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Aikido

What is Aikido?

The short answer is that Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art that's based on the principle of maintaining one's co-ordination while redirecting the body mass and movement of an attacker. In reality, there are numerous independent organisations with their own styles of training and ideas about what Aikido should be.

On the Beach

At the Welsh Aikido Society we practice a combination of traditional and Ki Aikido, following the common syllabus of techniques with a focus on co-ordination and relaxation as taught by Koichi Tohei.

A Brief History

Aikido has its origins with a much earlier martial art called 'Aiki-jutsu', which was taught by renowned swordsman Takeda Sokaku. It is still practised in a few places today. Among Takeda's best students was Morihei Ueshiba, who organised his own Aiki-jutsu study group, and later developed a variation of the art that minimised the risk of injury to the attacker. This variant of Aiki-jutsu was formally named 'Aikido' in 1942. Many, even most, of Ueshiba's first students were highly experienced Judo practitioners who were impressed by what Aikido had to offer, and saw it as a genuine martial art.

What is less well-documented is the Welsh Aikido Society's lineage, which can be traced, through Ken Williams and Mal Saunders, to a couple of Ueshiba's students - Koichi Tohei and Kenshiro Abbe. When he arrived in South Wales, Ken Williams became acquainted with a group that was already practising Aikido in the Rhondda valleys (where this group learned the art isn't known). By some accounts, the training was somewhat harsher, people were injuring each other and maybe not learning the art effectively as a result. In the mid/late-1970s, Koichi Tohei was travelling the world, teaching a rather unorthodox form of Aikido based around 'Ki Principles', which is essentially co-ordination and relaxation. Williams and Saunders took an interest, and, independently, went to study under Tohei. They returned to Wales with what they believed was the true form of Aikido.

How We Train

There isn't a set class structure, but there is a grading syllabus that enables us to test our knowledge and skill as we progress.

Beginners start off by learning the movements for a set of nine 1st and 2nd form techniques that seem awkward an impractical to begin with. As one develops proficiency, the techniques become shorter, faster and naturally adapted into effective counters against any attack.

At the beginning of each session, we start off with stretches and a warm-up, to minimise the risk of injury, and to condition the joints to handle techniques. Beginners are also taught how to breakfall and roll out of techniques safely - nobody is thrown without being prepared for this. The bulk of a session will be spent drilling and experimenting with a couple of techniques to develop something better. Occasionally we dedicate time to weapons practice, which helps us further develop co-ordination and the ability to 'extend Ki'. Morihei Ueshiba also incorporated swordsmanship techniques into his Aikido, and that became something of a tradition.

Sessions

Wednesdays: 20:15 at the Scout Hall, Park Place, Tonypandy

We did train in Cardiff before the COVID-19 restrictions, and are in the process of sorting out another venue there.

Resources