“Three Critical Assumptions,” by Nev Sagiba

When someone plans to assault you, they usually take care to make sure that the assault will be as unfair as possible so as to advantage them and disadvantage you.

Of course, when you successfully defend yourself they will whine and attempt to say that you used “asymmetrical” means, but that is mere misdirection to detract from the fact that they were in fact doing the “asymmetry” in the first place. That’s what any attack is, irrespective of cute rhetoric attempting to give it a fancy dress. Most judges see through this charade.

Never will you get six weeks notice in writing in triplicate giving you advanced warning of the attacker’s intention. This would constitute sufficient evidence of intent in civilised land to warrant an arrest.

Nor do the malintentioned send one single anorexic midget. Having said that, never underestimate a midget or a transvestite in a fight. The midget has not only the lower centre of gravity (Shades of O’Sensei), but also better short path targeting of areas I would consider vital.

As for transvestites they are as strong as a man and as cunning as a woman. The combination makes danger plus. ‘Nuff said.

But mostly, assaults are not exotic, rather carefully planned and dangerous. (Fortuitously, those who rely on violence generally have several screws loose, so their planning capabilities are often self-defeating provided you are not intimidated by appearances.)

So what are these things you must always assume?

1/ That attackers will size you up and try to send someone bigger and/or stronger.

2/ That there will most often be more than one.

3/ That they will usually seek to arm themselves.

Anything else is not usually a fight, but a scuffle with nothing much at all to harmonize. You probably could talk your way out of at least half single person attacks. If you do in fact practice Aikido and not social chit chat dance, the single attacker will use you as a means of seppuku.

Aikijutsu was designed for real situations and not sport, and that is what gives Aikido its unique way of moving. It’s not really for self-obsessed egotistic dancing to feel “spiritually” important in denial of reality as it is.

Aikijutsu was designed to face reality of the harshest variety such as cosy suburb dwellers seldom, if ever, come across.

Where did we hear or read this, “Fight one as if many, and many as if one.” ?

And, “Do not rely on weapons alone…”

And a few other critical essentials that your instructor, if he or she indeed has the experience base to in fact know what these are, will apprise you of for the benefit of your survival.

Survival is no game. It must be taken seriously. Very seriously.

On this basis, there is another, often unspoken critical essential which is integral to Aikido, if indeed you are moving correctly as the intent of true Aikido and when any of those three critical assumptions are present: Best position!

Best position is achieved with stability by effecting Taisabaki (Tainohenka, same thing.) Tainohenko is core to every technique. It is vital. Tainohenko breathes life into Aikido applied with the three critical assumptions present. If you ever are assaulted it will make the distinction between death and survival. No small consideration.

For beginners and awkward linear movers, at first, while reviving dormant neural pathways, Tasiabaki seems to feel counter intuitive. Not so in fact or in deployment. Once embraced and developed the deeper intuition of Taisabaki is the ultimate equalizer and powered enabler.

The best practice for this is multiple attacks.

The preferred method of training is as follows:

Start slowly. Dispense of ukemi at first with attackers closing in and keep closing in looking for an ushiro strike (in training simply “give notice” with a slap on the back and keep in mind it represents a KNIFE!) to bring out the best of the single Nage’s ability to establish, re-establish and keep on re-establishing POSITION OF SAFETY!

When Uke fails to move, becomes attached to one attacker, stops to think, freezes or moves in straight lines, ki flow will become stagnant. Then take him to ground and with one person holding him, finish him off using both ground techniques and buki as happens in real life. This is reality testing par excellence. It will make you sober of any delusions which you are carrying and which may be burdening your mind and stopping you from moving in a success paradigm.

As uke, if you become tense, panic, start racing to use speed as a means or try to use strength, etc., the aiki stops and you will fail. If the attacks are good and proper you will end up on the ground.

Obviate this by central power, breath, lowering one point and of course sabaki. Keep moving!

Uke may do as they please (keep it safe in the dojo) but keep CLOSING IN, not waiting your turn but CLOSE IN. Watch out for flying uke, they are dangerous.

Remember, we practice this for mutual improvement. LEAVE THE EGO OUT OF IT and modulate to the level of the practitioners present. Then as skill improves, gradually escalate.

The instructor must call a halt each time real risk to students becomes evident. Before it happens, not after.

Do not let it degrade into a contest or you will start getting injuries in training.

Continue this practice until everyone, when taking the Nage role, can continue to take charge and stay in charge RELAXED for as long as possible! Until that happens the next steps up will be counterproductive and yield you no gain, so I will omit them for now.

If you train correctly you will find your powers of taisabaki augmenting exponentially. In simple parlance, taisabaki means: IRIMI-TENKAN. There is no stepping back. EVER! In real situations one step back constitutes a high risk because you are moving into the maai where you can be easily struck. And massive loss of time advantage. The rout becomes present. Help your nage learn this with judicious atemi. Until he gets it.

Another method we sometimes use is for the instructor to move around behind the Nage with a shinai and whack him hard in the rump or the back of the legs, if he even thinks of back-stepping.

This will augment your Aikido to amazing degrees.

For the dancers. You are dead men walking and I daily pray you are never attacked. Please, please, find out what maai really entails and THERE IS NO PIVOT WITHOUT THERE BEING FIRST A VERY STRONG IRIMI!! Please take this as a well intentioned gift. Otherwise you are free to find out the hard way when a real assault occurs.

Once that uncommon beast, common sense then starts to prevail and gets exercised in regular training it will graduate into Real Aiki Common Sense. Only then may you up the ante to include ukemi. First discover how to move and correct positioning until it becomes second nature.

It best becomes second nature when the mouth is either shut or used for breathing (natural kiai included) and the attacks are strong enough to force evoke the mind to start working outside the box of preconceptions and into new discovery. Slack ukes do no-one any favours.

For the dancers. Start first with only tori attacks. Leave out atemi. Or slow well telegraphed atemi only. Later, when skill increases, you may become able to mix tori and atemi and speed things up. And very much later also add buki.

Uke use your imagination. NOTICE WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO YOU. Please don’t do the silly stuff you see in the movies and keep fighting unarmed. When you take a weapon then use it. Have the guts to explore possibilities in training regardless the result. Gain from these learning curves be they win, lose or draw. Take the good and shelve the rest until your consciousness expands to make them useful also.

If someone delivers you buki, thank him and retrieve it. DON’T FUMBLE – TAKE IT! Then use it to fight your way out WITH AIKI WAZA TAIJUTSU as well! Mix it up. Riai in the truest sense is Aikido.

Finally, over the years I’ve found that certain fundamentals principles do not change. They can be reduced to almost formula. Keep these secret and in your dojo only.

On this basis, I’m not going to give the next steps away. Whilst they constitute some of the most fundamental secrets of success in multiple attacks, you need to discover what they are by yourself in order that they make most sense. I believe I have revealed the means for finding out through regular practice.

One more thing. Change the number of attackers.

Then NOTICE. Under a certain amount of attackers, it’s quite manageable. Over a certain amount they tend to get in each other’s way. (Often dangerously so, to themselves and the other attackers present.)

Bear in mind also that a dojo is a fake construct with even floors, lighting and predictability. On this basis, make sure to conduct scenario based outdoor training as well. It is essential. (Wear shoes. Don’t be like one Aikido expert who told me he, “Can’t do Aikido with shoes on.” Don’t laugh. Weep and pray for the man!)

There is one number of attackers that the poses most danger. What is it? And why is this so ?

Train, put in practice. You will find out. All the thinking, un opinionated and seriously researching dojos will find the answer to be unanimous.

Once you have this key, you can use it to really extract the juice out of Aikido, but, since it is useless information to the unskilled I won’t reveal it here. (I’ll confirm it, if after finding out for yourself, you contact me with the correct answers.)

In summary: Always remember: Attackers will mostly be stronger, more and armed.


Position is everything! Irimi-tenkan!

Finally, if your dojo does not include the practice of multiple attacks and yet claims to be teaching Aikido, leave! It is either a fraud or founded on incompetence! Find another dojo. I state this advisedly.

Whilst all training guarantees nothing, practice of multiple attacks, discovering best position, taisabaki with mindfulness of the three critical assumptions, depending on you and your instructor’s imaginativeness in exploring possibilities, will add to your toolbox in a way that will increase your chances of surviving an event.

Even when refining practice such as this, it is always wisest to avoid such situations in real life whenever possible.

When you find that engaging is inevitable you will be better prepared.

Nev Sagiba

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

by Nev Sagiba

4 Diamonds 1024  - The Book

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  1. Interesting. I’ve been doing aikido 3, 4, 5 days a week for some 23 odd years. It never dawns on me that I should keep training in order to be able to defend against an ‘assault.’ But in the interests of cross-training, about 10 years ago I studied a very self-defense oriented northern style kung fu. I studied hard for a year (while I continued aikido). One thing I did notice is that I started to develop a bit of paranoia … thinking of how I would defend myself if this or that person attacked me. I stopped kung fu and continued with aikido. Those thoughts went away.

    • I agree with you, unfounded ideas about fear is bad use of mind and energy drain not worth indulging. The only things worse are lack of preparedness for real life contingencies, a false sense of security and a too sheltered life. These are liabilities at times of intense change.

  2. In a real situation , after verbally refusing or assaulted in an instant, the body moves before the mind , expect to get cut against a knife , shot with a gun , or any weapon , when reality strikes , training stops and reality begins .. There is no ” if’s or but’s , movements are dilated not fixed , only when the action is ended , then one knows the out come .. ” We can train for reality , reality has no shape neither form, it comes and goes , no rules , no games , no hero’s . Defending oneself there should be no room for doubts ..

  3. Keith E. McInnis says:

    “There is one number of attackers that the poses most danger. What is it? And why is this so ?”

    I’m most concerned with 3 attackers. The three attackers can position to have one out of my view/behind me at all times. Three can keep out of each others way when one falls/is thrown but can stay in my way and harass me into fatigue before ever attacking. Not unlike hunting dogs. I’ve told people who have ‘lost’ their domestic dogs then found them roaming with other dogs to be careful. Two dogs is a play group, 3 a hunting pack.
    I’ve read some say 4 is the most difficult to defend against as they can encircle you. I concede that possibility though the circle can also be used against 4.

    • Well said Keith. It’s evident that you practice and have come to identify practical aspects of situational topology dynamics.

  4. Yes, position is important, but it is a consequence.
    The most important thing in Aikido is developing the feeling of Aiki.

    This is very difficult , requires decades of training.

    Unless one gets it , he is not yet practcing Aikido in fact..just training to be able to learn how to learn the tools.
    Unfortunately, this is what most people are doing presently in the Aikido World, doing forms to see if they can get the Aiki feeling. Once one have it….everything becomes tecnique and correct position happens authomatically.

    Wagner Bull

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