite would move in the same direction as a pull by uke, while in a ni technique, shite would divert or pivot away from a push by uke.
The current method of breaking the techniques into steps and the kihon dosa were developed in order to facilitate teaching beginners in a group. The kenshusei codified many of these methods in consultation with Gozo Shioda, especially Kyoichi Inoue. To remove stiffness from techniques taught in this way, practitioners over the rank of shodan also practice timing and flow.
Yoshinkan Aikido has some 150 kihon waza (lit. "basic techniques"), which are practiced repeatedly and designed to teach principles of movement, balance, timing, etc. In addition to set techniques, the style includes kokyunage (lit. "breath throws"), or techniques in which uke attacks and shite makes a non-mandatory, short and decisive response. As students progress, they begin to practice jiyu waza (lit. free techniques), which is a time-limited free-form attack and defense. In higher grades, jiyu-waza is performed against multiple attackers and/or attackers with weapons. Yoshinkan students do not normally practice the randori free-form found in other styles of aikido.
The syllabus contains a few weapons forms, although they are rarely practiced outside the Hombu dojo, where they are taught to senshusei students. Jiyu-waza for yudansha includes free-form techniques against sword and knife, and some Yoshinkan dojos teach knife take-away techniques. Some Yoshinkan dojos offer aiki-ken classes (classes in which aikido principles are investigated through sword practice) and some offer non-aikido weapons training, such as Iaido, concurrently with aikido classes.
Like many styles of aikido, Yoshinkan does not have competition; instead, it emphasizes self-defense applications. Yoshinkan aikido is one of the martial arts that has been taught to the Tokyo Police.
Besides the usual attention to distance, timing and balance, the Yoshinkan style places particularly heavy emphasis on stance and basic movements. Yoshinkan’s distinctive stance, or kamae (lit. "posture" in Japanese), stresses the position of feet and hips. Yoshinkan aikido practitioners stand with hips and shoulders square to the front, the front foot pointing outward and the back foot pointing about 90 degrees to the front foot. Kamae is the foundation of all Yoshinkan aikido techniques and practitioners of Yoshinkan aikido strive to perfect their kamae so that their overall technique will be strengthened. Along with kamae there are 6 kihon dosa (lit. "basic movements") which are considered to be central for the 150 basic techniques. Yoshinkan aikido students practice these diligently to understand how to move their kamae around to put themselves in a strong position. Without proper form in one's basic movements one's aikido will not be as effective.
In 1990, Gozo Shioda founded the International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation (IYAF) to facilitate the learning of Yoshinkan aikido outside of Japan. Under current dojo director Susumu Chino, the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo located in Tokyo runs an annual 11-month intensive course called the Senshusei Course, in which students from Japan and foreign nations train with the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police. The book Angry White Pajamas by Robert Twigger is based on the author's experiences during the course.
In addition to the Senshusei Course, a number of other Uchi Deshi and specialized training programs have arisen in recent years. For example, Shihan Tsuneo Ando and other high level instructors have travelled all over the world teaching seminars and clinics at Yoshinkan dojos.
The Fox Valley Yoshinkai Aikido Club was officially given the name "Meishinkan Dojo" by Tsutomu Chida Sensei, 8th Degree Black Belt and then head of the Yoshinkan Hombu (Headquarters) Dojo in Tokyo, Japan on February 11, 1999. The name loosely translates to "the house of the giving spirit". Chida Sensei chose this name because the club's first class was for special needs youth in addition to Sensei Kevin Bradley’s welcoming spirit.
The club maintains an open attitude; welcoming practitioners from any style who are interested in learning more about Yoshinkan Aikido. Our only requirement is that individuals come with a willingness to learn.
We have always strived to bring top instructors for clinics to benefit our students and expose them to the best that Yoshinkan Aikido has to offer. In the past, we have hosted instructors such as Tsutomu Chida, Robert Mustard, Jim Jeannette, Joe Thambu, and Michael Kimeda Senseis.
We hope to be able to continue to host occasional clinics with senior instructors as well as Kenjutsu clinics given by the Roninkan Dojo Sensei Mick Chambers. Those classes will including cutting targets (wara) with live blades.