Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba
Aikido, a traditional Japanese martial art, was developed in the early part of this century by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), now known as O-Sensei (venerable teacher). Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, the Aikido Kaiso (founder), was born in 1883 in Tanabe, a coastal town in southern Japan. From the time of his youth, he studied various martial arts, eventually including sumo, swordsmanship, spear technique, staff technique, and various styles of jiujutsu, particularly the Yagyu and Daito styles.

From youth, Ueshiba also appears to have been a deeply sensitive and spiritual person. Eventually influenced by the charismatic spiritual leader and artist Onisaburo Deguchi, he came to view his martial training as a means of personal purification and spiritual training.

The time of O-Sensei's life saw Japan involved in some of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century, culminating in the Pacific war. However, it was during this time that he founded Aikido and declared it to be a way of joining the peoples of the world together in peace. In this way, Aikido is truly Budo - a martial Way - rather than simply a bujutsu (martial technique) or bugei (martial art). When martial training is undertaken not simply as a means to conquer others, but as a means to refine and perfect the self, this can be said to be Budo. The famous motto of O-Sensei, "Masakatsu Agatsu", contains the essence of the spirit of Aikido: "True victory is victory over the self."

The Kaiso's incredible technical expertise and charisma brought him tremendous support from high-ranking military officers, government personnel, and the Imperial family during his life. Following his death in 1969, he was posthumously awarded an Imperial medal for his unique contributions. However, recognitions and honors aside, it was the universality of his insights, and his vision of the martial Way being open to all sincere persons internationally, which have led to the phenomenal growth of Aikido. The noblest philosophies and intentions of the samurai have become a part of world culture, and give spiritual sustenance to millions of persons of all cultures; this is largely due to the groundbreaking influence of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei.

Late Aikido Doshu
Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Nidai Doshu (the second "master of the Way" of Aikido), son of Morihei Ueshiba, was born in 1922. From early youth, he trained under the guidance of his father. During the confusion of the wartime period, when allied fire-bombings reduced much of Tokyo to ruins, it was he who remained in the city and preserved the original dojo building. Following the war, as Aikido entered its golden age and began to attract public attention, he was instrumental in leading and organizing what would become the Zaidan Hojin Aikikai - the government-recognized, not-for-profit organization which exists today as the center of world Aikido. Upon the death of O-Sensei in 1969, Kisshomaru Ueshiba was named the second Doshu of Aikido.

From that time on, Doshu quietly went about the business of spreading Aikido internationally. The tremendous expansion of the art, and the now millions of practitioners, can largely be called his creation. It was he who coordinated the sending of Japanese Shihan overseas, thereby founding and developing the seeds of large organizations in other nations. He also maintained the strong support of government officials and businessmen in Japan, and built new support of this kind internationally. His many publications of Aikido technique and philosophy have further spread Aikido's influence. The high educational and professional standards of Aikido, and the respect it has gained, are a result of these efforts.

In 1999 Kisshomaru Ueshiba died in Tokyo, having successfully transformed the vision of his father into an international movement.

Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba
Moriteru Ueshiba, son of Kisshomaru Ueshiba, was named the Sandai (third) Doshu shortly after his father's death; before that time, he had served as the Aikikai Hombu Dojo-cho (headquarters dojo director). Now taking over the leadership of the Aikikai organization, Doshu brings to his position an already full life of training and instruction. The Aikido world has high expectations that, under his leadership, Aikido will continue to grow and expand in fulfillment of O-Sensei's dream.

Aikido Shihan Fumio Toyoda
Fumio Toyoda Shihan was uchideshi under the late Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and trained also under Koichi Tohei Sensei, the former Chief Instructor at Hombu Dojo. As a professional instructor at Aikido World Headquarters, Toyoda Shihan had the opportunity to train and travel across Japan, eventually establishing himself in the United States. Committed to spreading the direct lineage of Ueshiba Aikido, Toyoda Shihan is actively engaged in developing the next generation of shihan-level instructors through his uchideshi training program, national instructor seminars, and other events. Quality, professional Aikido instruction is the key to the future survival and growth of Aikido; this effort has become the hallmark of Toyoda Shihan's organizational activities. In this way, the lineage of Aikido will continue strongly into the coming generations.

What is Aikido
The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff and knife. Founded by Morihei Ueshiba early in the twentieth century following his own extensive study of various armed and unarmed martial systems, Aikido represents a potent distillation of centuries of Japanese martial knowledge. It is one of the most widely practiced budo, or martial way, in the world. However, Ueshiba (commonly called O-Sensei, or "venerable teacher") was determined that his Aikido be practiced as more than simply a method of fighting. The Japanese martial arts, influenced by the internal and meditative disciplines inherited from India and China, have often carried with them an emphasis on the development of internal, as well as physical, integrity. Wielding the life-taking sword with compassion and insight, the ideal warrior in Japanese thought is more than a simple killing machine; he is a model of uprightness, courage and loyalty, gladly sacrificing life (but never honor) in the name of principle and duty. Steeped in these traditions, O-Sensei conceived of Aikido as not only a means of vanquishing a foe, but as a means of promoting the positive character of the ideal warrior and ultimately of transcending dualistic conflict. For O-Sensei, Aikido was a path of self-development. He believed that it could be a means for anyone, of any nation, to follow the same path. Aikido is shugyo: an intense physical and spiritual training to perfect human character and develop true wisdom.

How does Aikido differ from other martial arts?
Traditional Aikido is non-competitive and promotions do not come through besting an opponent, but through demonstrating understanding of basic exercises and techniques, which become more demanding or difficult as rank increases. In Aikido we strive to work in cooperation with a partner, still employing effective technique against an energetic and realistic attack, yet doing so by blending with the attack and redirecting its energy back to the attacker. We practice techniques against a variety of attacks such as kicks, punches, strikes, single-hand or two-hand grabs from the front or rear, chokes, multiple person attacks, and attacks with weapons. In all of these we strive to resolve the conflict in a non-lethal, non-disruptive, yet effective manner. Techniques may end in joint locks or immobilizations, or in dynamic motions where the attacker is thrown forwards or backwards across the mat, or through the air into a spectacular breakfall. Rather than primarily linear motions, Aikido is comprised of blending, turning, pivoting, circling, and spiraling. We are learning to deal not only with our own energy, but with that of an attacker or another person (or people) as well. Aikido embodies concepts which are at the same time very simple, yet very complex. Because of these and other differences, Aikido can be very challenging to learn, yet at the same time can be very rewarding because it is ultimately bringing us into harmony with ourselves and with our world, and helping us to become more complete and integrated human beings.

Is Aikido good for self-defense?
Aikido is a very effective martial art for self defense, not only because it teaches us how to defend against a variety of attacks, but because it is also training our state of mind and physical condition. Improved posture and breathing help us to fit better into our bodies; a positive state of mind affects how we move in the world and how we are perceived by others. The ability to maintain physical center and mental calm helps us in meeting stressful situations or in resolving conflict in a variety of situations - in the dojo, on the street, at school, in a business meeting, or at home. Most martial arts can help us improve physical things like balance, timing, and reaction. One of the purposes of repeated training is to move these things from conscious processing to automatic reflex. Aikido also helps us develop our spirit, sense of well-being, awareness and compassion. The multi-faceted approach to Aikido training makes us stronger and more complete human beings, better able to diffuse or defend against negative situations.

How do I start training in Aikido?
To start training in Aikido, it is necessary to find a dojo (place to train) near you. Sources of information on dojo location include the internet, phone company yellow pages, street signs, and Aikido-related magazines. You should visit any school you are considering, to see first hand what the school, instructor, students, energy, and training are like. Stay clear of schools who do not let observers in or who do not give you a welcome or comfortable feeling. Remember that the energy or "vibes" of a school comes from that of its members, and those are the people with whom you will be working and training closely. Choose accordingly! The school should also be accredited by a national organization, and the instructors should have legitimate certifications.

Ask whether the dojo offers an introductory or trial membership. Some offer introductory-level classes or six- to eight-week sessions as an "Introduction to Aikido." This type of course is a good way for you to try the art and see if it is for you.

Once you have found a dojo and decided that you'd like to train or continue training, you should try to attend classes at least two times per week. Once a week is good for a basic introduction, but for actually learning and retaining the material, it is better to attend classes more often, as your schedule and outside commitments allow.

How do I become affiliated with AAA?
Thank you for your interest! The first step in your dojo joining AAA is to ask for affiliation. You should send us an official letter, which should include your contact information, reason for the request, and some brief information about your current Aikido and dojo status. Once we receive your request, we will contact you regarding the next step. Please contact us if you want to pursue affiliation.

Thank you again for your interest in AAA. Be sure to read the information on our web site, especially AAA Services.

What is the difference between AAA and other Aikido organizations?
Aikido Association of America was founded by Shihan Fumio Toyoda. Its goal, as defined by Shihan Toyoda, is to raise and maintain the quality of American Aikido instruction at its highest level. Towards this end, AAA emphasizes strong Aikido technique, legitimate instructors, and a clear teaching methodology. The organization provides support and guidance to its instructors, members, and affiliated dojo. It offers standardized test requirements, training seminars and camps (local, regional, and national), and instructor training and certification. Shihan Toyoda, known for his powerful and dynamic Aikido as well as for his unique and effective teaching methodology, is approachable by students of all levels. He is also more than willing to share his method of teaching and what he's learned in his more than 40 years of Aikido experience. His personal goal, and the guiding vision of Aikido Association of America, is to promote Aikido. Please see AAA Services for more detailed information on what Aikido Association of America has to offer.

How do I find a dojo?
Online: Check the affiliated dojo listings in our site: Dojo around the U.S., dojo overseas, or in the Chicago, Illinois area. If you don't see one listed in your area, send us email with the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Mailing address
  • Contact phone number (optional)
  • Email address

  • We would also be interested in whether you have previous martial arts experience, whether you are successfully able to locate a dojo from the online or email information we give you, and any feedback you have about your dojo search process. Thank you, and good luck!

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