“Aikido is the Future, Force, the Obsolete Past” by Nev Sagiba

“When both attacker and defender use force it degenerates
into an unpredictable contest that we see all around us”

There is no doubt that our ancestors left us a legacy of forcing, shoving, pushing, pulling, bashing and anger. Lots and lots of anger. And the skill to hide it by pretending, lying, cheating, stealing and other misdemeanors.

That old operating system has haltingly got us this far, but it is starting to crack at the seams and fail. Look around you. Dysfunction everywhere. Families are no more. Communities are closed and separated. Psychiatric illness is on the rise. People have become aimless, unhappy collectors of things and like to eat garbage and wreck their health, craving to have their bored psyches entertained. Parasitical exploitation is everywhere. Corruption is rife. War and other violence is conducted for profit. And economies everywhere are failing and going to fail worse until they collapse.

The law of cause and effect is mercilessly exact. There is no absolution outside of correcting this morass of errors we have, by immense effort and striving, made for ourselves, before a mass collapse inevitably occurs. But aside from talk, empty promises, living in denial and fantasy, little real evidence that something is in fact being done that will make any meaningful difference. People like to imagine that someone else will do it for them. Or like spoiled children whine that they will pick up their toys only after someone else makes a start. But when someone does, very few help and most either watch or walk away because it means work.

Nature’s cycles will not wait. They move forward with the universe.

The change to keep up with the cycles of life begins with ourselves, each individual taking due measure of responsibility.

Choosing to be ignorant and complacent will not make the problems go away. As with fire risk, prevention is completely possible and there is no cure following the spark of ignition that pushes things over the edge.

If there is a hole in a boat the time to repair it is at port when the vessel is up on the slipway. Out at sea the best you can do is bail, but bailing is energy and time consuming and when neglect is sufficient the ship will sink. The captain and crew alone, cannot do much. It is time for ALL HANDS ON DECK. And this includes the passengers!

This is not a “bleak view” but a small glimpse of the factual one. You can lock yourself in your cabin and eat cake while the ship sinks, but that will only make you feel good for as long as the water is at bay. Once it rises, the tea and cake becomes irrelevant. And it is then too late to participate in the processes of correction.

This myopic, one-eyed desire to force things and live in denial of reality, appears to be almost hard wired in the human species. The more subtle and insidious version is that which deviates from awakening with flowery versions of a promise that leads to nowhere better than locking yourself in your cabin while the water rises.

I say “almost” hard wired because many have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to change, to whatever degree, to a newer, more efficient paradigm that appears to be a future operating system not deemed possible by those locked into the old one by their own blinding attitudes.

The ancients could use force because they had the equipment, were immensely physically powerful, ate natural food which no longer exists, breathed cleaner air, and the world was a different place which then required it in order to survive. Today we are a decadent species. We are weak, we are frightened, we are effete and we do not understand the nature of the Nature we are progressively wrecking. And still, despite our almost spasticity, we still try to use force albeit without the equipment to do so. And when that fails we sneak, we lie, we deceive and try to use other underhanded means, imagining nobody will notice. But the trail we leave bears witness to our condition and our ways.

We as a species have fallen a long way down.

The whole of humanity and life is interconnected, as is all of nature and all it contains. When one hurts, all hurt. When one falls, everyone must follow. We can only uplift ourselves if we begin with ourselves and include others. All others.

The confluence of human attitudes make history, change history and can either uplift or destroy whole civilizations. From within, more so than from external attack which usually becomes possible only after the internal rot is well established. It is difficult to attack the ki of integrity with any measure of success.

We are incomplete and an unfinished product of the universe. On this basis, there is no more goal or mission more vitally important than self-correction. There are many methods of self-correction. Aikido is but one and a superlative one. But only when approached with absolute integrity and ruthless honesty.

The ancestors were not “wrong” as such. Much like our parents they did the best they knew how under circumstances they sometimes understood poorly. And just as our kids will, hopefully, outgrow us in natural wisdom, so did we to some degree, them.

But some of our advancements, if they are that, have outstripped the advancement of our wisdom, understanding, of love, nurture and protection of all life, of each other, and of the nature which sustains us.

And the “spin doctors,” the liars and cheats who profit from misdeeds, make sure to drive the final nails into the coffin of humanity.

Before we bury ourselves, there is a slender chance that enough may wake up sufficiently to make some measure of difference. But this is not merely an intellectual exercise, but a total person process.

Forcing and deception is on the path of obsolescence. It has proven its value in the destinations, we as a humanity, now face.

Absolute factuality and adjusting accordingly and this with integrity is the only method that will see us through. By a strange coincidence this is the method, approach and attitude of Aikido.

For example, if you are still in the practice of Kotegaeshi overly reliant on applying pressure to the opponent’s wrist, you are in the dark ages and missing the point of Aikido. Your other techniques will be suffering as well, because you are still forcing. Forcing is not Aikido but the disease Aikido strives to heal. Please understand this clearly.

When it is the protector who receives ki and the attacker who is using force, it is AIKIDO.

When this is reversed, in a training or demo setting, nage having a peculiar need to show off and uke is “expected to receive ki” and make jumping and gratuitous falling down to impress, it is collusion and a dance of folly which only increases the self-deception Aikido exist to heal.

When both attacker and defender use force it degenerates into an unpredictable contest that we see all around us, the diseases of unnecessary struggle that is destroying the planet and our life supporting systems of nature.

In a dishonest dojo it may be possible to collude and fake. In a real situation, reality has to be faced squarely and as it is. The attacker is attacking with real intention, so only real Aikido will save you.

By regular daily training with sincerity and a questioning, noticing mind, you will transform to discover the AIKIDO behind the forms which are intended as simple keys, which through training unlock Ki no Nagare. The result is guaranteed, but the motivation to practice consistently until you let go of excremental attributes, needs to be entirely your doing.

Continuing with the Kotegaeshi analogy as an example, if you see someone performing Kotegaeshi without applying pressure to the wrist and yet causing an immense ukemi, no, it is not because of some mythical, mystical ki stuff that does not exist other than in the fantasies of blind believers.

Either it is fake and uke is jumping, as mostly happens. OR: that particular nage has made some internal corrections of attitude that has healed the body-mind connection and enabled fine tuned efficiency of action or harmony or aiki. The AI being the salient point of this particular use of ki. The future operating system has been downloaded and installed and is working to improve further.

This TRUE PRINCIPLE OF AIKIDO applies not only to play fighting and tumbling on mats, but to all of life. Especially those critical attributes which when corrected could save us from the self destruct trajectories, we as a humanity, individual by individual, have chosen to place ourselves in, by forcing, cheating, lying and all manner of internal (lying to ourselves) and external (lying to others) dishonesty.

In Aikido training, as in life, it is so very hard for the individual carrying the etched-in cave man ancestral patterns of behaviour as a sole point of reference which define him or her as an individual who exists, to let go.

There are better ways. Well may they have to be earned, and it may feel like an act of faith to let go and simply TRY the natural effortless and correct way of moving. This small step is fearsome indeed and it threatens to shatter all the excrescent delusions we carry and which we allow to define us poorly.

Such active “acts of faith” often give rise to Mushin, an apparent albeit temporary blankness of mind. The real thing is fearsome indeed. But it is followed with a rebirth of sorts and a clear vision that the great harmony of the universe will never change to accommodate those fallen into error. We need to rebuild our desktop and defragment, antivirus and unclog the hardware of psychic gunk.

It is we who must learn to let go and to change our attitudes. The Universe is not about to become less because of our hubris, habits or unconsciousness.

Some people may be asking, “What has all this got to do with mushal arts?” Well the truly martial techniques are up to the military. There is nothing whatsoever martial about a modern dojo. Budo has nothing to do with boys wrestling to prove their manhood, or punching the air, or people doing some cardio and tumbling so they can feel all “spiritual” about themselves; or self defence, or sport; or gambling or casual social therapy.

Budo is about saving life, maintaining life giving processes, making life possible, protection, care, nurture and responsible stewardship of the gifts we currently squander as if there were no end. There is an end. But there does not have to be.

Budo is found in actively applying all those preparatory maintenance strategies and skills that promote and allow life to proceed creatively. This is a reciprocal responsibility not one human being on the planet is absolved from being a participatory contributor.

Who cares about making a constructive difference? Who wallows in feeling overwhelmed instead of doing that small right action? A peaceful warrior does not necessarily fight. Rather, such a one practices meeting the personal fears which make him petty and which compromise others.

To learn to move, feel and think in accord with the creative harmony of the universe, it appears, requires many, many repetitions of simple basic movements which monkeys, “uncivilized” tribal people and kami have no problem with.

But for the rest of us, since over time it works and works well, it is a better alternative than joining the other lemmings who are headed unquestioningly following their bellies, over a cliff edge.

As of February 2009, the world’s population is estimated to be about 6.76 billion and growing. When I look at how few dojos per capita there are. And then how few of these remain uncontaminated by contest, ego and sport. And how few people sustain an ongoing life of dojo discipline or some similar method, determined and willing to regularly go through the pain of change in order to become transformed to a closer measure of unlocking their true potentials, I worry.

Do not underestimate your smallest well-placed contribution in ordinary things.

As with properly conducted Aikido practice techniques, so in life itself, from small juxtapositions great changes can come.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Brett Jackson says:

    Very deep and moving writing, as we come to expect from Mr. Sagiba. A pleasure to read. “A peaceful warrior does not necessarily fight.” Very true, I explained this to my children students yesterday. We should protect and nourish each other and our environment; we need to calm aggression as opposed to fostering escalations — wherever and whenever possible. After I take my students down gently (say in the first technique), I ask them if they still have the desire to fight, they say no. Well, that’s the best, highest, and true martial arts. To pacify the enemy. Not pounding someone until they are dead; or hoping that a referee will stop you before you pound an unconsious “opponent” to death. We have a very strong person in our dojo who always uses force to resist nage’s techniques (for the most part after class). Although that’s very poor ukemi, I like to practice with him a lot. He helps me keep striving to find a way to do techniques without using force (I’m not there yet). Thanks Nev!

  2. Dear Sir,

    As many other of your articles this one is sure very interesting and does make one think. Thank you very much for this.

    Yet in my opinion the article dwells on certain dualism and many of the statements are a bit contradictory (to me, of course :)).

    Honestly, who of us really knows WHAT IS NATURAL? Isn’t this current state of things just another cycle of our natural development? And after we pass through this current “dirty” phase we will end up with better understanding learned from our previous mistakes (?)

    Anyway each aikido practitioner has a chance to do their good part. Let’s pray the Nature supports us :)


  3. chris redfern says:

    bob dylan,s latest album is called tempest. The song, tempest, on the album which is about the titanic..is really the story of a watchman…who ” trys to tell someone”…” that the titanic is sinking into the deep blue sea”..bob dylan nor anyone involved genuinely with aikido could ever disagree withe the sentiments in this post. Nev I take my hat off to you for bringing forward a proposition that is absoloutely appropriate to our time. We all carry a responsibility. Aikido is a method of facing our shared responsibility within the whole. If we are not truly aware of what is happening around us how can we prepare for the future. If we cannot learn from the the past we have thrown away a most beautiful gift presented to us by our predecessors. Thank you, Nev, for this profound post.

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