Aikido is both martial and art. The martial techniques of Aikido are evolved from the battle hardened tradition of the samurai that dates back many centuries. But Aikido is also art, not just in the sense of creating something beautiful, but in the sense of developing skill or artisanship. For most, the skill of a warrior is considered to be the ability to bring down an opponent. At the core of Aikido technique we maintain this strict sense of instantaneous certain victory. But Aikido is more than this.
Aikido points to another imperative beyond victory, most importantly maintaining our sense of humanity. Our goal is not merely to win, but to find a way to accept and forgive the opposition and to reconcile discord back to a state of harmony. This is why the notion of competition and personal victory is opposite to the purpose of Aikido. It’s not our purpose to be better than other people. It’s also why we say that the purpose of Aikido is the opposite of martial arts of the past. To use the image of the sword we would say that the goal of Aikido is not merely how to draw the sword and cut, but more importantly how to safely return the sword to the saya (scabbard) without causing harm. Any true victory can never be at the expense of another.
As art we can regard our individual practice of Aikido without the need for practical justification. We can appreciate nature or a beautiful piece of art or music simply for itself, without wanting anything else from it. And so it is for Aikido. True art has intrinsic value. But in Aikido we carry the added challenge of maintaining martial practicality. The form and function of Aikido must combine to express the philosophical ideal to which we aspire.
~Philip Greenwood, Sensei