Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The aiki gift that keeps on giving

Aikido guys like to claim the moral high ground by talking about peace and not fighting with the enemy and etc... We drone things (often in a spacey voice) like, “get offline... No, don't oppose force... avoid... evade... don't fight with the attacker... Blend...”
Well, come on, now, how many aikido practices are really congruent with that ideal?
  • When attacked, do you, “turn aside and lead uke into offbalance?” If so, you've just attacked him!
  • Do you, "enter inside his force and strike him down?" Well, that's pretty blatant.
  • Do you, “get offline and set your strong stance line so you can do shomenate?” You just chose to participate in a fight with him.
  • Do you, “blend with his energy and lead him into an immobilization?” Again, you just chose to engage the enemy and do something to him.
And you think your art is all about not fighting? Knock it off!
How about this – try for a month of practices to avoid uke's attack and get to a position from which you can safely flee the conflict. You will still get all sorts of chances to bust uke because you were unable to evade correctly or he was more vigorous than you thought or you couldn't get away or something.
But at least start every single technical encounter in practice with the intent of getting away from uke instead of engaging in a fight with him. Don't grab him. Don't lead him. Don't throw him. Don't pin him. Get away from him!
Try it for a month and see what it does for your aikido - that will be my Christmas gift to you - the aiki gift that keeps on giving!

UPDATE: Check out the follow-ups to this article:


  1. Good advice. You know, my karate teacher tells us all the time that the whole self-defense thing is about leaving the area alive and unharmed as rapidly as possible. He will actually grade you lower on a test if you demonstrate a self-defense technique in such a way as to leave your exit blocked, or if you fail to leave the area (for testing purposes, that's just a few feet, of course).

    Of course, if you can accomplish the objective without actually engaging the attacker, so much the better...

  2. Cool, Dan! Sounds like you have a really good aikido teacher ;-)

    That's a really interesting idea to grade students lower for actions that are not really congruent with good self defense. I've been thinking a bit lately about how we (in most any art you want to name) are not really doing what we say we're doing. We practice one wat and interpret it in our minds as achieving a different thing...

  3. Pat - got a follow up post on my blog to this posting of yours at Aikido Philosophy, Taekwondo Technique .... Is it possible?. :-) Colin

  4. cool follow-up, colin. I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that we pretty much have the choice of accelerating toward or away from the attacker - not both.

    And we've talked all around the idea of whether or not it's possible to have aiki ideas (evade and avoid) and karate ideas (one-strike one kill)living in your art at the same time.

    My position on that one is you either let all those ideas cohabitate in your brain and end up with a hard decision to make under stress (do i run toward or away from him?) If you do decide that you want both of those technical options in your repertoire then you have to set some (nearly) absolute boundary between them, like, "do judo inside 1 arms length but do aiki outside 1 arm's length."

  5. I'll take a look at Mr. Wee's post later, but I thought I'd say that as a rule, if I have to engage someone at all, I prefer to move toward him.

    He can't see me very well at close range. But that doesn't necessarily mean I don't use a tuite technique, either.

  6. Wonderful post. In response, I have posted

    I will follow the debate here.

  7. Good post. A perfect illustration of the difference between "martial art" and "self defense". My opinion has always been that a school teaching "self defense" should cover local law on the use of force.

  8. Pat I'm still pondering aikido. After five months of chin na and some exposure to kung fu I realize how hard I am. Your posts really help make me dig deeper. My one aikido lesson this summer was a disaster but it points to me and not the art. I'm especially interested in akijujutsu.

    I just gotta be able to strike!

    Anyhow, I noticed this post in my feeds. Click Here.

    I thought you might find if of interest.


  9. And we've talked all around the idea of whether or not it's possible to have aiki ideas (evade and avoid) and karate ideas (one-strike one kill)living in your art at the same time.

    I had a chat with a high level weapons practitioner and he told me once that he thought the karate idea of ikken hisatsu or one strike one kill was misplaced for anything but for the practitioner holding a weapon. My argument to him however was that one strike one kill isn't a silver bullet, it happens once you've set up the situation just right and then pull out that technique when the factors of distance and timing are in your favour.

    Karate ... or Taekwondo can be more than how many people choose to walk the line. But for many of us who may not have that much experience "under stress" it could be as you say, let the technique be ruled by distance, and such be governed by good training.


  10. I have always marveled at the idea of running away from your attacker… It works if you are faster than he is, but not so well if you aren't. Even if you stun him, or throw him, or whatever, how long does it really take to get up and haul off after someone? Not that long, I think. So if I can disable EA (Evil… Attacker?) before getting disabled myself, I reckon that's what I ought to try to do. And I mean disable him - knock him out, knock him silly, or break something important. But, if he is some 700lb dude, then maybe I just run… It comes down the the context of the situation, right? So, while I think it is a fair statement that we don't always train towards what we talk about as our goals, I also think it is fair to say that the goals we talk about aren't necessarily going to be our goals when we are in a confrontation. Maybe we should escape at the first opportunity, but maybe not...


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