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What is the goal of Aikido?

In his book The Spirit of Aikido the late Kisshomaru Ueshiba describes that a paradox exists in martial arts. The devotee to the art trains his whole life to attain something as fleeting as a victory on the battlefield, victories that are sure to soon disappear because of the need for another victory in another battle. There is therefore no sense of completeness in the union between lifelong devotion and outcome. Aikido teaches a philosophy devoid of striving for victory. Aggressive, combative and destructive instincts are rather to be channelled into the power of creative love. This philosophy is also reflected in the rejection of all forms of competition or competitive comparisons amongst participants.

It is through this that Aikido remains true to the original aims of budo: the disciplined training and cultivation of spirit.

This certainly is a high ideal that is difficult for everyone to achieve especially living in a society bent on competition and material success. Yet if these are to be worthy ideals they are to be pursued despite internal or external resistance. Aikido aims to teach a high level of respect for others, but also for self. Disciplined training will bring about greater skill in each individual, but at the same time will increase our understanding of one another and even of things that might be universally true for all human beings.


Aikido as Martial Art

Does this mean that Aikido is worthless as a means of self-defence? This is certainly not the case. It remains a martial art, but the emphasis is the maintenance of mutual respect despite the presence of an attacker's hostile intent. It is through our attempt for harmony that we will remain untouched by any attack. The hostile intent will be controlled without the need to meet it with equal or greater hostility. Through the calmness of spirit we will maintain our centre and conserve our energies so as not to be overwhelmed by those that need to destroy.

This might all sound very lofty and cut off from everyday reality, but a visit to any committed dojo should soon allow you to see certain common traits:

  • The continuous recognition of and gratitude for the value of our training partners
  • A focus on quiet activity rather than flash or lots of talking devoid of meaning
  • A general lack of differentiation amongst the ranks of practitioners (everyone trains with everyone)
  • A humble attitude in the knowledge that everyone will always have much to develop
  • The willingness to train in whatever the sensei shows - there are no techniques too humble for even the most senior practitioner
  • An attitude of trust
  • Discipline