“On Training and Injuries,” by Buck Pittman

“Much has been posted over the years on training and the inevitable injuries that follow. Aikido has its roots in brutal martial arts designed to kill and maim, tested and refined under combat over centuries. Despite Aikido’s goal of harmony and non-injury, it remains a very powerful martial art that can cause serious injury in short order.”

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  1. Bravo for Mr Pittman! It is so important that shite (nage) take responsibility for uke’s well being that it should be, but seldom is, a basic principle of all Aikido traditions. My suspicion on how the responsibility for uke’s safety has shifted to uke include: commercial dojos with mats that make even bad falls safe (Tanino’s Judo Dojo in Toronto in the mid-1960s, where Kimeda sensei taught, was a good example); the perfection of several styles of Aiki ukemi that makes it both easier and safer for uke; in some places, a growing unrealistic role for uke’s “attacks” leading to the creation of what Ellis Amdur (if I remember correctly) termed “Aikibunnies” and that we call “Japanese country dancing”; in other places, the “self defense” emphasis leads to a pre-Aikido mentality of “cut my skin I cut your bone” type. I think from a realistic viewpoint we can see the sense of shite’s responsibility: in the street an uncontrolled projection can lead shite to jail, prison or a crippling law suit. Self-defense that leads to the attacker’s being injured can and does lead to the “innocent party”‘s being ruined. None of us can afford that. It is therefore incumbent upon us that we practice with the dictum branded on our souls: the Aikideshi is always responsible for the attacker’s well-being be he or she uke in the dojo or some cretin on the street.

  2. The end of summer seems to be a tough time for injuries. Although I can say that in many years of Aikido I haven’t ever been injured in class. Tweeked, dinged and twisted, of course, but never injured.
    But with a list of injuries from other sports and activities, healing sometimes takes quite a while when instead of resting you’re doing randori. Its very hard to take time off.
    But injuries are also a great learning experience. You become hyper aware of how that part of your body moves. Usually natural motions don’t hurt but anything slightly off can have instant negative feedback. Currently for me its a knee. Could I still defend myself with this limited mobility? Maybe my technique just needs to get a bit better. Maybe if I keep relaxed and move from center more I can function even better.
    Its definitely an interesting training tool.

  3. …since i’ve been training there have been advances in both ukemi training and mat composition, but fundamentally there are three outcomes of aikido techniques in “real” situations. 1 – the opponent is immobilized in a pin. (injuries to joints, associated bones, and superficial abrasions elsewhere are possible) 2 – the opponent is thrown on their back (concussion, subdural hematoma and/or fractured skull, associated neck injuries are real possibilities) 3 – the opponent is projected away forward (various sorts of slip-fall injuries are possible) these all rather assume that the technique is executed approximately correctly and that the opponent has limited ukemi skills.

    i disagree with Douglas. if involved with a street cretin, i will do my aikido. ukemi is up to the cretin. mercy is not a quality that will help my or your survival. cretins are rarely appreciative of such generosity and simply seize the advantage. legal consequences? at least we’re not in feudal Japan where a samurai was required to instantly respond to aggression above a certain threshold on pain of disgrace and suicide, but to disturb the order of a public place was also punishable by suicide under law. and here it is NOT a greater crime to abandon the body than to kill the person. (btw – this is my old neighborhood: ) if the perp, i mean opponent, is ambulatory, chances are they’ll leave the scene as quickly as possible.

    all that said, good aikido is less likely to injure as a specific function of the technique than, say, daito ryu.

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