Saturday, March 06, 2010

Aikido is unrealistic

A perennial complaint against aikido involves the supposed un-reality of the training methods.  Apparently some people who watch aikido from the outside would like for aikido to be more realistic.  And aikido practitioners on the inside are not even immune to this idea either - we get a lot of suggestions about how to improve the realism in our training.
But if you think about it a minute, not only can our training not be much more realistic, but people don't really want it to be more realistic.  Consider this... if some really bad person were to attack another person for real out in the dark, gritty, realistic street, then the defender is likely to try their best to really, really hurt their attacker.  One person or the other (maybe both) is going to end up really broken, cut, or shot with their eyes really mangled and their head really smashed open on a real curb.
Is that what we should be aiming at simulating in regular everyday classes with regular, non-superhuman participants who have families and jobs and lives outside the dojo?  Of course not.
So, why can't we come up with some protective equipment or something that would let us inject some small additional fraction of that reality into our learning? Several reasons...
  • That's not really what we want to be learning. Aikido and judo are about improvement of the self, and only peripherally about self-defense against realistic attacks. Now, aiki and judo can be helpful when attacked, but that's not the center of the idea behind the training.
  • Reality is chaotic, and your mind sucks at learning in truly chaotic situations. You have to systematize and organize and compartmentalize that chaos so that you can actually experience some of it more than once in order to learn from it.
  • Chaos is threatening, and your mind sucks at learning when you are threatened and stressed. It's not that you can't learn under stress - people do it all the time. But it's more difficult and more unpleasant to learn that way.
  • Chaotic, threatening things are dangerous, and cannot be made non-dangerous. Most normal students are not willing to increase the danger level by increasing the realism even slightly.
Aikido is unrealistic, and can't be made much more realistic. But so are karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, taekwando, boxing, wrestling, krav maga, sambo, kendo, iaido, capoiera, target shooting, and every other martial art. That doesn't make any of these things less worthwhile. It just makes them not-the-same-as-reality.
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮

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