Seemingly at the opposite ends of the martial arts spectrum, the soft internal art of Aikido and the hard hitting external martial art of Karate both share their origins in the feudal era of Japan. Karate, an "open-handed" art primarily employs the fists and hands as weapons, though readily available (at the time) farming tools were also commonly employed as weapons. Aikido on the other hand, was a Samurai battlefield art designed for and arguably based on the samurai sword techniques. in this environment the blocks of Karate were not well suited (ever tried to block a sword cut?) and thus blending, soft style movements had to be employed.
Over the years many Karate students have stepped into our Aikido dojo (and I am sure many others) . Often this coincides with the release or replay of a Steven Seagal movie. Karate students come sometimes looking to see how their art 'stacks up' or just looking for an edge for their own practice. Sometimes they find what they are after and sometimes not.
Karate could be said to be developing the generation of power or 'hard ki' whilst Aikido seeks instead to flow with the power of the attacker rather than compete with it. While many Karate stances are wide to facilitate the development of power, Aikido footwork tends to be naturally close together so that mobility is enhanced.
Recently, some of us attended a seminar by Japan Karate Association's Stan Schmidt Sensei (JKA), chief instructor for South Africa, and did some training with him in Melbourne as well (see Budo Bums in Melbourne, 2004)
It was humbling to work with such an experienced karateka, especially his beginners mind as he shared his interest in Aikido. The training was a fascinating experience as we shared different aspects of Karate and Aikido with each other, confirming the shared goals of the two arts and how at their highest levels they have much in common.
For the new student Aikido offers something for those seeking to practice a martial art but perhaps uncomfortable with the striking arts. Aikido is often called the art of peace because of its ability to subdue an attacker peacefully, for this reason Aikido is well regarded in the security and police industries. Recently, Australian legend Bob Jones, founder of ZendoKai, and a well known karateka has been training in Aikido as well (see David Brown Sensei)