“Aikido on stage in tails,” by Djong Victorin Yu

Last Friday, June 25, 2010, I gave a small demonstration on stage not only as a martial artist but as an artist. I am a conductor, and the theme of the concert program was “War and Peace” to commemorate the beginning of the Korean War exactly 60 years ago to that day. The composition I conducted was “Ein Heldenleben” by Richard Strauss which is about a hero, his adversaries, his companion, war against his enemies, victory, reflection on his life, and death.

As I always do in my concerts here in Pohang, Korea, I was giving a short lecture about Strauss before the music began. Just as I asked a rhetorical question how a war starts (either by instigating it or being attacked), I had an aikido friend sneak up on stage. To the audience as well as the orchestra members on stage, it looked as if we were having an argument right on stage which developed into a scuffle, and I did a kokyunage which made her (a sturdily-built Austrian girl) fly across the stage and land on the wooden floor with a loud thud. No mats there! She played dead for a short while. As I explained to the audience that I would take care of this matter with the mike held in my left hand, I approached her. She then suddenly grabbed me again, and I threw her off one more time.

I had timed this sequence and concluded that it could not be any longer than two moves. Just as some people on stage and in the audience were about to jump on stage and/or call the police, I tapped her on her head with the mike in a playful way. All through the action, I had the mike in my left hand. Then I explained that her two strong hands on my right arm were too strong to defeat if I were drawn into her world (I demonstrated how it would be impossible to enter in this situation), but if I went about and did my thing in my world, I would have no trouble defending myself. I did another kokyunage and flipped her. My orchestra members gasped again. They could not believe that their short and gentle conductor would actually man-handle a European girl without any hesitation. I finished the lecture by briefly talking about Korean history and military tactics. Finally, I introduced my friend to the audience.

I turned around and conducted Ein Heldenleben. Most members of my orchestra are women. They were positively shocked, but the men seemed even more affected. Later, many people who were in the audience told me that the situation looked real especially because they saw the reaction on orchestra members’ faces. I was glad I had not informed my orchestra of the short skit on stage.

It was not easy to give this demonstration. The biggest problem was my outfit. Wearing French cuffs with cufflinks, vest, and tails was not as convenient as a dogi. My uke had trouble grabbing me over the clothes. I also had to be careful not to have the sleeve ripped off. Another aikido friend, who was in the audience, said my wearing tails actually made the picture look good because I looked unscathed and dignified. I was happy that I was able to apply aikido to an “ordinary” situation although wearing tails on stage is hardly more ordinary than wearing a hakama on the street.

I hope you found my rambling rather amusing.

Djong Victorin Yu
Principal Conductor
Pohang Symphony Orchestra


  1. Wonderful! will refrain from discussing strategy on the Korean Peninsula, but would be happy to be instructed.

  2. Dan Rubin says:

    What an wonderful story! Congratulations on an inspired demonstration!

  3. This is GREAT! I LOVE your idea of using the peaceful martial art of aikido to add a memorable piece of entertainment to a musical performance! Wish I could have been there – and choosing a girl – GENIUS. Wish it could have been me:)

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