uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'YES' merely
uttered to please.
The point often
forgotten or ignored is that most people who walk through the Aikido door are
interested in learning self-defence.
(a) Putting the self
I have heard it said
that the martial arts are a selfish pursuit. It might be true; in survival,
nothing comes before the self. For example, a common scenario is at the scene of
a motor accident. First, it is necessary to slow down the other traffic,
especially at night, otherwise there may be another collision, perhaps including
oneself. Next, if possible, one should call, or send someone to call for an
ambulance. Only then is it safe to attend to the victim(s). Clear thinking saves
the day. Another scenario is a person having difficulty in a river or pond.
Here, the last thing one should do is to dive in and try to save them. Instead,
one should stand at the edge and encourage the person to swim ashore. While
doing so one should look for a long stick, or piece of cloth that can be
extended out towards them. Failing that, one gets into the water but does not
approach too near as what often happens is, in their desperation in trying to
keep their heads above water, they clamber on top of you out of control
threatening your own safety. What one does is to entice them to swim towards
you. If that has no effect and one decides to attempt a rescue, then one has to
approach them from the rear, ever ready to punch them unconscious if they get
out of control. One's personal safety comes first. If they drown me, I'll be
unavailable to save them, or the next person. The latter are taught on life
saving courses in the U.K., no doubt based on hard earned experience. One only
has to open a newspaper to find examples of those who died pointlessly while
trying to save others. Heroic perhaps, but the death is often the result of
(b) Protecting one's
It is often said in
Aikido that one should ‘take care’ of the attacker; the ideal of Aikido is
ai-nuke, where both escape without injury. A nice philosophy but just how is
one to deal with a desperate attacker? Well, one could give them what they want,
but there undoubtedly comes a time when what they demand is too much. Rather
than 'take care’ of them, it makes more sense to say, 'spare them'. This implies
that one has the ability to defeat them; one makes a conscious choice not to,
and spares them. The underlying logic here, which is often misunderstood or not
realised, is the realist view that one has to have the ability to suceed, for
without it, there can be no conscious choice to spare. Simply, if you cannot
choose to control them, you cannot choose to spare them. This spirit is
reflected in the Kenjutsu term ai-uchi, where both antagonists are killed
by each other’s swords simultaneously. What this means is that one's Aikido has
to be martial in nature. If one’s training spirit is resolute, one will not
dally in daily life, nor quiver in a dangerous confrontation. One will be in
control and thus will be able to let live, or let die. So, the more one wishes
to help oneself or others, the meaner the training needs to be. Anything less
and it cannot be called a martial art.
(c) Aikido for
Aikido's best strategy
for self-defence lies in analysing problematic situations and avoiding them
before they worsen but when push comes to shove, the way one has trained will
determine the response. Those who train softly will respond softly; those who
train hard will respond hard; those who have done both will have a choice.
Whatever the style, proper training will ensure a good response - Aikido should
work. If not, the problem lies with the school, or with the individual. In
reality, however, even in a good school it takes a lot longer to become
proficient in Aikido than in certain other arts.
As the vast majority of
Aikidoka spend their time training for co-ordination and harmony within
premeditated archaic techniques against overly co-operative ukes it is
worthwhile for the mid-level student to escape such and develop a separate
repertoire of responses for self-defence. It may be that the student takes
responsibility for their own learning, practising intensely by themselves or by
studying other arts that cater more for self-defence applications. What the
student will realise is that while their aiki training experience may not
yet have prepared them for practical self-defence, it will certainly have
prepared them for learning the techniques of other arts much faster.
If one has not yet
risen to the level of being able to go with the flow, timing technique and
atemi together in harmony, then there is nothing wrong with taking complete
control of the aggressor, powering on the technique using all the speed and
force one can muster; survival is more important than perfect technique.
Accordingly, when practising for a self-defence scenario a compliant uke
is not required, nor is clean technique. It ought to be part of a teacher's
responsibility to expand their own Aikido by taking the principles of other arts
on board so they can better prepare their students for self-defence. If
practical applications of Aikido techniques or beyond are not done in class
there is nothing but for the curious student to find them elsewhere.
(d) To compare methods:
1 Pure Aikido: If the
technique does not work you have to figure out why. Includes strong attacks with
some atemi in the techniques. The aim is to produce clean techniques in
perfect harmony with the attack.
2 Practical Aikido: If
the technique does not work, change it to something that will. Less harmony is
acceptable and the emphasis is on taking control and making it work. Over time,
such technique may become more efficient moving towards pure Aikido.
3 Self-defence: Rough
and ready; it has to work no matter what. Survival today is more important than
perfection in technique tomorrow. Of course, progressing through the years, the
rough and ready style becomes more efficient and controlled, yet remains hard
and brutal in essence.
* Imagine the size of person you could have defended yourself against last
year. Now think - has his size increased today?