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Hello, I am drawn to the philosophies of aikido, but am concerned that it is not a real form of fighting or defense. All the video I have seen of it online show the attacking students throwing themselves away from the defender. It looks completely fake. Also, if it is not fake, why aren’t any aikido fighters in the UFC, Pride, or other MMA events? Seems to me like they would get their ass beat up – quick. Additionally, does Aikido even have defenses against BJJ? Interestingly, Segal always looks like he would beat them up… But I’ve heard what he does isnt even Aikido. Please let me know your take on this as an expert. Thanks!

Hello George, Thank you for your questions. They are often asked. The short answer is – No, Aikido is “not a real form of fighting”. It was never meant to be. It was – and is – a way to stop a fight, not to engage in one. Aikido is not a competitive martial art, which is why you don’t see students of Aikido in the UFC, etc.

The term “aikido fighters” is an oxymoron. Steven Seagal does not show aikido in his movies, although he is trained and used to teach aikido. He shows, among other arts, a form of aikijitsu, which is a fighting art.

Aikido works with moving with and redirecting energy. More importantly, it works with the concept of harmony. It is impossible to understand harmony if winning a competition is your main goal. The short answer to your question about “attacking students throwing themselves away from the defender” is: As the attacker, you will go down. How you go down (e.g. splat vs roll) is dependant on your level of skill.

The ability to receive an aikido throw is at least as important, and maybe more so, than learning how to throw. I like a friend of mine’s (Don Angier, a master of aiki jiujitsu) reply to this query about the reality in receiving the throw. His answer is “You learn to roll so that you can continue to train.” That’s one aspect, for sure. You learn to take a fall safely, so that you can get up and continue your practice. With a lot of the throws and pins of aikido, if you don’t learn that, you get hurt.

I tore both shoulders during my early years because I was not skilled enough to take the power of the throws involved. How you take the throw often depends on the energy involved. Often it is easier to high fall than to roll. Sometimes the mat is so crowded you want to high fall just because it uses up less space. Sometimes you take the roll because it is simply the most comfortable way to accept the throw. (If you are training all day, it is far easier on the body to roll than to fall and get up repeatedly.)

Mostly, the rolls and break falls (high falls) are the only logical way to handle what is going on. Another good reason to learn to fall well, or take the roll, is because it creates space between you and the thrower, which is a good thing! Anytime you freeze during a throw, you’ve opened yourself up to some potentially nasty punches and breaks from the thrower. So we keep the motion going, giving the thrower no reason to escalate their response into a more combative arena.

But perhaps the best reason to learn to accept a throw well is so that the thrower can go all out. If he or she feels you can safely accept whatever is going on, then the throws can be given with their full power. No one is going to get hurt. But this takes time to learn, on both ends. Years, in fact. Also, if you can handle a throw well, you are able to attack more powerfully. In aikido, the energy you give to the attack is transformed into the energy that throws you, the attacker.

Any tension or fighting of a throw creates pain and often damage to the attacker. So while the receiving looks effortless and even unreal, it is neither. It is simply the safest and sanest way to receive the throw. Please don’t ever use aikido to attack or engage in a fight, because win or lose, by definition, the lessons of aikido were not learned. Aikido teaches an alternative to fighting, not a better way to do demolish another.

Best wishes,Shari


4 Responses to AIKIDO Q & A

  1. Andy says:

    If it make the questioner feel any better about it, aikido would also generally not be allowed because most of the different MMA associations won’t allow for any kind of small joint manipulation and im sure that would be a big thing in keeping an aikidoka out of the “octagon”.

  2. Andy says:

    Just wanted to add that most MMA fighting rules don’t allow for small joint manipulation so that would limit what an aikidoka could do in “the octagon”. Another thing that just came to mind is since most other styles don’t have much (if any at all ukemi)training, throwing would also be out due to “Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck” also being illegal. I would thing that would be the most common result from throwing them to the mat.

  3. Dale C says:

    Well as someone who prctices both MMA and Aikido, I think the reality you will find in the octaggon is that most aikido techniques wont work on sweaty well trained atheletes who have fantastic balance and are actievly trying not to give anything away.

    In MMA sparring you do occasionally get a Nikyo or sankyo on an oponent and when you do generally they tap immadiately, but aiki techniques in these situations are very low percentage moves, this is the reason that MMA prcationers dont train aiki/trad jiujitsu style wristlocks etc, they are quite simply not as effective as punching/kicking/throwing and full body grappling in and encloseed 1 on 1 context.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Trying to help you to understand your concern and to complement the answer already exposed, I give you my opinion in very short answer.

    If we don’t follow the defender, you’ll be hurt. That’s why we work in harmony between the two pratictioners.

    I’m black belt in Taekwondo, Shotokan and Aikido, and Especialized Self Defense Instructor for the Army (I use the basic foundations of Aikido for the techniques of self defense)in my country, so I ensure you that Aikido self defense has a very high grade of efficiency in the urban self defense. Best regards.


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