Aikido 合気道 is an art of self-defense which emphasizes good body movement and posture, throws, and joint locks in an effort to subdue and control rather than damage or destroy the opponent. It is the way of harmonious spirit; the art of protecting the attacker and the attacked.
Aikido is considered a “soft” discipline because its techniques match another person’s movements or balance with a dominant complement, meaning a throw or pin. So it keeps an opponent off balance to throw or bring them down without severe injury, but it also emphasizes the spiritual and philosophical development of the students.
The techniques of Aikido can, when applied judiciously, divert or immobilize rather than damage or kill. As a result, some consider it to be a practical symbol of meeting aggression (physical, verbal, etc.) with an effective but merciful response, and finding harmony in conflict.
Aiki is about engaging an attack, not retreating from it. One applies aiki by understanding the rhythm and intent of the attacker to find the optimal position and timing to apply a counter technique.
Aikido does use striking (kicking and punching) but kicking in general is reserved for higher variations particularly the high kicks because they weren’t common with the combat in feudal Japan. Many of the punching or hand striking techniques of the blows often look like sword techniques prompting suggestions that it was originally based around armed combat, but they’re not thoroughly studied as other disciplines that do make use of striking techniques.
Morihei Ueshiba declared, “To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.”