“On Whose Terms?,” by Nev Sagiba

“Looking at the fate of empires it would appear that this ideal of a peaceful warrior, a protector of life, is still a way off arriving to this planet.”

When you have accrued experience in a subject sufficient to be capable of imparting more than an idea but real function, on whose terms do you teach? Yours or the student’s?

When you rescue someone, on whose terms do you effect the save? Yours or the person whose flawed judgement got them into the trouble they are in?

Self-evident, one would suppose. And yet, stereotypical expectations tend to muddy the waters.

When you rescue some drowning people they try to drag you under and there are techniques for rendering them submissive to the rescue process.

When you rescue people from fire there are those who will want to risk death to run back into the fire to save trivial items such as jewellery, certificates, trophies and no doubt their black belt. There are means for detaining such as these as well.

When you guide people along the safest mountain trails, desert or deep forest as understood by the experienced, there are those who, because of opinions held only in their mind, will in ignorance argue vexatiously and seek to place themselves at risk.

When navigating the high seas, if you let the passengers dictate, you would place the boat and all lives on the vessel at risk. At sea, as in combat, increments make the difference.

Increments and seconds. Spacing and timing. Maai and deai. The fine tuning of these is gained by a questioning mind engaged in daily practice to refine skill at first hand understanding.

When you guide others toward a more comprehensive mastery of themselves you cannot do it on their terms. Neither can you do so without having gone before in the subject being taught, in sufficiency enough to have something of authentic worth to impart. And this with due regard, empathy and respect for the well being of your charges. Done properly, whilst it can be a true joy, this can at times also be a demanding task.

This perhaps explains why some will prostitute a bereft semblance of an art to the gullible for money, treating people like mushrooms (keeping them in the dark and feeding them manure), telling them what they want to hear instead of what is right.

If the accumulation of revenue is your primary goal for running a dojo you are not fit for budo. You will end up bending and distorting it to suit the students whims, stereotypical fantasies, expectations and ego. This is evident in toxic cults as the students attitudes will generally reflect those of the teacher. The flawed leading the flawed into a self destruct trajectory is the ultimate destination for such frauds.

The strange thing is that there are better ways to make a buck. If you want to hold onto students at any cost as a source of revenue, you should be ashamed of yourself. Go look into a mirror and take stock.

Why tarnish budo?

True budo is a process of attrition wherewith you either sustain in the attainment of a high standard of relevant skills, or go do something else. You are either a warrior or not. You don’t send undisciplined moral weaklings into battle unless your goal is to ultimately fail, whilst giving an appearance of an immediate temporal gain. Life is such a battle.

There are various hypotheses about human origins. It is said by some that humans of some kind may have been here on Earth as long as 2.6 million years. Some say longer and some say less. Irrespective, despite our semblances of social graces and customs, our journey has not always been a smooth one in as far as violence and aggression of all kinds is concerned. Survival can be tough.

Looking at the fate of empires it would appear that this ideal of a peaceful warrior, a protector of life, is still a way off arriving to this planet. With an extremely few exceptions, notwithstanding the lies, propaganda and mostly undeserved accolades following the rewriting of facts, the innate nature of universal reciprocity inevitably exposes in the chaotic consequences when they arrive.

Good schools are fortunate to have some students who will stay and face the parts of themselves they would rather not, in order to attain true mastery of an art. Of course these are the fewer. The bulk will go to where ego balm and head massage is offered, and drift into meaningless oblivion. And to be exploited with the lure lots of coloured belts, trophies, certificates and names of lineages to drop, of course.

Let me assure you that when the chips are down, none of these things will cascade from the sky to help you.

Your skill hard earned in dedicated practice will so serve.

Good teachers, understand that they have not “arrived.” Knowing this they are willing to share a unique journey.

Even Morihei in his last days complained that he needed at least another thousand years to start to get a clue about the depths and heights of the Aikido he could see he had not yet reached. He charged those who followed with this task.

Are we being true to his request?

In training, Aikido class is, or should be, a continued narrative journey of activity meditation, a simulated battlefield and service to others, towards gaining ever increasing victory of self.

Otherwise the word, “Harmony” is just a rhetorical smokescreen being used as a sales pitch whilst real footsteps are telling a different story.

But harmony is indeed what real Aikido is researching and striving to attain. Beyond the mere spin wherewith to accumulate paying numbers whilst machiavellian politics, takeovers and “excommunications” go on behind the scenes motivated by bewildered minds. Such infantile antics paralyse the research of human harmony.

Let not Aikido degrade into an ideological, “aikido-ism,” or a superstitious, “aikido-anity,” for that would spell the end of this wonderful living flower of immense human potential, ripped out thereby by the roots.

As the Founder of Aikido made abundantly clear and to the best of his ability strove to exemplify: Harmony is indeed the goal. It can be researched further. Not merely a show of it. Or lots of talk about it. But people working together to research and discover it better!

The salient feature of real Aikido is that it seeks to develop skills to make harmony out of hard core chaos, that of violence, that of attack, that of the attrition that is part of the very nature of the universe itself. Not in a glass bubble.

In practical application, the integrity of Ueshiba’s exemplified Aikido ideal, “My constructive budo..” is that of effectively curtailing harmful situations without adding to harm. Combat effective ahimsa *, if you will. (Morihei’s early influences with both Buddhism and Budo together synergising his mission.)

Ueshiba’s ideal is relatively new for humans and is unlikely for many animals. Interestingly, this is also the sought after direction lawmakers in civilised lands are pressing the envelope towards, using such terminology as, “reasonable force;” often to the chagrin of the less skilled people who may be having difficulty coping with the required personal discipline it takes to achieve such skill levels on the ground.

Only wisdom gained in experience, not opinion, can dictate the terms of travel on this quest. Approached with true sincerity as an authentic research, Aikido will open up and enable you to discover more than any preconceived notions any of us may have held before we embarked on this unique journey.

Over time, dojo practice serves to make us more complete. After that there are endless opportunities wherewith to implement or augment harmony in the world, and God know there exists more than sufficient areas of discord.

In the end each individual will find his or her unique Aikido Journey in the world.

"We fight for the people, their safety and freedom."
Ascribed to Balian of Ibelin, and others as well. Some sincerely and others not.

*Ahimsa: A Buddhist and Hindu doctrine expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and urging the avoidance of harm and violence.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Thanks Nev, timely and thought provoking. I would love to see your writings collected in a book!

  2. Brett Jackson says:

    Mr. Sagiba, you have once again hit the ball out of the park with another amazing series of decisive and “hard-hitting” reflections. It’s always a great pleasure to see another one of your sharings posted here. I will just mention that you also post the most wondering pictures to represent or initialize your articles!

  3. Skip Koepke says:

    You have a way with words and I really like what you are able to put to words.

    I do old school Jiu-jitsu from a Japanese teacher. I started my learning curve in 1966 and have been blessed with some over the hill teachers.

    I have my students read your writings, so as to show them what I have been telling them is shared by the old school teachers who have been to the top of the hill, to see what’s on the other side.

    • Nev Sagiba says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence.
      It’s good to hear from kindred spirits from time to time.
      Keep well,

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