What Is Aikido?
This noncompetitive Japanese martial art aims to harmonize energy with that of a partner or opponent in order to achieve both physical and emotional mastery through peaceful resolution. Aikido literally means the path to the coordination of body, mind, and spirit. Aikido is a defensive system of continuous, circular motions, combining many of the fluid, dance-like movements of t’ai chi along with more subtle, stylized techniques. When practiced properly, successful defense is achieved through minimal action. Originally seen as a combination of religion and martial arts, aikido was created by Morehei Ueshiba in the early twentieth century.
The movements in Aikido are not designed to stop attacks or to conflict with them. The principles of Aikido are such that all movements are allowed to continue and complete themselves. An aikidoist blends with the movement of an attack and redirects it to a conclusion.
Aikido is based on principles of correct movement rather than on strength, it can be practiced by persons of all ages and physical abilities.
Most attacks come in a linear direction. Aikido movements are circular. An aikidoist leads a straight attack in a circular motion thus becoming the center of movement for both bodies. By directing the intent of the attacker in this manner, we say we are ‘leading’ the person’s ‘ki’ (energy or spirit). This requires a calm, relaxed mind and body and a great deal of self-control. Calmness allows for clear perception of the situation and a relaxed body is capable of swift, instinctive response.
The concept of Ki is important to the practice of Aikido. Specific warm-up exercises and practice of Aikido techniques improve the flow of Ki within our bodies. An increase of inner strength is a major benefit of constant practice. As one continues to practice, improvements are noted in health, flexibility, and self confidence. The body and mind become more coordinated and balanced and the delay between the decision and action is reduced.
The basic Aikido movements are either entering to the safe side of an attack or turning to join with the direction of the attack. The movements are simple in their concept. However, after beginning practice, one discovers how hard it is to coordinate distancing, movement and coordination of the limbs at the same time. Aikido is a sophisticated martial art which requires a great deal of practice to become adept. New students are soon amazed at the countless techniques which are possible with variations and applications on basic movements.
The 1st thing one learns in Aikido is how to fall safely. These important lessons prevent injury during practice. Next, one learns the basic techniques and body movements. Advanced practice includes further techniques and practice to improve perception and intuition.
Aikido movements usually conclude with a throw or an immobilization technique applied to the joints of the hand or arm. While the application of some techniques can be painful, they are not designed to cause permanent injury. Most techniques follow the body’s natural movement and the joint manipulations occur in the natural range of motion of the joint. A benefit to practice is improved strength and flexibility of the joints.
While Aikido may appear to be a soft martial art, this is due to the control exercised during execution of the technique. With its wrist locks and atemi (strikes to vital points of the body), the techniques can be performed powerfully if necessary.
Because Aikido is based on principles of correct movement rather than on strength, it can be practiced by persons of all ages and physical abilities. Since there is no competition in Aikido, practice is an enjoyable learning experience.
The principles learned in Aikido can be applied outside the dojo as well. Mentally, the concepts are used to harmonize with family, coworkers, and business relations. Physically, the skills of balance, calmness, flexibility, and fast reflexes can be used in any daily activity. 
Aikido is a Budo (martial art) created by Morihei Ueshiba. After the Founder’s passing in 1969, his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba was inaugurated as Aikido Doshu. At present, Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of the Founder, has succeeded his father as Aikido Doshu. The Aikikai Foundation, officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940, was founded in order to preserve and promote the ideals of the true Aikido created by the Founder. As the Aikido World Headquarters, it is the parent organization for the development and expansion of Aikido throughout the world. 
Since contemporary values stress respect for human life, Aikido is a highly relevant form of the Japanese martial arts. Aikido is popular not just in Japan but throughout the world because people accept and agree with the underlying philosophy of Aikido. Instructors from the Aikido World Headquarters are dispatched to countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Transcending boundaries of race and nationality, Aikido is practiced and loved by over 1.2 million people in more than fifty countries around the world. 
Is Aikido Real?
Aikido is soft and flowing when we train, but it can also save your life. See the clip below. 
Aikido is real and it is powerful. It takes a lot of training and mental fortitude to be able to disable an opponent without hurting him. The above clip  demonstrates one possible end product of your Aikido training.
- Photo from www.aikikai.si/en/ [↩]
- http://www.calgaryaikikai.com/aikido/ [↩]
- http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/index.htm [↩] [↩]
- Video clip from http://www.asklub.org/ [↩] [↩]