Student Guide

Ethics of Aikido

Modern Aikido draws much of its form from the older arts of Jujitsu (bone breaking techniques), Kenjutsu (sword fighting techniques), and Aikijutsu. In their original forms these techniques (and many others) can be quite damaging, and even deadly, to an opponent. Aikido, however, as an art of self-protection, teaches no forms of attack or aggression. Students practice many forms of attacking, but only as a means of helping fellow classmates master the Aikido techniques.


Aikido also embodies a philosophy of peaceful coexistence and respect for other people. An Aikidoka (one who practices the arts of Aikido) would learn to use the minimal amount of physical force (and the maximal amount of their intellect) to defuse an attack and eliminate a potential threat. Aikido requires both of these principles as commitments from each student.


The classic example of these principles is best given in the following form (from Westbrook and Retti's book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere). In the lowest form of ethical combat a man, without provocation and on his own initiative, attacks another and kills him. This person has no respect for the life of another, or for the martial training received.


The next higher form has the man invite the attack, either through an insulting remark or gesture. When eventually attacked he responds by killing the one he had provoked. This man is not guilty of an actual attack, but is responsible for inciting the other man. In both of these first two cases, however, the results are the same: a person is killed.


In the third level the man neither attacks nor provokes another to attack. When attacked, however, he defends himself in a subjective manner. He takes care of only "number one", and the other man is injured, perhaps seriously. Ethically this is a more defensible action than the previous two. This method of protecting himself from danger, though, results in harm to another.


Aikido seeks to develop in each practitioner the fourth and highest level of ethical self-defense. Neither attacking nor provoking an attack, each person can learn to defend themselves with such skill and control that the attacker is neither killed nor seriously injured. This is the beauty of the Budo developed by Master Ueshiba.