“Adjacent Techniques, Predictable Irrationality and A Deeper form of Logic,” by Nev Sagiba

It is a well known rule of thumb for wrestling, that at least three body parts must be connected otherwise you are leaving holes in your strategy. This principle does not change when standing up but becomes more sophisticated in the following manner:

Excluding air space in combat is vital. The space, when found by an opponent, can be used in a number of ways including atemiwaza, to escape, to capture you, lock you and so on.

When practicing a range of transitions and counters until they become second nature, you will find some to be magical flows and others to be close to silly.

Why then, do I recommend to practice all of them? (“Such as in my Book “FOUR DIAMONDS 1024“)

The reason is this: By practicing the full range of possibilities it opens up the faculty of noticing variables. So much so that you soon begin to notice anything from three to several times that much, adjacent to the technique the opponent is in that moment thwarting. When you are conscious of them, adjacent techniques become spring loaded and ready to turn on a dime and unleash. Otherwise they remain unenergised, unknown, dormant potentials unable to be tapped on demand. Similarly to the logistics of battlefield strategy, often adjacent deployments will also lend support to the main thrust and thereby give rise to fuzzy notions of “mysterious power” in the minds of those not fully understanding what is in fact transpiring.

The immense importance of this cannot be emphasized enough. It binds the opponent’s ki.

Anyone who has been in a few real situations or who works actively in any security service requiring hands on work such as body guarding etc., will attest to the fact that violent people are full of surprises and that this often means they will intuit a counter to even your best single techniques! (Some people then arrive at a wrong conclusion such as, “Aikido does not work!”)

Fear not. This is where ki-no-nagare in the forms and flows revealed in transitions and counters practice come into play.

Last week, in training, we paused to discuss this and related parts as they apply to budo training. A senior student mentioned the concept of Predictable Irrationality as used by advertisers to get you to spend more when you think you are spending less because most people don’t stop to do the math. Most shoppers react emotively instead of responding with scientific clarity.

This identical quirk applies in budo training. Ever noticed road kill? Did you ever ask yourself why the animal ran out in front of your car? It made sense to the animal. Some people simply say “dumb animal.” Not so.

This is a long subject of study, but briefly, when a herbivore is hunted by a predator it will run out in front, then swerve. Often several times. The requirement to change direction at speed stresses the joints and energy levels of the predator thereby depleting reserves. Or even sustaining an injury which will summarily put paid to the hunt. It is an ancient, millions of years old strategy that mostly works well. There are various tolerances equipoised between hunter and hunted. Another is that of heat stress and which animal succumbs to it first. This is a critical element in a situation of real high-risk violence in humans where after the first two seconds most biological responses start to go downhill.

Animals interpret any large, high speed entity coming at them at speed, as a predator. They act instinctively with what worked well for millions of years. Steel belted radials, even if the driver did swerve, tend to fare better than ankles and knees however.

The synonymous injury in athletes results from the same knee joint stresses when turning suddenly when twisted or moved beyond the intended range of motion, particularly suddenly at speed. Altering direction suddenly and at speed often results in tears to one of three major ligaments of the knee – the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) – or the menisci, the crescent-shaped wedges of cartilage within the knee designed to distribute your body weight across the joint. Such sudden motion knee injuries are most common among athletes.

Well, in real violence there are a whole range of involuntary responses such as narrowing of vision etc., which whilst having evolved to help us survive, and indeed these have worked well for our ancestors for millions of years; can also work against you to make of you a new age road kill of sorts.

These errors can be safely ironed out in budo training in the dojo since you can tap out and learn from such ersatz deaths.

Refinement in this department never ends and appears to be able to be refined indefinitely.

Aikido in particular, lends itself to such mind clarifying research and this also has practical benefits in dealing with interpersonal violence.

Indeed it is precisely because the jujutsu arts work to allow the opponent to paint himself into a corner, whereby he may “hoist with his own petard,” while you retain the integrity of a safe positioning. As in real estate, in budo and combat, especially Aikido, position is everything!

In practicing a full range of Transitions and Counters in your training repertoire, you will find yourself noticing and soon facilitating the nearest, short path adjacent technique. Unless your opponent is very highly trained or can read your mind’s sudden changes to his ki proposals, your techniques will emerge from the, “centre of the centre of centres,” as a higher form of logic which is more refined and more precise than blind instinct.

Aikido training that incorporates a full range of Transitions and Counters does tend to be a cure for the predicable irrationality that the natural myopia of combat tend to give rise to.

On this basis you lessen the risk of becoming “road kill” in the next attack. Aikido transition (henka) and counter (kaeshi) practice, is a very scientific approach which dispels irrational concepts or wishful thinking because it can be measured and tested with a reasonable degree of safety.

Indeed, as in chess, the opponent will rely on the hope of you being blinded by your own predictable irrationality. He hopes to capitalize upon this. If you evince none, your chances of success will increase exponentially.

Especially now that other arts tend to copy and embrace the known aikijutsu techniques and this will tend to render them less unpredictable for the unskilled.

A full range of Transitions and Counters (“Such as in my Book “FOUR DIAMONDS 1024”), as in chess, mitigates the variables that would sink your game. You have lucid predictability gained in practice on your side.

Ever played chess with a computer after setting it to highest level? The computer always wins because it knows all the moves. The computer has no predictable irrationality to contend with.

Hence Morihei Ueshiba’s comments about training to, “exorcise your own demons” (dark/blind spots) and, “the only enemy existing in oneself,” “Masagatsu Agatsu” etc..

Had Morihei incarnated a century later, he would have no doubt been one kick-ass programmer/hacker :)

It is the same with discovering the deeper high speed logic that awakens the noticing of adjacent techniques through regular training of a full range of transitions and counters sufficient to dispel predictable irrationality and give rise to lucid foresight, enabling navigating attacks with appropriate accommodation and flow instead of resisting.

I’ve merely said here in modern language, and this poorly, what Morihei was forever saying in his nuanced poetic way with his forward seeing ability to research into conscious clarity, through the practice of Aikido.

Practice reveals better than words.

Nev Sagiba

Now an e-book:
FOUR DIAMONDS 1024 – Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido

by Nev Sagiba

4 Diamonds 1024  - The Book

Get the e-book: "FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, Basic Transitions and Counters of Aikido"

The ability to adjust seamlessly between techniques defines mastery. In most cases, this essential attribute of Aikido has been either ignored or guessed at. This book not only reveals the innate simplicity behind the apparent complexity of Aikido Transitions and Counters, but it provides a full spectrum of possibilities for practicing. Here it is, simplified in drills of two techniques. When you can do these drills easily, you will be able to effect spontaneous responses to any attack. If you know your basic techniques this book is recommended and will enrich your Aikido. FOUR DIAMONDS 1024, provides complete sets of exercise drill guidelines to enable exploration of  the available range of basic transitions and counters and unlock their potentials.


  1. As a long time student & practitioner of the martial arts (40 years) I feel that I am qualified to assess & comment on Nev Sagiba’s book “Four Diamonds”

    It gives a concise & unadulterated account on the basis of continual, unstructured & uncoreographed combat, to wit, transitions & counters.

    When one becomes experienced in real combat one becomes aware of the necessity to apply continual pressure on the opponent with a relentless & uninterupted attack. This process is in reality a combination of transition & counter. He who is best practiced in this discipline wins.

    I often watch randori & regularly identify techniques as missed. After training I make constructive comments such as – “You had a sankyo nage right in front of you & you missed it”. “Why did you not counter that shihonage with an iriminage which would have thown him into the second uke”?

    In live combat this may transform to “why did you engage in boxing when that tenchinage opening would have have ended the fight”?

    The book gives a straightforward list of transition techniques from one to another, & when they are practiced as such, provide the basis for the identification of opportunities in which to use a specific technique or counter technique.

    It is not a book articulating Aikido techniques & methods – it is a training manual for those who have already been shown & understand the dynamics ofthe basic techniques.

    It is through the practice of these transitions & counters that one becomes competent & fluent in single combat & multiple attacks.

    For those who are conscious of improving their randori performance, this book is an affordable & valuable tool.

    Kim MacGregor

    • I’ve always found Nev’s posts interesting.

      I looked at the sample or excerpt of the e-book and was a little disappointed. As a selling tool, the sample may benefit from a few pages of narrative. Most of us know Nev through his writing. Is there more to the book than merely additional lists to the ones provided in the excerpt? The lists are not without value but I have trouble justifying ~$24 AUD for little more than lists.

  2. Sagiba sensei has brilliantly articulated some information which I thought beyond words. The Way is in training. For intellectual types training can be enhanced by lucid explanation.

  3. Fran Adams says:

    As a beginning student it is important for me to see where I am going. Nev’s book reminds me of the parableof Indras Net. “The Cosmos is a crossing of many threads of light, at the crossing of each light is a jewel which reflects the light of each other jewel. So too with the many threads of energy of Aiki…at the crossings of the flows technique occurs in that moment. Through the book I can see possibilities unseen before.

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