Aikido is a martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba. AI means harmony, KI means physical and spiritual energy and DO means Way. Ueshiba, often referred to as O-Sensei (great teacher) by Aikido practitioners, was born in Wakayama Prefecture in Japan in 1883. He was active in Budo (martial arts) until his passing in 1969.
He was an extremely talented, some say the most talented, martial artist of his time. O-Sensei based his art on the techniques and principles of Daito Ryu Aiki jujutsu, together with a very strong spiritual influence from Onisaburo Deguchi. Deguchi was the spiritual leader of the Omoto Kyo, a Shinto group.
Aikido is not a religion or a sect. O-Sensei is known to have said that one did not need to follow his religious path to learn Aikido. However, the Shinto traditions are a natural part of the Japanese culture, as are Buddhist traditions as well, and learning about them is of interest to those, such as myself, who are fascinated by Japanese culture in all of its aspects and forms.