The name aikido is formed of three Japanese characters, usually romanised as ai, ki and do. These are often respectively translated as meaning union, universal energy and way, so aikido can be translated as ‘the way to union with universal energy’ or ‘the way of unified energy’.
Another common interpretation of the characters is harmony, spirit and way, so aikido can also mean ‘the way of spiritual harmony’ or ‘the art of peace’.
Both interpretations draw attention to the fact that aikido’s techniques are designed to control an attacker by redirecting their energy instead of blocking it. An analogy is often made of the way a flexible willow bends with the storm, whereas the stout oak will break if the wind blows too hard.
Morihei Ueshiba developed aikido mainly from Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, incorporating training movements such as those for the yari (spear), jo (a short quarterstaff), and perhaps also juken (bayonet). But arguably the strongest influence is that of the katana (sword) and in many ways, an aikido practitioner moves as an empty handed swordsman.
The aikido strikes shomenuchi and yokomenuchi originated from weapon attacks (this, by the way, clearly demonstrates whyt yokomenuchi is a temple strike, NOT a roundhouse..), and resultant techniques likewise from weapon disarms.
Some schools of aikido do no weapons training at all; others, such as Iwama Ryu usually spend substantial time with bokken/bokuto (wooden sword), jo, and tanto (knife). In some lines of aikido, all techniques can be performed with a sword as well as unarmed.
Aikido was first brought to the West in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki with a visit to France where he introduced aikido techniques to judoka. He was followed by Tadashi Abe in 1952 who came as the official Aikikai Honbu representative, remaining in France for seven years. Kenji Tomiki toured with a delegation of various martial arts through fifteen continental states of the United States in 1953.
Subsequently, in the same year, Koichi Tohei was sent by Aikikai Honbu for a full year to Hawaii setting up several dojo. This was backed up by several further visits and is thus considered the formal introduction of aikido to the United States.
Today there are many aikido dojos available to train at throughout the world, with an estimated 2 million practitioners.