Aikido is a martial art that originated in Japan, much like karate or jiu-jitsu, and it similarly involves using an opponent's energy and momentum to turn his attack against him. Unlike karate or jiu-jitsu, however, aikido techniques do not involve strikes, punches, or kicks. Instead, aikido practitioners use various joint locks and leverage to throw an opponent, or pin him to the ground. Ideally, aikido is used to neutralize an attack without causing significant physical harm to the attacker.
Officially founded in 1925 by Morihei Ueshiba — who we refer to as Ōsensei, meaning "Great Teacher" — aikido was developed after years of practicing various other martial arts. Ōsensei's religious and philosophical views led him to refine the techniques he had studied into a new discipline designed to allow its practitioners to effectively defend themselves from attack without causing injury to others. For Ōsensei, it was a moral imperative to not only protect oneself, but to be able to protect even one's aggressor, and to resolve conflicts without escalating violence. The practice of aikido is intended to develop not only the mind and body, but the spirit as well.
Because of this, aikido is often called "peaceful" or "non-violent." It is, however, a true martial art with a prestigious lineage, practiced in thousands of dojos across the world. Aikido of Austin is a member dojo of the United States Aikido Federation, which is directly affiliated with the Aikido World Headquarters in Toyko, Japan. Our head instructor, Josef Birdsong Sensei, began his study of aikido in 1970, and has been teaching since 1974 and currently holds the rank of 6th Dan (6th-degree black belt).
For more detailed information about aikido's history and its founder, we recommend consulting Wikipedia.