“Beyond Attack and Defence” by Nev Sagiba


“When you move your mind and your training beyond the ideas of ‘winning’
and ‘losing’, ‘attack’ and ”defence’, it will open the eye of the soul.”

sagibaUkemi and nagewaza are not two separate entities but part of one attribute, one energy, one flow.

There are no “throws” in Aikido. I’ve been practicing since 1970 and can find no throws. Earlier in the piece when I was more deluded and came from, in part, a Judo background I had trouble conducting good Aikido techniques because my mind was stuck in the idea of having to throw someone.

I did not begin Aikido in earnest until I let go of this grave delusion. Then Aikido began to reveal itself gradually expanding in its magnificence.

For quite some time, Morihei Ueshiba’s injunction that “Aikido is a way of moving through the opponent…” and, “The opponent has not completed his attack and I am already behind him…” appeared mystical, mythical and poetic.

In fact these constitute the practice of Aikido beyond mere fixation on rote forms and fakery in unnatural cooperation mimicking nothing much at all more than a dance of futility.

From time to time, in my travels, Aikido came forth to save my life, but I did not entirely understand what was happening, only that the results of regular training with a great sensei, an uchideshi of the founder, was enabling me to survive.

I made lots of assumptions back then. Some became obstacles on the path, others steppingstones to better understandings.

I continued to train.

Despite everything, I always found a way to train. Slowly, over time Aikido began to reveal itself. Not because of waiting for answers, but because of earning it through regular, unflinching work in the dojo facing my own limitations.

The pathology of violence and attempts to justify or spin violent activity comes from irrational fear.

Such fear causes the unbalanced mind to see separation where none exists. Them and us. The greatest of mental pathologies.

The enlightened mind understands the unity of all things.

Think of your greatest dislike, the thing that repulses you most. That fear is you. That which you fear most is the thing that you least want to confront about yourself.

The pathology of the simian and reptilian parts of the brain imagines that it can step outside of jurisdiction and impose, infringe and inflict on others. Doing something to “them.” All crime comes from this. Rape, robbery, assault, bad political decisions, war, deceit, and the list of dark pathologies of the mind. Particularly those more subtle ones where a tale of righteousness is spun around the abusive and criminal activity.

Better it is to admit error, learn from it and work hard to rise above it. Until you can and then do. Then repeat until it becomes inviolate and is in fact attuned to the Great Harmony of the Universe.

So nagewaza and ukemi appears to the twisted mind as a “win” and a “lose,” two separate and disparate possibilities, one feared and the other craved. Doing something to another. Someone is “throwing” someone else. An abject nonsense.

This is not Aikido, never was and never will be. Blaming the victim is a criminal thought process.

When you make victims you are the greater victim of the two. A victim of your own consuming violent tendencies which will one day destroy you.

Aikido rises above these pathologies and transcend this diseased paradigm in both an idealistic but also a practical way, right in the face of the gruesome possibility of imminent violence. But not as the wishful, wishy-washy antics of pseudo budo and quasi aiki. Rather facing the pain of change to find the Universal Aikido Principle and going through barriers and misunderstandings to become the Aikido Mind and the Aikido Body conjoined as the Aikido Heart in action.

Initially as empathy through playing all the parts of the game of battle, but ultimately because of the understanding that one cannot exist without the other and that they are a symbiotic unity.

Because there is no separation, the great limiter, endless possibilities arise and also the taking of personal responsibility in noticing Aikido, as it is, a unity where both uke and nage participate in the most ancient of dances of energy exchanges, finding accommodation.

When the wind blows, it is not contending. The shining sun is not attacking the world. The waves breaking upon the shore are not fighting anything. Everything in nature has its place and its life giving mission; and the Universe is big enough for everything within it. Everything within it comes from the Universe to which, after a brief journey, it must return. The Universe knows its own and those not Its One cannot exist with it. And don’t. It’s not our jurisdiction to play judge, jury or executioner. But it is to hold the line and protect.

A seeming paradox but a cross the warrior must bear, if he or she is a true warrior.

No threat exists but in unhealthy imagination. Everything is energy and the processing of energetic possibilities.

When you move your mind and your training beyond the ideas of “winning” and “losing, ” “attack” and defence,” it will open the eye of the soul.

This is not to say that you need to become an ineffectual and idle dancer pretending to do a pseudo budo you know will not work in a real situation of danger. Not at all. Rather the opposite.

Simply train honestly with acknowledgement of the birth and original roots of the art in the blood and gore of deadly danger in life and death battle. And then move the mind beyond, into the Universe Itself and the violently intense dances of the galaxies in all their raw beauty as Hubble telescope reveals them now, when many, having found accommodation become repositories of life and creation and beauty and endless expression.

The Universe, and even the world for that matter, despite its sometimes all too vigorous challenges, becomes not cold and fearsome, but home.

This will not necessarily take away the rigors and humdrum of daily life, but it may provide some measure of perspective into the extraordinary nature of even the ordinary.

…How amazingly unlikely is your birth… and yet you are HERE NOW!

What can you do with that?

Nev Sagiba



  1. bruce baker says:

    I don’t know why you even try to explain it to some of these knuckle-heads, Mr. Sagiba. The programming of the human race is so strong to avoid connecting with training that allows us to reach a level where we are already behind our opponent before they attack, before they can think, before we can think … I don’t know why most people even try to train!

    Yeah … most of the people are in training for some recreational exercise, some safe sport where they can say they train in some martial art, and satisfy some urge they have to scratch the surface of understanding what the Universe is all about, but they never will, nor will they study beyond what they practice for an hour or so with their teachers.

    Just look at what we are doing right now .. typing words on a screen to understand something beyond words. The duality of the situation is that it is both a path to an answer and a trap to never find the answers.

    The tools for our advancement can also be the detriment to our understanding.

    Training is a tool. When properly used and experienced it opens a whole new book to thought as well as physical connection with the world around us. At some point, you have to figure out what connections that is, as well as .. decipher the words others have used to describe their connections to something beyond words.

  2. Aaron Cass says:

    In your sixth paragraph, you wrote:

    “From time to time, in my travels, Aikido came forth to save my life, but I did not entirely understand what was happening, only that the results of regular training with a great sensei, an uchideshi of the founder, was enabling me to survive.”

    Would you be willing to share more about one of these experiences in detail? I’m always interested to hear what other Aikidoka have expereinced in regards to “real life” application of aikido practice/understanding.

    Thank You

  3. Was training with Terry Dobson once upon a time. He was demonstrating a kokyunage, but it wasn’t a koshinage variation. Couldn’t figure out WHY to fall. Well, duh! Because his ‘throw’ was an atemi to the short ribs. Fall away to save yourself. Saw something similar in a samurai movie, the guy falling away from a sword draw. Dobson sensei also showed me sutemi waza rather than do the koshinage that everybody else was doing.

    Ukemi, sutemi, and kaeshi waza are the shadow side of the string ball of nage waza. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re following a string or chasing shadows.

  4. Thanks you for offering the reader an in depth look at ourselves, our fears, and truly how much practice it takes (on and off the mat) to learn that “When you move your mind and your training beyond the ideas of “winning” and “losing, ” “attack” and defence,” it will open the eye of the soul.”

  5. Mr Baker,

    Philo in about 30BC said:

    “Be kind to people, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”


    To fully appreciate swimming, one has to first get into the water.




    Thanks for your appreciation.

    May all your training take you to good places.

  6. Andrew Bedford says:

    HI Nev,
    Thank you for a nice thought provoking article although difficult to follow at times.

    However I do have a question, if there are no throws, pins, atemi, ukemi, etc., does this mean cause and effect are non-existent also? or karma? I understand at a fundamental level that there are no true polar opposites, and learning to blend is a prerequisite for strong Aikido (because you no longer contend but agree with uke).
    Now because of this Aikido works, because of this blend you do not contend, thus you choose violence or peace.

    Lets take Shiho nage for an example, there is no doubt, that when you blend correctly using this technique in any direction you can inflict untold violence and cause excruciating pain, permanent disability and or death.’

    Or you can choose to place the person on the flow gently locked up so he can no longer “cause” harm to himself others around him or to you, the “effect ” peaceful resolution to a violent encounter.

    But you are using a technique, that “throws” the person to the ground, gently or violently it is still a throw.

    A bird does not wake up one morning and suddenly decide it is a dog, or a shark a tiger.

    A throw is a throw a pin is a pin, this is plain simplicity, how you choose to use that, is down to you.

    Kind regards,

    Andy B

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