“Will Aikido Survive?” by Nev Sagiba

“The influence of Aikido is unstoppable. It will continue to progress further than we can now see into the distant future.”

The history which led to the arrival of Aikido as we now know it, was a long one. Many hundreds of years.

But is there as much of a driving need for the physical survival attributes of the art now as then?

Is the art at risk of becoming a quasi religious cult replete with superstitious beliefs and myths about its history?

What has driven Aikido?

What are the forces that led to its phenomenal popularization following WW2?

Has the advent of Aikido made a difference in the world?

If so for the better or for worse?

Since the death of its Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, has Aikido improved the life of its practitioners and the world in general?

Some find it in their minds to criticize Aikido. Always a good sign. Envy has that tendency. Envy is a sign of success the complacent would like to acquire, but are too lazy to work sufficiently to earn!

What do the critics have to say?

That Aikido does not work in a fight is a myth propagated by some incompetent practitioners. Some of the best security personnel on the planet utilize Aikido daily with immense success in both harm reduction and successful arrests.

That the “philosophy” of Aikido is bogus? Which “philosophy? Aikido has no dogma (Thank God for that!), but is a path of personal discovery. It is notable that the philosophies of dedicated practitioners, whilst each unique, do have a measure of similitude in the practical application in augmenting social harmony.

Can that be an accident?

As for being a “martial” art, Aikijutsu techniques have been incorporated, quietly drilled and deployed in action by elite special forces in the military. More so than in “the ring.”

The mind calming effects of good training has come into its own in multiple social and public spheres of influence. Also without too much fanfare, discussion of parroting of platitudes, rather the simple turning of circumstances for the better results in the achieving greater good. Skill in action!

Whether Aikido will survive with small groups in the suburbs bouncing each other of the walls and floors as we now enjoy, yet remains to be seen.

But whether it does or not, the ATTITUDE which is Aikido, that of the Peaceful Warrior who specializes in, as O’Sensei prayed for.. “The nurturing, care and protection of all life…” is, despite the fact we have a long way to go, clearly visible all around.

Good people are now sick and tired of tyranny, and prepared to do something effective and constructive about it.

Aikido may have a long way to go. Indeed, it may transmogrify into many and myriad applications without the label of Aikido necessarily attached.

But the influence of Aikido is unstoppable. It will continue to progress further than we can now see into the distant future.

For many years I have heard “war stories” come back. Some ranging from minor scuffles all the way to serious physical combat, but the more interesting ones have been of skilful deployment of ai-ki, loving intention in TURNING TIDES FOR BETTER OUTCOMES by the sheer courage of the Aikido practitioner involved knowing he or she had the backup of their Aikido training and thence feared not making the stand that made the difference.

Nearly everyone who trains has such a story or several.

Do you?

I would love to hear what you have to share.

Please add your story here or submit an article. It’s not boasting but sharing to inspire others.

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  1. I think that we should train more and talk less. Yesterday I enjoyed an intense and very instructive seminar of 4 hours with given by the 5 Dan Christian Borie in our neighbour island Tenerife. We went with our sensei early in the morning by ship and came back late at night. It was worthwhile. We trained a lot, learned a lot and made new friends who promised to joins us in our next seminar in our island. Of course, Aikido will survive at least here in the Canary Islands

  2. ” If we hold aiki in our hearts , aiki can never die …

  3. .Here in the Philippines, there are few clubs that are affiliated with established Aikido Organization such as Aikikai and Ki Society but there are lots and lots of small independent dojos scattered throughout the country. I myself belong to a group of 15 people in a small dojo. Aikido will survive and will continue to spread with the help of independent but dedicated Aikidokas.

  4. All to often when I teach philosophy, especially to aikidoka who are not my direct students, I hear this same objection; Aikido has nothing to do with philosophy. And when I ask them what they mean then I hear the same argument; that philosophy has to do with set ideas, or as you say in your article, with dogma.

    Philosophy can be translated as a love for wisdom or a search for wisdom. It is not a doctrine. It has nothing to do with dogmas. It has everything to do with enlightenment (surely you must have read Plato’s allegory of the cave) and getting rid of dogmas. As a searcher for wisdom and truth, the founder of Aikido was in the truest sense of the word a philosopher. Aikido was, we could say, his praxis of philosophy.

    From his philosophy and his knowledge and skill in Budo comes his message that life is not about fighting, competition, killing, destruction, but about living together with our fellow humans and with nature and enjoying – celebrating life.

    I try to get that message across by teaching and writing about Aikido, but also in my work in and with nature and showing visitors how this also reflects the idea of Aikido.

    Having said all that, I do like your writing and find it important and inspiring. Thank You!
    Tom Verhoeven

    • I agree a lot with your contribution. Excuse me, I can’t write a long answer because I’m French and don’t possess fluent English. I’m teaching aikido in Brittany in a village. Mixed with aikido, I include the Carl Rogers’ philosophy, based on empathy and unconditional positive regard. The two go very well together.

  5. Keith E. McInnis says:

    In watching the kids train I’ve seen them include the ‘get out of the way’ principle into their hearts and minds through the training of their bodies. Aikido trains the mind through the body. Bullying words are real and getting the spirit in a place to ‘get out of the way’ of verbal attacks has worked many times for the Aikido kids here.

    I have some ‘war stories’ from my work in uniformed patrol but they are mostly technical stories. The most recent use of aiki principles and technique was on Sept. 11 2011 at a lecture by the US Senator who lead the 9/11 investigations. There were no protective services for him at the event. There were some agitators pressing in on him after having been asked to keep a respectful distance. Aiki principles are well suited to protective services situations. As a guest at the event I had no assignment to help, but the agitators were disrespectful and kept pressing through the crowd to get ‘in the face’ of the Senator. I was between the Senator and the agitators and able to notice them maneuvering without having to look back. I was able to adjust my position many times without being a threat or touching anyone. After nearly a dozen such position changes the Senator’s aid noticed what I was doing and nodded thanks.

    The agitators finally noticed and tried to forcefully push past me. I ‘rooted’ and the ‘aggressor’ could not get past. The Senator moved to the elevator. He was clearly in some distress (he has a significant history of heart disease). I was still in the space between and the agitators were now yelling that they wanted on the elevator too. An aide said it was full and to catch the next one. I heard angry shout behind me and turned with my arm casually extended toward the elevator entrance. The agitator moved to enter and encountered my arm. He had two friends pressing with him but they could not get past. He turned his camera on me and said I had assaulted him. I smiled and offered to remain for the (slow responding) police. He walked away and the Senator had the peace he needed to recover from the antagonism. Throughout this incident I felt calm and confident, not angry or threatened. I had a strong motivation to protect though. Calm, confident, non-aggressive attitude and technique diffused a tense situation and no one was harmed.

  6. Wonderful stories!

    Aikido is low on dogma, but the incomprehensible dicta of O Sensei gradually come to make sense. I could probably go on about that, but it’s a waste of time. When you “get it” you will appreciate their beauty and economy of effort, a bit like good techniques.

    I’ve told this story before, so will keep it short. If anybody wants the full blow-by-blow, ask. One fine day in San Francisco I was just going shopping at the grocery store when my way was blocked by three people who arranged themselves in an attacking formation. The lead and middle guy was formidable, probably half again heavier than me and proportionately tall, prison-weight-lifting-buffed. His “wing men” were about my size. I handled it like any other three person free style (except I was incandescent with rage at the situation). That upset their rhythm. I touched the big guy while bypassing him and that was it for the physical. When I found I had “won” a little sane voice in the back of my head told me, “THEY came here to kick ass. YOU came here to go shopping. Go shopping now.” I’ve been laughing ever since. A couple years later while teaching in Washington Square Park a big guy was hanging back paying respectful attention. I excused myself and walked over to find what was on his mind. He bowed and said, “If I could ever get clean, you’d be my master.” It took me a couple weeks to make the connection… ;-)

  7. Mohamed K. Ansari says:

    Aikido, and Aikijujutsu are all different applications with each having a different training method and practice. Daitoryu, the parent to Aikido will work in a life/death attack by a “prison yard” trained attacker(s) if you have trained against this type of response as law enforcement and military personnel train daily. However, for the civilian with only Aikido (the harmony of spirit and energy) against the attack without a strong application of atemi-waza will find that the attacker(s) isn’t an uke, will not take ukemi. and his mindset is to take your life with a weapon. Keep in mind the military or police have other weapons and a restraint to the attack until the firearm is drawn or backup comes will work, but you alone with NO weapon other than your person and the application of Aikido will cause you your life if the attack is a fight or attack. Keep in mind a FIGHT is different from an ATTACK!!!.

  8. Allen Jay Bennett says:

    I survived being mugged by no less than 8 robbers in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn (no longer there) which used to be across Hi-way 101 from the Intel offices in Santa Clara, California. They had knives and guns. No other martial arts than Aikido could have saved me because more than one gun was trained on me. I got cut up and it was not pretty and as I was getting cut as an instructor with his students I analyzed the techniques that I failed to avoid. I analyzed successful and poor techniques even saying to my self “good one” if I failed to avoid it and saying to my self negative comments when the techniques were inadequate. Just like as an instructor of my students when I take ukemi during randori, I had the same pattern of thinking and I never had the proper fear during the grave situation that I was in. I knew NOT to injury my attackers or I might be shot to death. However, I knew these attackers were not yudansha and it was all over quickly when hotel security arrived — even though it felt like much longer of a time frame to me. No other martial arts than Aikido could have saved me. I remember that despite it all I was not winded and when folks asked how I was doing I felt the adrenaline like in randori and I said that I was fine. But they said that I had better look in a mirror and then I saw the cuts in my face before they offered to take me to the hospital. Looking back I should have volunteered to give up my wallet and I was really very, very foolish. My 3 piece suite and everything, even my shoes, were all trashed. Losing my wallet would have been a savings. I had hospital bills too. I was grabbed from behind by two robbers, and my reaction brought them all on me, before I saw knives and guns. I now teach “Verbal Atemi” to neutralize the situation before it escalates. I now drill in classes shouting with hands up, “Stop!!! Leave Me Alone !!!!” as the first response. “Verbal first” primes-the-pump to further verbally neutralize the situation.

  9. Aikiko Kuwahari says:

    “Aikido, and Aikijujutsu are all different applications with each having a different training method and practice. Daitoryu, the parent to Aikido…”

    To this point I found this response “correct”.

    It is true that Aikido and Aiki-Jujutsu are different ways altogether and training is different. BUT: Daitoryu isn’t Aikido. It’s more like Jujutsu + Aikido (that we know today). Hence the name Aiki-Jujutsu. Also there’s “Real Aikido” (yes, it’s Real, but not in dictionary way), which is more like Aiki-Jujutsu. Real Aikido combines more aggressive techniques from other “traditional” sports.

    And before I go more off-track, there is more than one point of view. You say Daitoryu works in life and death situations. You also state that Aikido is descendant from Daitoryu. Also you said that civilian Aikido isn’t effective and costs a life in such situations. Did you see the flaw?

    First of all: Aikido has more than one style. I know three which are like “soft-contact”, “semi-contact” and “full-contact”. But none of those are not -Jujutsu. Those are Aikido. And all are taught to civilians.

    Second: If you get yourself in a situation where you have to fight for any reason, you’ve failed in your “aikido” already. When it comes to it, you can tell yourself to practice aikido, but in the situation you practice violence which isn’t aikido.

    When you compare Aikido and Daitoryu, there’s not too much difference. After all, they’re siblings to each other. In one you *hit* and in other you *pretend* you hit. Both have atemi, but it’s different. Also in Daitoryu techniques are more “tense” or “hard” than they are in Aikido. Those are still based on same techniques.

    In other words, Daitoryu evolved into Aikido, as O Sensei saw no future in aggressive way of Aiki. So he created Aikido and ensured, that his “new” way of seeing things would go on past his time. After that, Aikido begun to get more ways to apply very same techniques that Morihei taught before Aikido and in Aikido.

    There’s one pretty nice documentary series going on in youtube that is based on Daitoryu but it has very good points that suit both Aikido and Daitoryu. There’s also some talk about differences between the two.

    You can find it in “ – Life in Japan and Budo”

  10. Joeri Verschaeve says:

    Interesting article and reactions. I started martial arts at rather a late age (I was 40 the first time I entered a dojo and turning 46 soon). I first joined a local Hapkido-club; unfortunately the Hapkido turned into a self-defence mix with emphasis on force and the aim to hurt and immobilize your opponent. I started to feel unconfortable with this situation so eventually I quit the group. I explained to my Sensei/trainer how I felt and he understood I was looking for something else and Aikido could be ‘the thing’ for me. So he helped me look for an Aikido-shool in the region. So last year I contacted the School for Traditional Aikido near my hometown here in Belgium and was immediately impressed how things worked : lessons with great respect for the traditional ways tought by O-Sensei and time for the philosophical & historical side of Aikido. I have the feeling now that Aikido is really what I was looking for to grow as a person, physically and morally. My Sensei really takes his time to teach us the true meaning and ways of Aikido. I sincerely hope I can be a part of it for many years to come. Greetings from Jabbeke (Belgium)

  11. i posted this response a year ago in the comments for “The Apologetic Martial Artist” article:

    I have an unusual circumstance for which the ideal of loving protection is more than sentiment. I have 2 severely autistic sons. They have periodically throughout their lives had meltdowns. The are extreme fits of rage caused by overstimulation, confusion, and fear. They are very hard to handle even now, and they will be bigger and stronger than me in a couple of years when they hit puberty.

    I have already had to use some very controlled techniques and restraints with them just to keep them safe from themselves. Aikido’s goal is to render the attacker harmless without harming them. This is paramount in my situation. I’ve known other parents whose kids have had to be placed in residential facilities because they could not handle them and they were getting severely hurt. In conclusion, it is no less than the goal of keeping my family in tact.

    That’s why a striking art would not be for me. I don’t want my first reaction to be a strike. I want it to be an evasion, entry and control. Aikido is perfect for this, I realize this is an unusual situation, but not really that different from say someone who is working in a psychiatric facility, a body guard or a police officer.

    So yes, for me aikido signifies the epitome of loving protection. Now of course you can turn the dial to 10 for some random attacker if necessary. That’s what I like about it.

  12. Nev Sagiba says:

    These real life chronicles are awesome!

    You each modulated to the relevance of the circumstance to get a constructive result.

    You minimised harm.

    You made a difference

    You did so safeguarding your own integrity.

    Like ripples in a pond expanding outwards you turned tides, minds and hearts.

    You gained and added respect, integrity and dignity to the world.

    Don’t underestimate the butterfly effect of such apparently small circumstances.

    They have immense long range significance in influencing the world for great betterment.

    It may have seemed little since you survived relatively unscathed each time, but consider the alternative that is the average person’s lot. If they survive.

    You met the challenge, albeit at times uncomfortable and converted its energy into something brighter.

    You are all Aikido pioneers forging a new paradigm to a brighter future.

    O’Sensei must be smiling proudly where he is now.

    I never cease to be inspired by such as you!

    It makes it all worth while :)

    Thank you and gassho..

  13. phillip owen says:

    Aikido is a life training art form which, if applied to one’s daily life can release you from stress and gives peace of mind,
    that said, there is very little physical confrontation and most aggression is verbal with neither side wishing to get physical with each other, it is normally the violent drunk who tries to cause trouble and of course most people of sane mind keep clear of such idiots , I have neighbours from hell, for twelve years it has been intimidation, verbal abuse and harassment on a daily basis from the whole family, the wife has died but the abuse still goes on, I have told the ‘man’ to sort it out with me quietly but he won’t, he damages my property behind my back and because the police regard it as ‘petty’ they refuse to take action,,with this type of urban terrorrism martial arts are of little use and yet this type of cowardly abuse is on the increase, the only way to ‘stop’ them is to have their legs broken which is not the way of Budo,,I train every morning in the hope that I can use what I have learnt against the hatred that my neighbour has for me, but unless he lashes out at me Aikido or any other martial art is of little use..

  14. O sensei initially studied daitoryu for many years as a young man, he became extremely proficient very quickly. The whole reason Aikido came about was because O sensei’s training reached a level where he and his peers applied what they learned without restraint, often breaking arms and causing serious injury. O sensei quickly (or perhaps not so) realised that many of his peers were not returning from injury, because quite simply they couldn’t.

    That is how we have come to practice such elegant and dynamic ukemi (Break-fall). O sensei realised the need to keep people around, so that he could practice what he had learnt on them, the ability to complete a perfect nage waza (throwing technique) and your uke still able to get back up to do it all over again, with complete control over self and opponent, instead of throwing them head first into the floor, protecting the head, guiding it to safety. It is from this that Aikido and its philosophy began.

    Aikido has a very real connection to martial origins. All forms of Aikido are real, pre-war or post-war Aikido it doesn’t matter, it’s the level of self control that the individual uses that prevents serious harm to the opponent. This is budo, without it there is nothing to separate what we do from any other martial arts.

    Personally, Aikido principles alone (not technique) has helped me to avoid more potentially unpleasant situations than I care to recall and for that alone I am grateful.

  15. I have two personal Aikido success stories that I’d like to share briefly.
    The first one is 1977 in LA, I was a third kyu, when I walked into a gang wielding motorcycle chains and knives. My way was blocked left and right, and I walked right through them. I didn’t turn around and run, didn’t pick up my pace, if anything I just dropped my center a bit more and kept on walking. With a short but intense eye-contact with the leader I walked through the group and never looked back. Nobody moved. It was as if time was suspended.
    The second story is a good 30 years later when one of my students, who had been training for about a year, one day came to me in the dojo and told me how he had been able to resolve a bar-room conflict without resorting to physical violence (as had been his only modus operandi in the past).
    Aikido works. In both instances palpable violence was present yet nobody got hurt.
    May peace prevail on earth!

  16. I’ve used Aikido for mild defence a couple of times (perhaps it stayed mild because it was immediate and effective; the nuisances decided not to push their luck) but I don’t know from experience how useful it would be in a serious street brawl. I am certain, though, that Aikido training would be more useful than no training.

    Where other martial arts are concerned, I’m pretty sure that an Aikido 4th Kyu would not have much chance against a Karate 3rd Dan.

    I also suspect that in an encounter between an Aikido 5th Dan and a Karate 5th Dan, they would first bow respectfully to each other, and then go and have a beer together.

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