Morihei Ueshiba, the founder, was looking for a way to integrate spirituality and philosophical growth into martial arts. Aikido is intended to immobilize the opponent without harming him. Most of the techniques used in aikido are either holds or throws, and all take advantage of the opponent’s movements to gain momentum and increase force. Based on skills and techniques that were used by the Samurai and other Japanese warriors, Aikido has basically only twenty techniques. But the combinations in which they can be used are almost endless. Aikido has techniques in which a sword (bokken), a wooden stave (jo) or a wooden knife (tanto) may be used as well as techniques that do not require the use of any weapons.
In Aikido, uke (the attacker) and nage (the defender) are not supposed to engage in a war of brute force, testing the strength of each other with needless force. On the contrary, as the name of Aikido suggests, nage is supposed to harmonize with uke’s move, receive uke’s energy and redirect this energy back to him/her using body motions without initiating any direct offense. The critical feature is to control the balance of the attacker. The way to achieve this is to push his center off balance through keeping constant motion instead of a static body.
Since Aikido techniques do not demand physical strength or aggressive spirit, it is practiced by people of all ages and physical make up, by women just as well as by men It is based on full and natural body movement, it exercises every limb and joint of the body. Flexibility, muscle tone, co-ordination, quick reactions are all developed. It does not demand unnatural body building preparation but is an absorbing way to keep fit along natural lines and within a framework of aesthetic movement.
Aikido was recognized as a martial art in Japan in 1941, and was introduced to the West in the 1950s. France was the first country to open an aikido dojo, or school in 1953, closely followed by the US and Germany.