“A Tired Old Man – Bare Bones,” by Nev Sagiba

For those who make excuses and don’t train or who don’t take their training seriously enough to gain insights by way of mitori geiko, reading, thinking, contemplating, and above all exploring the art in seriously regular practice, I again repeat, AIKIDO IS NOT YET ANOTHER STYLE, BUT A WAY OF RESTORING THE NATURAL, EFFICIENT WAY OF MOVING AND RESPONDING IN THE FACE OF CHALLENGE!

I once came across a comment along the lines that “someone will eventually find a counter to aikido.” Such an argument does not follow.

If you are referring to the hubristic and cultish “aikido” that is a mere dance and fails in all but light exercise, well, that needs no counters other than the emerging of a little common sense.

If you are referring to the various struggles that try to mimic Aikido, well, one day they will get tired of struggling and perhaps discover the Aikido behind the forms. I wish them well.

Aikido, in the simplest of terms, constitutes the epitome of efficiency, the ergonomics of energy interaction. The yoga of interpersonal, intense action interaction, if you like. The short path’s combinations. All Budo-like arts tend to arrive at a form of Aikido at their pinnacle. Indeed, some take the long hard road at going about it.

Some measure of efficient interaction has always existed, hence the stories of the “magical” abilities of some ancient warriors. Look at all the fighting arts and you who train a lot will easily identify crude versions of Aikido kihon variables within these arts. They are everywhere.

There is no other direction of travel for sentient beings built as we are, a head, shoulders, chest, back, two arms with elbows and hands, all supported by an upright spinal column, rooted in the hips which are supported by two legs, with knees that bend one way resting on the complex structure of each of two feet.

If we one day become octopi or dolphins or multipeds, I’ll concede that perhaps “another martial art” may be possible. Maybe.

Until then, it is either crude struggling or refined interaction, and this latter spells Aikido.

There is footage of O’Sensei training with a lady; he dances for a while, giggles and walks away. No contention means no yang ki and nothing to do. I often saw it happen with my sensei, and experienced it myself.

Experienced female Aikidoka are another story.

Men should make it a point to practice Aikido with women. They will learn more than their sensei is capable of explaining. And for women, it is essential to train with men.

In any event, average women are less likely to attack other women other than with a bitchy remark effected with a sweet smile. And some ladies are more men than men, but we all have our challenges to overcome.

Women, statistics show, are mostly physically attacked by men, so if you are female and after self-defence, this should form a serious consideration as part of your art. Train with men, discover their ki and learn to deal with it in training.

Mostly, men are too yang and need to learn about yin, Mostly women who are too yin need to learn about yang. At least, that was the way when life was physical. Nowadays we get all varieties, but notwithstanding, we all function best when we find BALANCE.

Indeed, the earlier name of Aiki In Yo Ho denotes and reveals much. Otherwise, translated from Japanese to Chinese, Aiki Yin Yang Step/Way, but connoting more; was the early moniker of Daito Ryu aikijutsu. Advisedly so. Not simply forms, but principles. The forms are a Way to unlock the principles in action.

This is why Ueshiba saw the universe in aiki. Because it is. The interaction of In ki and Yo ki. (Yin and Yang) It can be no other way because that’s simply the way the universe is in all things. Please leave off the sapient comments about this being “a Taoist philosophy.” If the Taoists noticed the universe as it is, well and good for them. This does not alter the universe as it is. Nor will any other opinion. It is as it is and can be no other way.

If you want to surf, you have to accept the nature of the waves, not offer scintillating intellectual renditions about your theories of what you think the nature of the waves may be. But rather, get in the water, get wet, get experience and surf, or learn by drowning.

Talk is cheap. Practice is everything.

But it appears that for as long as we have excess of strength, we like to struggle.

A tired old person is left no option than to move from the bare bones.

Bare Bones Budo of Balance

Consider, a soldier in old times had no medivac to chopper in supplies or take him to a M.A.S.H. unit when injured. He lived and died on the strength of his sandals. And kokoro.

After marching for days on minimal hydration, miso and rice, or other bare essentials, carrying a heavy pack, he did not get a say as to when the battle would happen.

Ambushed, he most often had little raw strength to rely on. But he still had to fight to survive. Julius Caesar, for example, would fast march his men to a siege destination, dig trenches and set pit traps all night, then lay siege before dawn. Then they would fight for as long as it took to get the job done. Timing being of the essence, successive eastern warriors deployed similar such exhausting strategies in order to capture the advantage. Old Japan, other than in some details was little different.

Efficiency of movement is what happens when you have not much strength left.

Bare bones action is when the skeletal structure moves in the most balanced, efficient, natural way without any contrived, affected, overstated or wasted effort; rather using minimal muscle power to do little or no more than support the skeletal frame traversing the efficient trajectories of harmony.

Necessarily, it has to move the whole body and interact with force in an accommodating way. It becomes an Aikido way of moving. Doing only that which is needful, and no more.

Such efficiency arises when ego and strength are at a minimum.

Ancient soldiers discovered efficient technique through attrition, deprivation and exhaustion. Old senseis discover it following bouts of Beriberi, Ross River Virus, Post Traumatic Stress, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other debilitating illnesses.

I have noticed in myself and others that immediately following illness, when muscles are considerably weaker, that “ki is more powerful.”

Why is this?

As young men, to achieve the bare bones way of moving, Sensei would make us run around a football oval several times then up several flights of steps and immediately into multiple attacks, one uke in the middle.

People who’ve caught Ross River Virus, with its attendant and “crippling” polyarthritis and still train Aikido, soon discover that they MUST start doing real Aikido and not fudging the techniques using strength, because they have no strength left, especially during the lifetime recurring cycles of debilitation. The result from this chronic disease administered by tropical swamp dwelling mosquitoes, of necessity, makes you move efficiently, just like a tired old man.

But I don’t recommend it, unless you enjoy suffering. Rather, FIND WAYS to get out of your own way by your own dedication.

Move from the bare bones.

If you can consciously leave the muscular strength out in training, by moving relaxed and not trying to force a “throw,” to happen, if you have the personal discipline to do so and to find the bare bones points of efficient leverage as a flow, you will discover the practice of Aikido is much, much more than merely pushing someone over, but an immense discovery of yourself and the universe as well as awesome and applicable combat potential.

I would not wish Ross River Virus on my worst enemy, so doing this practice willingly in training is much better.

Aikido, like all good things gets better with age. Particularly Aikido, since, like all skills based on the harmony of the universe, it is indeed based on the principles of ergonomic efficiency. So keep training.

In the meantime, this I have to say. People who don’t train Aikido daily, have very little to say about Aikido that is worth listening to. Perhaps light philosophy or opinions or waffle or ideal proposals, all good.

But leave the talking about Aikido to those who practice Aikido. There can be no such thing as an “honorary” budoka. Like the honorary fighter pilot, such an empty title would be a death sentence when it comes time to fly. On this basis, it would be reasonably expected that a would-be instructor, or any valid commentator, would have done his flying time.

Even the best words are very poor tools in the face of the king of the jungle: REGULAR PRACTICE.

Reading words may not make sense to any other than those who, because of training, have commonality of experience they can reference.

Words are a means, not an end. Opinionated verbiage, or the seeking of approbation, is not the purpose of discourse or debate. Nor is venting and offloading. Rather, the compressing of information to distill the refinement of understanding. If the writer succeeds even modestly to effect some measure of articulation, and it is sufficient to trigger the recognition of a valid commonality of experience, then, time and space having thus been transcended, the communication that results may add to the benefits of training. If not, those words take up space for no good purpose. In a forest of words, look for the flowers. Use a highlight pen, if even mentally.

Look, listen, feel and most of all practice NOTICING.

And when you think you are tired or less than well, instead of having opinions, that’s the BEST TIME TO TRAIN AIKIDO!

Nev Sagiba


  1. I totally agree with these comments, so true. Sadly many Aikidoka never really get to do Aikido this way as it takes too much hard work to get to the point where you have no strength left, and that is the point that Aikido flows freely. So many old soldiers too busy talking and not interested in learning.


    Well said on every point ! I don’t make reading your blog a regular but now and again when I do I am pleasantly met with material that I totally agree with . You have a wonderful way with words and explain complexity in a simple way.NICE ONE NEV.

  3. its like tachikiri training in kendo, something I would like to experience at some point.

  4. Brett Jackson says:

    Very well said!

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