“The Paradox of Aikido – Myriad Potentials” by Nev Sagiba

When is a martial art not a martial art?

When it’s Aikido!

Contest sports contain little, if any truly martial skill that would be useful in a battlefield. Their brawling methods exist to keep people entertained. And injured.

And yet, nearly all these, once formed part of a comprehensive survival toolkit either for the killing fields or for day to day survival as hunter gathering societies, many with unruly neighbours.

In today’s world we are not warring farmers and no longer grow up working from an early age. Our “work” usual consists of lots of sitting down and inordinate efforts spent to avoid real work, of the sweaty muscular kind. The most wear and tear we now get is RSI from wielding a mouse and keyboard as we become blind.

The stresses of today are different and perhaps more damaging than those of natural people.

In adapting our lifestyles to much softer than those of our ancestors it can’t be expected that we could even begin to approach the athletic levels of those who move daily to survive.

Adaptations in Aikido continue. Many revolve around minimising stress to RSI riddled wrists, arms, shoulder, necks and backs damaged and weakened by office work.

But people still train. Why? Other skills are enhanced by the simulation of survival practices which nevertheless do increase physical fitness to some measure, but also unlock hitherto unexplored attributes of ourselves, artistic talents and other forms of intelligence not usually explored. These would be stifled in competitive sports who’ve lost the plot around any form of reality.

Notwithstanding that Aikido is a Budo adapted to today, nevertheless, we must always train to the best of our ability, as if real and preparing for real battle. The myriad other attributes and skills that are then vivified and enhance all your other skills then make this worthwhile.

Most of today’s soft people will not approach anywhere near the physical ability that of the ancient ones.

There can be a gain in the Aikido approach to training, particularly in seeking another way than brute strength and conflict to get results.

Nev Sagiba


  1. There’s a tradeoff between well nourished and rested (good), and very slightly exercised-stressed (bad, in the context of martial arts). At the opposite extreme is the guerrilla in the mountains or jungle, undernourished, fatigued, diseased, pushing to the limits… but because of the factors mentioned the physical limits are less. So, how to gain the guerrilla’s mental strength of character while retaining the reserves of stamina available to us? Training. But within training there is also a balance. Train too hard and the injuries pile up. They will either put you off the mat, or seriously reduce your abilities in a finite amount of time. Time may be the key. The aboriginal human was old at 45. The average guerrilla might not make it to that. This plays along with my theme that if you have a week to learn techniques they will be few and simple. If you have decades, well… they might be aikido.

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