“Relevance of Aikido Techniques in Today’s World,” by Stanley Pranin

In my last editorial I touched upon the subject of what I regard as poor training habits prevalent in many aikido dojos both in Japan and abroad. I pointed out that the execution of techniques against slow, weak attacks had disastrous consequences on their effectiveness and the quality of practice in general. I consider this subject to be of extreme importance and have some additional thoughts to express.

To review a bit, let us remind ourselves of the origin of aikido techniques and the historical rationale of their predecessor arts. As is well-known to readers of Aiki News, aikido inherited its techniques primarily from Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Many techniques were eliminated from Daito-ryu by Morihei Ueshiba as too dangerous or complicated, and of those retained, most were simplified. This process of modification and simplification accelerated after World War II mainly due to the influence of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei Sensei and other leading students of the founder. What remain today are a few score techniques including joint-locks (kansetsuwaza) and throws (nagewaza). The traditional approach to aikido of Morihiro Saito, which still retains hundreds of techniques and an elaborate weapons system, is the exception.

Daito-ryu techniques themselves, like the curricula of other classical jujutsu and weapons schools, came into being as a process of gradual refinement based on the actual combat experience of the Japanese military caste. In a military context, unarmed techniques were designed for soldiers who were deprived of their weapons or unable to use them. Hence the existence of unarmed versus unarmed techniques and unarmed techniques versus weapons.

As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese fighting systems did not include karate-like punching and kicking techniques. Karate originated in China and took root first in Okinawa before being transplanted to the rest of Japan due in large measure to the efforts of Gichin Funakoshi. Jujutsu and judo were taken beyond the shores of Japan prior to World War II but were not widely practiced. However, after the end of the global conflict and the occupation of Japan by the U.S. Military, many servicemen joined judo and karate schools which subsequently led to the large-scale export of these arts to America and later Europe. Karate eventually achieved a greater degree of popularity in the west than did judo and has been glamorized in film and by the mass media to the extent that it and its Chinese cousin, kung-fu, have become the stereotypes of oriental fighting arts….

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  1. Lucidity plus. Simple, correct and to the point. Deployment must be effective in real emergency situations. The compassionate side of Aikido is resides, for the greater part, in the skills to mitigate violence thereby thwarting the need to engage, that arises from a depth of understanding of the consequences of deployment; and having the practical skills to do so if required. This comes from honest daily training without bias of any kind, rather an attitude of research and discovery.

  2. Good day to you,

    A circle contains both an inside and an outside, moves downward and upward to complete the symbolic icon of the letter, and in doing so has both negative and positive actions.

    Many students have both psychological and physiological, many have poor distance cognitive skills, or poor timing skills, and possibly are lacking respect for their fellow participants. Treating them as dummies to be practiced upon without the knowledge that they also may be viewed similarly. Slowing and softening down their practice, allows those while still weaker in skills, to gain positive and negative skills, confidence, trust, competence, and the philosophical Aikido attitude. Almost 60 years ago in this country, it was fairly common for bullies and hooligans to be placed into a Judo class, for Judoka to eradicate such tendancies, by our courts of law. Today it would contravene European Human Rights Laws. Or we could be possibly sued for such treatment.

    Certainly, in our Aikido schools it is made known that attacks become more realistic after a given period of time for that individual. This is not uncontrolled attacking, this would be irresponsible and dangerous, if not fatal. It has to be both offerred and acceptable to the student. In Europe, we have Human Rights Laws which govern such actions. Which produce serious legal consequences. Let us talk of development in Aikido to the ideals of Osensei especially in peace, non aggressiveness, non violence and a practical method of self defence for all occasions. This method of learning also allows us to place others with long term health problems or challenged by limb loss, or those who simply lack confidence, to practice side by side with those who have not got such obstacles to overcome

    With Respect, thank you for reading my comment.


    • Thank you for your comment for it is the same thing that I have been saying for years. From 1955 to 1959,I was in the Marine Corp and from 1959 til 2000, I was in the Army. We trained very hard to be the best we could be from the Seven Marine.2Bn, first force Recon to LR-RECON to the 12SF, it was very realistic and most of the time no one got hurt. That’s the way it has to be if you want to train the next day.

      Yours in Aiki
      1SG Earl Rogers, Jr.

  3. It’s not the arrows….it’s the Indian.

  4. …I will defend weak attacks as an elementary training exercise. Above a certain level, perhaps 2nd kyu, continuing them may lead to delusion. Whether fast or slow, strong or weak, attacks, imo, MUST be precise and directed effectively. In other words, even a slow and weak strike should eventually make contact; even a slow and weak strangle should eventually end up around the neck correctly… of course that implies that proper attacks need to be part of the curriculum too.

  5. It seems that we are forgetting the last stage of O’Sensei and its relationship with Goi Sensei. I agree with the idea that Aikido is one of the few ways that can save humanity from its own violence. Indeed, follow the warrior way in an art that ended in a calling “The Art of Peace” seems a contradiction and a setback. Continue to insist on the violent aspects of AIKI, is just to devalue its essence.
    This is the path that leads me.
    Ligth and Peace.

  6. It seems to me that some commenters have misunderstood Mr Pranin’s intent, at least as I understand it anyway.

    As some have pointed out, gentle simulated attacks against beginners is certainly necessary if they are to learn techniques and not be injured. But don’t for a moment think that because you have learned some techniques, no matter how well, that you will necessarily have the opportunity to execute those techniques against a strong, determined and experienced attacker, be he boxer, wrestler, martial artist or just a tough all-in street fighter.

    Their first encounter with real violence comes as quite a shock to many martial artists whose only prior experience has been non-threatening, non-injurious simulated attacks in the dojo. They have never before encountered real violence and are mentally unprepared for it. Instructions to be calm and relaxed are all very well, but not so easy to attain and maintain in your first encounter of a couple of guys closing in on you with savagery written all over them. Some can do it without prior experience of real threats, but most can’t.

    I could be wrong on this point, but I don’t think you can effectively learn in advance to control the adrenaline rush if you’ve never had one. Suddenly you’re experiencing tunnel vision, elevated breathing, shaking and so on. I guess that possibly the extreme confidence generated by a very high level of skill may prevent the appearance of those adrenaline rush side effects.

    For very obvious reasons we certainly shouldn’t be advocating real threats in the dojo, but, for advanced practitioners, realistic attacks are necessary to prepare yourself against that possibility, and to develop confidence that you can handle threat situations in the face of real and determined violence.

    None of this means that I am advocating the use of violence against violence, and nor I’m sure was Mr Pranin. As an aikidoka your goal will still be to eliminate the threat and control the situation without inflicting injury in return. But that’s only going to happen so long as you haven’t had the crap beaten out of you first.

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