Recommended reading: “An End to the Collusion” by Stanley Pranin

The article below written by Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

The scene is the annual All-Japan Aikido Demonstration held at the Budokan one fine spring day several years ago. A high-ranking shihan commits a slight error of timing during his performance and fails to unbalance or even touch his uke. The uke, obviously at a loss at what to do, looks to the left and then the right, and after an interminably long one or two seconds, falls down.

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  1. Brandon Clapp says:

    Good read I enjoyed this.

  2. Jose Santos says:

    I just had this discussion with my students last night regarding the importance of keeping the seriousness in training. We cannot afford to be complacent, or else we can end up hurting ourselves or our partners.
    If we are learning Aikido as a self defense, then surely it’s just right to practice with seriousness and intent and keep our techniques alive and as realistic as possible.

  3. …i hate it when stuff like that happens. wouldn’t it have been better for everybody if uke had struck again?

  4. Unquestioning subjugation to authority is a simian hierarchical response deeply embedded in human genes. The extreme example is revealed in Milgram experiment . Compliance to the appearance of “power” despite error, is the opposite of self defence. Attackers most usually posit themselves as “powerful.” If your habit is to cow tow, then your entrenched attitudes will make it difficult to defend. Honesty in training is to question everything, be devil’s advocate, test and challenge within a safe and respectful framework.

  5. A couple of thoughts –

    In Japanese culture there would seem to be a lot more sense of obedience to authority – and I can’t help but wonder how much of that has turned up in martial arts, where people consistently fall for the techniques of their seniors regardless of whether they really need to or not. A lot of people, even in the west will fall more easily for someone wearing a piece of black cloth around their waist than they will for someone wearing white cloth (yet that only ever seems to happen in other dojos, never one’s own).

    There is also a tendency for Aikido people to fall in situations where they really don’t need to. Falling seems embedded in the psyche of Aikido people – I certainly notice that if I throw an Aikido person they fly a lot further and more dramatically than if I throw a Jujutsu practitioner.

    On one of the friendship demo DVDs there is a moment where Saito Sensei is doing a two person sword form. Uke attacks with a downward cut, Saito Sensei evades to the side and cuts down to Uke’s wrist. Saito Sensei’s technique is excellent – his downward cut would be strong enough to break the bones in Uke’s forearm if it connected, but of course he does not injure Uke, and the cut stops a couple of inches above its target. This is all normal, but Uke’s response if to fall down. Uke has not even been touched – and even if the technique was executed with intent to injure Uke would still not need to fall down – he’d be quite capable of walking to an ambulance. I think the reason he fell down was that he has become accustomed to falling whenever receiving a technique, and it just seemed the obvious thing to do.

  6. So much for the legendary “never give up” spirit of martial arts. Is this why Aikido is so popular in France? Ha ha.

  7. Taisho says:

    On the money Stan…and those no touch throws…check them out on YouTube…or google them.

  8. A very enjoyable article with (@ least) 2 distinct points: (1) unbalancing uke. Have many times are techniques taught without teaching the need to unbalance uke. As one shihan has said tori does the technique and then uke falls for him. (2) uke ability to save himself by doing ukemi. I had one person state that it has not been written anywhere that uke HAS to learn ukemi to practice aikido. It may not be written but doesn’t one think it would be a good idea?
    In gassho, Mark W

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