WAY OF HARMONIZING ENERGY
Aikido is a martial art that focuses on achieving harmony --first in oneself, and then with others-- in order to resolve conflict. The name Aikido can be translated as: Way of Harmonizing Energy. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (referred to as “O-Sensei”, or "Kaiso"), developed the art based on his vast experience in and knowledge of other martial arts, including aiki-jujitsu and sword and staff arts. During World War II, he moved from Tokyo to the rural town of Iwama, where he meditated on the perils of competition and conflict, and crystallized his art into "Aikido."
Beginners and long-time students alike are encouraged to do independent research about the life of the Founder and the historical context of the art he created. Aside from the many books written on the subject, these links are good places to start:
AIKIDO IS FOR EVERYONE
Aikido can be viewed and practiced as a self-defense art, a conflict resolution art, a (moving) meditation, a method for stress reduction, a way to achieve a healthy and peaceful lifestyle or a path to spiritual growth. Aikido not only imparts the physical benefits of increased power and flexibility, but also leads to a greater feeling of self-confidence. The practical self-defense side of the art is balanced with the spiritual development that results from harmonizing with others.
A Different Paradigm
One of the main things that separates Aikido from other arts is that it does not operate under a Strength/Force paradigm for resolving a conflict --i.e. responding to aggression with reciprocal force. Under the Strength/Force paradigm, a physical attack like being grabbed with a push or a pull, or being struck with force, is overcome by resisting with an opposing push/pull grab or a block. In this mindset, competition naturally arises, and success becomes tied to the conditioning of the body for delivering and blocking kicks and punches, and/or for holding off an opponent trying to wrestle one into submission, etc.
By contrast, Aikido applies a sophisticated and nuanced understanding to physical conflict: that if we teach our mind to stop fighting and competing during conflict, we can unlock powers within our body that are otherwise hidden and dormant. The forms practiced with partners can be a vehicle for Aikido students to practice letting go of tension and tightness held in the mind/body, and thus practice gives us the opportunity to rewire how we respond to conflict. Because it is not a competition of strength, people of all different types of bodies, ages, etc., can and should be able to train, as long as there is someone to teach them...
THE PRACTICE OF AIKIDO
In executing techniques, both partners have an equally important role. The partner who attacks gives an honest strike or grab, and ends up on the 'receiving' end of an unexpected turn of events, resulting in either a back-fall, a forward-fall (roll), a high-fall, or a pin on the ground.
The person who is attacked learns to center themselves and to use body alignment and spiral extension to first unbalance their attacking partner, and then take them down in either a back-fall, a forward-fall (roll), a high-fall, or a pin on the ground.
When training, the level of intensity for attacking and responding can be turned up or down, depending on what the agreement is between partners. In this way, people of all different ages and abilities can and should be able to train with each other, and each partner always has something to learn if they train earnestly and diligently.
Morihei Ueshiba’s “Rules for Training”
from the technical manual “Budo” – 1938