“Who Controls the Technique, Uke or Nage?,” by Nev Sagiba

In Aikido partner kata training where a single technique or set of combined techniques or counters are practiced, who controls the technique? Uke or Nage?

The word “throws” is used a lot, by many, but if this were the case it would no longer be Aikido, but a form of judo expressing the same-old-same-old bully-victim paradigm of one person “doing something” to someone else following a contest of some kind.

In such case, not only is it not Aikido, but nothing has been learned of the Founder’s paradigm of transcending violence. “Throwing” someone or pushing “them” over plays into the very illness true Aikido was formulated to transcend!

In any event, what would we be reenacting? I pretend to attack you telegraphing a single movement such as never exists in combat and you pretend to bowl me over with skill that is not there because I’m taking a dive. Repeat on the other side, then change roles alternating until a change is called. To what end? Yoga? Cardio? Calisthenics? Dance? We are both faking something, who-knows-what, whilst drowning in false ego.

Would we be reaching deeply, or at all, into our own dark side, where violence dwells, to root it out and to reveal a better way with this kind of frottage? I think not.

The only “spin” that should exist in true Budo is a good tenkan!

The Founder called Aikido, “An Invincible Budo.” What did he mean by this? That you could get yourself into a violent situation and always win? I think not. No mortal exists, ever has or ever will, who is so immutable. As revealed by the experiences of several supposed “masters of aikido,” a best keep secret, when attacked, they became the recipients of a sound hiding, following which, in each event, they mysteriously took an extended vacation until the bruises had healed over.

Self-deception is not “victory of oneself” and neither can it be of any practical use.

This was never the case with the Founder or his teachers. So what was lost on the way?

Firstly, when referencing the word “invincible” I believe the Founder was primarily referring to the Agatsu and Masakatsu effect that results from proper and honest training. True victory being victory over oneself. The eventual estate of the human captured in one life instead of many thousands, because of facing and addressing the predispositions of violence within oneself through regular training, addressing the contamination at the various layers leading to the deeper core of our being.

Proper training means that there is not one instant that you are not in charge of yourself, body, mind and spirit, and this whether enacting the Uke or Nage role. It is this, that naturally increases your chances of survival.

You are neither throwing nor being thrown, but relating with intense energy with integrity and with mind fully conscious and present at each moment.

We train consciously. In real and deadly assaults, we act pre-consciously (not un-consciously) because intense deadly action is faster than thought. The idea of “no-mind” comes from lack of lucid observation and is a mistranslation of “no thoughts getting in the way of the immediate moment.” If you are to survive, of necessity a lucid and immediate moment captured. Not an unconscious one, where you would get caught, with your proverbial hakama somewhere down around your ankles.

We practice being in charge of ourselves at all times, because being in tune with it, the universe can then be in charge of you. In other words, as nage you are refining your own body-mind connection with reference to an intense energetic encounter, WITHOUT IMPOSITION. Rather BY MAINTAINING YOUR INTEGRITY AND BALANCE AT ALL TIMES. This requires intense and full consciousness in the moment. More focused than say for ordinary daily events. To become Aikido, it includes balance of mind and spirit by refraining from engaging contest, yet still acknowledging the energies involved with unmitigated honesty and precision of balance that results from a clear mind.

In training, as uke, you are in charge of every part of the ukemi as well as the attack you conduct. On this basis, you are not in any way being “thrown.” Rather you are integrating yourself, generating maai and in many cases preparing for kaeshiwaza. There is no contest. Neither “wins” or “loses” but LEARNS AND HARMONISES.

As nage, you are equally in charge of yourself, embracing the attack as energy, not entangled in ideas about attacks.

Energy output thereby relegated its natural conclusion, conflict becomes resolved.

In Aikido training, all violence is thereby neutralized and rendered incapable, by draining the intent of violence. In practice, if required of necessity to do so, equally so, albeit more intensely.

For the spiritually immature, and for fools, this carries no excitement since violence and the subtle nuances of violence and ego are destroyed. Annihilated. Made void. The secretly held uglies near that core can no longer be fed. No more fire is added to fire. Rather, violence becomes extinguished.

Violence, by its very definition, strives to control others. It is a disease of the mind and a lack of integrity of soul. Sometimes the feeble-minded word “power” is used by individuals having a delusional view of the how the universe operates.

From a deep core level where it matters, Aikido, teaches to leave others alone to fulfill their own mission and to CONTROL ONESELF, mastering one’s own constructively creative mission in life. And adjusting our relationship to obstacles, hopefully converting them into steppingstones.

So, who is it that controls the technique?

Some schools appear stuck in a fixational belief that nage controls the technique. Others give the appearance that conversely, uke does.

In fact, neither happens in real violence and mastering the outcome relies on understanding the RELATIONSHIP of energies involved.

The question should be: Who controls the outcome? Until this question is asked, it does not begin to be Budo.

The terms Shidachi and Uchidachi possibly better define roles but even here there sometimes are found fixations or expectations of a rote outcome.

The difficulty is that in Budo, unlike sport, we are enacting Bujitsu potentials and on this basis, for safety in training we cannot permit a degeneration into mere contest. Contest would teach little, and if that, too permanently.

We research potentials and active flows of intention or ki.

In violent contests, no one remains unscathed. These also invariably neutralized through exhaustion of resources if nothing else, or severe injury or death. This ends up proving nothing more than that a mental disease was present at time, but not the science of skill. In any event, usually much harm and damage is sustained by both sides. Otherwise, you need rules which then kill out efficaciousness and develop bad habits.

The predetermining of outcomes, in order to obviate injury resulting from contention during research, may well elicit the accusation of collusion, or fakery. Indeed, there are times that this can be a real risk when the practitioners are not vigilant in their training intent.

Understanding survival circumstances clears the mind to notice the rest of life in clearer perspective.

In the nature of life, both violence and quieter times, tend to cycle like everything else. Whether it be an “office discussion” among the protected, or something more real and serious involving real protectors, intense clashing of energies is a part of life. So to speak, we as species have not yet learned to drive on the correct side of the road spiritually, or indeed know what this may be.

The universe and the nature which reflects it, needs to be navigated with skill. Only the adaptable survive.

It is the nature of extreme and pent up energy to express intensely. This too is a natural and universal predisposition. Between and beyond attacking and defending, there exists an immutable paradigm, the harmony of the universe, as some would name it. In this harmony, opinions hold no sway. Here the interplay of the energies involved is its own master, subject only to “laws” of existence as they’ve always existed. The economy of life and the market forces of energy interplay.

In the end, much as in fire, nobody controls any technique. The exchange being an interplay of various factors and forces; and the best techniques are those that seem to arise and subside of their own accord, controlled neither by nage nor uke, but the nature of the universe itself. And yet with spontaneous active skill deployed by at least one participant.

Identifying this universal principle of eventual neutralization, Aikido aims for it as immediately and as harmlessly as possible for all concerned. Not only in training, but also in real circumstances as well. This sets the conditions for creative possibilities to follow more immediately and without obstruction.

All things fall into place from there. And this then harmoniously; and then the creative mission of life can be resumed, hopefully, without further ado, until the next attack whether, real, circumstantial or verbal, and so on without end.

For students of harmony, this becomes an adventure of discovery and infinite possibilities without end, applicable in all phases of human life.

This core essence may one day, if sufficiently embraced, make the difference in life on earth and elevate us from the schizoid pretense of “humanity” covering up largely bestial and harmful behaviours.

“A good stance and posture reflect a balanced state of mind.”

Morihei Ueshiba.”

Nev Sagiba


  1. At the bottom of the page: http://judoinfo.com/new/alphabetical-list/judo-competition/273-fighting-or-playing-the-martial-art-vs-sport-debate-by-neil-ohlenkamp Kazuzo Kudo, 9th dan Judo confirms exactly this when he says,

    “Do not think of attack and defense as two separate things. An attack will be a defense, and a defense must be an attack.”

    And sometimes some people will just walk into things.

  2. I was a humble student of Tri Thong Dang Sensei at the Sacrmenento Budo Education center for three years before his untimely death of cancer. I believe he would answer your question by saying, In Aikido no one controls, not the uke or the nage, this is because at the highest level of Aikido there is no Aikido to be controlled. Hope this helps.

  3. Brett Jackson says:

    Beautifully said! Worth reading, enjoying, and pondering many times over. Hard pressed to find aikido understanding articulated like this anywhere. Many keys are succinctly articulated: how aikido transcends violence, how practice transcends “throwing”, how aikido supports true victory (over oneself), what no-mind means, how uke and nage (properly understood and enacted) neither contend nor collude, how aikido (properly practiced of course) drains out violence, and how aikido is beyond attack and defense – just to name the ones I see. Thanks for writing and posting!

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