“The Aikido Body” by Nev Sagiba

Will You Be Able To Do That Technique When You Are Old?

A slow strike becomes a push and a fast push becomes a strike.

We train slowly focussing mainly on kusushi flows as sort of “pushes” because full impact kansetsuwaza conducted as atemiwaza will do harm.

Unless we could fully restore ourselves overnight like the fictional character, Connor MacLeod played by Christopher Lambert in the movie “Highlander,” “full contact” Aikido training is impossible.

Indeed any training would be impossible although I know some characters who have broken each other’s bones in training “just to see what it feels like.” Each to his own… psychiatrist.

In training it is essential to train INSIDE SAFE LIMITS. This develops The Aikido Body which becomes able to sustain rough treatment more easily because of appropriate yielding and relaxation. Wrestlers have good, no bs aiki-bodies.

The misunderstanding giving rise to such questions as, “Would aikido work in a real fight,” come from the idea that the pushey-pulley, dancey-pansy techniques of some “styles” were the uke are brainwashed into such self delusional states as to take giant leaps and imagine they are doing something “martial” instead of balletic, come from this.

No, the pushey-pulley, dancey-pansy stuff will not work in “a real fight.”

What soft training does, is to awaken the mind and body to notice the best paths, the ki openings where kusushi flows may be deployed with efficiency foremost.

In a real situation, such “softness” is then imbued with power resulting from natural; survival instincts, a totally different paradigm from training or even sporty contest.

Striking a Balance in Training

In training, finding a balance between effective and safe technique is a serious responsibility.

A lot of accusations regarding “collusion” arise out of this. We have to remember that in real life nobody will offer their body and parts to be handled.

For that matter, in real life, you don’t usually get attacked with intent to kill on a daily basis. An attacker will first have measured you and usually ensured they believe you are out numbered, out classed, less armed or at a disadvantage.

Remember this, nobody gets really attacked in a brightly lit, empty room with padded floors. If so, then very seldom.

A real attacker, I’m not speaking of old drunks begging or mum’s at swimming pools. Not even of barroom brawls you can walk out of if you are not the centre of attention.

A real attacker will evaluate his chances of success before embarking on his evil purpose.

Sometimes mistakes will be made, but these should be rare and immediately communicated. No-one, I repeat no-one is a crash test dummy. If you think someone should be your test dummy then please make a beeline for the nearest psychiatrist. You have serious problems.

It may also save you from a surprise visit to jail or a long relationship with wheelchair.

Everyone is made differently. Some are stronger, others more flexible, some more enduring, others faster and so on. The possibilities are endless.

If you want to up the ante you should find someone who meets your measure. And TRAIN! Don’t compete. Competition is for individuals with insecurity issues and self doubts wanting to prove. The purpose of training is to improve.

You can up the challenge indeed, but not without regard or communication. You up the ante by mutual consent to test your limits, not to conduct damage in training.

Training should be fun and it should be safe.

Training should have one overriding rule: SAFETY.

Dangerous training should be conducted softly and with communication.

There are many goals in training and a teacher worth his salt should know most of them and vary a session deliberately and with purpose.

Some classes are for stamina, others for flexibility, hand-to eye coordination can be the focus of yet another, and so on.

Read, watch videos, study, think, contemplate and be flexible.

You cannot test the ultimate effectiveness of a method in training or a sport contest riddled with rules, because a real fight may lead to death. Yours or the other persons. Are you willing to risk that?

Real fights should be avoided at all costs and if your career involves high risk action, then you’ve made a conscious decision to participate in that high risk.

You should leave the dojo with feelings of immense well-being of body, mind and spirit an having been enhanced, not diminished.

But because Aikido is Budo, you should never be unmindful of the risks and life-death possibilities involved.

Above all, in training you modulate and modify techniques and principles to make sure it is safe for all concerned whilst continuing to explore and evaluate efficacy.

Hopefully you will never be attacked.

If you are and if you survive, it will be a tribute to your training.

The dojo is a stage. Real life is more demanding. In training you must always be mindful of the balance between safety and effectiveness both in conducing and receiving any action.

The balance between precision and compassion will then extend into all things.

Will You Be Able To Do That Technique When You Are Old?

If not, what use is it?

The litmus test that defines Aikido is EFFICIENCY and ECONOMY of motion.

Nobody attacks you when you are full of beans, rather when tired, old, sick, worn out, in the middle of a divorce, depleted and so on.

In battle there will be times when you will be malnourished, dehydrated, exhausted.

Minimal output and getting optimal results is good aiki.

This does not mean that you will not add power into a technique in a real situation. Such power cannot be used in training without increase risk of severe injury.

Weak individuals always try to add too much power in training, but in so doing, deprive themselves of finding true power, the so called “inner.”

What is the ” inner” and are you an innie or an outie when it comes to doing things?

Efficiency, sometimes called “laziness,” cannot be tested when hyperactivity and muscle power is getting in the way. Relaxed power is true power because it carries immense reserves and is configured to release it fully. So long as you remain relaxed.

The muscles are for holding up the skeletal frame and for moving it in a balanced and efficient “bare bones” way. Not to try to shove life about. Life can shove back much harder.

Mimicking a form using crude energy without feeling, is neither ki nor aikido of any kind. You have to get ego out the way, risk failing and then NOTICE and DISCOVER the other potentials.

Sure there will be mistakes. Mistakes are learning curves intended for good training. You learn best from error and error is nature’s educative method. Make mistakes, notice them, acknowledge and then set about correction. This is Budo.

In order to learn to succeed where it matters, you first have to learn to fail in a safe environment.

In a dangerous environment this is not an option because it could be permanent. In the field of battle mistakes are not an option. There is only one mandate, win and do so decisively.

Young people are programmed by nature to expend excess energy. This, in ancient times increased the possibility of survival through the traumas of primitive life.

Maturing gracefully carries the necessity of letting go. Some resist, others make it an art form.

Finding the EFFICIENT WAY in all things is a gain, but not in the way usually presumed.

Efficiency augments skill exponentially. It is the same principle a gearing, be this money or the engine of a car. A well geared car uses less petrol. Well geared money grows. Well cultivated food crops require minimal maintenance and no to additives or pest repellants.

Well geared battle skill is not wasteful, safer and more effecting increasing, if not ensuring, your chances of success.

Who is it that does not want this?

But who is it that is prepared to do the WORK to achieve this state of increased efficiency?

And who is it who is prepared to do that most confronting, yet essential of things: TO LET GO?

Ahh, there’s the rub… and so people cheat and waste more time doing so, than the smaller fraction of time input required to get the actual and real result.

Work ethic can be geared also.

Aikido improves with age but only when you train regularly.

O’Sensei thrashed some yakuza who tried to mug him in Tokyo in his 80’s or so. In the news last year an old marine did something similar.

That’s spirit, not daydreaming of parables and daises you will end pushing up if you fail to train properly.

How do you get it?

There are oldies in their 80s in Okinawa who still train hard Karate-do, grow their own organic food and are ahead in every way and healthier, than the younger generation who eat crap and spend all day at keyboards.

It’s choice of lifestyle.

By training and LEARNING from training. By NOTICING CLEARLY and THINKING FOR YOURSELF, you will increase you skill and also your ability to continue to learn and be capable.

Furthermore, training keeps you younger than your chronological age as compared to those who sit and decide to “retire” and then work hard at vegetating.

And with regard those efficient and natural action techniques, they never leave you. The fancy forced stuff was never worth anything anyhow.

The Aikido Body-Mind is the gentle and gradual spiritual credit of transformation earned over time, in the Do of honest training, searching for the answers as they are, in accord with the Great Harmony that is Nature and the Universe. This means confronting oneself, the discomfort of a disciplined lifestyle and never giving up.

It is a lifelong process of refining the self-gratifying hairless chimp to become instead conscious, sensitive and benevolent towards all life and thereby Hito Jinja.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Nev, you always deliver cogently and beautifully, my hat is off yet again — nick

  2. bruce baker says:

    In some ways ‘TO FOSTER THE ILLUSION’ is what we do.

    By this I encourage you to look at who and what you are for your age, you type of body, your type of personality, and how you appear to either NOT be a threat or BE a threat to those around you.

    The old master who appears to be just as helpless as all those around him, old and unable to fight he is fostering an illusion that serves him well.

    The young lion who has some skills of fighting but little experience fosters the illusion that he is a strong undefeatable fighter.

    The fact is … if you want to be less of a target you must blend into the crowd for whatever age you are, whatever type of body you have, and not give away your hidden skills by advertising.

    The sick want to appear healthy and full of vigor, while the lion needs to appear less lion-like and blend.

    My point?

    Learn your lessons well, but don’t go advertising your skills. When you must use your skills, realize the difference between practice and practical application.

    For example, if you were to take a pile of sticks and attempt to break each one across a log … they don’t all break the same, do they? Each of them is only slightly different, though at a glance they all appear to be the same. Some are very hard and resilient while others are brittle and break easily. People are like sticks, so be careful, work on sensitivity for feeling on a physical level, mental level, and actual level what must be done for each situation you face.

    Two lessons in this. One, you must adapt and adjust to the feel of each object as you put it in motion somehow judging what force needs to be applied to accomplish your purpose. Two, how much are you giving away or advertising by the way you dress, act, and interact with people around you? Which stick in the pile are you?

    Silly eh? Well, I don’t know about you, but my goal is to be invisible in a crowd, just another average face. The hardest thing to do is to be you but not go over the top so you are the center of attention. Way too many people in our culture think that the person who is the center of attention has the best life, the most, money, the greatest place among his/ her peers. I don’t think so ….

    I, on the other hand, think you should hide your weapons( I consider my skills weapons cause you always have you where ever you go), mind your own business of training so you go about your average life in a quiet way, and simply be the best “YOU” you can be .. stop worrying about how good or bad someone else is in comparison to you, and find that happy life that is ‘the you’ that will make you happiest over the long run.

    Yeah, too many people are for themselves, and they wonder why they aren’t at the top of the list, the front of class, or the best at whatever they seek to do, but I say .. to hell with that!

    The majority of us end up in the middle, just being average in the crowd people who become tough old birds that the younger generation has no clue about … because … we look just like, act just like, and seem to be helpless just like …. the majority of the crowd around us. Except maybe for granny over there who has a taser, and that ex-cop over there who has a permit to hidden-carry a gun, and that off-duty officer over there …

    What .. weren’t you paying attention? You aren’t the only one in the crowd who can fight his/her way out of a paper bag …

    My favorite people to train with are .. people who have black belts in other disciplines and come to train in aikido … yeah .. those people … are fun, and more safe to train with than some kid looking to show who Aikido doesn’t work. (Plus they have a great sense of humor, and great stories to tell)

  3. Two related questions about advancing age and hard technique:

    1 – CAN you do it? Probably some, but not as much, and with a higher risk of injury.

    2 – SHOULD you? That’s tougher. With experience comes the ability to make simple/subtle stuff work most of the time. But how can you teach that? You can’t really because it is the distillation of decades of practice. So, if you’re going to teach, you might consider the elder Saito Sensei who devoted his life to basics accessible to anybody (but which contain any number of subtleties for advanced study). If you’re not at the head of the class and the teacher will tolerate you doing simple, fine. If you ARE at the head of the class, consider where everybody else is on the learning curve, please.

  4. Brett Jackson says:

    Ditto to what Nick said (my hat’s off to you too!). “The Aikido Body” — Yes, that’s what we’ve developing! I can feel it. To add something complementary to what Mr Sagiba says above. We have a sign in our dojo modelled after a sign in Iwama which reads, “It is not correct to use force to resist your partner’s technique.” The outsider will never undersand this (without lengthy explanation anyway). Here’s my understanding of why it’s not correct: it’s safer not to resist; not resisting avoids competition (competition in Aikido is dangerous, not to mention couter-productive to the Do of Aiki); and finally, anyone can resist anyone eles’s technique (like a smart aleck) if they know in advance what is coming. Finally, resisting is not going to promote that Aikido Body.

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