|Also known as||Aikikai; Aikikai Honbu|
|Country of origin||Japan|
(植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei, December 14, 1883–April 26, 1969)
|Current head||Moriteru Ueshiba
(植芝 守央 Ueshiba Moriteru, born April 2, 1951)
|Ancestor schools||Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu • Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū • Yagyū Shingan-ryū|
|Descendant schools||Ki Society|
|Practitioners||Steven Seagal, Kisaburo Osawa, Seiseki Abe, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Mitsunari Kanai, Nobuyoshi Tamura, Isamu Takeshita, Christian Tissier, Seiichi Sugano, Tada Hiroshi|
The Aikikai is the original school of Aikido. It is centered on the Aikikai Foundation in Japan, and its figurehead is the Doshu (the family heir of the founder of Aikido). It is represented globally through the International Aikido Federation.
The Aikikai Foundation (財団法人合気会 Zaidan Hōjin Aikikai?) is the original aikido organization. It has been an incorporated entity in Japan since 1940. It is headed by the doshu, the living successor of the founder of aikido. In its name, Kai (会) simply means assembly or club.
The Aikikai Foundation operates Hombu dojo, which is also named Aikido World Headquarters. It is sometimes called the Aikikai Hombu to distinguish it from the headquarters of later aikido organisations. It is located in Tokyo. The term "Hombu" may sometimes be used loosely to refer to the upper echelons of instructors at Hombu dojo, or to the Aikikai Foundation itself.
The Aikikai Foundation sends instructors around Japan on a continual basis. It also issues certificates of grading and instructor titles legitimated by the Doshu throughout the world.
Doshu (道主 / どうしゅ / Dōshu) literally translates as 'Master of the Way'. It is the title denoting the head of the Aikikai. Although the same term could be used as a title within other disciplines, in Japanese its most common meaning is specific to the Aikikai Foundation.
The system of having the heir of a martial arts school be the previous headmaster's son (either natural or adopted for the sake of succession) was common in koryū (traditional schools) and such heirs often are referred to as iemoto. Other arts commonly use the title Sōke for the headmaster.
- Founder (開祖 Kaiso) Morihei Ueshiba (lived 1883-1969) originated the art of Aikido. As such he was also the first doshu, but is more commonly referred to as O-sensei (grand teacher).
- Second Doshu (二代道主) Kisshomaru Ueshiba (lived 1921–1999) took over the leadership of the organisation and assumed the title of doshu in 1969 upon the death of his father Morihei Ueshiba. Kisshomaru was the first person in aikido to be widely referred to as Doshu. He was succeeded by his son Moriteru.
- Third Doshu (三代道主) Moriteru Ueshiba (born 1951) is the current doshu. He is grandson of the founder of aikido and assumed the title of doshu in 1999.
The Hombu dojo is officially named Aikido World Headquarters, and is entirely operated by the Aikikai Foundation. It is sometimes called the Aikikai Hombu to distinguish it from the headquarters of later aikido organisations. Hombu (本部 honbu) is a common word meaning "headquarters".
In 1967 the original single-story wooden structure was replaced by a five story modern building. Training takes place in three rooms which total about 250 tatami in area. The main training area has 105 tatami mats (170m2). The other two training areas, containing 72 and 42 tatami mats respectively, are often used for beginner's classes, children's classes, women's classes, or fixed term and enrollment "academy" (Gakko) courses.
Classes are held seven days a week. Beginner's and regular classes are open to all Aikido practitioners that are or become Aikikai members.
Aikikai school of Aikido
Within Japan, there are about 1800 other training locations affiliated with the Hombu. These are united under the All-Japan Aikido Federation. 
Overseas, there are about 100 foreign aikido organisations recognised by the Hombu. These are ostensibly national aikido organisations that each represent many dojos and many students. The gradings of students in these organisations are codified specifically by the Hombu. (The Hombu has procedures for examinations and recommendations of aikido grades and instructor titles, and ideally this ensures a degree of international consistency and serves to prevent local instructors from boastfully exaggerating their own ranks.) However, regardless of recognition, all foreign aikido groups remain organisationally independent from the Aikikai Foundation.
The students of recognised dojo worldwide are loosely referred to collectively as the Aikikai school of aikido, although this "school" is not an official organisation. Their aikido technique may be referred to as Aikikai style, although this encompasses a wider spectrum of technical styles characteristically than later (and smaller) schools of aikido.
International Aikido Federation
The International Aikido Federation is the primary global aikido organisation. It is an umbrella organisation with member organisations from more than 40 nations (for example, the All-Japan Aikido Federation is one member). All members must be recognised by the Hombu, so the IAF exclusively represents the Aikikai school. The IAF is a nominally democratic organisation but special roles are given to the Doshu and a council of senior instructors, to safeguard the "technical and moral" integrity of aikido. The IAF currently admits only one member organisation per country and gives each such member equal vote (it was modelled on the UN; it does not necessarily give every Aikikai student equal representation). 
The IAF demonstrates aikido at the World Games, and represents aikido to the globe. The IAF also organises International Aikido Congresses every four years, facilitating direct training between aikido students of different countries, sharing instruction by the world's most senior aikido instructors, and also providing a channel for official communication with the Hombu.
The IAF was formed in 1976. The IAF chair (1996–present) is Peter Goldsbury, who is also a Professor of comparative mythology at Hiroshima. Goldsbury publishes numerous aikido articles at AikiWeb. The previous chair was Giorgio Veneri.
Aikikai style of aikido
Aikikai is not one style of aikido but instead encompasses a diversity of technical styles. This is associated with the broad base of first generation instructors, who each had their own interpretation of the art, and other influences. Nonetheless Aikikai is often described as a style for comparison with separate aikido organisations. Aikikai is described as the most traditional; Aikikai has stayed loyal to the Ueshiba house and is sometimes called Ueshiba Aikido. It has retained many of the aspects which Morihei Ueshiba valued, such as the non-competitive training system (as contrasted with Tomiki's development). Spiritual interpretations are not emphasised compared to in Ki Society.
Morihei Ueshiba's own style evolved significantly over his lifetime. The pre-war aikibudo techniques taught by Morihei Ueshiba were generally closer to aikijujutsu whilst flowing technique was more emphasised as he became older, and this is reflected in the aikido of people who studied at different periods in time.
Seiseki Abe said:
"As far as the Aikido [O-Sensei] practiced in his later years, even young girls, old people and children could do [the techniques]. That is a big difference. I suppose you could say that it was a difference in the severity or the strictness of the training. Before the war, it was severity and strong technique, as opposed to the (kind of) techniques that invigorate our partners as we have now."
Kazuo Chiba has implied that the style of training in Hombu concentrated less on physical rigor because of its demographic:
"A large portion of the membership at Iwama Dojo consisted of local farmers, hard workers who spent all day in the fields. They had thick bones and great physical strength, combined with a peculiar local character known as "Mito kishitsu," a type of manliness close to gallantry. Altogether, it was quite an opposite culture from Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. Because it is in the capital of Japan, Hombu’s membership consists of white-collar workers, intellectuals, businessmen, politicians and university students."
Criticism of the Aikikai schools
In recent times, with the advent of MMA style fighting, the authenticity of aikido and it's martial effectiveness has been challenged by those who insist that a martial artist should be able to display the prowess of the art in a combative environment, or at least against a fully resistant opponent. Aikikai has always maintained that Aikido is a peaceful art, the cooperative training mainly used to cultivate the spirit, mind and body. Within the confines of the organizations however, there are some who are wondering if the Aikikai's mainly technical curriculum and method of imparting aikido thru basically rote movements and continuous repetitions of technique will result in the exponential growth of a practitioner's aiki skill level. Many has been on a search on how to duplicate the power of aiki that the founder O'Sensei displayed, but few seem to have succeeded in finding it. Indeed, further research has shown that there is a large difference between the reportedly unconventional aiki power that O'Sensei possessed, and that of his successors ie the subsequent Doshus of the organization. The implication here is that the subsequent Doshu's (primarily the 3rd Doshu, (三代道主) Moriteru Ueshiba) have had an easy ride since O'Sensei's passing as there is no severe testing of their Aikido skills under pressure ala the challenges that O'Sensei received in the old days as the foremost head of the art.
Proponents of the argument base it on the fact that upon O'Sensei's death in 1969, there was an internal struggle in Aikikai between the then Chief Instructor, Kochi Tohei, and O'sensei's heir, his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba who inherited the title of Doshu. One of the major causes of the conflict arose from Tohei's emphasis on his principle of ki in aikido, while Kisshomaru insisted on a mainly technical curriculum. Added to that, there are now independent teachers of Aiki (generally referred to as Internal Power for those training in internal Chinese Martial Arts) who are not linked to the Aikikai schools but whose teachings/transfer of aiki knowledge is done not through cultural Japanese style of performing endless unquestioned rote of techniques, but rather a clear and detailed emphasis on the specific principles of power generation that O'Sensei's aiki was based on. Indeed, the main contention of whether the Aikikai schools are able to actually impart any of the 'Ki" part of Aikido (rather than just the technical curriculum) since the demise of the old pre-war students of O'Sensei remains stronger than ever.
- Carter, Robert Edgar (2008). The Japanese Arts and Self-Cultivation. SUNY Press. p. 27.
- Denshi Jisho. Definition of: "doshu" - 道主; "kai" - 会. (For the hiragana reading of 道主, see Forvo.)
- Ibaraki branch dojo main website.
- Aikikai Foundation official website. Includes list of affiliated organisations (and associated regulations), and current training timetables. Japanese version includes reports covering instructor travel, and details of current and past buildings.
- Interview with Masaki Tani aikidojournal.com
- History of Aikido, Aikido FAQ.
- Organisation diagram (Japanese), Aikikai Foundation. Note: page may not work in Firefox.
- Questions answered by IAF chair Prof. Peter Goldsbury, Aikido Journal.
- International Aikido Federation official website. Includes list of member organisations, officials, and meeting minutes. Also hosts an article reflecting on IAF history.
- AikiWeb, a fount of aikido information. Particularly relevant are IAF chair Prof. Peter Goldsbury's articles in the Columns section of the AikiWeb Forums.
- Interview with Giorgio Veneri by Simone Chierchini. Sportales.com/martial-arts/giorgio-veneri-my-point-of-view-on-traditional-aikido/
- Interview with Seiseki Abe by Stanley Pranin (February 1982)
- T.K. Chiba, Memorial Address for Saito Sensei, Aikido Journal.
- "The travelling Aikidoka's guide to practice at Hombu Dojo". Information and answers to frequently asked questions about travelling to Tokyo in order to train at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.