What is Aikido?

“Aikido is the principle of nonresistance. Because it is nonresistant, it is victorious from the beginning. Those with evil intentions or contentious thoughts are instantly vanquished.”
– Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido

Aikido Kanji

The name “Aikido” is composed of three Japanese words: “ai,” meaning harmony; “ki,” spirit or energy; and “do,” the path, the system, or the way. Aikido is “the way of the spirit of harmony.”

Martial arts are studied for self-defense and self-improvement, but aikido is different from other martial arts in that the practitioner seeks to achieve self-defense without injury to attackers.

Although most attacks are linear, the basic movements of aikido are circular in nature. The aikidoist harmonizes with, rather than confronts, an aggressive line and converts it into a circular motion that renders an attacker helpless. Then, instead of using potentially crippling kicks or punches, the aikidoist will apply one of a number of wrist locks, arm pins, or unbalancing throws to neutralize the aggressor without serious injury.

Aikido is not a sport. There are no competitive tournaments. The aikidoist betters his or her self without belittling others. And because aikido seeks no harm, techniques can be practiced at full power without fear of injury.

Aikido is the newest of the traditional Asian martial arts, holds the most modern outlook and is proud of its high ideals.

Why Study Aikido?

“I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind.”
– Morihei Ueshiba

Aikido offers practical self defense, but more importantly, it teaches self-improvement. It is more than the study of physical techniques. Proper etiquette, attitude, and behavior are also emphasized. Throwing and falling are stressed equally. One’s partner is not an opponent, but a helper, an equal in the learning process.

Aikido improves not only one’s physical conditioning, balance, flexibility, coordination, strength and resilience, but mental conditioning as well: self-confidence, concentration, alertness, and concern for others.

Also, aikido has an ethic: “to defend yourself without vengeance, to forgive your enemies, and to harmonize with any attack of any description.” Aikido technique is a metaphor for a way to lead your life: avoid confrontations, harmonize with unavoidable challenges, and maintain grace under pressure through good times and bad.

Because aikido does not depend on physical strength, it is attractive to men and women of all sizes and ages, and can be practiced well into old age. In addition to empty-handed techniques, techniques using or defending against weapons such as the jo (walking staff), bokken (wooden sword), and tanto (knife) are also taught.

The practice uniform is called keiko-gi (“gi” for short). Black skirt-like trousers, called “hakama” are worn by black-belt holders.

Dojo members attend classes and accumulate practice days, earning eligibility to test for rank. Rank is the measure of a student’s level of proficiency and progress in training, and is determined through a standardized set of examinations which are held periodically. According to the standards set by the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), there are six ranks below black belt. These ranks are called “kyu” ranks, which are followed by black-belt grades, called “dan” (Shodan, or “beginning dan”, 2nd dan, 3rd dan…).

A black belt indicates not an expert but a senior student. On average, students practicing at least three days per week, and applying themselves seriously, take five (or more) years to achieve the rank of Shodan.

What is Central Illinois Aikikai?

Central Illinois Aikikai was founded 1974, and is affiliated with Hombu Dojo (Tokyo) and the United States Aikido Federation (USAF).

Individuals interested in studying Aikido are welcomed to watch any class and may participate in practice on any of several levels:

Dojo Member: Dojo members are entitled to attend any or all of the many classes offered each week, and may practice as a visitor at other USAF dojos for a reduced (or no) “mat fee”. Members may also participate in intensive training seminars held throughout the federation, and may count practice hours toward taking promotional exams.

Adult Classes: Are for those 13 and older.

Adult “Beginner” Classes: Are for those 13 and older. These classes last 8 weeks and can be repeated. These are designed for those 13 and older who have never practiced Aikido before. Practice involve basic movements, terms and a limited number of techniques.

Youth Classes: For children and teenagers, Aikido offers an opportunity to study a martial art in a non-violent and non-competitive atmosphere. Emphasis is on etiquette, safety, self-control, concentration and flexibility. Open to children aged 7-13 years.

Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy

Central Illinois Aikikai admits students of any race, color, sexual preference, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. Central Illinois Aikikai does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual preference, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship, and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

How do I get to Central Illinois Aikikai?

Driving to Central Illinois Aikikai, 161 Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana, IL 61801

For a map of the area surrounding the dojo, click here.

The dojo is conveniently located in downtown Urbana in Lincoln Square Mall. There is ample parking.

How can I start practicing Aikido?

We recommend that you start in the introductory class, which usually meets three times a week. This beginner session lasts for two months. After completing a session and with the instructors consent, you may join the dojo and practice during most classes. Check this schedule for more information.

For the basics class you do not need to have a gi (practice uniform), a t-shirt or sweatshirt and sweatpants will be fine. To join the dojo, you will need to have a gi (Judo or Karate) and a pair of zori (sandals).