“What is Aikido,” by Rick Berry

“What is Aikido? Why do we practice this art of throwing and neutralization? To begin with, I do not practice for the sake of self-defense, nor have I felt the need to work on that aspect of life for a number of years. Although it is true that we train through the medium of attack and defense, the art-form and concept is realized mentally rather than physically.”

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  1. bruce baker says:

    That is the stupidest statement … you don’t practice Aikido for self defense? You need to be taken into the back room and beaten like a red-headed step child by some little old lady, or little old man, who can show you what martial arts is all about .. until you wake up!

    Even though I agree that the MENTAL exercise of being able to transform Aikido’s safe practice into an effective physical application beyond the actual safe parameters practiced, you ain’t gonna find it by simply practicing and studying aikido your entire life in it’s present structured classes.

    The answers are found by studying many different disciplines, and in the study of the human body. How can you access those physical weak-points of the human body causing either confusion, pain, or injury to that human body despite the safe practice of aikido? Pay attention .. the answers are actually in there in Aikido’s short-hand notes … pay attention.

    To figure out what them short-hand notes mean, you are gonna have to study and look outside of Aikido ..

    If along the way you find methods to extend life, improve health, and contribute to the general welfare of society … all the better. My opinion … no more, no less.

  2. Politeness and respect are also aspects of aikido practice. Although those aspects are sometimes lost on some practitioners. And some commentators.

  3. You are too late in your prescription I have already been beaten to a pulp on numerous occasions, and from time to time given as good as I got thank you.

    I say it again, I do not practice Aikido for self-defense purposes. Allow me to explain why I say this. I have been practicing martial arts for 44 years starting with shorin ryu karate. In 1966 I switched to Ji do Kwan under the late C. K. Kim, national fighting champion of Korea, 1958. Kim’s student, 6′ 250 pound Steve McKnight, had me sparring at times three students at once, at a time I was recovering from a broken hand. I could not use that hand as it was in a cast. After 28 months of training that way in addition to one handed push-ups, sweating off 3 to 5 pounds per class, entering tournaments wearing McKnight’s black belt while still a brown belt I feel I know a thing or two about fighting. While preparing me for my black belt exam McKnight had me spar the top eight students in our class, one after another and go through them twice. During that session I broke my arm while blocking my opponent’s jumping front kick. I say all that just to give you a description of the type of fighting we did in that dojang.

    With that background in mind I say again that while using, in my opinion, proper defensive concepts (as in street fighting techniques) my overall thinking is not in terms of self defense. In other words I do not practice for self defense purposes. I practice and train as a means of personal, self improvement. At 70 years of age my experience has shown me that the way to change the world primarily is to change the way you see that world. And I simply do not see the world as a hostile one. We create as we think and act and I simply act out my projection of a peaceful universe starting within my own mind.

    Also, in my experience and observation there are many, many souls who practice Aikido for fun, exercise and some just for plain old health reasons. Of course, one could state that health reasons are in fact self defense of the body. And I do suggest that they think along the lines of self defense while training. At least in the beginning.

    As you say, pay attention, and one may find a much richer discovery than the old self defense venues while using the medium of self defense.

    As I am not defending my position, please pardon me if my concepts do not concur with your views.

  4. …i think anybody should practice aikido for any reason that motivates them.

    i practice for self defense and the first aspect of self defense is physical condition and conditioning. taking injuries is going to cost you. taking injuries in training is going to cost you in combat effectiveness if it ever comes to that. so, training must promote strength and stamina without avoidable injuries. that is going to moderate dojo techniques.

    personally, i don’t get along well in aiki dance schools. same reason i get in political disagreements with people who claim they have enlightened status while pursuing policies the consequences of which are mostly “unintended”. they’re both critical of non-conformists. but i encourage my students to go to such schools for as long as they can keep their mouths shut in order to get more flow in their techniques.

  5. Bas makes an excellent point about respect and politeness to which I would also add honor. In fact I left the karate tournament world just for that reason, the lack of respect being demonstrated by many competitors.

    I also concur with Mr. Warren’s observations in that dancing schools are for dance. A martial arts dojo is for self defense and many people practice without considering what’s happening with uke’s other hand while applying nikkyo to the hand that grabbed you. Martial principles MUST be applied while training in any martial art. I get all that very well. One may practice all kinds of martial mayhem tactics without intending it for strictly self defense purposes.

    That said, if one is enlightened enough one can see different applications to various movements even from dance moves demonstrated by dance teachers. The intention and application of the movement is in the head of the participant. And the consequences of said application rests squarely on the practitioner, as some have discovered as they await the legal outcome of a physical confrontation. I learned how to fight many years ago and it has become easy to change said confrontations from physical to mental and avoid fighting. I have been successful for 44 years so it’s no longer necessary to count. I now apply the principles I’ve learned on the mat to everyday life and it keeps getting easier. In fact, I’ve written a book on the subject entitled, “Stepping Off the Mat.” To discover more info on my approach to training and to read several comments on the book go to the bibliography section of Aikido Journal. it is listed there.

  6. Araki-Metcalfe Paul says:

    Sadly in this world when someone wants to go at you they usually do, no matter how you try to reason with them. That is when proper effective Aikido techniques can save your life. You can reach the highest level of Aikido and chose to just neutralise the attacker without harming him/her in any way. But, if you are surrounded by a group intent on harming you physically, you better be able to use Aikido as a martial art rather than a dance or a great negotiating too, or you will simply get trashed.
    Aikido can be many things to many people, spiritual awakening and enlightenment, physical exercise, flowing form, Ki extension, mind/body unified power, but first and foremost it is and must be an effective martial art. I believe that you must become proficient at the martial side of Aikido before you can move onto the deeper hidden meanings of this wonderful art. I believe that is where many people get themselves into trouble. They rush past the physical form of aikido to delve into the spiritual hidden side too soon. Spiritual enlightenment works really well in a monastery but no so well on the streets.
    You have to crawl, before you can walk, before you can run. You have to experience and master the physical forms of Aikido, before you can truly delve into the spiritual side, and then blend them all together. These things can take a lifetime, and many still never reach their goal. Certainly not the ones who rush past all the years of physical learning,training, and evolution to be prepared for the spiritual journey ahead.
    Good luck to you
    Araki-Metcalfe Paul
    Aikido addict for over 30 years

  7. Paul great comment. I completley agree that you have to achieve some level of physical proficiency before exploring the spiritual aspects of the art. So many people in aikido are masters of philosophizing about the art but when they get on the mats they have a very low level of technique. They want to be a sage before they even learn ikkyo.

  8. Aleksey S. says:

    I honestly love many of these comments. It’s refreshing to see something very different from typical Aikido comments about abdomenal flower sensations and vibrational frequencies. I swear if I saw another comment about someone “doing Aikido” by gently smiling at a homeless man in a metro, I was going to puke.

    Finally, people are starting to talk sense – about the physical journey having to balance the spiritual.

    The physical side alone has an amazing amount of depth. It is not shallow to pursue it. Not in the slightest.

    Also, no matter how experienced you are, if you see fighting techniques in dancing, then you’re delusional. Sorry. Yes, salsa and such have rotational movements which vaguely resemble Aikido, with the distinction that they’re done with completely different level of interaction and intent.

    You could as well say that you see yokomen uchi in football when you throw the ball. It’s borderline nonsense.

  9. Gentlemen,
    Perhaps I did not explain myself very well. Back in the 1970’s C. K. Kim, my Korean instructor taught me an aikido technique, shiho-nage. Since than time I have added sweeps to its execution. When I teach Aikido now I show where the strikes may be applied. That is kicks and sweeps as well. When I was just beginning to study the martial arts I saw a photo of former ballet dancer, Edward Vallela (I think I spelled his name correctly) doing what looked to me like a flying side kick. I concluded then that a dancer (could) be trained to be a competent fighter by changing his mind and the intentions of his movements. If I am wrong please forgive my lack of knowledge and vision.

    While watching a pro football game, I saw the quarterback running while attempting to throw a pass. A defensive player was running him down and dove onto his back wrapping his arms around him to take him down. The quarterback bent forward deeply, and the lineman went flying over his shoulders in a perfect demonstration of an aikido timing throw. It looked just exactly like throws I’ve seen and done myself in the dojo. The lineman was thrown in a somersault and landed flat on his back. The quarterback then ran out of bounds.

    I completely agree that Aikido is a fighting art and not “love, peace and harmony.” The most efficient way to defend oneself is to harmonize with your opponent’s movements, then deal with him effectively. That is what I’ve been learning and doing for 44 years.

    I learned how to fight so I could travel with relative security. So far I’ve not had to use my arts physically but I do indeed use the study principles on a daily basis. As I have discovered in my experiences: You teach people how to treat you by the way you respond to the things they do. As I’ve slowly gotten older and hopefully a little bit wiser, I simply no longer practice Aikido for self defense reasons. Is that too difficult to comprehend or am I not wise enough see what some see?

  10. Aleksey S. says:

    The problem is that your main article did not include any of this supplemental information about your background. More importantly, it doesn’t present itself as your subjective opinion at a specific point in your life, but more of an enlightement about the nature of Aikido.

    This makes it look very similar to many inane pieces of writing about how Aikido is indeed dances and smiles and flowers and how you can repel a burglar by talking about their ill mother instead of talking ill about their mother…

    This disconnectedness from reality is what provokes kneejerk responses from some of us who are sick of such opinion-pieces perpetuating the image of Aikido as an art practiced by narcissistic, delusional fruitcakes.

    Perhaps you should’ve included your background in the article and made a tighter focus on the fact that your current practice methods are simply dictated by the fact that you believe you’re “too old for this #*(@”.

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