Aikido was my primary martial art, I learned some striking, got older and stopped.
I got into fitness, weightlifting and CrossFit and eventually, my interest in martial arts returned.
When I did, as I was exploring updates on the martial arts that I learned in the past and I noticed a lot of hate on the internet and how “useless” Aikido is.
First one I encountered is on Joe Roegan Podcast where they made fun of some silly guy who claimed it was impossible to take him down once his chi has been connected to the ground.
That was funny.
There are silly people who practice Aikido and miss the point completely.
Then I encountered a guy named Rokas, an Aikido instructor for over ten years and YouTuber posting a sparring session with an amateur but professional level MMA fighter and being unable to perform any Aikido techniques.
He then “tries to make Aikido functional” and gets a rematch with the guy and fails badly.
Since then, he’s been posting videos shitting on Aikido like a bitter ex-boyfriend.
I’ve also seen several MMA and self-defense enthusiasts talk negatively about Aikido.
Such that one of on one of the big Aikido groups, there are rules discouraging Aikido vs MMA or street fighting discussion.
I learned martial arts in 2001 and I was 14 then.
I’m 34 at the time of writing this.
And growing up, I’ve already encountered the “my style of martial art is better than your style of martial art” or “my martial art is supreme and nothing can beat it.”
It’s the same thing we’ve been hearing, and the only difference is we’re now aware of other martial arts like Muay Thai, BJJ and other forms of martial artists as well as some martial artists who weave tall tales of superhuman feats.
I’m older now and I realize that the real world doesn’t play out like they do in action movies or martial arts movies.
There is no real martial artist who is a “one man army” who can singlehandedly defeat a large group of professionally trained fully armed thugs with their bare hands.
Yujiro Hanma is a comicbook character.
And while we’re at it, these stories are primarily good for inspiring you to get out of your video games and go to the gym and work on improving your body and skills but not becoming an “invincible warrior.”
That’s just fiction, if you haven’t grown up yet.
I learned early that I’m never going to engage a professional boxer or an MMA fighter in hand to hand combat a unless I decide to become a professional fighter myself.
From personal experience, I’ve never met any martial artist who goes around starting street fights.
Martial artists are the nicest, kindest, warmest guys I’ve ever met.
They’re the most patient and decent human beings that I’ve encountered.
And as a result, it never crossed my mind that I’d ever have to fight one.
I even feel safe around them.
I recall reading this about Bruce Lee:
“Nowadays you don’t go around on the street kicking people, punching people – because if you do (makes gun shape with hand), well that’s it – I don’t care how good you are.”
BRUCE LEE, interview, Pierre Berton Show, 1971
I read many of the arguments about Aikido and all the replies and it got me thinking about the 80/20 rule.
For people reading about the 80/20 rule for the first time, it usually means 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input.
So in the discussion of whether Aikido works or “how long does it take for Aikido for to be proficient enough to work?” is not a very good question.
An alternative might be to answer the question..
What is the 20% of Aikido that works 80% of the time?
What 20% of Aikido principles should I pay extra attention to since I’m new and I am not going to devote my life to this art?
What 20% of Aikido that when it becomes part of me will make me a better person after I leave the dojo and go to my job and interact with other humans?
What should I remember when I learn Aikido in the event that I suddenly won’t be able to practice because of other obligations.
Before I give my answer, another idea I encountered is from Jocko Willink, a retired US Navy Seal commander who advocates learning BJJ. So 90% of the time, he talks about working out and doing BJJ. In the audio series where he answers questions about self defense, he talks about learning how to box and eventually goes into extreme detail about BJJ. There’s a running joke in the Jocko/Extreme Ownership community that Jocko’s answer to any problem is to “practice BJJ.” BUT…In his list of recommendations is for self defense the best is to own a gun and learn to shoot effectively under pressure.
At one point, he also says that learning “groundwork” in the self-defense context, is not intended for you to fight on the ground and win but to “get back on your feet” as quickly as possible and escape.
And this got me thinking that an ancient warrior as well as a modern warrior uses different tools for different situations.
If you were to compare Aikido to modern weapons, Aikido functions probably like a riot shield or a net gun or a fire hose or anything that is considered a Non-Lethal Weapon.
Aikido is not a machine gun like boxing, an assault rifle like Muay Thai or a garrote like BJJ.
Aikido is something else and what it does, it does well enough.
As far as conflict goes, Aikido taught me early the following concepts.
- Mindfulness and paying attention to your situation in order to assess the next step. Whether you need to talk yourself out of the situation, quietly bow out of the aggression, escape, arm yourself, or fight.
- Humility and not broadcasting to the world that I know Aikido or any martial arts for that matter. So in the event that I need to apply the technique I should, in theory possess the element of surprise. During my time practicing, I did not own any Aikido shirts.
- Understanding of range as well as some footwork, parrying, redirecting movements and some grab escapes that will allow me to stay out of range or the direction of the attack and run to get help when I need to.
- The concept of Irimi, which means entering, because in some cases, you just have to step forward and face the aggression but not with the intention of starting a fight. When I enter a persons space it can be for intimidation, it can be to get out of effective punching and kicking range, it can be so I can lean in and listen and understand at the same time lean in and see if the problem is me.
- The meaning of Aikido which means the way of the harmonizing spirit which in my understanding is to avoid conflict. If I say anything that upsets a friend. I should be able to recognize that “I’m the asshole” in the situation, apologize and avoid the conflict all together. And in a lot of situations just recognizing and having the courage to say that it’s “my bad” and moving on with life.
So for me it’s not much of a question of which techniques work against the MMA fighter or professional boxer.
Every martial artist I’ve met in my life don’t go out attacking people for no reason.
This only happens in movies so I imagine 80% of the time, Aikido has been effective for me and gotten me out of trouble.
I have no fantasies about throwing people around or pinning people down like in the demonstrations even if I have some techniques in muscle memory. I’ll likely just stay out of range, parry/redirect and escape or arm myself with a weapon I can throw or strike with if I’m cornered and push comes to shove.
From personal experience, the lessons I’ve learned have helped me avoid a handful of punches to the face.
But overall, Aikido works for me personally because unlike the other techniques that I picked up, it doesn’t initiate an endless cycle of getting back at the other person and them getting revenge on me.
But as I read this, I keep getting a mental picture that the whole revenge plot probably only happens in movies too.
I have gotten a lot of response in the comments which led me to giving this post more thought, clarify the thoughts I’d like to express and answering many of the questions I didn’t address in the main post.
I don’t subscribe to the “master one martial art advice.”
I see all forms of conflict as a “real-time” chess game which includes a “rock-paper-scissors” element and even though Aikido’s techniques function like “paper” it still wins over most “rocks” which is the kind of aggression that we are likely going to deal with on a day to day basis
At 14, I learned that professional boxers are not allowed to punch anyone outside a professional fight and I imagine the same rule applies to professional fighters and licensed martial artists so it never crossed my mind that these would be a problem for me. All I need to worry about is how to avoid getting hurt and seriously hurting someone who’s incredibly upset and attacking me which Aikido has covered already
Aikido works for what it’s intended to do. The peaceful solution, getting out of the way, escaping some grabs. It is not intended to win MMA fights. If you have doubts, buy a gun and learn a few other martial arts like kinfe fighting or something or wear armor 24/7. Like I said in the post. Different tools for different situations. There’s no 100% effective at all situations martial art. Aikido just happens to be a good first level response because of it’s ability to not escalate a conflict.
It’s a good idea to have multiple layers of defense. Aikido works as a primary physical response for people I do not want to resort to shooting or seriously hurting.
I’m happy learning different disciplines as everything helps compliment the other skills as well as improving my understanding of what I already know. I spent time learning Aikido as my primary martial art, I learned some striking because it looked fun, I got older, I learned different job related skills, writing, going to the gym, cycling, cooking, baking, spiritual disciplines, psychology and eventually CrossFit and when our instructors moved to a gym where martial arts is being taught, my interest returned.
I recently learned how to drive. But I still appreciate my bicycle and running. In the same way, I’d like to explore more striking, BJJ (but I’m leaning toward wrestling) weapon arts and combat shooting.
And like I said in the post, Aikido has been a great martial art that gave me a good first level self defense in the last fifteen years or so and I hope to eventually make the time to practice it some more later.
It’s a bad idea to pull out a gun in all signs of aggression. That’s just plain irresponsible.
In the event that you’re 100% sure that your life is being threatened and suspect that you’ll encounter deadly force, I realize now that owning a gun and knowing how to shoot under pressure can help you neutralize a REAL threat.
But as I’ve mentioned, in the other conversation in the comments, Aikido covers a lot of the aggression that we are likely to encounter as far as personal self defense goes.
Thank you for reading.