My martial arts life began in 1981 when I took an introductory karate course at a Y in Honolulu. After that, I spent the next six or so years in judo, then two and a half years in Shotokan Karate with some judo mixed in the summers. In this period, I took a PE class in aikido, which I enjoyed and filed in the back of my mind for future reference. I then left martial arts practice for next seven years. By 20, I had back problems as well as elbow and knee issues.
At 27, I joined the JET Program and left for Japan. Having seven years to heal did a lot for me, and my two goals for my time in Japan were to learn the chanoyu (tea ceremony) and do aikido. I started both that summer and have practiced aikido regularly since 1997. I am a sandan, or third-degree black belt. My aikido career began at the Fukui Aikikai in Fukui-ken, Japan, and studied with Hayashi Michio and Kasashima Tetsuo. My shodan exam was with them. After returning to the US, my next dojo was Wago Enten in Honolulu, which I stayed at for a few months until my move to Boston. Since then, I’ve been a member of the MIT Aikido Club and Harvard Aikikai. A video of a demo with me can be found here.
Aikido is a modern martial art, and was invented by Ueshiba Morihei, or O-Sensei, in the 20th Century. Aikido techniques are primarily defensive and consist of mainly throws and pins. There is also a weapons curriculum which includes bokken (wooden sword) and jo (a five-foot stick) forms and techniques. A very good explanation can be found here at the Harvard Aikikai’s website.
The Harvard Aikikai website is good place for some basic information. In addition to the brief introduction to aikido, it also has a basic glossary that includes the romaji pronunciations and the kanji for each term.