A physical fitness program may be compared to preventive medicine programs and prophylactics. If we move our body adequately and if the movement agrees with Universal Nature, we will have a well-conditioned body and will not be affected by disease. Among the excellent warriors of whom we have heard, longevity is an outstanding characteristic. That they have practiced physical fitness during their training in budo certainly is related to this longevity.
When we consider various physical fitness programs we will soon discover the ideal of Aikido. The movements of Aikido agree with the laws of Universal Nature which include a flowing flexibilityand keeping a stable Centrum. The aim of Aikidoists is to be one with the Universe, in complete self control. When we have self-control, we also have a posture which is completely alert. By exercising our whole body we approach improved health.
Dr. Katsuzo Nishi, a famous man for his health-improvement theories says:
"When we watch people involved in Aikido, we see that their bodies are like equilateral tetrahedrons. We watch them begin the characteristic spherical rotation. They change in various ways, extending and drawing, without losing their center balance. Theirs are completely controlled figures. When the body is controlled, it is most healthy."
This is the type of body we see when skilled Aikidoist are in action. The continuous and flexible motion based at the waist is like the performing of a dance. It is a graceful spherical motion. Observing the finger motion, wrist motion and waist motion in Breath, we see that they all agree with physical improvement ideals. The movements of every part of the body are unified into a systematically controlled motion.
First, Breath Power ("Ki"), which is a flexible basic power of Aikido, is extended from the Centrum. This naturally relaxes one's strength, which has stiffened various parts of the body. It becomes the basis of constructing a Flexible but Stable posture for both young and old.
Secondly, some cases have shown that spherical motion based on the waist, when it is executed with a stable posture, is helpful for correcting bone structures, especially the spinal cord. For example, those who had dropping shoulders and bent spinal cords, although recovered from a particular disease, were completely corrected after a year of adequate Aikido exercise.
Thirdly, the delicate movements of Aikido help accelerate blood circulation at every joint of the body and give adequate impulse to some inner muscles which are not generally used. For example, when Knee Walking ("shikko"), the toes are necessarily moved and bent. Since most people in our modern age wear shoes, the exercise of such muscles will be beneficial for good health.
The basic Hold Down Techniques forms one, two and three all gives impulse to the inner muscles. Skilled Aikido trainees' inward and outward musles are well developed and elastic as a rubber ball. The Master says that the joint exercises of the Hold Down Techniques are to remove the "dust" which has accumulated around the joints.
In Aikido, the techniques related to each part of the body are necessarily related to the whole. There are no radical techniques which use strength suddenly or immediately cease using power. The spirit is filled from head to toes in the whole body in every case. Here lies the secret of Aikido in keeping a healthy body. The exercise of the body in this way with adequate moderation will no doubt lead to better health. It should be understood however, that Aikido is budo and not a physical fitness program. Aikido only improves health as a result of its exercise as budo.