Aikido is different from other martial arts in that it is an art of peace (created by O'Sensei in Japan 70 years ago). Achieving harmony in movement between individuals is the basis of its form. In other martial arts, students are trained to attack and to defend with force with the intent of "getting the guy". Aikido is different. It's path is travelled by learning the interplay between a feigned movement and the response used to neutralize the feigned movement, without harm to anyone. Much of the movement is so circular and spiral that it is often likened to a dance. There is always a very open, warm, spiritual mood that permeates the practitioners. Even though Aikido is a martial art, nobody is there to hurt anyone and certain practice methods are followed to ensure everyone's safety.
Aikido is practiced mostly with a partner or partners. A partner initiates the movement which might be something as simple as a grab of the wrist or sleeve. The receiver reacts to the intention of the initiator in a way that harmonizes the energy of the movement, and allows the receiver to use that energy in one of two ways: the initiator is pinned to the ground or they are projected away. When they are projected away, they roll or fall in a manner that does not hurt them. Thus proper rolling and falling are core elements of the art. These are fundamental life skills which can be applied in other activities like volleyball, soccer, biking and everyday life.
In Aikido there is no competitive element and no sparring. Initiator and receiver enter into an agreement which is for the betterment of the two. The part of the initiator is to initiate a situation and then roll or fall properly without getting hurt. The role of the receiver is to blend and neutralize the movement without harm to anyone. Since roles swap during practice, both roles and skills are learned.
Sticks may be incorporated into the practice of Aikido as they are expressed as natural extensions of the body. Aikido stick practice is unlike Kendo or Fencing where the aim is to score points through offensive strikes and protection equipment must be worn. In Aikido, no protection equipment is required as the same safe practice with open hand applies to the stick. Sticks include the jo which is a broomstick and a bokken which is a 3 foot slightly curved wooden stick. Emphasis on teaching with sticks is focused on safety, sequenced movements and response.