What kind of budo is aikido? Is it a new form of budo?

Historically, aikido is a budo that developed from old jujitsu styles particularly Daitoryu Aikijujitsu.

The techniques were passed on in detail from Sokaku Takeda to Morihei Ueshiba. With the changing times and his pursuit of knowledge, Ueshiba changed the name several times from Daitoryu Aikijujitsu to Aikibujitsu, Ueshibaryu Aikibujitsu, Aikibudo and others (the name changes and when the changes occured have not yet been clarified). After that the name Aikido has been used up until today so many people think that it is a new budo. However, looking at the organisation and basic structure, the atemi waza (striking techniques) and kansetsu waza (joint techniques) are inherited from old style of jujitsu.

What is the relationship between old style jujitsu, aikido and judo?

Aikido and judo both developed from old styles of jujitsu with aikido based largely on Daitoryu Aikijujitsu. The name Aikido was coined by Morihei Ueshiba after his ‘enlightenment’ that aikido is divinely inspired (an event known as ‘shinjin aiki’). Judo is based largely on Kitoryu Jujitsu; Jigoro Kano modernised the old styles of jujitsu using his judo principles.

Technically, aikido is based on atemi waza (striking techniques) and kansetsu waza (joint techniques) where the two participants are separated. Judo is based on nage waza (throwing techniques) and katame waza (holding techniques) where the participants are at grappling distance and is retained in the judo randori system.

Nariyama Shihan, instructors, and students after a seminar

Generally there is said to be no competition in aikido. Why is there competition in Shodokan aikido?

It is necessary to have safe competition without actual fighting to make use of and develop the techniques of aikido as a modern budo. We can then practise the techniques and train body and mind.

From the view of aikido as a ‘budo of love’ the principle of not fighting in competition is only one aspect of aikido as a budo (naturally it is important for oneself to have an everyday attitude that is not confrontational).

But if we think deeply about the meaning of competition then we see that it is not fighting. It is working with someone else in an objective test of our techniques, mind and body. It is a valuable place where we can practise techniques and pursue our knowledge of budo.

There is a need to have randori where we can practise our techniques against someone who has a free will. Strict rules are necessary to limit techniques and ensure that it is absolutely safe.

It is important to get sufficient practise of the techniques that were excluded from randori for safety reasons. This is because the principles we understand through kata are used in randori and we should reflect on this. Of course, nobody should go straight into competition. Individuals must practise kata and randori according to their physcial strength, age and ability.

We can see that Shodokan aikido has both the theory and practice system.

If aikido takes the form of a sport, won’t the merits of old-style jujitsu be lost?

If we look at this question carefully we can see two implications in it. The first is that to practise aikido as a sport means that aikido loses its meaning as a serious martial art. The second is that the more dangerous and powerful techniques are left out completely.

It goes without saying that a serious attitude is important in budo training. Surely, this must also be true when it is a sport. Today, if we think about the meaning of ‘seriousness’ we see two things: ‘seriousness of style’ and ‘seriousness of attitude’. On the battlefields of old these two were essentially the same. However, these days it is important to make a distinction. Practising only kata will achieve a seriousness of style but the seriousness of attitude, fighting with all of your power, is lost.

There is of course a limit to the degree of fighting in competition practice but one can gain a seriousness of attitude by using all of your strength and power. The things we can’t improve through competition are naturally achieved through kata practice. The two types of training supplement each other.

Demonstration of the aikido technique ushiroate

Isn’t it sufficient just to do kata?

Tradition has it that there were 2,884 old aikijujitsu techniques. There may have been a countless variety of applications depending on the circumstances, eg. location, opponents.

These numerous techniques were sorted and classifiied into a basic set of 17 which we can use freely in randori practice to improve our skills. In matches we can also develop stamina and courage which is the strong point and aim of the randori practice system.

However, we must not forget about the wide range of kata techniques. For example, there should be a variety of self-defence techniques taught according to when, where and what kind of attack. Randori techniques are of a different type. If we look at the reasons for the development of competitive randori practice we see that it comes from the viewpoint of self-defence techniques without the emphasis on actual fighting. Training in competition style techniques is the fast route to improvement. Intelligent people recognise also that it is very difficult to put kata techniques to practical use even though that is the essence of these techniques.

So, we say that it is desirable to practise both kata and randori side by side. In Shodokan aikido we have well-structured practise system unbiased towards either kata or randori practice. However, students can adjust their practice according to age, ability, etc.

Isn’t it true that randori is mainly for young people? Can beginners and older members also do randori?

The randori practice system was originally called ‘midare geiko’ (disordered practice). It has never been easy but it is not something that has to be practised.

Those people who do not want to take part in matches can still reflect on the techniques they learn in kata by taking part in randori practice. In addition, there are three levels of randori practice to choose from according to age, sex and physical condition.

  1. Kakari geikoTechniques as practised in kata are used but with no pre-arranged order. Tori applies techniques against uke’s correct attacks and uke takes breakfalls without resistance. Tori applies a technique quickly as soon as he has thought of it. Uke takes a breakfall immediately for whatever technique is used.Through this practice, tori should be learn to act without thought. He should use this as a base for developing the ability to change to an alternative technique depending on uke’s resistance, etc.
  2. Hikitate geikoUke takes breakfalls when tori executes correct and effective techniques but does not take breakfalls for ineffective techniques. In this case, tori quickly transfers to another technique. Uke adjusts the speed of the knife strikes, include feints and resist techniques to a degree according the the level of the opponent. In this practice, uke assists in tori’s improvement.
  3. Randori geikoThe person holding the knife freely attacks his opponent according to the rules and totally resists his techniques. The unarmed person aims to cultivate his techniques, mind and body through the skills that have been improved through kata, kakari geiko and hikitate geiko. Randori geiko is a practice system for progress to the highest level so it is important that aikido does not depend on physical strength but rather on posture, correct distance, avoidance, etc.

After thorough exposure to randori practice people can take part in a randori competition. However, randori geiko is not the same as a randori competition. People who do not like competitions can consider it as part of their normal practice as a way of improving their aikido.