Why did O-Sensei choose the name “Aikido” for his art? The best answer wins a prize…

“What is the meaning of “Aikido” and why was it chosen?”

The name of “Aikido,” though perhaps not a household word, is widely known by the public, especially those who are interested in martial arts. The founder of Aikido was Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), often referred to reverently as “O-Sensei,” a man born in Meiji era Japan. The art itself has achieved a certain degree of popularity after World War II, and was spread to many different countries.

The name “Aikido” consists of three Japanese characters, “Ai,” meaning to join or match, “ki” referring to energy, and finally “do,” which means path or road.

Literally hundreds of books in many languages have been written about the art of Aikido, and many of them touch upon the subject of the meaning of the word “Aikido,” and what the founder had in mind when he chose it.

Please give your interpretation of the term “Aikido,” and why it was chosen by Morihei Ueshiba.

The person judged to have provided the best answer will be given a free ebook. We await your comments below!


  1. This is a trick question, isn’t it, Stan? 😛 At least, from reading your material, that’s what I’ve learned. Morihei didn’t coin the name, as he was already planning his move out to Iwama and was still teaching at military academies and what not by the early 1940s/late 30s. Minoru Hirai had a bigger hand in that as representative of the Kobukan to the Dai Nippon Butokukai, didn’t he? And was it not originally conceived of as a sort of “catch-all” term, even though Morihei did embrace the name? I’m trying not to cheat and go re-read your literature on it, so I can’t be more precise than that.

    So to me it seems a lot of the spiritual or “deeper” meaning was a later attachment to the term “aikido” because it was originally a classification within Dai Nippon Butokukai, and literally translated is a bit bland, with a lot of wiggle room, as noted by the fact that there’s almost as many interpretations for what “aikido” means as there are aikidoists, not to mention Morihei’s own playing on these words in his later years.

    As to my interpretation, to me, honestly, as someone with a more “earthly” mind and a leaning towards the historical rather than spiritual, the name of aikido doesn’t hold too much meaning. So to me it’s just the name of my martial art, with a nice, quirky historical background. I suppose that’s not a prize winning answer, but it is the truth.

  2. Cristian Uzum says:

    Hi !

    He chose Ai Ki Do because before “Do” there was “Jutsu” . So in the moment that Osensei transcended from “Jutsu” to “Do” he also transcended from “Sensei” to “Osensei” and had seen the “do” in “jutsu”, maybe he was the first one who has seen it, maybe not.
    But he couldn’t change Ai Ki – because it was already Ai Ki what he had learned and he didn’t made any changes in the Ai Ki section/part of the martial art .

    Best regards !

  3. mel. willin says:

    In certain parts of England aikido is pronounced ‘oykido’. Perhaps during an hitherto unknown visit to England as a child Ueshiba was wandering the less than safe parts of London when he was confronted by a gang of yobs. “Oy kido…give us your money” they shouted. Even at an early age he responded with appropriate moves that discouraged them, to say the least, and from thence forward he refered to the art as ‘aikido’ (Japanese pronounciation) in memory of this event!

    Perhaps someone has a better answer to the question!


  4. Toni Rodrigues says:

    Well, he did not choose this name. He had been using several slightly different names over the years, more recently “Ueshiba-Ryu Aiki- Budo”, until 1942 when the Dai Nihon Butokukai, a government institution rulled it to be named Aikido, after Karate-do, Judo, Kendo and so on. According to what has been told, i believe on the old Aikido Journal forum, O-Sensei was furious with Minoru Hirai, his representative on the meeting about the choosing of the name Aikido.

    As for the meaning, IMHO O-Sensei was interested at first more on the physical aspect of the term “Aiki” ( he got this from Takeda Sokaku probably) in the same way E. J. Harrison describes it on The Fighting Spirit of Japan and on it the meaning is “to blend and conquer”.

  5. David Brewer says:

    I believe that everything and every part of everything has its path and its seasons — that includes each of us.

    We spend much time trying to determine our way or path in life and much energy working against it even after we have found it, as well as against external and perceived if not real opposing forces and energies(as come to us in events, people, or whatever).

    When he gave his art the name Aikido, I think that O Sensei was of an age that he had experienced enough of life and living to have some wisdom and insight. I think O Sensei saw at the core of the martial arts, and sought to make it central to his martial art, something that exemplified a way through this life, and chose a name to describe that ‘something’. That name being Aikido.

    I think that that ‘something’ was / is based on developing the skill through practice of meeting every force one meets along their life path by blending with it and using it to creatively aid their own journey while doing no harm — of joining one’s energy with the way / path of your life as it spontaneously unfolds in relationship with every thing and every event and evey person that is part of your path and doing them no harm.

    Aikido means to me (beyond the mat) to work at joining my energy with the way/path of my life as it unfolds in relationship with every thing and every event and every person that is part of my path with the purpose of getting me to the end of my life path while doing no harm to others or the world/creation around me. On the mat, I like to look at the attacks and techniques as visible signs of the greater and invisible off-the-mat realities. If I practice enough, blending and working with these opposing attacks and energies will become ‘second nature’ both on and off mat.

    Then again, maybe he chose the name because it looks so good as kanji written in Sumi.

  6. No idea if my posting came out, so here it is again

    I think he choose the name of “Aikido” for his art, because that he felt, that the “Aiki” concept, which have been taught before, was not hitting the nail to full extent.

    That for Osensei “aiki” means more then just “going with the partners flow” to finally throw him on the ground.

    I think he wanted to extend the meaning of “aiki” from the concept of physical technique to something different, which expresses also the harmonious cooperation between two human beings.

    So for Osensei “aiki” as a concept of harmony is not longer limited to some kind of ” sychronising with moves” of some bad guy who attacks you – but extended to “harmonizing with the ultimate wholeness of everything”

    So finally everything and everybody is becoming part of “aiki” – no difference between me and the other, no conflict between a “bad guy” and a “good guy” – just perfect cooperation.

    That also fits the habit of Osensei to identify the “ai” in aikido with the word “ai” as in love – even they are written with different kanji character

    To make long things short: Osensei moved the “technical aiki” to a concept of “loving aiki”

    That aikido is a “way” (do) is perfectly clear when we see, that we are not always that harmonious as we should be. Harmony is also not a static state.

    When filling our daily struggles, when we are not as harmonious as we would like to be, we can go the way of the “loving aiki” of Osensei, and re-connecting us with our enviroment.

    So the “do” oft aikido is very similar to the slogan “just DO it!” – keep going on the path of aiki.

    Hope my explanations were understandable as I am not an English native speaker.

  7. Hilary Mackay says:

    I think:

    It derives from the aiki in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu, a term introduced about the time Deguchi visited Morihei Ueshiba, and whilst Sokaku Takeda was staying with him. It reflects the way Takeda perceived Morihei to approach his jujutsu and Takeda conceded this to him.

    Later on, when Takeda visited Morihei Ueshiba and then took over the Asahi News Dojo, Takeda concluded that Ueshiba’s aiki was too far removed from the Daito Ryu Jujutsu Takeda had taught him. There was also the 3 yen matter. Hence, Ueshiba had to define his art under different terms. As aiki was a term specific to Ueshiba’s jujutsu career, it was a logical term to choose and “do” allows it to embrace a wider philosophy (including the omoto religion). Aikido is sufficiently different to keep Takeda’s copyright lawyers/heavies at bay.

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