Aikido is a real life modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as "the way of unifying (with) life energy" or as "the way of harmonious spirit". Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.
Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent's attack, and a throw or joint lock that terminates the technique.
Aikido techniques are usually a defense against an attack, so students must learn to deliver various types of attacks to be able to practice aikido with a partner. Although attacks are not studied as thoroughly as in striking-based arts, sincere attacks (a strong strike or an immobilizing grab) are needed to study correct and effective application of technique.
Many of the strikes of aikido resemble cuts from a sword or other grasped object, which indicate its origins in techniques intended for armed combat. Other techniques, which explicitly appear to be punches (tsuki), are practiced as thrusts with a knife or sword. Kicks are generally reserved for upper-level variations; reasons cited include that falls from kicks are especially dangerous, and that kicks (high kicks in particular) were uncommon during the types of combat prevalent in feudal Japan. Some basic strikes include:
- Front-of-the-head strike: a vertical knifehand strike to the head. In training, this is usually directed at the forehead or the crown for safety, but more dangerous versions of this attack target the bridge of the nose and the maxillary sinus.
- Side-of-the-head strike a diagonal knifehand strike to the side of the head or neck.
- Chest thrust: a punch to the torso. Specific targets include the chest, abdomen, and solar plexus. Same as "middle-level thrust", and "direct thrust".
- Face thrust: a punch to the face. Same as "upper-level thrust".
Beginners in particular often practice techniques from grabs, both because they are safer and because it is easier to feel the energy and lines of force of a hold than a strike. Some grabs are historically derived from being held while trying to draw a weapon; a technique could then be used to free oneself and immobilize or strike the attacker who is grabbing the defender. The following are examples of some basic grabs:
- Single-hand grab: one hand grabs one wrist.
- Both-hands grab: both hands grab one wrist. Same as "single hand double-handed grab".
- Both-hands grab: both hands grab both wrists. Same as "double single-handed grab".
- Shoulder grab: a shoulder grab. "Both-shoulders-grab" is ryōkata-dori. It is sometimes combined with an overhead strike as Shoulder grab face strike.
- Chest grab: grabbing the (clothing of the) chest. Same as "collar grab".
The following are a sample of the basic or widely practiced throws and pins. Many of these techniques derive from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, but some others were invented by Morihei Ueshiba. The precise terminology for some may vary between organisations and styles, so what follows are the terms used by the Aikikai Foundation. Note that despite the names of the first five techniques listed, they are not universally taught in numeric order.
- First technique: a control using one hand on the elbow and one hand near the wrist which leverages uke to the ground. This grip applies pressure into the ulnar nerve at the wrist.
- Second technique: a pronating wristlock that torques the arm and applies painful nerve pressure. (There is an adductive wristlock or Z-lock in ura version.)
- Third technique: a rotational wristlock that directs upward-spiraling tension throughout the arm, elbow and shoulder.
- Fourth technique: a shoulder control similar to ikkyō, but with both hands gripping the forearm. The knuckles (from the palm side) are applied to the recipient's radial nerve against the periosteum of the forearm bone.
- Fifth technique: visually similar to ikkyō, but with an inverted grip of the wrist, medial rotation of the arm and shoulder, and downward pressure on the elbow. Common in knife and other weapon take-aways.
- Four-direction throw: the hand is folded back past the shoulder, locking the shoulder joint.
- Forearm return: a supinating wristlock-throw that stretches the extensor digitorum.
- Breath throw: a loosely used term for various types of mechanically unrelated techniques, although they generally do not use joint locks like other techniques.
- Entering throw: throws in which tori moves through the space occupied by uke. The classic form superficially resembles a "clothesline" technique.
- Heaven-and-earth throw: beginning with ryōte-dori; moving forward, tori sweeps one hand low ("earth") and the other high ("heaven"), which unbalances uke so that he or she easily topples over.
- Hip throw: aikido's version of the hip throw. Tori drops their hips lower than those of uke, then flips uke over the resultant fulcrum.
- Figure-ten throw: or figure-ten entanglement a throw that locks the arms against each other.
- Rotary throw: Tori sweeps the arm back until it locks the shoulder joint, then uses forward pressure to throw.