Aikido has gone unnoticed for quite some time. Now, however, aikido is not only regarded as one of the most subtle and refined martial arts, but starting from a certain proficiency level also as an effective discipline for the development, integration and application of the total human potential, physicaly, mentally and spiritually.

What seems at first to be a unique method to defend oneself efficiently against any attack, at closer inspection turns out out to be not just an effective self-defense art, but moreover a discipline of coordination in which individual physical and mental powers are strengthened and blended to an organic and integrated whole, which has a beneficial effect on the total functioning of man. Body and mind are not separate from each other, the mind is part of the body.

Almost all martial arts mention KI force, situated in Hara, the center. Various methods are referred to to develop KI. It is regarded as "intrinsic energy" or "inner energy" that everyone posesses naturally, but that is only developed consciously by few. The spot where this energy resides, the center, is located about five centimiters below the navel. This coincides with the physical balance point of the human body that is called the center of gravity in the West. It is not easy to explain the essence and workings of this force. The fact that when using Western terminolgy we are inclined to make a strict distinction between mind and body, between mental and physical functions, is the most important obstacle when trying to discuss this extraordinary force that is called KI in aikido.
Mind and body are not separate entities, the mind is part of the body. A closer unity of mind and body, a unification of both functions (focus and act) seems to be the most acceptable explanation of this wonderful force that aikidokas call KI.

Mental power, decisiveness and focus flow directly and continuously through all meridians to all parts of the body when there is a closer unification between body and mind.
Many scientists, martial arts practitioners, monks and doctors have talked about and demonstrated this Inner Energy; they show that the development and usage of KI often leads almost unbelievable results. KI is very closely related to breathing and is even called breath of life.

Aikido training works at many levels. The ultimate goal is the personal development and integration: physically, mentally, functionally. Aikido is characterized by special, circular motions and working smoothly with extension. The important result of this is a highly developed coordination: smooth, flowing functional movmements devoid of any stiffness, both physically (cramped muscles and/or over-developed muscle strength) and mentally (tension).

The effectivity and superiority of aikido as a martial art has been irrefutably proven. Moreover, especially the physical relaxation strongly attracts athletes who experience aikido to be a method to improve coordination, reflexes, timing and general well-being.
One of the concrete results of practicing aikido regularly is a remarkable improvement of the general health, and notably of breathing (abdominal breathing) and blood circulation. 
Practice is aimed at reducing, removing and/or moving of mental tensions.

The usual relaxed and friendly atmosphere in an aikido dojo is in remarkable contrast with the often intense, strictly controlled atmosphere that seems very typical for the practicing of other martial arts.

Source: A. Westbroek / O. Ratti