“Aikido is 100% atemi!,” by Patrick Parker

“A while back I mentioned the old aphorism that ‘atemi solves 80% of the problems in aikido,’ and I got a response from someone along the lines of, ‘What? Are you nuts? Do you really think that hitting people in the face will ever solve any problems in aikido?’ At the time I didn’t respond, but it’s funny how this sort of thing roils in my mind for a while until I decide that I really do want to respond.”

Click here to read entire article.


  1. What is the point of learning Aikido if you think atemi is the key? Just study atemi instead of Aikido, it would be easier yes? People who use atemi in aikido, in my opinion, cannot perform proper Aikido technique and use atemi try and make up for their shortfalls. How can you study what O-Sensei started if you think atemi is the key? I thought Aikido was all about harmony and blending energy, not smashing people with an atemi. Is that not Karate?

    • to araki – Metcalfe paul o sensei was our founder of aikido which is a great success to be taught to all of the world but thing is ATEMI like you mentioned is taught to karate (Shotokan) is one of them… but when you practice the art of aikido it is the way of harmony that’s fine… but you need to study a bit of pressure points striking eg atemi to set you up for kuzushi it’s same as aiki jujitsu / jujitsu / tai chi / kung fu / wing chun / all these have pressure point striking techniques in the system…. as well as to be used in self defence …… just explore as much as you can take in lots of knowledge in the martial arts no matter what you practice enjoy training go with your flow study atemi also blend this into your lifestyle aikido. tomiki aikido doesn’t practice atemi but you can put atemi strikes in there that’s really not a problem it’s really up to you araki – Metcalfe on how you perform go for it my friend ?

  2. Araki-metcalfe Paul – perhaps you have a limited definition of atemi. Atemi does not have to be percussive damaging strikes. Atemi can men touch and holding space. Coming from the Tomiki lineage that Patrick Parker does, Atemi also takes on a irimi connotation.

    Here is some Atemi translation work from my blog.

  3. “The secret to Aikido is Atemi”…Osensei

  4. David DeLong says:

    Atemi is fundamental to traditional aikido. To say that isn’t to say that aikido is about punching your opponent in the face, and then trading subsequent punches.
    In real fights, atemi may be necessary on their own merits. However, in the practice of aikido atemi are critical on several levels.
    First of all, violence is a form of communication. It’s a behavioral semiotic with roots in sociobiology. (I know…Duh!) It’s a language. I’ll let the experts take over on this one, except to say that this understanding can be very useful in understanding the form of aikido.
    In order to practice the noble language of aikido, one must get the attention of one’s partner. One must “connect” one’s center to one’s partner’s center, preferably even before any action takes place. Atemi function in this regard in practice.
    Secondly, one must be at the proper distance to effect an awase. and atemi serve a critical function here. The employment of your partner’s hands for defense rather than secondary or counter attack is a subset here.
    Thirdly, one must be able to apply one’s entire body/mind/spirit into the enterprise of aiki, and atemi is all about this kind of marshalling of total being. In some cases, a closed fist is used, more often, we use an open hand because we want our hand to be ready for the application of technique, the control of our partner’s weaapon, etc. You will find, in realistic training, that if you simply wave your hand in front of your partner, it is likely to be grabbed and used as a handle to control you. We actually employ that as a strategy in order to guide our partner into our flow of technique, however, if it’s done mindlessly it will back-fire.
    Atemi is not simply the act of “hitting” someone.

  5. The purpose of atemi can be seen as upsetting uke’s i, ki and ri without screwing up one’s own. It is far more than “hitting” and may be more related to nerve stimulation and kuzushi. If one believes that Aikido does not permit doing permanent damage to another then striking to break something or knock someone out – thereby leading to being prosecuted or sued – is simply not on. If, however, one learns, after mch practice, to strike in such ways that uke (in dojo or street) loses the ability to continue his attack, even for only a moment, then the rest of Aiki taiho becomes available. Sometimes atemi need not land at all…..

  6. Atemi = Irimi. It’s about taking or occupying ukes space without losing respectively expanding your own. This will lead into proper kuzushi.

  7. …aikido without atemi quickly becomes dance and ineffective if resisted. too much emphasis on landing the atemi, however, messes up stance, posture, and the flow of the technique.

    so, atemi should be practiced for their own sake. we spend half our time as uke and should be able to attack well. it’s not just about falling down. and as nage, there are reference points in all the techniques where atemi should be possible, even if we refrain from doing any more than signaling their possibility.

    as a practical matter most “real techniques” don’t get beyond the first move or two. getting off the line while simultaneously striking is the key to survival, particularly in multiple person situations. in general you don’t have to exert board-breaking strength. you should be set up to a sensitive vulnerability and your “real life uke” should pretty much walk into it. clearly if you telegraph your move that isn’t “aiki” and won’t work well if at all.

  8. Same problem today…

    The institution concerned was the Nakano School, a training school for military espionage analogous to our MI5. Trainees were on a one year course covering undercover work, guerrilla warfare and so on. Unarmed combat was also included and the original teacher for this was Morihei Uyeshiba (of Aikido). Uyeshiba himself was good but when the students tried to apply the techniques they couldn’t make them work under real conditions. In a way, Aikido had too much “technique” for the limited one year of training. The military leaders decided to look at karate as an alternative, and they observed the different styles, such as Goju, Wado, and Shotokan.

  9. Jack Hosie says:

    People look but do not see, hear but do not listen, so true comprehension eludes them.

    Atemi in all its forms both unrefined and refined, is the art and science of entering into the mind of the opponent, because the conflict resides in the mind, with the body being the vehicle of expression.

    We have often read Ueshiba sensei’s admonition, where he states that aikido decides life and death in a single strike, so students must carefully follow the instructor’s teaching and not compete to see who is the strongest, or words to that effect.

    These words used to baffle me, because I never met any aikidoka who was truly competent with atemi, but now I see the wisdom in his counsel, for atemi on it own could be painful, but atemi applied with aiki is very dangerous indeed, even to point of taking a life.

    Therefore, to be able to resolve the inner/mental conflict, one has to reach out or as others say extend, in order to create musbi which in turn leads to kuzushi, which leads to closure with the correct execution of both the internal dynamic and external mechanic.

    How one arrives at this point is not what matters, rather that the principles are adhered and applied in accordance with the philosophy, this the important thing.

    Aiki is not fighting, but the means whereby we face and overcome an attack, in such a manner that seeks to preserve both parties with minimal harm, this is it goal, this kind of ability only comes about through assiduous study and diligent practice developed over many years, for it is not the techniques which are important, but ones heart.

    The emphasis is upon not only the perfecting and polishing our knowledge and skills, but more importantly, our character and conduct, for this is the essence of Budo.

  10. Mr. Sugano, when questioned in 1961 stated, “It’s all the same thing.”
    Having said that, the “same thing” can be approached by many roads.
    There are no “styles” in combat; only what works. What does not work will get you killed while you clingon to pet theories and silly opinions.
    There are no “strikes/atemi in Aikido.” That’s because: ALL OF AIKIDO IS STRIKES/ATEMI!
    There are very few strikes separate to Aikido that are not Aikido and aside from insignificant details, they resemble karate or any other way of striking.
    Quite simply, for safety in training we use kusushi and ukemi to mitigate the strike effect. Oversimplified: A slow strike is a push and a fast push is a strike.
    Soft, is not soft. Effective softness can be most dangerous because at the pivot point the fulcrum bears no stress. In training you can be feeling a feather yet your training parter is feeling a ton or severe impact. Aikido is the most dangerous Budo when properly understood. Also the most compassionate when applied creatively.
    Sensitivity in training is paramount but survival is a different story.

    • As I read this I am thinking to myself that in the nearly 20 years of studying Aikido the one thing that gets people in an uproar is atemi. Some of the posts here have hit the mark about how limited our understanding of atemi is. in all my time I have seen only a handful of instructors get the point and able to teach Aikido effectively to include atemi. After training in combatives I can say Aikido works better if the Aikidoka is mature enough to know that these techniques are not magical but hardcore combat tested ways of hand to hand combat. One problem I have seen is the way Americans practice Aikido… is that students just don’t move correctly. They take on an attitude that if you don’t move me then you are not doing the technique correctly. In truth the student has lost the awareness of how atemi would make the technique work. Other traditions of martial arts have trained their students to be responsible with their application of atemi why can’t ours? Not teaching it or making people aware is dangerous.

  11. there’s a lot of people who always slate aikido saying what you learn in the dojo techniques etc wont work in a self defence situation or it’s not practical effective I think they are just jealous of budo aikido to be honest and don’t really understand its great art at all it is effective when fully applied when your using irimi kuzushi then into any technique you wish to use it is way of harmony yes I AGREE but if your attacked in a real street situation you defend yourself to stay alive…… also an attacker it’s called uke to me… you never turn your back on him you put him down keep him down… once that’s it then your at peace with ones self but you don’t go look for trouble and it goes back to aikido again to resolve without fighting to avoid conflicts but you don’t seek a fight also you don’t FEAR one… now lets go back to ATEMI you can use this into your techniques…. I don’t see why not to be honest .. it. will slow him down. applying pressure to his joints… or striking him in the areas of his human body same as aikijutsu ive been practicing tomiki aikido for 4 yrs now it’s a sporting way of aikido competition but you don’t have to enter into competition if you don’t want to but that’s only up to yourself yet all techniques are effective randori is great brilliant footwork also is amazing its a lot different to karate / kickboxing where you have power kicks and punches to overcome an attacker but with aikido its totally different your moving off his centre any angle entering into irimi to kuzushi followed by technique I love it 100% it’s a big thank to our Japanese masters for teaching it to our world and spreading this great art love and respect to all at aikido masters students thank you for reading my comment

Speak Your Mind