- Self-Defence – Ability to defend yourself using skills that do not rely on strength and can be used without causing harm to an aggressor.
- Calmness & Relaxation – All Aikido techniques are intended to be practiced in a state of calmness and relaxation.
- Coping skills – Dealing with attacks on the mat with a mindset that calmly embraces challenges builds a confidence, focus and sense of inner peace that can be applied to the stresses and difficulties of daily life.
- Mind/Body/Spirit unification – Learning to be aware of all aspects of ourselves. Developing an understanding of our patterns of reactions and how we relate other people and the world around us.
“My wish is to make of this priceless gift of life something truer, stronger, and happier so that we can walk boldly through the world and make our own contribution to its betterment.” -Koichi Tohei Sensei
The genius of Aikido is that its movements are fully effective only when they are performed while relaxed and calm and completely mindful. The techniques are actually less effective when you use strength and muscle to try to forcibly move and control your opponent. Instead, we take a balanced posture, and harmonize our movements with gravity and the other person’s momentum. We find that the techniques are more successful the more we quiet our minds, relax, forget about ourselves, and move naturally while letting go of any attachment to performing the techniques correctly.
This means that the techniques of Aikido become tools that can give us immediate feedback on the state of our mind and emotions as well as our body. Through these feedback experiences, we begin to get a feel for how to be relaxed and calm. This feeling is important because these qualities are really reached by letting go. If we try to force or think our way to them we can find ourselves in an unfortunate situation such as becoming stressed out about relaxing!
Each time we respond to a strike from a training partner, we have an opportunity to calmly accept the attack coming in and move harmoniously with it. The more we practise this in our training, the more ability we have to apply this same attitude and response to situations in our daily life. Mindfulness is about emptying the mind and responding to the moment in a natural and harmonious way.
This is why we refer to Aikido as a “moving meditation” implying that it is dynamic training for everyday practice. Balancing the body can lead to a balancing of the mind. By unifying mind and body we can become centred and anchored in the present moment. By accepting and harmonizing with the present moment we can experience a state of peace.
In addition to our moving meditation we also perform seated meditation and breathing exercises to complement our practice.
The nature of Aikido training means that all activities can be equally well performed by men and women, young and old, and big and small.