“Kakarigeiko Is Not Randori,” by Nev Sagiba


The real Budo, the truest Aikido resides in holding the line, maintaining and protecting standards and infrastructures that uphold core human values and integrity in the world of today, as it is right now.

In real life the other attackers do NOT wait their turn. They seek your back while others strive to get your frontal attention.

Real attackers do not run forward smiling with both arms outstretched as if to hug, or grab your wrist(s) or shoulders without a reason and then jump when you pretend. They attack! They exercise every faculty to achieve maximum harm. Mostly striking, stabbing or a mixture of any variable they think will work.

Some of the popularised wishy-washy stuff that is passed off as Aikido is sad, not only because such fake attacks are a transparently pathetic attempt at deception, but because real fighters tend to laugh at the bogus they see being portrayed as “aikido.” Such things are not ambassadorial and portray Aikido in a poor light.

Many so called akidoka of today are self deceived and practicing to die if ever attacked. Many “black belts,” are not even a pale shade of grey. Yellow maybe. Many demonstration would be better off withheld as they openly reveal technical incompetence, bluffing only the very gullible and inexperienced. The only elevation of some “high ranked” is that their opinions are in the clouds if they think such rubbish remotely resembles Aikido or Budo of any kind. It is not certain whether such deceptions are a deliberate attempt to obfuscate or whether said practitioners are deluding themselves. Finding out the hard way is a sad thing as some video footage reveals. Real attacks happen on the ground and this is where we must firmly have our feet. Training should progressively strip away our delusions, not make them more.

Some people use the excuse of “hard training can be dangerous.” In so doing they denote their lack of understanding of Budo. Indeed there is an element of risk in proper training. About the same to that of crossing a road. Considerably less if you are a regular trainee with improved observation and coordination. Training is not for point scoring but to open the mind and to learn and to increase clarity of observation and skill thereby.

“Hard” and “skilled” are distinctly different things which are never mixed in Budo training unless accordingly modulated. Only in life saving deployment does one unleash a fuller measure of potential. Dojo is for safe training only. If you don’t know this or don’t understand, go back to square one, you have not passed kindergarten.

True Budo is 90% or more skilled administration in society that is of a constructive nature that identifies and foresees adverse trajectories and takes steps to mitigate detrimental outcomes. It has very little to do with physical fighting as such.

Too many “aikidoka” would not know Budo or Aikido if it fell on them from a great height. They do Aikido a disservice by pretending, faking and many don’t even have a real job serving society, preferring to sell out for profit a fakery that constitutes little more than a circus.

Serious budoka are involved in real life and not some quaint escapism into a fantasyland of reenacting manufactured ideas of a dead past samurai mythology. These face life right now, either as administrators who care enough to make a difference, or in the field in the various real life emergency, rescue or security services. The glue that holds society together and maintains it in good condition. The real Budo, the truest Aikido resides in holding the line, maintaining and protecting standards and infrastructures that uphold core human values and integrity in the world of today, as it is right now.

When the socially engaged practice Aikido in the dojo they train true. They have an interest in doing so. They have and seek greater perspective. Aikido is not the forms but the principle that practicing the forms rigorously as if for live battle, can evoke. This core essence can not emerge without an authentic demand being present or at least sincerity in training.

Randori and kakarigeiko is safe training. Indeed not only can it be safe but it must be safe as it has been for 1000 years in Japan and before that.

Silly movies made by poetic and ignorant directors who also live in fairyland are not worth a mention. They may mean well, but role model very little if anything because they fail to seek or find authentic advice.

There are several ways to modulate training to be safe without reducing skill, precision or martial integrity, without which an art ceases to be Budo and becomes bogus.

If you don’t know what these methodologies are I suggest you ask around or attempt a creative and constructive debate. Or attend the school of someone who knows. If you can find them. Real dojos do not market and the best higher standard dojos are small, best kept secrets and difficult to find. And even then, they will not let you just walk in and “check it out,” without you first proving your mettle. Not your fighting mettle, rather your respect, sincerity and intent to serve society quotient. Your character is the measure after which protection skills and intent follow.

Fudging techniques with, “hard and fast” or using strength defeats the purpose of training and you are cheating yourself.

Budo is a CLEAR THINKING SCIENTIFIC process of RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT and EXPLORATION of POSSIBILITIES, using the tools provided in the basic kihon. Otherwise it is not Budo but a dance of sorts.

The onus is on the instructor to know what he or she is doing, to not be deluded, to be authentic (not as a hippy cliché of posing but having proven him /her self in the field) and not only take responsibility to impart correctly but also to make absolutely certain that the art is not degraded by dumbing down now so common, or drifting into unrealistic byways.

Self deception does not constitute “spiritual” progress. Feel-good is merely endorphins. You can get these jogging. Wallowing in endorphin highs is not the goal of Aiki Budo.

Nothing short of practicality, the measure of skill, will do, ruthless self honesty, even if it hurts the ego. Only the real and actual augmenting of skill is the yardstick for progress. For this we need to be honest with ourselves and take stock of our goals. Why do we practice?

The paradox is that it does not matter if you will ever need to use it in “a fight” or a death dealing situation or not, since that is not the primary purpose of the training. But you nevertheless must practice as if preparing for real battle. This will open your mind and skill attributes in all other things whereby you may become a truly capable constructive servant of society.

The purpose of Budo, denoted in the translation of the word; composed from the syllables: Bu and Do, means “To stop the Halberd” (symbolizing any attack) and refers to the stopping of violence in all its forms. Aiki Budo does so harmoniously and with respect for all concerned.

And AiKi when boiled down simply translates as: Ai – harmony and Ki – intention, the harmonizing of intention and by default harmonious action and activity. It equates with a broad view detached love. A desire for the contribution towards achieving of the greater good for all. “Right action” or “Doing unto others” as we would like to receive. (The natural opposite outcome is the societal and global meltdown we are right now facing as a species.)

As stated, the bulk of this is found in creative service to society. And when you must fight, then by all means do what is required. But realize this: You are playing catch-up because you failed to prevent the preventable. And so aggression will have emerged.

After an event best practice is to take responsibility and do something about such incident so that it never repeats again. That is Budo, the stopping of discord. Otherwise we can not dare speak the word Aikido with sincerity. It would be hypocritical. It would not be Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido but merely some form of harm rendering jujutsu, just for fighting negligible effect in making a difference. We would have to call it something else. Not “Aikido.”

Every moment of every day is Aikido training. Otherwise we are fooling  ourselves. Morihei Ueshiba’s rendering of Aikido intended more than merely the predatorial covering of our own backsides, rather to grow an understanding of the far reaching consequences that emerge from our day to day comportment where we find ourselves. A responsible awareness of the rippling butterfly effect of accumulated good or bad actions which inevitably come back multiplied.

Unless, and when, it becomes strictly necessary and inevitable, fighting is the least of it. Budo, specifically Aiki Budo is for protecting, nurturing and caring for society and to this end we must each identify and get on with our creative mission in life, the purpose we were born for. Daily maintenance as custodians of a fragile planet, a fragile humanity, fragile infrastructures and life support systems. If you don’t know what this is please start contemplating it otherwise others will be only too please to control your life for you. This is unacceptable.

Since in today’s world most of us are not about to go into a physical feudal war at any moment, the purpose of training, whilst it must be sincere, augments us in in preparation for daily life and the challenges which are real for today. Aikido practice refines us as human beings.

Kakarigeiko and randori are integral to the proper practice of Aikido and this for good reason. It makes participants aware, prepared and capable in all directions. Something indispensable in today’s world. Both are valid and necessary modalities of training. Practiced correctly they complement each other but should not be mistaken one for the other. Each method should be clearly identified and its purpose understood if the optimal benefit is to be derived from proper Aikido training. One is for augmenting form and the other to unlock free movement from forms. Notwithstanding, it is a requirement that basic waza must be first known and understod in practice.

The distinction between kakarigeiko and randori for purposes of dojo practice must be clearly understood if we are to extract the optimal value from training:

Kakarigeiko is a method of training whereby, usually the same attack is deployed by a lineup of uke where a nage gets to practice, usually the same technique repeatedly.

Kakarigeiko is best defined as continuous attack practice in the form of a fundamental drill used to master a waza where a designated nage executes the waza in response to a number of uke attacks, who receive the waza in turn.

These roles are usually alternated until everyone in the class has had a turn as nage.

In Judo there exist variables of such drills as yakusoku geiko (agreed-upon practice), sute geiko (freestyle practice), and butsukari-geiko (collision practice), all valid for the benefits derived from such practices. Such possibilities are equally as valid for any training including Aikido.

As opposed to the more staid and predictable kakarigeiko is randori (free sparring) where a simulated gang attack is deployed upon the designated nage either with predetermined agreed upon limitations for increased safety, (e.g. grabs only, strikes only, a selected spectrum of attacks and/or techniques- depending on the student’s experience level). Randori can also be practiced with less or even no limitations where almost everything goes mixing it up with a variety of attacks as present to obvious moment to moment openings (tsuki) as they occur. Modulation of intensity and acceleration depends on the degree of advancement of participating students. Again certain limitations may be imposed such as a slowing of tempo.

It defines the inexperienced in that they will wait their turn to attack. There is no stopping to think in a real situation. Timing is of the essence. Training should reflect this.

Proper multiple attack practice or randori, is identifiable by attackers closing in and seeking the rear when the frontal attacker(s) are strongly capturing nage’s attention. Uke as attackers must put pressure on nage and upscale it accordingly so as to increase the skill training. This pressure will of course be obviated by nage’s strong, stable pivoting or taisabaki/tainohenko/tenkan which defines true Aikido. (NOT running backwards which is not a pivot but a relative of seppuku.) A real pivot is preceded by a strong entry-IRIMI! Meet your opponent first. For the battlefield you attack then convert. Tenkan is always preceded by irimi, then re-frames the next irimi and so on until the job is done.

For safety especially randori drills must be supervised by an experienced instructor who will call “Yame!” when things look like getting out of hand and before any mishap can occur.

Kakarigeiko is not randori and a real situation whether physical or circumstantial is neither, each being a pivotal, exclusive and unrepeatable event in time and the universe!

Each moment is new!

For multiple attack randori, nage’s ki must be akin to that of a tsunami backed by a soft breeze on a very hot day, sweeping away rocks with a warm heart filled with love.

First you need to have drilled the basics!

Image Composite Credits:

• The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodcut by Katsushika Hokusai, c. 1829–32

Aikido Photo
• Morihiro Saito Sensei, outdoor multiple attack training (From movie Morihei Ueshiba: The Founder of Aikido)

Nev Sagiba


  1. Wow, incredible post. One of the most balanced pieces I’ve read in a while. I agree. We Aikidoists need to remain vigilant and practice with the most sincere mindset possible. No bullshit. We need to maintain the authenticity of the art for it to work the magic in our lives which it was intended for. Thank you for this.

  2. We cannot wait for changes to come from Japan. Changes in Japan occur only as a result of foreign pressure. It will take time but the trend has already started.

    Excellent essay, thank you.

    Patrick Augé

    • Pat, that’s a complex political thing too deep for here. But it’s also the nature of evolution. But in both East and West Aikido’s value has been identified and honoured. I believe our task now is to see to it that it does not decay and become something else. Or something less. As the old guy stated just before he died, “I’ve taken my Aikido research as far as I can. Another thousand years would be useful. Please continue this research!”

  3. Joe Peterson says:

    The piece does a great job delineating a sound Randori practice and other information. Randori, etc., are valuable learning tools for the dojo, in helping anyone get the most out of their practice. If done properly, the flood gates of self-discovery will fling open. I applaud that, and hope fellow Aikido practitioners will see value in the piece too.I wouldn’t take it past that into the street.

    I don’t think people should confuse Aikido Randori and its practice, etc. with what it was based on, feudal combat. You just can’t take Aikido Randori to the today’s streets expecting it to work successfully on modern gang attacks. Maybe on the streets of 1940s Japan, where thugs where patterning and modeling their attacks after those of the Samurai, Aikido Randori was successful. Jo and bokken where never intended or designed in practice for street use. And neither was Randori etc., as Osensei had a position against violence, and his art used as a combative. Osensei didn’t ever take Aikido to the street. He didn’t teach or test a combative system, that is what Takeda did. The reason why Aikido never adapted beyond the levels of crime in Japan in the 1960s was because the focus for Aikido became a matter of preservation, where it still stands today. This is where I place a caveat when reading Nev’s piece, it shouldn’t really be taken as a means of fighting on the street.

    • We should not go out looking for fights. Only fools and people with mental illness do so. “O’Sensei stipulated, “Avoid violence at all costs where it is possible to do so.” Joe, I’m duty bound to disillusion you regarding O’Sensei’s street experience. To name a few: Matches in youth; pitching up at taverns unannounced and challenging guys half his age then demolishing them (it got to the stage his reputation preceded him and no-one would take him up); killing “pirates” in Mongolia with swords; he was sent to fight a “duel to the death” by Takeda on his behalf (sending a student was traditional) and he concussed the opponent in deep snow using a metal fan; he was assaulted by a gang of yakuza in his later years in a Tokyo back lane for wearing old traditional apparel with the purse on the outside and he hospitalized them; when teaching at a Military academy the students “tested” him and gang attacked him. He trounced them. You should read up. He became a “saint” later in life. As you do. Or hope to. Much of it is documented in AJ including the other “street” incidents. All from verified sources. Not that it matters. Aikido works! Period! It’s not a dance. And only a fool would go looking for trouble to “test” himself. But when trouble comes you deal with it. Period! Randori training does in fact save lives as numerous Aikido practitioners can attest. But regular practice serves better than theorizing. The best thing is to simply “train as if you will need it then pray that you never do.” And if you do, “leave everything in the hands of the Universe,” i.e unleash like hell. These are also O’Sensei quotes. They come from a lifetime of solid and meaningful experience.

      • Joe Peterson says:

        Nev, I appreciate your comment and a misunderstanding has arisen. When I was speaking, it wasn’t to Osensei’s personal experiences. I was speaking to Aikido, as it being a “martial art.” Meaning Aikido as a “martial art” obtains the ideals of “bushido” and preserves the culture of “bujutsu.” Aikido is a Japanese art form preserving Japanese feudal military/combative cultural ways. A matter of fact, evident to the seasoned and knowledgeable practitioners who in their zeal mistakenly overlook the significance.

        The value of Aikido has never been the measurement of the street effectiveness value placed upon by an alien body, one which can’t begin to appreciate the cultural, philosophical values of Aikido. Osensei place his value on Aikido in relation to the reach and acceptance of his spiritual message. But, Aikido in the last 20 years, has come under heavy fire and overwhelming criticism of its street effectiveness value. An intense focus on an area of Aikido Osensei clearly didn’t want. He wanted the world to focus on his message, and not whether Aikido is street effective. If that were to be the case, the treatment of Aikido would be completely different, with an emphasis on combat and competition as we see in sport martial arts today.

        With such overwhelming intense and continued criticism of Aikido, many of us Aikido practitioners have developed a great defensiveness, a huge chip on our shoulders with a hair trigger. A fault that blinds us to certain realities of Aikido that would have not been an issue 20 years ago, that is shifting many off the topic of Osensei’s message and purpose for Aikido. Being defensive and overly protective of our sensibilities, tends to, but shouldn’t, impede the facts, or realities of Aikido as its intended purpose. The value of Aikido lays not on the street, but in its experience; philosophy, culture and its wonderful message to the world. Remember Aikido was never intended to be a street weapon. Rather an instrument of peace.

        I preach wholeheartedly that it is ok that Aikido isn’t some ominous bad-ass fantasy street effective weapon, because it isn’t. Remember Aikido isn’t a street weapon nor intended to be, though many confuse it to be such. You want an effective street weapon, get a Smith & Wesson Model 500 and a Glock 19 autoloader, 9x19mm as the secondary. As trite as that sounds it is the true. I don’t know any martial art that can stop a bullet(s)- let’s not bring in the old story of Osensei dodging bullets. Aikido is a performance art, with a message; a skill which requires a great amount of work, dedication, commitment, and approach as any other Budo. Isn’t that enough to stand on?

  4. Wow, what an article! Thank you so much for all your wonderful sharings, Nagiba Sensei! Amazing description of jiyu-waza ki (tsunami followed by a soft breeze or with a loving heart)! It’s perfectly clear to me, and you make it perfectly clear as well, that while aikido can be practiced as a performance art alone, and has value as such, it need not be limited to that. The door is open, we just have to walk through it. As you say, it’s not for the forms alone that we practice, but for the principles the forms give life too. All the techniques have live applications and on multiple levels. As you say, fighting is the least of it. Using aikido as custodians is the goal, as Takahashi Sensei has also recently expressed. This is how aikido becomes our daily life. Wonderful photo too! A wave is such a fitting image for so many aikido techniques. Thank you.

  5. Tying in hanmi-handachi to the discussion of jiyu-waza, all one has to do is view any of the doshu’s aikido demonstraions on youtube to see sublime demonstrations of hanmi-handachi jiu-waza performed at the highest level. Can the average person even begin to fathom how difficult it is to do what the current doshu does! His jiyu-waza demos from his knees are at the level of gold-medal olympic performances.

    One interesting point about hanmi-handachi jiyu-waza is that it gives the feeling of what it would be like to be attacked by giants! Evoking that feeling and working through it is surely useful. How easily and freely one moves on ones feet after that!

  6. Training with giants is of immense value in Budo and a privilege offered to a lucky few who began their training as young children practicing Budo with adults. It can be a hard path but very rewarding as nearly all the greats were thus privileged. And it shows. It’s far too quickly that we grow and become “giants” too then we practice with those of equal size and begin to feel threatened by nothing much at all, defeated by our own minds mostly. Hanmihandachi is a great way to recapture these training potentials and it also contains several other benefits which will augment standing practice.

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