“Multiple Attacks and Ground Wrestling,” by Nev Sagiba

Multiple attacks and ground wrestling are the singular best forms of training practice you can do.

However, in a live survival situation, these are the very things you try to avoid.

Why the apparent contradiction?

There is none. These are the essential backup you will need when things vary from preferred of standing up and fighting the rare one individual which seldom happens.

These are the extremes that do happen.

The worst mix is to get caught on the ground when the opponents are multiple. There are training techniques for this which are concealed by the partly veiled Hanmihandachi (also: Hanza Handachi) methodology. This is the most critical of all training, if you intend to be a survivor of, “crunch time.”

On their own, these forms of training teach much but only in the context of thoroughly understanding the basic techniques. I won’t even begin to go into the benefits of ground wrestling but it opens your mind, enhances your body-mind connection, fortifies your ki and your ability to read intention, teaches balance and among many other things gets you immensely physically fit, augmenting your cardio/stamina as well as muscle strength, resilience, flexibility and co-ordination.

Multiple attacks training is the preeminent survival training. Words don’t cut it. Do it.

Hanmihandachi, now grossly misunderstood and mostly poorly practiced as mimicry without understanding, holds the keys to not ending up on the ground and many other things not easily depicted in words. Here too, do it, train and practice with a thoughtful and questioning open mind.

Long before a certain shoe manufacturer thought of it, one of my best teachers would often say, “Just do it!”

As for Budo, this I recommend most heartily, particularly when exploring to uncover the immense potentials of Aikido.

Tomorrow never comes. There’s no time like now.

Nev Sagiba


  1. I’m really surprised that there have been no comments either way regarding Hanmihandachi.
    Either everyone knows its function, purpose and application inside out, or nobody knows what it means.

    Anyone open for a discussion on the subject?

    • Hi Saghiba Sensei,

      O.K. I won’t leave you hanging out to dry by yourself, as you have proved yourself to be too worthy of a statesman of Ueshiba Aiki to be summarily ignored or dismissed. Again, I confess to not always understanding your agenda, research provenance, or the messages you admiringly attempt to convey.

      I am not a fan of hanmi-handachi training for a variety of reasons. Chiefly, it has to to with probability. It is highly probable that we will never be in a situation to effectively use it, let alone correctly. Second, it is a disaster on a timetable for Western knees, hips and feet, to invest any serious time in training in it. The cost – benefit equation is simply too costly, and circumspect.

      I am also not a fan of the flavor of the year in terms of “inner strength”,,”inner power” or other references to allegedly tradition based concepts of enlightened use of “Ki” . Especially when it comes to discussing the actual role played by the Founder of Aikido in its current relevance to “modern aikido”, much more honesty and serious research is needed. Yet, I believe that we can both agree that much more will be revealed as we continue our efforts in studying the genius within ourselves, finding methods that are effective, working philosophies that we can believe in, and common grounds within which to train together for mutual benefit.

      All things being equal, more is better than less. Giving a fair and honest effort to learn correct hanmi – handachi is very reasonable, as long as common sense precautions are taken. Given such an ever expanding host of choices being offered to us by new discoveries, one must be prudent in making choices that are specific to our respective needs, capabilities and resource expenditures. We may be able to do “anything” we sincerely choose to pursue, but we simply cannot do “everything” that strikes our fancy.

      My take on the functionality of “hanmi-handachi” training is that it can build a stronger foundation for moving the core, relevant to the ground on which we stand. It can clearly give a more realistic perspective on the need to be moving completely, especially in respect to being upright and flowing.

      Again, its purpose appears to be two fold. One is the preservation of a time honored practice regimen, and perhaps the other is to appreciate concepts of ma ai, hanmi, shii kaku and zanshin more realistically.

      Application wise, not much, as I previously stated. I am afraid that the overall cost does not merit it prolonged or intense involvement, especially for those who begin their Aikido training later in life.

  2. Hi Francis and thank you for your response. Notwithstanding that you had what it takes to address the hanmihandchi issue frontally here, and I thank you for that, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with some of your points :)

    Firstly, if we only practice the things we like or are comfortable with, we lose so much value of an art whether mental, spiritual or practical. The unpracticed then disappears from our horizon.

    Secondly, every time a real attack presents itself, there exists a real risk of having to use hanmihandchi. But fear not, for that is a benign alternative risk compared to the evil of having to fight multiple attackers supine! As so many who don’t practice hanmihandchi end up doing. To their detriment.

    Then, the very well propagated stories of “western knees and hips” are an urban myth. X Rays reveal no difference. Nor are we all as degenerate as we pretend, or as decadent as some would like to accuse. Read instead, “people made weak and unskilled by plain laziness and poor lifestyle habits.” Most of the world, whether “east” or “west,” don’t have chairs and daily sit in either seiza or cross legged without ill effect well into dotage.

    I can attest that even people with (some) knee injuries can utilize hanmihandchi and in some cases aid in the recovery of said knee injuries through such practice.

    As for effectiveness, hanmihandchi is very effective and a vital augment to standing jujutsu, but not when deployed silly like that movie where the proponent got on his knees then invited his enemy in. That’s not the purpose of hanmihandchi. Obviously. Not does it have anything much to do with fighting under a low roof.
    We have to ask why the Japanese practiced these techniques with application and success for well over a thousand years with possibly an even longer ancestral heritage. (Anything that failed in a melee did not last a week) And why O’Sensei identified this fact. (Despite the many pompous would-be-warriors who nowadays call him stupid and by default Takeda and everyone going back to the very inception of Japan.)

    Why did the old real-life-warriors embrace hanmihandchi practice? Expediency is the answer. It saved lives. Some people of today can not find that expediency because the demands are insufficient.

    We all heard the numerous urban myths of, “building hip strength” (which in part is true, and others that range from the silly to the ridiculous, but these are offered by mere academic theorists with no battle experience whatsoever; only matched by their degree of clarity or lack of it.

    Your, “… take on the functionality of “hanmi-handachi” training is that it can build a stronger foundation for moving the core, relevant to the ground on which we stand. It can clearly give a more realistic perspective on the need to be moving completely, especially in respect to being upright and flowing..” is 100% correct however. But not the whole story.

    Of course all training must be moderated to the levels of participants. But without practice of a vital core technique or training method, we would then be lacking in a vital point of reference, one we could need, a hole in our toolbox of deployable ordnance which could make the difference.

    So also the deployment of hanmihandchi. But that is one of the main purposes of the exercise: To enable trainees to minimise time on the ground but be able to get up and fight on.

    The pre-eminent method of finding out how and squeezing the juice out of hanmihandchi’s potential is regular multiple attack training. (Standing) And basic hanmihandchi training as well.

    There is considerably more, but perhaps for later.

    Thanks again, Francis, for lending your weight to the debate, which is very much appreciated.

    C’mon people, there must be someone out there somewhere who has a half a clue. Please share. We might all learn. Or has Aikido already died?

    by Tom Collings

    Yes, Sagiba Sensei we are out here listening. Too many cooks spoil the pot, so I usually prefer reading others comments rather than my own, but since there has not been much responce, let me share my thoughts. Perhaps people were thrown off by the title phrase “ground wrestling” which we in aiki want to avoid if possible. We want to get (back) to our feet as soon as possible. That does not make hanmi-handachi practice less important, it makes it more important.

    Aiki ground exercises have been considered a remnant from Japan’s past when the samurai spent much of life seated on tatami. If that is your concept, then the practice is an obsolete waste of time. If you belief that falling during combat – tripping over something, being knocked down, tackled, or dragged down is a common occurrence, then hanmi-handachi takes on vital importance and must have a prominent role in our training.

    Suwari waza and hanmi-handachi ground work was central to the Founder’s practice and is unique among martial arts. One of the gems he left us. Takahashi Sensei is right that it is very rigorous and challenging for everyone, escpecially those coming to aiki later in life. Sagiba Sensei is also correct that “what is unpracticed disappears,” as it already has in many if not most aiki dojo as a regular part of daily training.

    The prevailing belief is that these ground practices are bad for the knees. This myth must be challenged or this essential component of O’Sensei’s legacy with soon be lost forever. The Founder continued his ground practice into his 80’s because he was a superman with no relation to normal human beings like us, right ? – Hogwash !! Use it or lose it. This is not mere opinion, let me explain:

    After shattering my right knee at age 46 helping a friend prepare for a national grappling championship – I rebuild my knee through gradual, carefully knee walking. A few very slow steps a day, then slowly across the mat each day, and finally a lot of suwari waza and hanmi handachi. Today that knee, as well as my leg and foot muscles are stronger than before my knee surgery. I am not unique, anyone can use careful suwari practice to rebuild and strengthen the lower body – which is the essence of martial art.

    The way I re-built my leg is the way everyone should begin ground movement if their legs and feet are not used to it – gradually, carefully, and regularly. Yes, the knees and feet are sensitive to abuse. Working them moderately on a REGULAR basis is not abuse; it is keeping them healthy and strong. Being almost 61, it is frustrating when young students (under 50 is now young to me) tell me they cannot do ground practice with me because they have “bad knees.” More accuirately they have WEAK knees, but they do not believe that, they prefer “bad” knees (there is much secondary gain involved in having “bad” knees.)

    At the risk of offending some aikido students and teachers very happy with their current practice let me add a few last thoughts: Using handmi-handachi as more of our “martial performance art” aikido routine is a waste of my time and that of any serious student. If guiding compliant partners into pretty and “magical” falls is the whole practice – then fewer and fewer young people will want anything to do with this art. Aikido will continue to become a martial dance form for middle aged folks attracted to some light and easy recreational exercise. Martial proformance art and aiki aerobic dance is wonderful and valuable, it should be taught at dance schools and at every nursing home. Let us please stop blaming the popularity of MMA, or the obesity of Steve Seagal for aikido’s poor reputation among young men looking for a martial art to practice. How we practice aikiido is at fault.

    My closing comment about aikido ground practice is this – when I have fallen in the street (can’t believe I am still a street cop) my job is to get this old butt off the ground and back in the fight as quickly as possible, while avoiding the kicks to my face and ribs which is the actual way people attack when you fall on the ground. Parrying a kick with aiki movement and popping up behind someone is a beautiful thing. Could we please add this and other practical applications of hanmi-handachi to our aiki curriculum?

    Regards to all aiki friends, be well and be safe. Tom C.

  4. Tom, I hope people read what you’ve written. Referring to live experience and taking it back to the dojo to gain context is what it’s all about, how the ancients trained, why dojos came about and good sound debriefing that augments the real Aikido/Budo. You make some really good, vital points and it’s good to hear you add the facts about knees and recovery therapy using light exercise, particularly modulated suwari waza. Thanks again, Nev

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