Aikido is a form of martial arts, which combines philosophy, mental training and physical fitness. This particular martial art stresses an awareness of energy and whole-body coordination in combat.
Aikido is a word that is comprised of three Japanese characters: ai, or joining; ki, or spirit; and do, or way. Used together, these words convey the principle of two bodies in combat moving to redirect the other's blows.
Aikido is not primarily a form of combat technique. Training and working within the aikido also involves a strong spiritual component. Although aikido instruction does focus on the development of physical strength, this practice goes hand in hand with the development of the spiritual self. The English translations of aikido are "the way to union with universal energy," "the way of spiritual harmony," and "the way of peace."
Mastery of aikido is determined by a progress of promotion. Students ascend a series of grades followed by a series of degrees. Promotion is determined through a number of formalized testing procedures. In some schools of Aikido, students receive ranking in their development of chi, independent of their skills in physical confrontation. "Chi" is thought to be the vital force or energy inherent in all things.
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Aikido training combines mental and physical aspects. The focus of physical training is on endurance, flexibility and controlled relaxation, rather than just physical force. Whole body coordination, balance and movement are considered important aspects of aikido.
Mental training in aikido occurs by learning awareness of "chi" in the body, which theoretically helps unify the mental and physical aspects. Aikido masters teach specific breathing and attack patterns which are intended to maximize the flow of chi energy into and out of the body. The unification of mental and physical intention is considered crucial for attacking with correct timing and for the ability to relax in stressful situations.