Nov
03

Review of “Aikido, Keri-waza” by Clark Bateman

This new book (lulu.com 2008) is an interesting foray “outside the box” of conventional Aikido thinking. While Aikido is generally described as a defensive art, many from within and without have questioned its effectiveness in a realistic scenario. One reason for this is that the various attacks, and therefore the various defenses, contained in the typical Aikido syllabus are very limited in scope, especially if viewed from a realtime fighter’s perspective.

One obvious omission from most syllabi is the absence of training to defend against kicking techniques. Much of the opposition to such training is centered on the thinking that kicks are not good attacks from the standpoint of Aiki, because uke must give up so much balance to offer them. Most Aikido, from either side of the ball, is predicated on keeping feet on the floor. Also at issue is the question of whether Aikido training should evolve to include those areas of training that have not been included traditionally.

This book is a thought-provoking look at adaptation of core Aikido techniques for use in kick defense. There is a perfunctory and brief chapter with general historical information covering many aspects of budo, with following chapters devoted to concepts and technical descriptions. Considerable space is devoted to thoughtful rebuttal of the party line criticisms of kick defense training, and whether there is a place for it in Aikido.

The book is well written, well laid out and the photography is good. Many techniques are illustrated with sequential photos. The typeset is comfortable, and the printing and paper are of good quality. This is a print-on-demand title, currently available from lulu.com. Other outlets may develop, but it is early at this point. The current price from lulu.com is US$44.45 (plus shipping) for the full-color edition. That’s a bit pricey by comparison to other books of this scope, but another interesting thing, made possible by print-on-demand technology, is that a black and white edition is also available at US$18.69, plus shipping. That’s more like it… I have not seen a black/white edition, but based on what I see in the color version, I don’t think you’ll lose much if you choose the cheaper alternative.

Usually, when I review a new Aikido book, it is my sad duty to report that there is not much in the way of new information, but only a new presentation. That is not the case here, because just as kick defenses are not often seen in your neighborhood dojo, books with this much detail about the concept are very much new territory. Is it useful? Yes. Is it truly Aikido? Each reader will have to decide for himself (provided, of course, that you feel a decision has to be made).

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Comments

  1. Teaching in a hapkido school, we’d have no credibility if we didn’t “do” kicks. The bottom line is that most displacement type throws, the kokyu’s, work. The footwork is pretty basic, but don’t try to enter on a yokomen kick. Spinning kicks are particularly easy to deal with. Use a two-step. Some of the falls are pretty tough. Explore with caution.

  2. Dear Charles,

    Thank you for the comment. Of course coming from Hapkido this field will not be unknown to you. A lot of aikidoka will probably have had a fleeting aquaintance with the field. The book however aims at doing more than just showing some cool stuff you could do. It aims at providing a structured basis for safe, fun and effective training. With stretching exercises, how to train the kick, taisabaki involved, how to take ukemi, how to structure your class etcetera.

    Onze again, thank you for your interest.

    Mark Stokmans
    (author of the book so slightly biased ;-) )