An old aikido post.

I wrote this description of a dojo I visited in response to a question regarding “bad martial arts.” I’d like to go on record here as saying that I have spent some time in an aikido dojo many years ago, although one not quite as anal-retentive as the one I wrote the following story about.

Both dojos were big on instilling the idea that aikido was, for lack of a better description, a way to make fighting civilized.

I can’t wrap my mind around that concept. Civilized behavior is what happens prior to a fight, and after a fight.

A fight itself is the antithesis of civilization, and should remain so. A fight is savage, brutal and barbaric. It should tweak the reptilian hindbrain and draw out your inner Viking.

If it doesn’t, and you go up against a foe for whom it does — you’re going to lose.

There are a considerable number of people out there who don’t like to hear that. I am sorry, but not liking to hear a fact does not make that fact go away.

Is aikido a good art? To me, no. It doesn’t suit my personality, although I have used bits and pieces blended into other skills successfully.

For other people, aikido may be the best thing since sliced bread.

Just take that mindset about civilized fighting with a large box of salt, okay?


Co-worker of mine waxes enthusiastic about this aikido school he’s going to. Insists that some friends and I just have to come and learn at the feet of this sensei.

I’m curious and I’m always up to learning something new. So co-worker and I and one of my buddies load up one evening and drive 200 miles to this class.

I’ve seen at lot of unarmed combat instructors, but this guy was the first one I’ve ever met who wheezed when he talked. And I guarantee you that he’s never missed a meal. And most of them were baked cheese or something.

And he’s got this Martial Arts Death God thing going. Folks, I completely understand and agree with the requirement to show respect to the dojo and to the sensei, but I’ve this thing about grovelling. It’s the stiff Scottish neck, or something. Can’t do it.

Anyhoo, sensei waits until the class has grovelled to his liking, then makes his Pronouncement for the Day and class begins. I guess. I think.

He does a technique, and then gestures grandly to the class, and they try to imitate what he just did while he screams and wheezes at them.

Seriously. I’m talking purple-in-the-face, veins-popping, dude-you’re-gonna-have-a-coronary, slobber-slinging abuse at the top of his lungs.

Well. Co-worker is flying around the dojo, banging his forehead off the mat every time sensei walks by and my buddy (I’ll call him Bob) and I are looking at each other with our eyebrows climbing into our hairlines and wondering if we’ve stumbled onto a secret Oriental S&M training camp, when sensei deigns to notice our presence.

He stops the class(?), waddles up to us and asks what we think we know. Bob respectfully (never insult an S&M practitioner in his own home) answers that we’ve studied kickboxing, some stick-and-knife stuff and a little bit of grappling.

Sensei opines at the top of his lungs that he will teach us things [wheeze] about the knife that lesser arts [wheeze] will never know. Or things to that effect. Student is summoned, runs up, bangs his forehead on the mat, runs off, comes back with a rubber training knife, bangs his forehead on the mat (what is it with the forehead banging?) and sensei tells him to attack.

Student stabs, sensei grabs his wrist, pulls him left, pulls him right, pulls him left again (I think), grabs the students face, student goes flying, all other students bang their foreheads on the mats.

Very pretty.

Sensei tells Bob to attack his senior student. Bob asks how the student would like him to attack. Sensei replies that the ki [wheeze] of the senior student will allow him to sense and [wheeze] react to any attack Bob could come up with. Sensei furthers instructs Bob to [wheeze] go full speed and to try to [wheeze] do his best, so that Bob will learn [wheeze] how much he has yet to learn.

Or things to that effect.

Bob shrugs, takes the knife, lunges into the student, slashes him twice across the chest, student grabs Bob’s wrist, Bob twists his wrist loose, fires a thrust kick into the students tummy, steps to the right and slashes him twice across the side of the neck as he bends forward, then leaps back into a low guard.

Standard streetfighting smash-and-slash attack.

We’re summarily ejected from the dojo.



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7 thoughts on “An old aikido post.”

  1. Sounds like you’ve encountered the “All knowing Sensei”. The problem with many martail arts is that they’re represented by people. And people have egos and attitudes that color your perception of the art itself.

    I’ve been to a few Aikido lessons. Never did that head banging thing. was NEVER asked to attack at full speed, was never mistreated. I have been to a martail arts facility that tried to “prove” how good their art was. Not too impressive and I definitely didn’t want to come back.

    The Aikido club I visited had several Senseis who were volunteers. Each had a slightly different outlook and aproach to the implementation of the technique.

    We had an ex-special forces guy, a grandma, a yoga instructor, and a college professor. The moves were the same but the thought behind them and the practical application to combat, health, and life were different.

    When I started, one of them asked me what I wanted to get out od Aikido. That was the first time I’d been asked what my reasoning and goals were in the Dojo. It changed my outlook a bit and I focused a bit more.

    I figure that Aikido has some outlooks and some moves that could add well to the LawDog arsenal. When you only have a hammer, everyhing looks like a nail. I’m a proponent of the varied toolbox.

    Most of the techniques are really just leverage, muscular memory, and body movement. There’s nothing really any more secret than that.

    Don’t write off the art, you got a bozo for a teacher.

  2. About eighteen years ago, my buddy dragged me to open-house night at Mister Yu’s Tae Quan Do dojo- now long since gone, Mister Yu having gone to his reward. There’s the obligatory jumping around, breaking defenseless boards, et cetera… then Mister Yu comes up to the front of the room and explains in his soft, accented voice that he will now demonstrate that Tae Quan Do is useful for defending yourself against attack; even against attack with a gun or a knife. Mister Yu then asks for a volunteer from the audience to assist him by playing the role of an attacker. When no-one immediately volunteers, Mister Yu picks out an audience member and asks him to come down. The man Mister Yu picks as his ‘attacker’ is definitely typecast: six feet plus of biker; beard, belly and all. Mister Yu hands the biker a cap pistol and explains that he will now demonstrate how to defend yourself against a mugger who wants to steal your wallet at gunpoint.
    (we’ve all seen that Chuck Norris movie, right? We all know how this is supposed to go, right?)
    Well, as Mister Yu turns away to begin “walking down the alley”, BANG! Mr. Biker “caps” him in the back.
    Mister Yu turns around, and explains to Mr. Biker that he was supposed to wait until Mister Yu had walked down the “alley” and walked back towards him, and ROB him at GUNPOINT. So Mr. Biker waits until Mister Yu has gone some distance away and turns back around, then BANGBANGBANG! plugs him three times at ten feet.
    By now Mister Yu is beside himself. He comes back to the biker and says,”What are you doing?”
    “Robbing you with a gun, like you said.”
    “Nonono! You are supposed to WAIT until I am CLOSE to you, then THREATEN me with the gun!”
    Mr. Biker shakes his head at Mister Yu. “Why in hell would I let you get that close? You might have a knife or know karate or something.”

  3. Alot of senseis seem to have these problems these days, especially aikido instructors who have taken the O-Sensei’s prohibitions too far.

    Unless they deal with- and spar with- other fighters, many aikido students can only fight other aikido students, because both are bound by instruction that forbids fast attacks.

    Is there some ‘ideal art’? No, but you can learn a little from all of them.Properly applied joint locks and pressure points can give you an edge, but you shouldn’t depend on them.

  4. The Chinese have an apt, descriptive expression for such folk as your wheezing sensei, which roughly translated, means:

    flower fist, brocade leg

    Great weblog! Would you mind terribly if this Left Coast reject links to it?

  5. In school (a long time ago…), we had a really good Judo teacher (at least he didn’t wheaze) who decided to branch out a little bit. He asked for volunteers to help demonstrate the old “disarm the mugger before he can pull the trigger” trick. Couple of us were on the pistol team, and stood up to hold the “gun” (spring-loaded plastic pistol that shot suction-cup tipped darts, like we played with when we were little).

    He told us (one at a time) to stand at arm’s length from him, shoot when we saw him start his move. Action is supposed to beat reaction. Problem was that we were in our late teens, and he was in his ’50’s, so we were wired a little tighter than he was.

    As soon as he twitched, “Pop!” Suction-cup dart to the chest, WAY before he got near touching me. Same thing happened with my pistol team-mate. Hmm… What he was trying then wasn’t much different from what I’ve been taught recently in a CQT Class at a “Big Name School.” Good techniques, but demonstrably NOT a good idea for a 50 y.o. to go up against a 20 y.o., unless there’s no choice.

    Also, pausing while the shooter gets “all set” is a bad idea. We both knew what was going to happen, and it’s better to be “off sides.”

  6. My black belt ceremony is in a few days. I study classical Judo. It can be very effective. It can also produce what are sometimes called “Dojo Ballerinas.”

    Folks who are martial artists who have big heads are SUCH a pain in the fundament.

    My Judo Sensei, who has been in a lot of REAL fights in his life, was once confronted by a Tae Kwon Do student who, apparently conviced of the superiority of his art, challenged my Sensei to a contest. (This was before my Sensei took up Judo; he was a karate student himself.) They took up the stance and the Tae Kwon Do guru fired off a very fast kick, so fast that it connected with my Sensei’s face before he could dodge or block. My Sensei is built rather like an M-1 tank. His head rocked slightly to the side, and the Great Master Tae Kwon Do Guru fell flat on his back. My sensei looked down at him and said, “I guess I win.”


  7. I have spent the better part of twenty years learning Japanese Juujutsu and Filipino stick and knife fighting (Eskrima). This background causes me to be rather skeptical of styles like Aikidou which seem to emphasize "pretty" over "effective." I can not say that I have had the honor of being kicked out of a school but I am sure it will happen sooner or later.
    Thank you for such a fantastic post, it is refreshing to know that I am not alone in my dislike of Aikidou.

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