12 Aikidoka you will meet online

#1 – The Preacher

Has a topless poster of O’Sensei in their bedroom. Thinks O’Sensei is a god and their sacred duty is to spread his divine teachings. Often speaks in nonsensical quotes taken out of context.  Will occasionally come up with their own Aikido poetry using a random motivational poster generator.

#2 The Lethal Weapon

Thinks Aikido is not in the UFC because it is too lethal and would win too easily. Knows all about the street because they lived in a bad neighbourhood once. Tried to register their hands as lethal weapons. Owns a pair of Tacticool ™ camo pattern Hakama.

#3 – The Archaeologist

Everything was better in the 1920s. Everyone but them has wasted the last 100 years, because Aikido, its warm-ups, its training methods and life in general peaked then. Will die of preventable infection, because antibiotics were invented in the 1940s and are therefore fake.

#4 – The Pacifier

Believes that mastery of Aikido would let them resolve any situation effortlessly and without the slightest risk of injury to either party. Is convinced that people who have to cause anyone the slightest bruise to defend themselves are just not skilled enough. Has never been hit.

#5 – Anger Management

Has a lot of stress in their life, and hence is deeply angry. His commitment to the art of peace prevents him from having a healthy outlet for this, except when people are wrong on the internet about Aikido. Channels all his pent up rage into online rants.

#6 – The Innovator

Read a self-defence blog once, then realised that nobody in the history of Aikido has had the insights they had, and if people only listened to them everything would be so much better. Comes up with “ingenious” new techniques and training methods, most of which are low quality copies of other martial arts. Has a green belt.

#7 – So Fed Up With This shit

Usually older. Did Aikido for a long time, then discovered people talk about it on the web. Signed up to have productive, friendly and mature conversations about their favourite hobby. One week later, started drinking heavily.

#8 – The Aiki-Bro

Responds to criticisms of Aikido and the allegations that Aikidoka are easily offended and immature by challenging people to duels via social media – provided they live on another continent and are unlikely to take him up on it. Challenged Master Ken to a fight once, still isn’t convinced Enter the Dojo is comedy. Says “Osu” a lot, doesn’t know what it means.

#9 – The Critic

Thinks the problem with Aikido is that no one trains correctly any more. When pressed, displays extreme skill at never stating explicitly what “training correctly” means. Often says “you will get it after 20 years”, mostly because that’s how long it too them and if other people did it faster that would be embarrassing.

#10 – The Questioner

Asks questions online that they should be asking their instructor instead, so they don’t have to see the judgment in their eyes. Has “obnoxious question of the day” toilet paper, and apparently irritable bowel syndrome. Started training last month.

#11 – The Cultist

Is convinced Aikido is the greatest martial art on the planet, and will announce so loudly and obnoxiously. Loves lecturing people on how proper Aikido should be practised, and on the true meaning of Aikido’s philosophy. Is already planning their dojo and seminar tour. Started training last week.

#12 -The Tapout Troll

Doesn’t actually do Aikido, but feels it is important to educate Aikido practitioners about how fake their martial arts is and how they can’t fight. Has street cred because they got into a shoving match in a bar once, and “if my friends hadn’t held me back man…”. Gets into flame wars with Aiki-bro.

What is Aikido?

What is Aikido? If you ask online, you will get any number of answers, simply because there are many different organisations and approaches to it. Often these answers are sprinkled with very strong opinions on what is True AikidoTM.

Looking through moving boxes from a few years ago, I came across a number of old magazines of mine. One of them is the October 2011 issue of Blackbelt Magazine. I used to read that, though only infrequently, because there was a single kiosk in one specific train station that had it. This particular issue had an article on Aikido that I quite enjoy. It’s about Aikido’s place in the modern world, and includes some insight into the views of the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba. In particular, it’s about whether the martial or the philosophical aspects of Aikido are more important. Which one represents “the True Aikido”?

His view as presented in the article, based on what he said at a dojo re-dedication in Hawaii, is that both are valid, that it is up to the individual instructor. He points out that he focuses on the philosophical aspect rather than martial – and so, one presumes, does the organisation he is the head of. However different practitioners have the choice to focus on martial aspects instead, without it being any less valid or part of Aikido. I have a great deal of respect for this viewpoint.

If you know me personally, you know I’m definitely one of the people who are more focused on the martial aspect. Specifically I’m interested in how Aikido can be applied to self-defence. I’ve trained and taught with this goal in mind for a number of years now, and this blog is where I’ll put some of my thoughts on the matter in writing.

The thing I want to lead with is that not everything that we do in training is useful for every purpose. It’s not that “focusing on the philosophy of Aikido” necessarily means that the training is not martially effective, but it does mean that a lack of martial effectiveness is a possibility, and the training can still be valid for its stated goal. Assuming of course that we can acknowledge what we are and aren’t doing, and do not delude ourselves. Similarly, if we practice with martial effectiveness as our primary goal, that does not mean we necessarily ignore the philosophical aspects, but it does mean that ignoring them is a possibility.

We also need to be careful to acknowledge that martial arts training is not the same as self-defence training, even if we have great martial effectiveness. Self-defence is a very specific goal, protecting yourself from criminal violence while staying within the law. The parameters of this are different for each student, and one-size-fits-all approaches are entirely inadequate. If we want self-defence in our training, we need to work on it specifically.

So with all of that in mind, what I want to write about here is both aspects, the Harm (martial effectiveness and self-defence) and the harmony (mental and physical development). There are of course other things that are involved in Aikido, such as cultural trappings and the social aspects. As far as those are concerned though, I want to finish with something that was said to the late Alan Ruddock, founder of the Aikido organisation I am a part of. When he left Japan after training with O’Sensei for some time, Ichihashi Sensei took him aside and said to him:

“Remember, all these things we do like bowing and sitting in seiza are Japanese – not Aikido. You know better than we do how to teach foreigners. When you go back home, respect the ways of your country, remember to teach aikido your way.”