“Strut your stuff,” by Stanley Pranin

It is impossible to post a video on aikido technique without drawing criticism. Often, this will come from anonymous posters. This is the case whether the video clip features Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, or a lowly kyu rank. There are no exceptions.

Therefore, I hereby extend to you this invitation. If you would like to submit a criticism of someone’s technique, why not silence all critics by creating a video of your own as a rebuttal, and exhibit your superior skill level?


  1. Well, it would certainly help to establish your argument, but I think that the concept that you have to be able to exhibit superior performance before you can legitimately offer criticism is mistaken.

    Can you imagine requiring someone to cook a meal that meets or exceeds the one being criticized.
    By that standard, virtually all restaurant critics would be out of business.

    It also eliminates most academic criticism of historical figures and decisions.



    • It’s easy to remain unanonymous by submitting a criticism in one’s own name. Next, the critic should mention their martial arts background and be specific about the nature of their criticism. Next, ad hominem attacks should be avoided as what is their purpose other than to poison the forum of discussion?

      • All good things – but all different than asking people to exhibit a superior level of skill in order to offer criticism.



        • My view is if you are willing to publicly embarrass someone while hiding behind anonymity without providing any credentials, you open yourself to the same sort of treatment you have inflicted. You should find an honorable way to express yourself in a public forum

          • I don’t disagree.

            But that has nothing to do with the level of skill of the person offering the criticism. That’s a matter of basic netiquette – aren’t those two separate arguments?



          • It escapes me how someone without martial skills can offer a meaningful criticism about a well-respected aikido instructor and be considered seriously. If I were not a trained singer, would people take my criticism of someone like Pavarotti seriously?

          • “No skills” is one thing (although I would note that it is quite common in many fields to do so, and that I’ve seen people with “no skills” make very perceptive observations), but there is a huge range between “zero” and “superior”.

            All I’m saying is that possession of a superior level of skills really ought not be a per-requisite for offering criticism.

            It’s very common for professional coaches to have a lower level of actual skill then the players they coach – that doesn’t disqualify them from criticizing their players.



    • I would say that if you are not able to operate at the level you are attempting to criticise then become an expert in elegant and exacting questions. This would help to elicit the information you actually needed from the expert and would serve everyone’s purpose much better.

  2. Aaron Green says:

    Of course what you are putting forth is certainly an improvement, short of having a real live “comparison of technique” to borrow a term from Mushasi Miyamoto. However, this issue is more a statement on society at large when faced with a free forum that the internet provides. You can find this kind of behavior regardless of the subject matter. A personal favorite happened on a guitar forum where this individual was making all sorts of inflammatory self pronouncements of grandeur and finding everyone else wanting. Then someone found a video of this individual actually playing, a video that he himself had put up, so he couldn’t claim it was an off night for him. It was terrible, amateurish and the onslaught of derision actually made me feel sorry for him. Almost.

    An improvement would be more self reflection by those criticizing and those putting up videos for public consumption that might not be putting them or their art in a good light. I admit that I wince when I see less than stellar Aikido put up by people who are not there yet, a group which includes myself for sure…. just as much as I get annoyed with anonymous armchair critics actually thinking they have the right to call out O’Sensei as a fake or Shioda Sensei, Yamaguchi Sensei, etc.

  3. I seldom post videos, and I usually just post them on my personal blog. I am not out to be compared to MMA, nor do I wish to tell the world how I can kick ass and take names. I don’t care if I remain invisible. There are lessons I have given many times that I get tired of repeating, so I make a presentation.

    Next to an Obit for my sensei, the most popular item on my blog is my cheesecake recipe – few comments on Aikido even received. Maybe I am beneath notice – not so bad.

    I respect people submitting videos to youtube that don’t allow comments. Why answer comments you never wanted? There are few people whose critique is genuinely desired by me, and I solicit that personally.

  4. Hi Stan,
    I think that writing anonymously denotes cowardice.
    Luckily, we all have a different taste, so some people will like a video and others may dislike it.
    And finally, I think that one should only make a criticism if it is constructive and will lead to an improvement, if not better to keep silence.

  5. Here is what I have found to be true. First, the notion of humility as a virtue. Usually, that does NOT mean that a person of merit and talent shows humility. It usually means that to SHOW one’s humility as a supplicating gesture is a virtue. It’s a crock. To give a honest display, free of hubris, and open to criticism, is a humble enough gesture.

    There are those that will mock from afar, hide behind screen names, and all the rest. As a martial artist, I hold others that claim to be martial artists to simply say it to my face. I can take criticism, but I will not accept disrespect from anyone. I think that the medium of the internet allows for the two to overlap more often than it should.

    A call for “something better then” is not far off, but it doesn’t solve the issue of disrespect in the first place. A person that was genuine in their criticism will also be polite. Otherwise is just that – otherwise. I posted a video a while ago, and I was approached by none other than Ellis Amdur himself. He respectfully asked my permission to give me critique which I received with a warm heart, as I have been an admirer of his for years.

    Simply, there is a right and a wrong way to do anything.

  6. Well said Stanley.
    It is a typical case of a great advance being misused. It is a great thing to be able to freely share and comment on the Internet, and I am sure that even your harshest critics will admit that your journal is a great tool for this. But you will always have a fringe of the population who will abuse it and anonymously post petty comments or spread ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims. Unfortunately, these tend to be the more visible precisely because they are strident.

    That being said, when we consider that works such as yours increase the level of Aikido literacy of the average reader, we must also agree that this reader will be more able to cut through the BS so in the end, I think that we are still all beneficiary as a community. The thing is that the large majority of those who appreciate usually keeps silent.

    In any case, thanks for your hard work and for the inspiration that you provide to those of us who, within their limited means and experience, try to offer original content on our discipline and do so in their own name.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. To compare techniques as “better” or “less better” visually is not an easy proposition. It’s not like a movie where well-choreographed sequences appear really impressive to the unpracticed, yet would mostly not be useful in real life.

    Some of the worst of real violence is minimal in action but deadly and some of the greatest displays amount to nothing. Aikido exists to minimise real violence in ourselves and the world. Otherwise it is a farce.

    What would be the criteria to make such an exercise useful? What should be the context of such a venture so that it does not become a voluminous clutter, a veritable minestrone of videos now instead of words drowning everything, quality and junk in a morass of too much.

    I think impressing should not be the goal, rather education, sharing to improve the quality and standard of the art. Offering of simple key points consumers could take back to their own dojo to improve their art.

    Personally, I find the often blurred, black and white movies of O’Sensei to be more educative by far than the too well explained ennui of some of the high quality, but long winded material available that is mostly opinionated but with minimal practical value.

    In my opinion, if the viewer learns nothing from the viewed clip, it would be a wasted exercise. On the other hand, if the exhibitor is sufficiently skilled to impart in a manner to transparently and openly spread the improvement of the art, it could well be a success.

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