“From Murder to Yoga Meditation Dancing” by Nev Sagiba

How can fighting arts used to disembowel and behead then become meditative, yoga like “spiritual paths” with cultish followings and then be considered the same thing?

What phenomenon is this?

We all know that a “throw” achieves little or nothing in a real combat scenario. The opponent simply blocks it at inception, or else gets up again with redoubled attacking power and then makes sure to get the job done. “Throws” tend to annoy real opponents.

And yet there are people on the planet who would like to imagine that a “throw” alone will really achieve something in a combat scenario.

Kuzushi has a more serious purpose.

Ever used a kansetsu waza to survive? Likely not. Mostly kansetsu waza don’t work unless used in conjunction with deadly backup. Well, they may work on little old ladies or harmless distressed mum’s at swimming pools having psychiatric episodes where paper tigers and pen pushers can feel like heroes, but when a strong male is involved, let alone a trained combatant, kansetsu and atemi are mosquito bites.

All the fancy-dancey stuff of the co-operative methods that promote themselves as this or that, might work when the victim is outnumbered simply because he is too intimidated than to do other than comply. Or in the cooperation of the social club the dojos of today have mostly become.

But you do not need specialized skills when outnumbering a single opponent. Police academies know this and that’s why nothing much about close quarters handling of violent perpetrators is taught. Lone cops walking home alone when outnumbered then become victims.

Why are there no dojos with compulsory training drills at police stations? Despite academic theories by accountants about “costs,” all it takes is one single room temporarily used for 25 minutes a day instead of watching TV and drinking overly sweetened coffee. In the field, less injustices would then occur because of fear. A frightened person in uniform, with head full of unclear concepts and theories will often make errors of judgment.

In ancient times warriors did not train to gain mere fame or to develop cults. They trained to die. They expected to die and they lived to die. Soldiers today like to imagine otherwise, but count the body bags, if they’ve not been hidden from scrutiny in lands where “freedom” is supposed to prevail.

Soldiers still exist to die so that you and I can safely and conveniently “hunt and gather” at the supermarket whilst dreaming.

Reality is decidedly different.

In all things, a mind which sees not clearly tends to place itself in a position of high risk whilst imagining itself to be safe.

Why? Why is this predisposition to delusion so prominent?

I have no idea.

This much is clear. When you think you are safe, you are usually not. When you face death, or its possibility with unmitigated clarity, depending on your personality type and training, you may or may not survive, but you are safest when closest to the opponent. The sooner you get there the better.

There exists in everyone untrained, a warped instinct which causes you to step back into a place I like to call “silly maai” because it is not safe to be there. Or to wait and hope, wish and fantasize things could be other than as they are. And then you get pounded and the barrage that follows overwhelms you. This blind complacency happens at every level, whether interpersonal, on the battlefield or international stoushes.

While you sleep, the enemy penetrates “like a thief in the night.”

There is an old saying, “Never fight a person who has nothing to lose.” Such individuals are immensely dangerous.

Ancient warriors had no illusions about life and death. Particularly in Japan, battle was akin to that of an ant’s nest. Whether anyone liked it or agreed, or not, the overall plan and outcome was more important than the rights of the individual soldier. They understood well that a soldier in the field has indeed no rights, simply duty and nothing else. Such a mindset is beyond the weaklings of today including well fed gladiators, all who want to live to hold up a trophy in the illusion of “glory.” The inexperienced have no idea.

Notwithstanding fine rhetoric, in battle, pawns are expendable. That some may survive is happenstance.

On this basis the ancients did not do battle safely. They did not hold back in battle. Kime and irimi was everything and all training revolved around it.

An interesting thing happens. After entering, the next step becomes obvious to those not paralyzed with fear. The fearful simply die.

The survivors have many things to contemplate if they continue to live on long enough to retire and manage to save their minds as well. Killing takes a toll on the psyche. The universal balance being as it is, the hungry ghosts of your victims attach and follow you, either eating your brains or seeking to be reborn as your own children. Or both. The inexorable fate of the returned soldier. Or anyone who has killed.

Those that fight with integrity and kill with compassion as may be inevitable in authentic battle, may recover sanity. In which case many unanswered questions will arise in the ensuing years. They will be long years.

Many will still fall to the ghosts that follow them, and some seek to pay their debt by adding value to society in the belated realization that violence solves less problems than it creates. In order to do so they come to understand that they must first clarify their own mind. The much maligned rhetoric using the word “enlightenment” displays the contrary condition of its users. Notwithstanding, and call it what you will, clarity is essential both in battle and in the battle that is daily life. Without clarity, the consequences of incorrect actions will exact a price.

We should all find ways to attain increased clarity.

A form of sublimation, fake battle in the form of the Budo arts emerged following the serious and harsh feudal years. A quasi therapeutic method of re-enactment that young bucks who had never faced the prospect of death immediately misunderstood; and with the frenzy that comes with testosterone overload, promptly degenerated into gladiatorial, “safe” sports where ligament damage and brain damage was substituted for the more noble full death in battle.

Some Budo did survive in its pure form and continues. It is not sport and can be easily misunderstood by an ignorant onlooker. Different people will see different things as reflected by their own internal impurities.

Only practice reveals and, may clarify the mind. And this over time as every step must be earned. In the Universe everything has its price.

And there are attendant benefits even non-warriors can access such as the yoga like health gains, physical and mental clarity and coordination, the meditative advantages of focusing, fully mindful and present in the moment, and so on.

But, there also exist risks of being ensnared by pseudo-budo. In some such cases, the risk of injury following misplaced trust in those with sociopathic tendencies hiding behind the dojo facade, who will physically abuse the sacred trust of a dojo environment by meting out deliberate injuries using novices as crash test dummies. Or the perniciously dangerous cult-mongering of the middlemen who seek some form of exploitative pecuniary or other perceived gain. Such things derail the arts and kill any benefit.

The primary weapon of both warrior and Bodhisattva is DISCERNMENT. So also the would-be budo-novice

Nobody can exercise discernment for you. You have to develop and exercise your own.

Before taking the first step, you must evaluate well the track record of your prospective instructor. As with your lawyer, doctor, accountant, priest and any other professional you would relegate your trust, make it your job to uncover and study the trail and track record he has left behind.

A teacher of any budo will have produced either masters of the art, or injured bodies and minds. You should make it your business to know this before you start.

Correct use of discernment is the entry fee the Universe extracts if you are to survive, persist and continue to gain, give and share lasting benefits in a Budo career.

Training with sensible, rational and safe people then enables this research to evolve into the Aiki possibilities that will lead on to attunement with the Great Harmony of the Universe. From that point it is no longer about words, but experience of dimensions not otherwise readily available.

There is more to Budo than merely fighting, rather the inoculating of an attitude whose increase will generate confluences that will make the use of violent means, and the inordinate and protracted global suffering violent means produce, less possible.

The actions of Aikido and other Budo training may appear somewhat similar to those remotely resembling real combat, but the result sought will be entirely different. When the motives of the practitioners is creative rather than destructive, instead of being followed by hungry ghosts; because such training reciprocally gives life and the respect due to life, instead of death; it will magnify life instead of death.

And thereby all those benefits which come with life and all that life implies, including health, coordination and increasing both physical and mental dexterity, social ability, enhancement of other valid skills, as well as many other things not available to those who do not actively and consistently train.

But in the long term Budo, the stopping of violence, needs be, has to discover and find the AiKi that is the Core Nature of the Universe Itself, if it is to be a functional Budo worth mentioning.

Repeatedly and consistently, violence has proven to be an ineffectual method for solving the problem of violence.

On this basis Budo training cannot be merely a casual pastime. Nor even a way of life, but needs be conducted as a Way of Life.

Nev Sagiba


  1. bruce baker says:

    Careful …. touching upon the reality of seeing our own demise in the injuries we must give to those determined to cause us injury or death … might wake up some of the peace-niks to reality … and then where would we be? We should always see our own injury and death in others, because this emotional transfer keeps us from becoming stone cold killers.

    Fact is .. there is a mindset of insanity that comes over a killer … and when that absolute overcomes all sanity … we must resort to the most extreme to neutralize that insanity or become the victim.

    I don’t understand some people who think … we can resolve every situation with a peaceful resolution or solution … uh .. ya can’t. I agree we can resolve most situations with non-violence, but all …are you kidding me?

    But ya can’t become the insane killer either, or train by injuring and killing during your training or you will then become the object that society needs to destroy. Yes, we do create tools of destruction for whoever and whatever endangers society at large. How many have we created with the little wars our solders have been in around the world?

    I guess you can try to resolve violence with the least violent or least destructive of solutions most of the time, but who ya gonna call when you can’t stomach the extreme solution?

    Funny, I have known since I was a child watching pseudo drama of westerns on little black and white television in the 1950s, there will always be some danger that needs extremes measures to find a solution, even though society at large wants to achieve peace and seeks peace we cannot ignore the possibility of taking extreme measures.

    So, what do we do?

    We hide the extremes in the shorthand of safe practice, in dancing, in philosophy, and only those students who can read the shorthand, or study beyond the simplicity of accepting what they see in front of them as the ultimate end-all to what is possible will seek to find the deeper meaning.

    Aikido is not just Aikido, it is stick fighting, it is knife fighting, spear fighting, sword techniques and it can be so much more because hidden in the shorthand is a little bit of many different types of warrior arts that were changed into a safer way to transmit techniques gain only by survival and fighting to survive.

    For many, Budo will be a casual pass-time … they will never grasp the deeper meaning of their training, or what is possible should you EVER have to go beyond your safe practice techniques …. maybe that is as it should be. Maybe only a few can balance themselves in the middle between peace and war as they try to keep either extreme from tilting the balance too far their way. I begin to think, or rethink as I thought this as a child … both the extreme seekers of peace and the extreme seekers of violence are both insane in their pursuit of either peace or violence. The nature of human beings, the animal is somewhere in the middle, whether we like it or not.

  2. Good points. I doubt that “self defense” translates to Japanese.

    My thought recently is that throws are really simply atemi. Terry Dobson almost explained that to me and it only took me a couple decades to get it. Falls are expedient ways to escape the atemi. By definition they’re already through your guard.

    My analogy is air combat. Fighter aircraft using guns have 2 winning options: superior energy or superior maneuverability. Energy can come from an initial advantage in speed, altitude or power/weight ratio. Maneuverability comes from aircraft design and operator skill. John Boyd once discovered an extreme maneuver, which if executed in a F100 caused both the primary and backup hydraulic systems to fail. Gotta know your limitations. Technique is akin to maneuverability. Ukemi is akin to energy.

    Training, it seems, helps us deal with our combative demons. We put them in harness for their, hopefully rare, moments of real time action. Also helps to put our day-to-day sensibilities on hold for their duration. The common ground is that everybody in the skull recognizes the ugliness of killing. Yes I garden, but empathize with the weeds I pull. Being a weed is a familiar role.

  3. Weeds don’t exist in nature.
    Everything, in its place, has purpose.
    Plants as medicinal herbs right under the noses of pharmaceutical compasnies who search far and wide for such herbs whilst their even mates deforestate faster than they can find the herbs.
    They need look no further than their own front lawn but in their greed dare not because they have an interest in selling “weed” killer which is in fact, life killer..
    Only the mind of people who’ve been sold the concept see weeds and work hard throwing poison that will harm them more than the “weeds” as the wind blows back the spray they toil so hard to disperse in their attack.
    For example, look at the history of Agent Orange and for that matter the insane war in Vietnam where grown, “civilized”, adult, “educated” men really believed that primitive people who lived in thatched huts could influence the thinking of educated Americans, how many thousands of miles away, with a concept that was already then dead in the water and obsolete.
    All that came back with returning soldiers was genetic damage, the bulk which they left in Nam and Cambodia and which still haunts.
    The result of weed killer and other weapons of mass destruction.
    Superstitious fear and twisted thinking, once permitted to escalate, knows no bounds..
    All plants serve a purpose as do all living things in creation..
    Out of place they are ugly, toxic and destructive.
    In their proper place they become beautiful, radiant and useful.
    A proper rearrangement makes harmony.
    Such requires no destructivity.
    Indigenous people have always said to those mentally diseased with hyperactivity resuktant from greed which arises from irrational fear : “White man, you are doing too much. All you need is to NOTICE and do less.”
    It may be too late already.
    In the near future, we shall see.

  4. The aiki principle is none of those brutal predispositions even though the brutality of an attacker may return redoubled as a result of the aikidoka’s dynamic non-compliance to violence.

    Ueshiba described it succinctly and often in such didactic odes as, “I make a circle around my opponent and he has to deal with the energy of his own action..”

    and “… even if I sleep the attacker will trip and fall on his own blade..”

    “… because I do not receive the ki of the attack, therefore it returns to the attacker who has to deal with it himself…”

    “I am nothing more than in harmony with the universe… I do nothing… simply leave everything to the universe as it is…” and others.

    There is no violent intent in Aikido, only clarity, juxtaposition and skilled accommodation, id est: love. Within this framework benevolent intent can prevail even during combat because aiki combat is no combat, but simply skilled allowance whilst retaining integrity by being flexible in recapturing the balanced state.

    “The deeper meaning” is there all the time. There is nothing “deep” about it, as it is in and around us all the time everywhere. And this freely. No cult, card or dues are necessary.

    “Finding it” or letting its noticing sink in, is the personal journey which transforms the practitioner from a clod of wet earthly dust or mud, to an equilibrium of the original elements resembling that of the universe’s own. But the price the universe exacts most ruthlessly is self purification of mind, body, spirit and whatever else we are and comprise our parts, and this not hidden away in a cosy monastery of delusion, but rather in the thick of it where it seems most difficult.

    The pursuit of Kannagarra no Aikido cannot be lukewarm.

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