“Learn and Forget!” by Nev Sagiba

“Budo training simply places you in a situation mildly similar
to equating SOME attributes of a real violent scenario.”

I think we’ve fallen a long way behind those ancients, who at least regards combat, had half a clue about what they were doing.

Some people think they have to intellectually “learn techniques” and others like to imagine that untrained simplification will be sufficient. Then we have the academic masters of opinions and also the sports contest specialists.

Sporty mindsets will not save you in real combat. I’m not talking about some little old lady or someone half your size raising their voice, but real and deadly attack outside the cozily predictable protection of “the ring” with its single and unarmed opponent. The paradigm of sport is riddled with the bending of context. We all know what these fake constructs are. If you don’t, I can’t help you. Find out while there is still time for you.

Theories are wonderful, but only if they portray the result of experience in a meaningful way. Even then, conveying this with mere words is a hit and miss affair. It has to be actively practiced regularly. Otherwise it’s merely warming the air with waffle.

Of untrained simplification there is nothing to be said, except: find out the hard way.

This leaves us with why we have to “learn techniques.”

Who said anything about “learning” anything?


If you think that you “know” a technique because you have an idea about it, or that you will “use a technique” in a real scenario because you “did” it in practice a few times, and this will save you, you are a dead man walking.

“A” technique is useless. Too many end up finding this out the hard way.

Just like single techniques, opinions do not win fights. EXPERIENCE does. Real situations are seldom equal and the degree of predictability will only increase by experiencing variable possibilities.

How can you gain at least a verisimilitude of experience without placing youself or others unduly at risk?

By regularly training the basics and their variables.

This does not mean that you have to remember anything at all. How does anyone remember and carry a list of 600 techniques or 3000 or 1000 or whatever? Or even 50 for that matter!

Intellectual remembering is not the purpose of Budo training. Indeed, in the thick of it you will be hard pressed to “think” of anything at all.

Budo training simply places you in a situation mildly similar to equating SOME attributes of a real violent scenario. It allows you to re-enact a multiplicity of variables, thereby adapting and exercising the living body-mind-adaptation-response mechanism.

You can’t fight from ideas, only real ability. Hence training the variables. Training variables is not for purposes of intellectually remembering anything, but for gaining experience in the intuitive best practice correct response simplicity of direct action.

On this basis, the basics, up to one dozen techniques and not more than two dozen, must be key techniques that best represent the underlying principles of natural physics as it relates to the biomechanics of interaction for the human frame. Ki no Nagare.

These simple basics must be useful in unlocking the multiplicity of variables which cannot be held in a long list in the intellect.

Because combat happens faster than the processes of thought, there is no need to consciously “remember” any technique for it to save you. But you must be able to DO it! And to unlock its variables. In any event, you will not be performing a classical movement, rather, a variable, or a combination of variables based on the real requirements of survival at that given time.

Of course, to teach, you have to provide a starting point of reference, hence the basics, which are nothing more than fundamental keys to Ki no Nagare in survival action. Preconditioned response pathways that enable functional combinations.

It takes too long to convert an idea about something you think you might know about because you once read about it, or saw it on a video, into natural action. The neural pathways will be missing because they have not been built for the purpose during regular practice. To be useful, skill MUST BE a preconditioned response. This only comes from regular experience. If you do it enough times you will adapt to doing it well. If you do it even more you will adapt to doing it better.

Regular training is a good way to get low-risk experience.

Survival responses are seldom conscious or live on the surface of consciousness. If they did, your behaviours would not be fit for civil society. So they lurk subliminally. And they emerge to save you. But only if the need is real.

Now here’s the difference. In the untrained (or the opinionated), something lurks subliminally also. It’s called confusion and perplexity. This is the result of not having a relevant point of reference. This too emerges in emergency, but only as blind reactivity. Reactivity generally gets you killed or otherwise compromised.

Hence proper training in any field where emergency response skills are required. The purpose of proper training is not a calcification of rote habit, but rather, an unlocking of possibility, a recalling of flexible body-mind and an opening up of latent potential. In effect, good training, is mental and physical housecleaning to unlearn the junk that gets in the way of simply moving naturally.

Training forms the backup. It modifies the subconscious predispositions to recognize more refined and skilled response variables.

You cannot know what form the final action will take, or how it will emerge, until the last moment. When it happens.

As far as training goes, train lots. Enjoy it. Be very present during training.

Then go home and forget it.

Turn up next training session.

Keep doing this until you no longer have to think unduly about it.

It’s not your ideas and opinions about training that will save you, but the accrued credit of experience in moving well. And this ability can be refined without end, whether you have any opinion or not.

The more you train, the better it gets. You cannot arrive with one or two or a dozen casual attempts. Budo and especially Aiki budo is not a destination. Nor one easily had. Rather it is a journey of augmentation without end.

Before the value of Aikido training can emerge, it must be identified as Budo and be integrated into daily life, until it becomes a Way of Life which is part of life itself.

The increase of real skill percolates gradually as a slow process of osmosis. It will increase in due season when you have earned the privilege, as a result of the input of work done, and not because of fanciful ideas about work which was not done or poorly done.

Take the striving out of it. Stop trying to perform or impress or learn anything in the first day or month or even year or ever for that matter. Simply persist and take each next step with integrity, sincerity and authentic heart. You cannot shortcut the processes of nature. Kannagara no Michi has no beginning or end and therefore no arrival or cessation or stopping. Simply get into that stream and swim and don’t stop.

Train often and regularly and with a spirit of enjoyment and discovery.

Everything you practice becomes stored reference together with the value of subtle nuances which action stress releases. Your head may forget but your body will not.

The body never forgets an experience.

Techniques are not ideas, but the foundational basis for real action and the harmonising of intense energy.

So don’t just think about Aikido. DO IT and let go. Then get on with life.

The important part in all this is DON’T MISS A TRAINING SESSION and then enjoy life in all its aspects.

Oh no! Am I suggesting that Aikido should be FUNCTIONAL? Heaven forbid. What is wrong with me? To all those purveyors of dysfunction, or less than function out there in the name of Aikido, I do sincerely apologize and offer my most sincere prayers that you never get attacked!

Just recently there was a case of a house built by a builder who felt the same way about building. The house fell down. Fortunately no one was in it at the time. The matter is currently before the courts. And may heaven forbid that he “teach” his philosophy to other builders!

In case you thought I was being facetious you are right! Aikido must be useful for practical defence as well as being a personal path of self correction. Otherwise it is not Aikido, but some dancey, dishonest waffle which means nothing and has no purpose and risks falling on you when you need to place your reliance on it.

Nev Sagiba

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  1. bruce baker says:

    There is one other thing … one must continually train, or at least explore, the possibility that whatever techniques you train in will fail.

    That is … even if it is play or simply training to explore these possibilities one must go outside their normal regimen of training despite what every teacher tries to impress into the minds of their new students that their regimen of training is one of the best, or one of the main foundation blocks for all their future training …. exploring the possibilities that what you are training is is going to fail is the mindset for being able to go outside that training.

    Now I am not saying be totally negative, but to be in the middle where you are open to changing gears, adapting to the situation, being able to “Learn and Forget” so that when the time comes … SOMEWHERE in your brain is an experience close enough to whatever you must adapt to so you can survive, and hopefully help others to survive too. The more you train, invent various different situations where you might fail, or succeed, the better chance you have to be able to adapt and change to meet whatever you might encounter, or …. keep from getting in the middle of something, ya know what I mean?

    My point? Aikido training needs to include some mock attacks in other styles to fully be aware for some of the situations you might come up against. There will always be that one person who can be faster, stronger, able to adapt and get inside of everything you have trained to do. What ya gonna do when you body can’t be fast and strong or you meet more than one of these persons who is far more skilled than you? You better be able to adapt, change, and take advantage of either the situation … or the weak points in their martial arts style.

    Don’t ever be satisfied that your style of training is enough ….. uh … Aikido is made up from how many other styles of martial arts training? Yeah … it is … believe it or not.

  2. Taisho says:

    Your best blog yet…!!!

  3. Dean Burns says:

    I have seen a tendancy in some Aikidokas to be too stylish in their presentation. What I mean is that if a technique varies from the norm of soft and flowing and graceful that it should be discouraged and labeled as not “aikido” or too much like karate or some other art. I know the need to practise the basics and work them into scenarios of counter attacks or neutralizations. It’s good that the basics and common scenarios are used. But I would encourage the use of neutralizations and other techniques against other non-traditional attacks that one may encounter. One example that may be useful is counters against take-downs, single, double leg, etc. The reason these scenarios are liking to be encountered in a real life situation are many. These techniques are taught in the school systems and seen in combat sports and other martial arts. The take-downs are currently as popular as the ol’ one-two punch. Samurais’ may not have used the one-two or a wrestling spear or take-down but the person who may jump you in the parking lot probably will. Be proactive and may you live a long,and peaceful life.

  4. Jim Redel says:

    it sounds like you all get into a lot of fights … have you thought about moving someplace safer?

  5. Michael Peterson says:

    To Jim Redel, perhaps he simply has the mindset of a warrior. Prevention is part of self-defence, but running away in fear is different from making a conscious decision of defense. A tactical retreat is only sound when used wisely. There is no such thing as safe. There is simply veiled versus unveiled and a range of consequences that include but do not have to result in bodily harm.

    In so-called civilized society we face numerous threats a day and never even notice. Why? Because it is considered mainstream and all part of the game we play. Budo is not merely physical. It is something when studied as Nev suggests can make you more aware of all those little threats and how to deal with them in a “civilized” way.

  6. Dean Burns says:

    It’s good to train outside your comfort zone. As Aikidokas’ we are most comfortable blending, balance breaking, joint locking and throwing against certain grabs and strikes. I think it is good in the long journey of training to mix it up, so to speak, every now and then with trainings outside our comfort zones. Learning where your comfort zone lies and stretching the boundary of that zone will allow us as individuals and as martial artist to grow. If you find yourself getting uncentered, return to center. But stretch that boundary of discomfort so that it is no longer uncomfortable. Then it will lie within your comfort zone.
    I understand that O’Sensei would often remark: “I am the Universe.”
    The universe is vast. It is good to move beyond our place in the galaxy. Have fun and explore what lies within the universe. Stretch your comfort zone.

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