What is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title 'O Sensei', or 'Great Teacher'). Literally, the Chinese words of Aikido translate to, "The Way which follows Ki". Ki (chi in Chinese) refers to the subtle energy that propels the universe, the vitality that pervades creation and holds things together.

Aikido focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.

Aikido is a reactionary martial art form. Unlike other martial arts such as Karate and Taekwondo, it is not possible to initiate an attack using Aikido. It is possible, though, to provoke an attack, but to do so is a clear violation of the fundamental principle of Aikido: the principle of non-dissension. The moment an attacker ceases to attack you, and harmony is restored, Aikido stops "working". This is a distinguishing trait of Aikido, and is a direct result of the principles upon which this art of peace is founded.

The art of peace
O-Sensei was a superlative martial artist who, as a man of eighty, could disarm any foe, down any number of attackers, and pin an opponent with a single finger. Yet, above all, he was a man of peace who detested fighting, war, and any kind of violence.

If, for one to win, others must lose, then victory is relative. Is there such a thing as absolute victory? This was a question O-Sensei asked himself in his youth, as he was travelling around Japan learning mastering the existing martial arts before founding Aikido. He arrived at the realization that winning on physical terms, i.e. being faster, quicker and stronger, is transient. A man may be physically strong in his youth, but strength wanes with age, and today's victor will be tomorrow's vanquished. O-Sensei subsequently transformed his practices from the violent and destructive arts, into gentle and harmonious ones, in accordance with the principles of Nature. Through this practice, he attained a state of absolute non-resistance.

An old warrior code said that the three ways to win are:
1. winning after fighting
2. fighting are winning
3. winning without fighting

O-Sensei doubtlessly chose the finest of the three: winning without fighting. Interestingly, this method is also the safest, since you cannot lose if you do not fight.

Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido, or Ki-Aikido
Ki-Aikido is one of the "modern" schools of Aikido, founded by Koichi Tohei. Tohei Sensei rose to the position of Chief Instructor at the Aikikai Hombu dojo and was the only person awarded 10th Dan by O-Sensei, the highest level attainable by an Aikido practitioner.

With O-Sensei's death in 1969, his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, took over as the Aikido Doshu (leader), and Tohei Sensei continued to be the Chief Instructor. Tohei Sensei had clear ideas on how to teach Aikido based on his exposure to Japanese yoga and attempted to introduce changes into the organization. However, he xperienced severe resistance from the existing senior teachers. Thus, in 1971, he founded the Ki no Kenkyukai, to teach the principles of Ki and Unification of Mind and Body, and soon resigned as Chief Instructor. He subsequently devoted his time to teaching Aikido in accordance with Ki principles, and Ki-Aikido was the result.

Ki-Aikido has a similar concept as Tai Chi, whereby practitioners learn how to use breathing exercises and martial arts movements to develop the Ki in their body. A Ki-Aikido martial artist strives to make full use of his Ki to strengthen the mind and body, and also to heal.

Aikido, in particular, Ki-Aikido, brings focus back to the importance of unification of mind and body. We have been too obsessed with all things scientific and intellectual, and ignored the significant roles intuition and awareness of the body play in our lives. By rebalancing these two forces, we will be able to better cope with life's trials and tribulations, and find that we're able to stay calm and peaceful easily.