“How Do You Get Radar?,” by Nev Sagiba


“Get good, then reduce strength to half and still make the technique work. Halve it again and keep reducing power until you can effect good result with a feather touch.”

ablogicon_nevHow do you develop the radar-like, almost x-ray vision that some budoka have?

Are some people born lucky?

No. It is within everyone’s reach. It comes from good training process.

Some guys, especially guys, train too hard too soon. They go at it like a bull in a china shop, or as someone recently said, “An octopus on crack-cocaine.”

That’s not training but a form of insanity that will either deliver or receive injuries, or both. I worry about guys like that, since telling them verbally goes in one ear and out the other. The only way is to take them down a notch or two, but that always contains an element of danger.

Training too hard, especially when you have no techniques, simply blinds you even more and slows down progress and the learning process stops. Injuries make it even worse.

Conversely, training too softly simply fails to get off the ground and falls into rote dancing and happy delusion. Until crunch time at least. Then it has been known to be the most unhappy of circumstances and the cruelest awakening.

The secret is learn to NOTICE and FEEL before mounting the pace. Escalate intensity G-R-A-D-U-A-L-L-Y.

The more you are in a hurry the slower you will progress. The more patient you are, the deeper and more precise the learning process, the more permanent the understanding and the faster you will arrive at the next level.

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. It’s a true story. Be the tortoise.

When you begin to feel the technique, then notch the intensity and power up a bit. A little bit.

Get good, then reduce strength to half and still make the technique work. Halve it again and keep reducing power until you can effect good result with a feather touch.

Do the same with speed. Start off slow. Then slowly increase speed. Then remove the speed and see how slowly you can do the technique and it still works.

If you truly KNOW the technique and are not merely cooperating dance, it does not matter how slow you go, the technique will be just as effective. Slow right down. Make it work.

Understand that there are many nuances of training. For ready reference, flowing and static are good concepts to work with. As you advance, you may arrive at some measure of dynamic training. But in training, full dynamic training is impossible without high risk. Save that for the real thing.

By modulating speed and strength and handicapping the intensity, you will learn to see with the inner eye. You will feel the technique and not rely on your eyes to see it. You will see it inside.

This is a faculty that can be refined without end and one that will augment your budo to remarkable levels. If you find you can’t, or won’t train with eyes closed, simply dim the lights, use a candle and let it burn out. Or train at night beginning with the full moon and continue till new moon.

There are many other ways to handicap yourself in order to augment skill and that mystical radar that is the natural inner vision everyone has, but which in most people sleeps, because of lack of use and proper exercise.

Use you imagination, but above all, if you are safe in training, and you take care to be safe, you will double your sensitivity even more and increase your ability and skill exponentially.

Thereby your action will be even more effective when needed in application.

The truly best budoka are safest in training and yet most dangerous in real combat, not the other way around.

And the reason is that good training works to develop “radar,” the main 99% aspect of ki that really matters. That is what you will need to see clearly through real battle.

On the other hand blinded by ego and unfounded confidence that comes from erratic and poor training, you will defeat yourself long before an adversary will need to in a real event.

Train wisely and get radar.

Nev Sagiba


  1. What do radar and x-ray vision have to do with Aikido skill? Radar is great for airplanes, warships, and military bases, but humans can’t have it without instruments. The human eye cannot see x-rays, but only visable light. Hence the name.

    What is the “inner eye?” It is mentioned in the most popular sci-fi novel of all time, “Dune,” but I don’t understand what it is, or how exactly it relates to Aikido.

    Why is the chosen animal an “octopus” on crack-cocaine, as humans only have four appendages, not eight? Well, maybe you are including knees and elbows.

    I agree with the tortoise-and-hare allusion.

    “The truly best budoka are safest in training and yet most dangerous in real combat, not the other way around”

    An excellent budoka (Aikidoka on this forum), is the one who would completely subdue an enemy with minimal permanent harm, and therefore not be the “most dangerous.” He might be the most successful, though, in the Aiki definition of that word.

  2. Curtis C-could be for "caveman" says:

    Mister Sagiba,

    I appreciate your writing,with its many metaphors,so much;I appreciate your no-mucking-around-cut-through-the-shit-attitude and style even more. By no fault of your own do your words seem to dumbfound those living in bubbles of faux enlightenment…

    Two very pertinent,and immediately indentifiable figures who were examples of those possessing “radar-like” sensory abilities and “almost x-ray vision” (PERCEPTION) were Ueshiba Morihei and Takeda Sokaku-among so many others(to varying degrees)from not just martial arts lore but from (especially pre-modern) military histories & chronicles of ancient and/or primitive hunter-gatherer societies the world over. To my knowledge, none of those people were planes, warships, military bases, nor were they born with any special intruments as part of their person. So for those who have been paying attention & have creative,open minds it’s easy to get what Mr. Sagiba is getting at, and to imagine the possiblities as they apply to oneself.

    As for being “dangerous in real combat”,a fight for life&limb: Unapologetically…damn straight I want to be dangerous(not necessarily deliberately malicious,or intentionally lethal)in real combat-period! Some who read this will understand and identify with that sentiment.Some will not;no matter.
    Furthermore,I have doubts as to wether or not anything can be defined in an “Aiki definition”. To my understanding, aiki, an abstract noun rather than an adjective,is a concept;a certain way of interacting with energy & forces and applying physical movements accordingly;is not a philosophy created by Ueshiba Morihei-it is not a philosophy at all-nor is it the exclusive domain of aikido or even its immediate progenitor arts/systems (Ueshiba’s aikibudo & Daitoryu) since it long pre-dates the advent of all three;and it (aiki)does not dictate the psychological intent by which it is applied.

    Anyway, thank you for your writings, Mr.Sagiba. Your insight and perspective is highly valued by this “caveman”. I always look forward to reading your contributions.”Cheers!” as you say Down Under.

  3. bruce baker says:

    Until you really hate what you do … you won’t be really good at what you do.

    That is a saying I invented which doesn’t mean literally you will dislike or hate, but at some point you let the programming, the inner mind, the automatic part of training or doing a task over and over and over take over so that your awareness widens. And .. your senses will widen as your senses are not overwhelmed by whatever task you are doing and they are allowed to become .. radar .. a sixth sense beyond normality .. allowing you to do more.

    It comes in the category of .. that guy could do that with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back .. yeah that category. Somewhere in the category of multi-tasking … or as I like to say … tapping into the many levels your brain is able to think and process that information more efficiently.

  4. Nick lowry says:

    Bravo again! Beautifully expresses so much of the real heart of things….Reminds me of the great old article. Budo as perceptual warfare by Kono.

  5. I am glad the metaphors have been expanded upon by others, but I am still unsure how you mean them, Nev. I believe I have a much better idea now, but it’s good when I hear it from the writer himself.

    When you talk about training at night, in a more difficult environment, this is the first time I have heard of that for Aikido. It reminds me of Tiger Woods, and the environments in which he trained during his coming of age. If it was raining, he went out and practiced. If it was super cold, hot, or windy, he would see that as a great opportunity to practice. I don’t know how many PGA Tour guys did all that, but probably some others. Anyway, Tiger’s relentless training in adverse conditions has given him in edge over many other players, especially when these environments present themselves at tournaments.

  6. And .. your senses will widen as your senses are not overwhelmed by whatever task you are doing and they are allowed to become .. radar .. a sixth sense beyond normality .. allowing you to do more.

    Although I am unsure about the radar metaphor, as I don’t believe in clairvoyance, you explain the essence of things really well here. Now, this is primarily a matter of semantics, but I don’t believe what you are explaing should be called a “sixth sense.” I would call it the cleansing (misogi) of the five senses. The state that follows allows every aspect of the mind to function at maximum capacity and effeciency. Instead of attaining something new – another sense – what is really happening is destroying unhealthy, sticky attachments in the mind to free up the five senses, i.e. eliminating distractions from the moment itself. I do concur that success in such an endeavor is, as you say, “beyond normality.” This is because many will never take that leap of faith in themselves; one reason might be that they have a lot of suppressed guilt in them. A vast number of people have many “skeletons in their closets” that they dare not allow surface into their conscious minds. I don’t believe there is much of a gradient distribution from clogged minds to clear ones. It is more of a threshold that about 2% of the population have managed to cross, into a more pleasant existence.

  7. Totally agree with you. Met my share of gun ho fools over the years, most of them not training anymore. Slowly building up your technique, understanding, ability, and speed is very good advise. Safer for you and your partner until you have a better understanding of technique, and a feel for your training partners abilities.
    Judging fro above comments, others are very pedantic about how you say it, rather than following the jist of your conversation. You can lead a horse to water but…
    Thanks again for your insight, enjoyed it and totally agree.

  8. …almost anybody can see an attack before it’s dangerous. once Terry Dobson had everybody in class clap at the outset of an attack and the noise was simultaneous. successful attacks obfuscate their objective or use some form of deception, a bit like card tricks or stage magic, but it’s easier to look through most deceptive attacks. the skill improves with practice. the words vary. Musashi wrote a lot on the subject. O Sensei wrote some. mostly, if you are thinking about the end result of either your technique or the coming attack, your mind is captured. you may wrestle your way to a technical conclusion, particularly in the dojo, or just get clobbered, usually on the street. when you’ve trained to the point that your techniques require little specific attention, then it’s much easier to just get into perceiving/understanding the evolution of the situation. the techniques will take care of themselves pretty well…

  9. “The truly best budoka are safest in training and yet most dangerous in real combat, not the other way around.”

    I addressed this briefly earlier, but I would like to go into some more depth, and include a hypothetical.

    Why is the best martial artist the safest in training? It is because he has learned human joint and pressure point thresholds, and knows when to stop folding the wrist in kotegaeshi, partially from the feedback he gets from the attacker. He won’t break the wrist. He knows to get that wrist over the shoulder in shihonage, even in the fastest training situation, so as not to break the attacker’s arm. His nikkyo does not injure, nor does his sankyo or any other technique. In pinning, he knows how much is enough, often regardless of when the attacker taps.

    I concur with the statement that he is the safest in training, yet this fact also makes him the safest in real combat.

    O’Sensei was a tough but loving man, and he could have gone through his entire life never inflicting pain on anything or anyone, and probably would have died the happy man he did.

    Let’s say a relative beginner, maybe a sixth through fourth kyu, found himself in an emergency situation in real combat. His techniques would be laced with adrenaline, and kote gaeshi might very well mean a broken wrist. Atemi may be destructive. A tenchinage leading toward a throw might result in devastating punch after punch in an effort to subdue the attacker at all costs.

    I have noticed something in your blogs, Nev, and I just don’t know for sure if you realize it. You always speak of the destructive or at least great power of Aikido, even if it’s in a roundabout way. That’s not what we should be focusing on. Granted, a few other people (martial artists or not) might feel Aikido is weak. We know it’s not. I am not a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in psychology, but as a layperson it seems like you are insecure about how others perceive our art. I really hope you get past whatever it is, because I think you’re a good, creative writer. We both write essays for this site, yet it would be refreshing to read some from you that are not so, “in-your-face.” As I said before, I do appreciate your essays, and I would certainly rather you stay your course than stop writing altogether.

  10. Jason R. says:

    I agree with you Nev that you need be safe in training and get the fundamentals down before gradually increasing the intensity/pressure that uke puts on you and vice versa. Why does everybody start mouthing off when they hear about violence, atemi, kicking, grappling, etc? That is part of Aikido just like any anyother martial art. The problem is people don’t understand that if you just focus on O’Sensei’s philosophy then you will able to speak of all kinds of wonderful ideas and concepts, but that will make you a philosopher not a martial artist. You have to have a balanced understanding of both like anything else. How do know what is violence without peace and love? You must have both sides of the equation or it isn’t math just alot of mess. So PLEASE stop with the OH NO he said violence or worse ATEMI and get a grip or don’t say you are a martial artist because if you only focus on the philosophy and not the MARTIAL (WAR) ART side then you are merely a philosopher and will need the protection of a martial artist.

  11. What would this world be like if no one was good or evil?

  12. Mr. Sagiba,
    Again…a great thought provoking topic !
    To return to the issue of “radar”, one master teacher I have trained under uses the phrase translated into English “to smell the oil of you opponent “. (Please forgive my loss of the original Japanese phrase)
    All people have the sense of “perception”. I am not talking about the “mythical” but the real sense. That uneasiness as you walk through as parking lot at night, the hair standing up on the back of your neck e.t.c.
    I truly believe that through the rigors of our Aikido training we are able to refine and harness this sense, particularly through Randori .
    I know that the we use partners, not opponents, in our Aikido practice…yet they are interchangeable as the situation dictates.
    It is our perception that determines an outcome of “good or evil”, thus our true intention will be revealed via the technique response. Therefore, a lethal response becomes less likely, unless truly warranted.

    Is the snake, tiger or wolf I may encounter while walking in the forest “good or evil” ? They are neither.
    If I am able to perceive their presence prior to encountering them “too close” they are avoided and we all continue to live.

    Gambatte !


  13. Your points are good. The more that I paid attention to what was really going on around me, the less I was afraid of it. The more that I looked for the essence of things, the fewer things I needed. Soon, in pistol competition, I stopped using speed-loaders and a special pistol in favor of my shorter barrel duty revolver and a handful of cartridges in my back pocket. My scores went up to the degree that I thought about paying attention to “just doing it” and let the ego get out of the way. There are so many areas where by just paying attention to what was going on and what I thought about it changed much in my life. Eventually, I realized the paying attention and simple elegance went together. Now, my martial arts practice involves meditating in horse stance. The equipment I carry is a very sharp 3″ folding pocket knife that I have had for over 25 years and a small one-cell flashlight I can hold in my teeth. I meditate on our linkage as beings through thoughts of kotodama.

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