Dec
04

O-Sensei’s “Cupped Hand” — The Secret to Ura Movements by Stanley Pranin

morihei-ueshiba-saotome-tai-no-henko

“O-Sensei can easily perform a variety of techniques where uke is powerless to resist because he has lost his balance.”

Many dojos practice aikido’s tai no henko exercise regularly or even religiously during every session. Some teachers will explain that this is a blending movement that allows one to set up for certain aikido throws. But what is really happening? Let’s take a closer look.

First, consider this wonderful image of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at the point of completion of tai no henko.

Notice that his hand is in a “cupped” position. What is the purpose of this rather strange hand form? Looking closer we see that this tai no henko blend has brought uke’s torso forward and down. Expressed otherwise, uke has been unbalanced.

How has this been accomplished? Uke first grabbed nage’s wrist from the side. O-Sensei’s pivoting motion and cupped hand have conveyed mechanical energy through uke’s arm that has caused him to loose balance forward and down as is readily evident in the photo. From here, O-Sensei can easily perform a variety of techniques where uke is powerless to resist because he has lost his balance.

Here we see the entire process masterly performed by Morihiro Saito Sensei.

tai-no-henko-sequenceLastly, I demonstrate an adaptation of this same “cupped” hand movement as a setup to unbalance uke before moving to his flank. From here, ikkyo through yonkyo omote techniques can be very effectively applied. This approach is part of my “Zone Theory of Aikido” research.

stanley-pranin-cupped-hand
In my next article, I would like to talk about the mechanics of the kokyuho movement and its function in aikido techniques.

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Watch these videos for insights into solving the
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Nov
10

Make Your Techniques Work! Stanley Pranin’s “Zone Theory of Aikido Course”!

Stanley Pranin’s “Zone Theory of Aikido Course”!

“Rethinking Aikido Training From The Bottom Up!”

stanley-pranin-encyHi, I’m Stanley Pranin here to tell you about my new online video course, the “Zone Theory of Aikido”.

You know I’ve been involved in Aikido for more than 50 years. To tell the truth, Aikido has been my life. I can’t think of a better discipline to train well-rounded, fit people with excellent self-defense skills.

That being said, I believe we still have a long way to go to develop more refined teaching methodologies to accelerate students’ advancement in the art.

What do I mean? Well, I travel frequently in Aikido circles and train with practitioners of many different styles. I’ve found similar training patterns regardless of the approach to Aikido. I consider one of the biggest hurdles to improving one’s skills is the almost universal tendency to resort to physical strength in attempting to make techniques work.

When aikido practitioners get stuck, they tense up and try to force their way through the technique. I see this everywhere I go. For many years, I experienced the same thing in my own training. Only recently, have I been able to discover ways of using the body as a unified structure when applying techniques. What a difference this has made!

This has been a liberating discovery that has allowed me to totally rethink my way of approaching the execution of techniques. My techniques work now, consistently, even against training partners of superior strength. This has never happened before!

In the “Zone Theory of Aikido” video course consisting of 25 lessons, I’m going to walk you through this innovative approach to doing aikido. I will show you ways of using your body more efficiently. I will explain the importance of positioning, balance-breaking… how to use atemi, kiai, and O-Sensei’s hitoemi stance to give you a tremendous advantage in practice. I look forward to sharing this whole new world of training principles and strategies with you.

Get it today and watch your progress accelerate!

zone-theory-of-aikido-banner-ad-3

Oct
15

“Words of advice for the starving yoga teacher,” by Stanley Pranin

starving-yoga-how-do-i-eat

“Everything mentioned here could be readily applied to the starving Aikido teacher!”

This is a slightly modified version of an article I wrote some months ago for one of my yoga teachers who was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t make a living doing yoga alone. Everything mentioned here could be readily applied to the starving Aikido teacher as well.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about one interesting way a yoga teacher might apply various Internet marketing techniques to enhance her reach and income.

Here is a hypothetical example. A yoga instructor goes to a park with her mat on a day with good weather. She finds a shady area under a large tree. By choosing such a location you don’t have to worry about harsh shadows. A friend comes with a video camera and tripod. If two friends are available, so much the better, as the yoga poses can be shot from two different angles.

She proceeds to perform a yoga routine at a slow to moderate speed that consists of about 25 (or whatever number) of asanas. There is no talking in the video, she just concentrates on performing the routine as expertly and gracefully as possible.

She goes home and takes the memory card(s) from the camera and fires up her laptop and inserts the card. She uses an inexpensive video editor like Sony Vegas Movie Studio to edit the video.

The video is cut up into 27 parts. The first part is an intro 1-2 minutes in length, then the 25 poses, and finally, an “outro” with contact information, link and whatever other relevant information that serves as a “call to action” for the viewer at the end of each segment. In other words, you want the viewer to take some specific action like provide an email address, go to a website or page.

The first edited video consists of the intro and the first pose with its title in Sanskrit and English. The instructor sets up her microphone and, while viewing the video footage, records a soundtrack which would be similar to her speech during a yoga class. An additional soundtrack consisting of royalty-free meditative type music may optionally be added.

If she wants to go into further detail, the footage at normal speed can be repeated and attached as a slow motion section thus tripling the length of the first installment. The overall length of the video clips should be no more than 3-4 minutes. Even 2 minutes is fine because people are in a hurry and want to consume the information in convenient, bite-size portions.

After the soundtracks are added to the video and all editing is complete, the video clip is uploaded to youtube. (If you don’t already have a youtube account, you need to set one up.) In the description section on youtube below the video, all relevant contact information and explanations with a clickable link are provided.
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Oct
15

“Iriminage: Potential vulnerabilities,” by Stanley Pranin

iriminage-vulnerabilities

“We can do a great deal to self-diagnose our techniques and
work toward honing our skills to higher and higher levels.”

Here is a random screenshot retrieved from an online video that exposes several potential vulnerabilities when executing aikido’s iriminage. Although we are looking at a single image, this manner of throwing in iriminage is quite common, especially in mainstream aikido.

When done this way, the setup for the technique involves nage bringing uke downward using centrifugal force and pressure on the neck. After uke has reached the bottom of his downward movement, the logic is he will “rebound” upward in an attempt to save himself. Finally, nage reverses his motion and swings his right arm through as he steps forward to complete the throw. Uke is thrown in a “high fall”. The entire effect is very spectacular and can be seen widely in demonstrations.

Limiting ourselves to this still image — a moment frozen in time — let us analyze some potential difficulties in approaching iriminage this way. Let’s look at the numbered regions of the image first.

1 – Here, uke’s head rests against nage’s right shoulder and upper arm. Uke is partially unbalanced but very close to nage. Uke also has hold of nage’s right arm with his right hand. As you can see, uke is attempting to support himself using nage’s body as a prop. This close contact of uke with nage’s body creates a major weakness that may be exploited.

2 – Though perhaps not obvious, uke’s right elbow is very near nage’s groin and upper thigh. If uke still has partial control — and I would suggest that he does — he might use his elbow supported by his right-handed grip to attack these vital spots of nage.

3 – In a like manner, uke’s right hand can be used to attack nage’s knee. In fact, given the multiple points of contact between uke and nage’s body, uke might collapse his entire structure against nage’s body and execute a counter-throw. This is a very real danger when the iriminage throw is executed in this manner.

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba executing a setup to iriminage that is very different and does not reveal the vulnerabilities mentioned in this analysis.

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba executing a setup to iriminage that is very
different and does not reveal the vulnerabilities mentioned in this analysis.

[/caption]When iriminage is well performed at high speed, I believe the average eye does not see the details of what is happening. The action is so fast that the body mechanics at work cannot be analyzed. Also, it is common for there to be a “gentleman’s agreement” that assures good cooperation between the two partners.

An untrained person would not and could not respond as uke does in these iriminage demonstrations due to the high-level of skills involved. The mere fact that uke can respond in a high fall indicates that he has a certain measure of control over his body.

My purpose here is not to criticize any particular person or method but to suggest that we should submit every technique we practice to close analysis. Is uke being fully unbalanced? Does uke have the possibility of responding with a counter-attack at any stage of the technique? Is the technique prolonged unnecessarily affording opportunities for exploitation? These are questions that we should ask constantly. By doing so, we can do a great deal to self-diagnose our techniques and work toward honing our skills to higher and higher levels.

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Stanley Pranin offers you solutions to problems
that are holding back your progress in Aikido!

Click here for detailed information on Stanley Pranin's Zone Theory of Aikido Course

Jun
22

A way out of an apparent contradiction… “Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido to the rescue!” by Stanley Pranin

before-the-judge_captioned

“Morihei Ueshiba’s philosophy offers a visionary approach to many of life’s thorniest problems and innovative solutions aimed toward peaceful resolutions.”

stan-pranin-closeupOf late, I have been preoccupied with what at first glance seems an irresolvable dilemma. Let me describe the elements of this perplexing problem. It has to do with the notion of self-defense and what assumptions necessarily attach to it which we may not have fully considered.

Of necessity, if we are defending ourselves, we must be the target of an attack of some sort. If we are the target, the perpetrator of the attack has arranged the circumstances of his aggression to his advantage, and we are forced into a reactive role. Whether the aggressor is armed or unarmed, he enjoys a great advantage because the time necessary for the defender to respond after the fact is very short. In addition to the physical response time window which may only be fractions of a second, there is the mental processing time required to recognize the attack as as threat that must be dealt with. How can one expect to prevail under such unfavorable conditions? Except perhaps in the case of the highly trained individual, there is not sufficient time or opportunity for the less skilled to escape, and most end up victims of violence.

What alternatives are there to this seemingly hopeless dilemma? Well, we might consider taking on the role of the initiator when we have determined that an attack against our person is imminent. That is to say, we might decide to launch a preemptory attack when we believe that someone is about to physically harm us.

Unfortunately, this leads us down another slippery slope which should give us pause to reflect. For example, if we had a “hunch” that someone was about to strike us, and instead struck him first, what would our legal standing then be? Could we say after the fact to the judge, “You see, he was about to hit me, so I got in the first punch instead. I’m so sorry I broke his jaw!”? How would the legal system treat us in such a scenario when we have outright admitted that we struck the first blow and caused injury to the would-be attacker? Surely not kindly. Once again we have hit a wall.

So, if we wait to be sure that we are being attacked before defending ourselves to be legally in the right, we are likely to become victims and be injured or killed. If, on the other hand, we launch a preemptive attack to better the odds of our prevailing, but in the process injure our presumed attacker, we end up in hot water with the law. What to do?

Enter Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido…
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Jun
17

Stanley Pranin talks about relaxation and positioning at aikido seminar in Mexico

In this Spanish-language video, Stanley Pranin talks about the importance of relaxation, body unification, and positioning. This katatedori unbalancing movement followed by an entry into uke’s blind spot, puts one in an excellent position to execute ikkyo through yonkyo.

Click here for detailed information on Stanley Pranin's Zone Theory of Aikido Course

Sep
12

Watch where you put your hands! “Shihonage Revisited,” by Stanley Pranin

“A subtle, but key change took place in the execution of
shihonage between the prewar and postwar eras.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninI recently uploaded a video titled “Fine Points of Shihonage” dealing with one of aikido’s core techniques. I covered a number of technical issues relating to shihonage that prompted many of you to participate in the discussion. Given the amount of interest in the topic, I would like to broach it once again, this time through the lens of historical photos of some of aikido’s greatest figures.

Actually, there is a subtle but important difference on the part of the major teachers concerning the way to grip uke’s wrist when executing shihonage. This difference can be clearly seen by examining Morihei Ueshiba’s description in the 1938 “Budo” manual, and in the way of execution of Kenji Tomiki and Gozo Shioda, both prewar students of the Founder.

This approach to shihonage stands in contrast with the methods Morihei’s son Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei who were the main instructors at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the postwar years. Not surprisingly, Moriteru Ueshiba, the present Doshu, also follows this approach.

Let’s take a look at this series of photos culled from various old publications of some of aikido most important historical figures.

budo-shihonage-640In this first photo taken from Morihei Ueshiba’s “Budo” manual, note O-Sensei’s hand position, his right hand on top holding his son’s wrist, and his left hand capturing uke’s thumb and fingers. This is how Morihei taught shihonage before and after the war. Notice how uke’s balance has been broken as a result of this powerful grip, positioning and hipwork.

kenji-tomiki-shihonage-grip-575Here is the famous Kenji Tomiki Sensei, a student of both Morihei and Judo Founder Jigoro Kano, executing shihonage. These photos are much clearer. Tomiki Sensei executes this technique in a very similar fashion, especially with respect to his hand grip. His left leg has advanced forward as he enters for the throw. In the inset photo, you can clearly see his grip and how uke’s thumb and fingers are controlled by Tomiki’s left hand.

gozo-shioda-shihonage-575Next, is Gozo Shioda Sensei, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido. In this early Yoshinkan technical manual from the 1950s, we have yet another view of shihonage with Shioda Sensei’s right hand controlling the wrist and his left hand uke’s thumb and fingers.

Both of these prewar students of Morihei Ueshiba do shihonage as they learned it from Morihei Ueshiba.

kisshomaru-shihonage-grip-575Now, moving to the postwar era, we have Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba executing shihonage in this close-up photo. Here the shihonage grip has changed. Kisshomaru Sensei’s fingers are interlaced together holding uke’s wrist. Notice here that uke’s right thumb is free. This grip is quite common today, but does not afford as much torque on uke’s arm or control of his center compared to the Founder’s approach.

koichi-tohei-shihonage-grip-575Next, is Koichi Tohei Sensei, then chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, from his 1960 book, “Aikido: The Arts of Self-Defense.” Tohei Sensei’s left hand is not clearly visible here, but I believe he uses a grip very similar to Kisshomaru’s. You will also notice that uke’s thumb and fingers are free. I remember that Tohei Sensei did not grip uke’s thumb and fingers in shihonage when I learned from him in the mid-1960s. Later, when I began studying with Morihiro Saito Sensei, the method of gripping uke’s thumb and fingers in shihonage felt very odd to me indeed, but more effective in the execution of the technique.

moriteru-shihonage-grip-575Then, we have a photo of the present Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba who performs shihonage in essentially the same manner as Kisshomaru Sensei and Tohei Sensei. Again, the thumb and fingers are not grasped here either. Thus, the approach to gripping uke’s hand in shihonage appears to be uniform in the immediate postwar era and beyond in the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and by extension, within the Aikikai curriculum adopted worldwide thereafter.

thumb-capture-grip-575Finally, for purposes of comparison, here is a screenshot from my recent shihonage video where I demonstrate the shihonage grip taught by Morihei Ueshiba.

In these last two photos below, I show another variation of the shihonage grip that I learned early in my aikido training. In performing shihonage against a katadori or yokomenuchi attack, for example, nage grips uke’s wrist with the inside hand. This is the same. However, in this instance, nage’s outside hand grips further up on the forearm — not uke’s thumb and fingers — making it difficult to generate leverage on uke’s arm for shihonage. This method can be seen in some dojos today. I personally don’t find it nearly as effective as either of the two methods described above.

shihonage-hand-on-top-575

shihonage-hand-on-top-view2-575

I have adopted somewhat of a forensic approach in studying the minutiae of a key component of the shihonage technique, one of aikido’s core basics. Here we see that an important specific of Morihei Ueshiba’s shihonage was abandoned in the postwar era within the Aikikai system. If this were an isolated phenomenon, it would not be of great importance. However, the reality is that the same thing occurs in many instances in other techniques as well. The end result is that much of Morihei Ueshiba’s technical input was lost in the modern aikido curriculum as many significant changes were introduced in the postwar years. For those wishing to understand the historical rationale for this shift, you may wish to read my article “Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?”

Please join in the discussion by posting your comment below!

[I would like to acknowledge David Bone for providing the scans of the Kenji Tomiki and Gozo Shioda photos shown in this article]

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Click here for detailed information on Stanley Pranin's Zone Theory of Aikido Course

Sep
09

Video: Stanley Pranin — “An Aikido Life”

“If those elements that formed part of O-Sensei’s aikido were reintroduced into the art, I think the general technical skills of aikidoka would greatly improve.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin presents an overview of his career in Aikido focusing primarily on his lengthy experience in Japan as a researcher and publisher. Pranin conducted hundreds of interviews with many of the luminaries of the Aikido world who were responsible for the postwar development of the art.

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin interviews Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba in 1977

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin interviews Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba in 1977


The results of his historical research and these interviews appeared over the years in the Aiki News and Aikido Journal magazines, and in the various books he published on Aikido in English and Japanese.

Stanley Pranin with Koichi Tohei, Founder of Ki no Kenkyukai in 1995

Stanley Pranin with Koichi Tohei, Founder of Ki no Kenkyukai in 1995

To Pranin’s way of thinking, there are many things missing in today’s aikido. If those elements that formed part of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s aikido were reintroduced into the art, he is of the belief that the general technical skills of aikidoka would greatly improve.

Stanley Pranin with Morihiro Saito Sensei in Canada in 1979

Stanley Pranin with Morihiro Saito Sensei in Canada in 1979

Those interested in arranging an Aikido seminar with Stanley Pranin make contact him through Aikido Journal.

Click here to watch Stanley Pranin — “An Aikido Life” on youtube.com

Sep
02

“Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei Electric,” by Stanley Pranin

morihei-ueshiba-kokyuho-kiai

“Although photos can only capture the essence of a fleeting moment, I have selected a few remarkable images that I feel will convey the amazing energy and electric presence of the Master!”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninI sometimes am myself surprised at the fact that my interest in Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba has never once waned even after all these years of involvement in the art.

O-Sensei cut such a dashing figure… electric, mysterious, hypersensitive, compassionate, fiery, are just some of the words that come to mind.

I was hooked the first time I saw an old 8 mm film of O-Sensei at the local YMCA where I was practicing. There was such an inherent power, beauty and humanity in his movements. I had never seen a human being move like that. I wanted to become like that.

As I began to learn about the Founder’s epic life over the years, my interest in probing deeper into how he trained himself and acquired his extraordinary skills and spiritual powers only grew greater.

That search has been the overriding focus of my professional life and has been manifested in our publications, events, and now our activities on the web.

Although photos can only capture the essence of a fleeting moment, I have selected a few remarkable images that I feel will convey the amazing energy and electric presence of the Master.

A dynamic still from the rare Asahi News film, Osaka 1935

A rare photo of O-Sensei partnered by Morihiro Saito Sensei from c. 1954

A rare photo of O-Sensei partnered by Morihiro Saito Sensei from c. 1954

The amazing photo of the Founder throwing Hiroshi Tada used for the
cover of the Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s first published book on aikido, c. 1956

Another sword demonstrating by the O-Sensei with Nobuyoshi Tamura as uke, c. 1957

O-Sensei brandishing a heavy bokken while training with Morihiro Saito in the fields of Iwama, c. 1958

The Founder off the line of attack covering Nobuyoshi Tamura’s shomen strike with a fan, c. 1960

Night training with the bokken in Iwama, 1961

Night training with the bokken in Iwama, 1961

O-Sensei wielding the nuboko at the old Aikikai, c. 1965

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BEST VIDEO RESOURCE OF AIKIDO FOUNDER MORIHEI UESHIBA AVAILABLE…

Click here for information on the complete collection of Morihei Ueshiba films in downloadable format for $49.95

Aug
30

Killer Shihonage: “Escaping serious injury or even death!” by Stanley Pranin

dangerous-shihonage

“Shihonage as one of the techniques causing
numerous deaths in university clubs in Japan”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninMartial arts techniques are designed to damage the human body. Misuse or carelessness can result in serious injury or death. As a result, we have to take precautions during training to allow participants to practice safely.

Among the hundreds of techniques in aikido, there are several that are particularly dangerous. One of them is shihonage, “the four-direction throw.”

In his seminal article titled “Aikido and Injuries: A Special Report,” Waseda University professor Fumiaki Shishida implicates shihonage as one of the techniques causing numerous deaths in university clubs in Japan. Here is an excerpt:

As can be seen from the above cases, shihonage and iriminage stand out as techniques causing the accidents. In both techniques, it is easy to hit the back of one’s head with the inherent danger of a cranial hemorrhage. Let us first of all consider the case of shihonage. In this technique, the tori holds one hand of the uke and turning his body, causes the uke to fall backward. If the tori does this continously, it becomes increasingly likely for the uke to hit the back of his head depending on the speed, strength and point of release of the hand hold.

In these cases, it was repetitive head injuries in the university clubs where hazing is common that caused the deaths of the unfortunate students.

Morihei Ueshiba executing a "safe" shihonage that does not cause injury (1936)

Morihei Ueshiba executing a “safe” shihonage (1936)

Shihonage is the culprit in another kind of serious injury in aikido. Although not lethal, improper execution of shihonage has led to numerous serious shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. The way this usually happens is when nage doesn’t make a complete turn when performing shihonage leaving uke’s arm hyper-extended and unprotected. Experienced ukes may avoid injury by taking a high fall to escape the intense pressure on the arm. However, practitioners who are less advanced may be overwhelmed by the pain caused and lack the skills to escape injury to the wrist, elbow or shoulder. In some cases, promising aikido careers have been ended as the victims have been left with chronic pain and loss of function in the injured areas.

In shihonage, it is important to fully pivot bringing uke’s arm back to his shoulder controlling the wrist. From here a safe back fall is possible. A rapid, incomplete pivot where uke’s arm is extended away from his body — as pictured in the color photo above — will leave him exposed to serious injury.

One other point I feel must be mentioned is the fact that there are are occasionally violent people who practice aikido. They train very hard pushing their uke to the limit and leave a trail of injuries in their wake. Some of these injuries are caused intentionally. Anyone who has practiced aikido for a long period of time has encountered such individuals in their careers and knows well what I am talking about here.

It is my personal belief that the dojo-cho is ultimately responsible for what goes on in the dojo and must be eternally vigilant to prevent this sort of dangerous activity under his watch.

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Aug
27

“Someone please explain the logic of this iriminage throw!” by Stanley Pranin

iriminage-throw

“The completion of the throw involves nage “allowing”
uke to stand back up only to be thrown down again.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninI have seen the iriminage throw executed this way for most of my aikido career. Using a shomenuchi attack as an example, nage meets uke’s arm and leads him around circularly applying pressure to his neck lowering uke’s body to the position shown in the photo or even lower. The completion of the throw involves nage “allowing” uke to stand back up only to be thrown down again. From there, the ukemi is usually a high fall. This particular iriminage is commonly seen at demonstrations, especially within the Aikikai system.

A few observations and questions:

  • Nage is controlling uke with one hand.
  • Uke must be very skilled and have a fair measure of control over his body to be able to take the fall.
  • Is there any potential for uke to counter using his left hand, for example, by attacking nage’s rear knee or foot?
  • Why does nage allow uke to come back to an upright position before downing him a second time?
  • Is this technique martially sound?
  • Added questions: Did Founder Morihei Ueshiba perform iriminage this way in the prewar or postwar eras?
  • Who popularized this type of iriminage throw and during what time frame?

Your thoughts, please!

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October 5-6, 2013: Weekend Seminar with Stanley Pranin in Las Vegas!

Apr
14

Aikidoka: “The Apologetic Martial Artists,” by Stanley Pranin

morihei-ueshiba-atemi-face

“Who anyway is the superior martial artist… the guy who’s never been defeated
with a record of 0-0, or a formidable ring champion with a 35-2 record?”

For years I have heard a vociferous chorus of naysayers lambasting aikido as an “ineffective” martial art. Even among those who practice aikido, one can hear criticism of aikido’s techniques as unrealistic. I confess that I too have been among those who have lamented much of what goes on in aikido dojos all over the world, as misdirected and contrary to the basic principles of the art.

I have often felt frustrated with the standards used by aikido’s critics to disparage the art. To begin with, if we wish to discuss the merits or demerits of aikido as a martial art, does it not make sense for the detractor to define what he means by a martial art for the benefit of his audience? Absent this, how can we hope to have any kind of intelligent conversation about the subject?

Let me pick at random the definition of “martial art” offered by an online dictionary, “Merriam-Webster,” in this instance: “any of several arts of combat and self defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.”

Yikes! I can’t believe it! This is a ridiculous definition to begin with. It also reveals an ignorance of the root of the term “martial” referring to Mars, the god of war. Then we are told that these arts are for “combat and self-defense” and that they are practiced as “sports.” I missed something. Just when did combat arts become sports? Unless we are talking about gladiators in Rome, fighters do not normally risk their lives while engaging in sporting competitions.

Another observation. Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba forbade competitions in aikido in the strongest possible terms. Kenji Tomiki, the man who did introduce a form of competition for aikido, became a persona non grata at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo for having taken this egregious step. He also became estranged from the Founder from that point on.

So, if we’re going to use Merriam-Webster’s definition, then aikido is certainly not an effective martial art because it is not a martial art at all! What is there to talk about? Where is the disagreement if this is what we mean when we banter about the term?

Ok, I’ll take my own advice and make a stab at a definition of “martial art” for purposes of this article. I think I have a better definition than the one above, one that gets closer to the way that martial artists use the term “martial art” when they talk about an art’s effectiveness in a “real” situation. Then perhaps we can conduct a meaningful discussion as to whether or not aikido can be classified in this category.
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