Aikido is considered to be a budo-sport just like judo, karate, kendo, iaido, kyudo and modern ju-jutsu. But is Aikido really a budo-sport, and is Aikido even Budo? Is Aikido even self-defense?
What is Aikido anyway?
Morihiro Saito, who for 23 years trained with Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, gives an elegant answer in one of his books from the early 70´s.
Instead of discussing "what is aikido?", one could ask: for whom does aikido exist? In a broad sense for those who know of, or have heard about aikido of course, but more specifically for those who practice aikido. Further, those that have practiced aikido for a long time, may experience that aikido touches something deep within them - maybe this is what aikido is?
More prosaically, aikido consists of throws, breaks, and locks that are practiced under the guidance of an instructor, or teacher, called sensei in Japanese, in a place called dojo. Dojo means a place where one reaches understanding. Depending on aikido-style one also trains sword and staff techniques.
Aikido is often explained by translating ai = in harmony with, ki = universal life force, and do = way, in a philosophical way. Which has lead many to get way off track (in a philosophical way). What is universal life force? How do you measure that? Is it something that quantum mechanics has missed? Or is it something religious? Something totally in the mind?
Aiki - the secret of aikido
Aiki and kiai are two sides of the same thing.
Aikido means aiki-way, with way in the meaning of method or art, as in engineering art, in the meaning of body of knowledge, skill, as in the root "art-" of artisan. The concept of aiki is central to Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, the origin of aikido, and to aikido itself. Aiki is present in every aikido technique. But you never read or hear about it. Aiki is the tacit (forgotten?) secret of aikido just below the threshold of perception.
Aiki has to do with deception, changed requisites, spontaneity as in automatic actions, filter for observation of reality, and impressions of the senses. It is a subtle way to influence/attack your adversary´s mental representation of reality, or as Sun Zi wrote 2500 years ago: the highest is to attack the adversary´s planes.
Aiki is equally valid under all circumstances and can be of tremendous value in product and business development. Everyone with experience from business negotiations (e.g. about a contract, or business deal) knows that positions can become locked up, arguments are just repeated and augmented without results, when suddenly the ice breaks when someone comes up with something new and fresh, a possibility or an aspect of the situation that had been previously missed.
For a deeper discussion of aiki and the importance of a free and flowing mind, a mind that does not tarry, see Munenori and Takuan under Books and for a discussion of the significance of rhythm or time, see Musashi at the same place.
Why write about Aikido? You might wonder what that has to do with the other subjects of this site? There are two reasons: one is that I like it, the other is that there is within Aikido and Budo interesting experiences and ideas that are important to product development and strategy. To study Budo also leads, in a natural way, to historical sources of great theoretical value.