Friday, December 12, 2008

Aikido is great for self defense!

Thanks to Todd for pointing this out to me. I'd skimmed over it and missed it the first time. Tgace quotes Dave Spaulding:

My opinion - based solely on personal experience - is that when confronted at double-arm’s length, you need simple-to-perform (but quite effective) hand-to-hand combat techniques, such as knee, elbow, palm-heel, forearm and head-butt strikes. Unfortunately, these skills are being replaced with more complicated subject-control techniques, such as wristlocks, pressure points, grappling and arm-bar takedowns. This is regrettable, because to disengage and create the space needed to employ a firearm, you must make aggressive strikes to soft parts of the body.
Exactly right, thus all the things we preach and practice all the time in aikido:
  • Try to stay aware enough to at least get a two arms length margin (ma-ai)
  • If they start to move within this two arms length margin then you must act immediately or you will likely be engaged in a standing fight.
  • Your first idea should be to push back to greater than two arms length to regain this margin (of safety and time to think).
  • If they are not letting you push back, you need to be doing something simple, reflexive, and extremely effective. Something like shomenate, aigamaeate, or gyakugamaeate. Or, if you don't do Japanese aikido jargon, if they won't let you disengage, bust them in the face with a palm-heel and drive them off of you.
  • Everything else in aikido, all the wristlocks, throws, etc... is a backup plan for the above. These are all special purpose things that help fill in the corners in situations that a good palmheel to the chin won't solve.
Pretty impressive that all these great core aikido teachings are coming nearly verbatim from a tactical firearms instructor.


  1. That is a great point, and something that I did not know about Aikido.

  2. * * * . . . bust them in the face with a palm-heel and drive them off of you. * * *

    Please excuse and/or tolerate my ignorance of the kick ass arts, but isn't this a good way to kill someone when, with such a move, you drive the nose cartilage/bone into the brain? Maybe mokroye delo is desired in certain circumstances.

  3. Great post Pat. Lots of good points. Shomen-ate is probably the most powerful, and most under-utilized technique in many Aikido dojos.

  4. BMac, You've been reading too much Trevanian or Lustbader. We're not talking about wetwork or assasination. We're talking about a situation in which you've already tried to disengage and flee and the opponent won't let you. In that situation, palm to the front of the face is one of your best options - and justified.

    As for pushing their nose into their brain, I think (but am not certain) that is a myth. I'm sure you could cause enough trauma to kill them, but pushing their nose into their brain as a sure kill is spy novel stuff (I think).

    What is more likely to happen in a technique like shomenate is spraining their neck by using their chin as a lever to move their whole body, or else trauma from the back of their head hitting something as they fall.

  5. Ha, thanks Kyle. Glad you liked it. If anything, I fear we do shomenate and aigamaeate too much in our practices if there is such a thing as doing them too much. Sometimes they seem to squeeze out the higher-level stuff.

  6. You,ve raised some very good points there, something that is quite often forgotten about with in the aikido dojo. Excellent blog keep it coming.


  7. Lustbader would probably have used some no touch knockout or delay brain rupture. :-)

    It's way easier to be proactive in self defence than to launch anything in response to attack - irrespective of hard or soft art. Recipients beware - your response needs to be simple and effective and cater for strikes from either side.


  8. Thanks, Aikipad, glad you like it. I agree that the primacy of atemiwaza is often overlooked in aikido class. We get sidetracked on the cooler, more aikido-like stuff like kotegaeshi and iriminage. Have to keep returning in practice to atemiwaza and we have to keep putting our strategy back in order.

    I'm glad you like my blog. Keep on coming and keep on commenting and I'll try to keep on posting timely, interesting, useful articles on aiki and judo.

    Ha, Colin! Brain rupture. You're right! I might have to do a post on cool interpretations of martial arts in pulp fiction.

  9. If atemi is the answer for self-defence, doesn't that imply that the throwing/locking art of Aikido is not?
    In many Aikido styles atemi is not seriously taught until shodan level (Yoshinkan excepted). That leaves the kyu grades with nothing to use but responses to unrealistic attacks. In the street *nobody* rushes in from 10 feet with a telegraphed overhead shuto.
    IMO Aikido as commonly taught, is seriously deficient for self-defence:
    ~ No attention is given to the psychology of a real fight
    ~ There is no sparring (Tomiki excepted) i.e. the Aikidoka has no experience of distancing, feinting, unrehearsed attacks etc
    ~ The techniques drilled over-and-over are unrealistic. Imagine sending a Judoka into a contest having done nothing but uchi-komi - he/she would not last 5 seconds
    ~ Look at the Aikido videos on youTube: Everything shown is pre-arranged, carefully rehearsed techniques. I have not seen a single example of Aikido used in a free sparring situation (again, Tomiki excepted)
    ~ More youTube: The numerous videos of Aikido vs other styles e.g. Aikido vs Judo, Aikido vs Karate etc are quite simply laughable. Every attack is carefully pre-arranged and usually slowed down to make the defence easy - I have yet to see a realistic scenario.
    Aikido great for self-defence? You cannot be serious...


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