Nev Sagiba: My response to “Can Competition Enhance O-Sensei’s Aikido?” by Stanley Pranin

The question is an oxymoron and the oldest circular augment in the history of mankind. All that any good Budo training can do, is to promote sanity through augmenting context and perspective; and continually offers trainees a reminder that real violence is an all-lose scenario.

Two men in a ring with rules, whilst athletic, skilled and courageous, prove nothing more than that their minds are trapped by rules. On the other hand, those having killed, the ultimate of true violence, unless mentally ill, seldom feel good about it. And if not behind bars, are usually tormented souls. Or both.
A true warrior understands clearly that SERVICE TO LIFE means that he may be sacrificed for the success of the campaign at hand; and lives is hope that he is indeed serving the greater good. HAVE NO ILLUSIONS ABOUT THAT! Otherwise he wastes his life as well.

“Styles” are a conceptual calcification. Each training method, whilst in part valid, being a small part of a comprehensive toolbox, is also limited to its constraints. One tool makes you less than a dilettante. Two or three somewhat useful. Lots can confuse the mind, UNLESS the commonality, the universal laws of mind, life and physics back of it are understood.

Aikido is not yet another “style,” but a way to rediscover these universal principles of life, and thereby a means to find efficiency, the ergonomics of movement interaction subject to laws harmony of the universe as it is. This naturally awakens the mind and augments ALL other skills. ANYTHING that is efficient is Aikido, whether this be Aikido standing, lying down, sailing a boat, riding a horse or real combat, just as it can be, and preeminently IS the saving of life, whether this be a rescue service or a healer of any kind, such as even a surgeon.

Look at any master of any field and he or she is INCISIVE, EFFICIENT, EFFECTIVE, RELAXED and ALTRUISTIC; and carries all the other hallmarks of mastery. Aikido. Way of harmony with the ki of the universe.

All the relevant tools for a given task must exist and be present in good condition for a project to have a sound outcome. All methods have their merit. Unless you expose yourself to variety, you are stuck in an opinion cloister that could kill you. Your lack of mental flexibility has already defeated you.
CONTEST IS THE DISEASE. Budo exists to CURE IT. Not to add to it. Aikido, to refine the horizons of possibility even further.

To harmony and in the functions of restoring harmony, there are no rules. You either avoid fighting at all costs. Or you kill. Everything else is practice. In practice, win, lose or draw, is irrelevant, because it is all R&D learning. To stop violence without causing harm, or by minimizing it, is the essence and epitome of TRUE Budo and anything at all which enables this outcome is valid Budo. When this is no longer possible, as a final resort, it may become necessary to kill or commit grievous harm, in order to protect, or to survive.

If you really want to avoid the immediate consequences of a violent situation you can simply shoot or poison the opponent before the match as, for example, more heavy duty crime groups have always done. But then there’s the inevitable long term consequences. Your victim will have relatives and you will be watching your back until the day you relax and they get you.

This is the history of all vendetta, another lose, lose, lose scenario. If you want to win, then do not fight. In order to not fight you must know how to fight. If the situation arises where you must fight, use common-sense or die. Common-sense based on practice is best. Si vis pacem para bellum, simply spells Budo.

Aiki Budo is the pinnacle of both Budo and Aikido that can be put into practice. It can take any form that serves to uplift society such as firefighting (and its attendant preventative education and implementation), ambulance, paramedics, security, police and others. It can also be compassion in administration and governing of a social structure; as it also exists in education, science, the arts and any other valid function that can be used to understand, nurture and protect life and the familial mutual obligations of all living beings, respect foremost.

If you cannot take the benefits accrued through your Budo, beyond the dojo and this CONSTRUCTIVELY, then you train for nothing. Specifically, in my view, O’Sensei’s Aikido exists to heal the destructive disease of competition and all the malignant attitudes that propagate and spawn such disaster making.

A perfect example: Ashoka, the Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from 269 BC to 232 BC. Following a number of brutal military conquests Ashoka, from his headquarters at Magadha (present-day Bihar, India) reigned over most of present-day India and became one of India’s greatest emperors, his empire stretching from present-day Pakistan, Afghanistan in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra except Tamil Nadu. He conquered the kingdom named Kalinga, which no one in his dynasty had conquered starting from Chandragupta Maurya.

No different from previous, subsequent and also recent mad, would be-kings, after having the realization that his victory won him only lots of dead bodies and immense scorn form those left living, he realized that he had “won” nothing and that his “victory” in fact constituted a net loss. At this point he embraced Buddhism.

Ashoka became a devotee of ahimsa (nonviolence), love, truth, tolerance and vegetarianism and the propagation of Buddhism across Asia and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha. He ended his days, no longer as a mass murderer, but a philanthropist.
And the same wheel keeps getting reinvented over and over, some on as great scale, some smaller and more personal.

The trajectory of competition has not got us to a good place as a species. Co-creativity works better and sustains.

In short, the best way to uplift, is to do it. Enact everything creative and non-destructive that uplifts. Since O’Sensei’s Aikido was PART of a broad based philosophy of humanity and upliftment, in agreeing with Stan’s conclusion, my question is: What the hell has competition got to do with anything at all?

Nev Sagiba


  1. …yet unenlightened souls are competitive. Absent formal competition in aikido that competitiveness is either papered over with falsehood, or concealed in trickery on the mat.

    Kano sensei had an answer. Whether his answer was perfect or enduring is another question. O Sensei had an answer. We live with it as long as we practice in his tradition. But was O Sensei’s answer any more perfect than Kano sensei’s?

    The normal resolution of this dilemma, at least as far as I’ve observed, is to more or less formally invite strong competitive aikidoka to leave. Seems to work, in that the remaining students are more tractable… (…and of course, there are always the questions of paying the rent and avoiding insurance claims…)

  2. O’Sensei didn’t offer answers. He offered a map and directions.

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