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Aikido is a Japanese martial art which was invented by Ueshiba Morihei (1883–1969). A new budo came about when M. Ueshiba made the spiritual aspect the central concern of this training and excluded all militancy and violence. The word he used for it, aikido, accordingly means way (do) of harmony (ai) with cosmic energy (ki), and thus refers to the central principles of this martial art. A personal way that enriches the self and one’s own life and is in harmonious energetic interchange with others. Freedom, openness and self-confidence, but also perseverance, intuition and creativity, have far more importance in aikido than the idea of competition. In accordance with its peaceful, spiritual attitude, attacks are not met with counter-attacks in aikido, but through adopting a favourable position that allows the oncoming energy to be recognised, utilised and redirected.
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The dynamic, circular flow of aikido is a continual opportunity for practitioners to find themselves at the centre of the movement. The absolute dimension of aikido, which leads people back to a comprehension of their primal identity, has its roots in Zen and an orientation to inner stillness. The aim is to adopt an inner stance with which to encounter other people and act in the world. An opportunity to free oneself from conditioning, rigid patterns, hierarchies, control and power, and to emphasise values such as empathy, mindfulness and coexistence in the sense of a unity of body, mind and spirit.
‘True budo is being in harmony with the spirit of the universe. True budo is love.’ (M. Ueshiba)
Learning process and teachers

In 2012, a friend of mine, a performer from Sofia, told me about a place where an Asian practice called shiatsu was taught, and he asked me to go with him to try it out, as it had ‘many things in common with what we do in our training’, he told me. That was how I discovered a dojo in Prenzlauer Berg – The Zentrum für Harmonische Bewegung – where I started to practice first shiatsu then aikido as well in 2014. The main teacher there, who encouraged me to try aikido, was Jochen Knau (6th dan). Soon afterwards I also began attending the training given by Heiko Schwarzburger (5th dan), who taught morning classes with the jo (wooden aikido stick).

I loved the work with weapons, which enabled me to perceive the natural flow of movement in an amplified way. Coming from a dance background, I was rapidly convinced that this way of learning more about movement, its essence and the natural flow of ki (which can be translated best as life energy or vitality) would take me much further in understanding, flow and joy of life, both as a person and in my work. The two disciplines soon became my daily practice, though Aikido increasingly engaged my full attention; it rapidly began to influence my work, my way of walking, being and moving in the world, and continues to do so.

In aikido body, spirit and soul become one indivisible entity. The notion of zen, of inner quietness and peace, is an essential aspect of the practice. Aikido therefore relates directly to other Zen practices, such as meditation or shiatsu. Zen approaches the self as a place of consciousness, inner peace and kindness; it is about overcoming duality and the separations between body and mind, reason and emotion, attacking and defending, self and other in order to get to a space of awareness, attention, inner clarity and presence.In 2017 I first attended training with Gerhard Walter (8th dan) at his dojo for Aikido-Zen. His way of teaching aikido through the study of ‘natural movement’, with a focus on weight shift, gravitation and the forces that make us move, has been enriching my life and own work ever since and he became my main teacher. I have held the 3rd dan since 2022. Isabelle Schad