Aikido is a traditional non-competitive martial art, devised by one of Japan's greatest martial artists, master Morihei Ueshiba.

Ueshiba (known as "O Sensei") was a master of many martial arts, and devised system that does not depend upon physical stregnth but upon subtle use of energy (ki).It has been passed down to us through his original students, some of whom are still teaching today.It is thus both a very ancient and modern martial art,being based on the principals of traditional Samurai arts, but still growing and evolving through daily practice.

Aikido is a non-competitive art (-do), as oppose to a sport (-jutsu).We do not take part in competitions, and though there are gradings, we do not wear coloured belts to distinguish between grades, other than to differentiate between Kyu grades (beginners), who wear a white belt, and Dan grades (seniors) who wear black belts and a Hakama, a traditional Japanese skirt-like garment.Gradings are taken periodically for your own assessment and are not compulsory.

In a typical class, we spend the first 20 minutes or so warming up and stretching.We may then perhaps spend a further ten minutes practicing ukemi (breakfalls) and tai sabaki (body movements).The students then kneel at the edge of the mat whilst the instructor demonstrates a technique with one of the students.The class then get up and practise what they have just seen whilst the instructor goes round helping.And so the class continues.

There are many traditions in Aikido, much bowing goes on and we use a lot of Japanese terms.A certain amount of discipline is expected on the mat, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to have fun; indeed, the Hombu regulations state that we should "practice with a feeling of joyful exhilaration"!

Aikido may appear to be a very physical thing but there is strong spiritual side to it too.O Sensei was a deeply religious man and taught Aikido as a way of developing the spiritual side of our being. In learning Aikido we learn to deal with confrontation of every kind, not just physical.We try to develope flexibility of mind as well as body, to learn how to stay calm and centered under situations of conflict and to learn the traditional martial way that the Japanese call Budo.

Aikido's roots are in the Samurai tradition.Many of the techniques originate from methods of disarming an opponent armed with a sword, knife or staff.One of the weak points of a soldier in battle armour was his wrists and this is reflected in many wrist-lock techniques. Aikido has always been particularly associated with the sword and although there is perhaps less emphasis on it today, we do still practice with boken (wooden sword) and jo (staff) sometimes, as an aid to understanding the origins of the movements.

As a method of self-defence Aikido is unrivalled, if studied and practiced properly.It is a subtle art and may take longer to learn than, say judo, karate or jiu jistsu. In Aikido we learn to neutralize an attack, bringing our opponent under control with the minimum amount of harm.This makes it a very practical form of self defence and more suited to 'real life' where we don't really want to be killing or maiming people! Real self-defence is about avoiding trouble: as Bruce Lee said in 'Enter the Dragon', "Mine is the art of fighting without fighting" !

The official U.K.representation of The Aikikai Foundation,Tokyo, is the BritishAikido Federation. Founded in 1968,the BAF is the largest organisation practising traditional Aikido in the UK. Our Technical Advisor, Mineru Kanetsuka sensei,7th Dan, teaches many courses throughout the year for the BAF as well as in France, Spain, Greece, Poland and Russia.

Here in South Wales are in a particularly fortunate situation for Aikido practice, having a very strong BAF representaion, with clubs in Cardiff, Swansea, Port Talbot and Aberdare; amongst our local instructors are two 5th Dans (Don Morgan, Port Talbot and Peter Gillard,Cardiff)), two 4th Dans (Allan Hagan and Bryn Holliday,Cardiff) and several 3rd, 2nd and 1st Dans. The strong BAF representation here also means that we get more than our fair share of courses with Kanetsuka sensei!

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