“The Trend towards Cross-Training in Aikido,” by Dave Goldberg

“I am aware of the growing trend of Aikidoka to cross-train in other martial arts. It has received a lot of support over the past few years from some high ranking and influential people in the Aikido world. I find this trend to be really unfortunate for Aikido, and it saddens me that people are being encouraged to go in that direction.”

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  1. There seems to be a few extreme takes on cross training, with lots of people taking a more moderate approach. Some dojo prevent their students from training anywhere else – including other dojo, while others train in many arts at once, so much so that the aikido becomes pretty scrappy as a result. Searching for instruction and fresh perspectives often necessitates going beyond usual boundaries, not everyone enjoys the access to a master teacher.

    The lessons learnt from training elite athletes are pretty clear though, a diversity of experience is essential to developing robust skills that perform well under stress. Whilst aikido as an art has this diversity of training it’s not present in all of the Ryu-ha of aikido or in every dojo of aikido.

    To use a common analogy raining beyond the boundaries of dojo, style and art is a nice way to get a different view of Mt. Fuji to help appreciate it more, though wander too much and it’s hard to make appreciable progress towards summit.

    enjoyed the perspective though

  2. Most of us are not professional martial artists. Cross training takes time away from practice.

  3. I see your point, but disagree. I cross train in t’ai chi, bagua and Luihebafa because they improve my aikido. I have even incorporated aspects of these arts and Bagua into my teaching of aikido. These arts all have a strong focus on how the body moves that I have never seen in aikido instruction, but I think I can see in videos of aikido masters.

    I know that my regular practice of t’ai chi push hands has improved my aikido.

    I once saw a t’ai chi instructor throw someone and I commented “That was pure aikido.” his response was “It was pure T’ai chi. I do not know much about aikido, but from what I’ve seem I’m not sure there is any difference.”

    There is a very good discussion of bagua and aikido at http://dojorat.blogspot.com/2008/11/more-on-fusion-of-aikido-and-bagua.html.

    I do not fear that aikido is weak, nor do I care how it measures up against other martial arts. I practice aikido because I enjoy it and embrace its philosophy, not because I wish to be the ultimate fighter. I cross train so I can gain new perspective and improve my aikido.


  4. Absolute nonsense…MMA has proven this as false…sometimes a left jab is better than Sankyo.

  5. Taisho… As an Iwama stylist, I’d agree with you, but I really don’t see what “MMA” has to do with this… I don’t think anyone would dispute that Atemi is a useful thing… Does the style of Aikido that you study, for some reason, not include “left jabs”? Personally… I like having both available…

  6. Aikido represents the culmunation of O’Sensei’s knowledge. Before the war, when “Aikido” did not exist, O’Sensei went on many travels and was most influenced by Takeda Sokaku. O’Sensei did not learn ‘harmony’ from Aikido. He did not discover his ‘ki’ from Aikido. O’Sensei first learned how to crawl, then walk, then to hold a bokken. He punched and kicked and did a whole bunch of things that wouldn’t be called “Aikido” today.

    Aikido is the result of O’Sensei’s life experience. All we can do is ask questions like O’Sensei. He was only prepared to ask these questions because of his unique life path; without his journey Aikido wouldn’t exist. Without Sokaku, without violence, without success and failure there would be no Aikido.

    And, to top it off, at the end his amazing journey, O’Sensei’s vision of Aikido was something that had no defined beginning or end. He was still asking questions. He encouraged the whole world to keep asking questions.

    So the vibe from the author is today we have Aikido as a “black box” so to speak without room for any improvement; Aikido is perfect so don’t dilute it with anything else. Well, for me, the core message from O’Sensei is Aikido has no boundaries, no definition. It’s not a series of ‘moves’ or ‘techniques’ that can be “diluted”. I think O’Sensei would want me to go on my own journey. I think he would want me to experience life and then define my own Aikido. Just like he did.

  7. I have trained in a variety of martial arts over 20 years. Every martial art is different and has value. I think it’s everyone’s choice if they choose to cross train or not. My own experience allowed for exposure to immense variety of movement and allows me to appreciate Aikido in a way I have not expected. Plus, as nage I am better partner for my classmates at Aikido classes.

  8. It’s sad that people don’t understand why some feel the need to crosstrain. Modern aikido is hardly a valid form of self defense, much less something one can expect to depend on against someone with even basic fighting skills. If you disagree, go to your local MMA school and just work out with them for a bit. You don’t have to throw down a challenge. Hell, tell them why you’re there. Most will probably respect you for it. I think you’ll quickly learn that the techniques of your ai-ki-do are little more than watered down jujutsu because they’re lacking in the aiki of Ueshiba sensei’s aiki-do. If our art still contained the real aiki, most would understand that there is little need to crosstrain beyond going out and testing yourself against others (as Ueshiba himself did). Sadly, since there are very few who have aiki, much less can teach it, crosstraining is the best most can hope for.

  9. Aiki10…MMA is Mixed Martial Arts…It’s cross-training in everything…and finding out what is BEST for you.

  10. I don’t think it’s true for everybody. It is similar to thinking that one style would suit everybody, which is not the case. I wanted to practice Aikido for 22 years out of my life, didn’t get a chance until this year. It has already proved to be a valuable fighting tool for me. Yes, majority of my experience in martial arts until recently was not Aikido. It does make me appreciate Aikido more, not less. If you choose to learn a variety of styles, it’s your choice to make. I have made similar choice recently, but I spoke to my Sensei prior to doing so.
    And I choose to remain open minded, not represent one style as ultimate and others as not. If you experiment a bit with at least 10 styles or more, you will see that EACH and EVERY style has value to humanity as a whole.

  11. Another thought that just occurred to me: if someone want to cross train in several styles, let them get it out of their system. Sooner or later they will be back to the one style they prefer the most. More often than not it will be Aikido.

  12. Aikido starts where the others leave off. The problem is this. If you start at the pinnacle you will go down or fall off because in order to understand it you first have to understand the climb, the hard, crude and clumsy way of doing things. You can’t start at the top because it becomes meaningless if you do not understand directly, the forces you will be dealing with, as proven by aiki dancers.
    On the other hand Takeda Sokaku tore a larger, stronger armed man’s mans head off. Give this some consideration.
    If it’s sporting you are after, don’t bother with aikijutsu.
    If you work as a professional protector, looking at Aiki with a clear open mind will make sense immediately.
    Simple fighting is as basic arithmetic. Essential, foundational and must know, but not complete. Aiki Budo is as algorithms which when properly understood can appear as magic but is only the “magic” of understanding properly deployed.

  13. Cross training is a misnomer and no such thing exists because ways of doing things do not live in separate boxes. Anything that is crude, incompetent, clumsy, forced, faked or inefficient is unnatural movement. When it becomes refined, efficient, effective and functional it becomes natural and therfore aiki-fied. That’s it. Aikido is not a separate “martial art” arbitrarily invented because someone had an opinion. Neither are most other fighting arts.
    What works, simply works and what doesn’t simply doers not work. That’s the all of it.
    After that you can refine it by training and there are some predispositions that are preferred because they work better. That’s all Morihei meant by Aikido. Nothing else. Well, some else but that’s a set of fine distinctions people insisting on learning the hard way; and these revolve around Budo not being the pathology of contest, but rather the power of protection.

  14. Surely someone should not be detered from expanding their range of skills and experience via cross training. I can understand that it may detract from the commitment they made to one martial art, but to experience others cannot be a bad thing.

  15. I see no problem with cross training if you have time for it. I’d say you should put in at least two hours a week into each style, and if you can do that, go for it. You should probably have a solid base in one art though.

    I’ll now list the people who cross train, or endorsed cross training:

    Bruce lee
    The Samurai
    Morihei Ueshiba
    MMA practitioners
    wudang Gong fu Practitioners
    Savate practitioners, how do you think boxing got incorporated?

    That’s just to name a few. now, O’ Sensei cross trained, so, why do you think he would have discouraged it?

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