Entire books have been written in an attempt to answer that question. The short version is:
it's a martial art focused on self-defence.
A slightly longer, and more accurate version is:
Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art that uses joint locks and throws as a means of self-defence to keep both you and the attacker safe. Some techniques make use of strikes but primarily as a means to set up a throw or a joint lock. Many practitioners supplement their training with weapons techniques taken from the sword, staff, and knife. Although predominantly non-competitive there are some styles with competition. A key principle is not getting hit. Aikido involves creating harmony between your movements and the attacker's to achieve this. The preservation of the attacker, and the emphasis on not being hit, has contributed to aikido becoming known as ‘The Art of Peace'. The techniques of aikido provide the practitioner with many choices when attacked. The most obvious of these is whether to smash the attacker into the ground, or try to lower them to it gently. Acknowledging this choice allows the practitioner to get to grips with the deep philosophical aspects of the art. These underlying philosophies can help the practitioner to grow morally, ethically, and spiritually, to become a better/different person.
That's quite long, and we could write a lot more about every sentence. It doesn't really answer what aikido is like at Balance Aikido though.
In our dojo (that's the name given to a japanese martial arts training hall), we have a specific focus. For us, aikido is an effective martial art and is taught as such. The underlying principle that we apply to everything is 'Don't get hit'. In our practice this means that if you are ever in a position where you can be hit, then you have done something wrong. We concentrate on basic footwork movements, posture, body structure, dynamic motion and having a strong centre to accomplish this.
We apply the principle of non-resistance allowing people to flow around us rather than blocking them and fighting back.
A Typical Class?
All of our classes follow a very similar structure:
- Mats down
- Warm up.
- Drills designed to teach the underlying principles.
- A sword form from the Aiki Toho Iai (a complementary japanese sword system that involves drawing and cutting with a sword).
- Techniques building on the drills.
- Mats up
What is aikido?