Within the wide galaxy of martial arts, aikido occupies an original orbit owing to several distinctive characteristics specific to the aiki system, to its values, and to the principles developed through its apprenticeship. These characteristics can be resumed and comprehended through three general levels of analysis :
- Aikido is a "budo", meaning that the path taken is more important that the final destination and that the practice aims to bring immediate pleasure, here and now (well-being). As opposed to disciplines categorized as "jutsu", where the quest and the means are oriented quasi-exclusively towards the functionality of the techniques learned and towards their finality.
- The reality of the representation of the conflict is more important than the representation of its reality : it is this distinction which gives meaning to the practice, to the practice itself within the context of the dojo.
- The management of conflict or of violence is handled within a win/win logic where the notion of defeat has no meaning.
- aikido is practiced without competition ;
- the aim of its practice, is… its practice!!
- the purpose of aikido is education and not warfare (cf. budo);
- aikido makes no distinctions for weight, gender, size or age ;
- aikido is practiced within a dojo, unarmed, or with weapons, with one, or with multiple partners ;
- following the classification sometimes used in the martial arts, Aikido is both an “internal” and an “external” art ;
- aikido conveys values that concern the individual (the development of physical and mental qualities) as well as society (through the development of interpersonal qualities of its members such as tolerance and openness / awareness);
- aikido can be plural in its expression and its styles, while remaining unique in its intent and its goals.
- "Ai" meaning harmony, encounter ;
- "Ki" which can be translated as vital energy, breath of life, power ;
- "Do" the way, the path.
One possible translation : the way of harmony of vital energies.
As such, the aim of aikido is extremely vast and ambitious. It cannot not be reduced to an ensemble of self-defense techniques (even if this aspect is also taken into consideration). It presupposes a permanent quest for and a constant attention with perfecting oneself, be it on a technical, physical, mental or interpersonal level.