NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

The Waning Popularity

of O’Sensei’s Aikido

By Jonathan Wilson

16 October 2015

Today I watched a very well produced video that discusses the waning popularity of Ueshiba influenced aikido (O’Sensei’s aikido).  If we accept the premise of the video, I thought we might use it as a prompt for discussion at our dojos, and with our training buddies to see what me might do to boost our own numbers.  

The video is to the immediate left.  To get optimal understanding of the subject, I’ll be discussing at length, I’d advise watching the video before reading further.


The producer approaches his video from the understanding that O’Sensei’s aikido is not about self defense, but about a restoration of the self.

This was a later idea of Ueshiba.  In all but his last years, aikido was a defensive martial art.  Still in an attempt to answer the question the video’s producer asked (what could be done to increase the art’s popularity), I offered this comment to the film’s producer (see my suggestions sound vaguely familiar):

"O'Sensei's Aikido would be a Martial Art (and its popularity restored) if it were trained properly.  Here are four suggestions to improve the martial arts quality of Ueshiba Influenced aikido training:

#1.  Add physical training to the curriculum. Sure O'Sensei's techniques can be done without strength, but he was by all accounts a very strong man ~ even as an old man. The idea that a person does not have to physically be strong to do aikido in an actual martial situation may be misguided, and certainly speaks against the physicality of the founder.

#2.  Use realistic strikes when training empty handed (add jabs, crosses, roundhouses, hooks, and punching combinations to the attacks). While there is value in showing yokomenuchi, shomenuchi, etc., to demonstrate the connection to sword culture, exclusively training strikes rooted in sword culture has limited martial application today ~ as very few people attack like they are holding swords anymore.

#3.  Use grips to demonstrate the initial concepts of technique, but don't make them the end all, be all of a technique unless you are willing to explain "why" this grip might be applicable, or “how you got into a martial situation where your hand was gripped” (eg: you are trying to draw a handgun, and your attacker pins your hand to your hip to keep your firearm holstered).

#4. Incorporate Judo and Karate cross training into the aikido curriculum. Keep in mind that ALL of O'Sensei's students were coming from other marital arts to study his style of aikido ~ so they already had an understanding of judo, karate, etc. They came to O'Sensei for the daito-ryu influenced aiki movement, and the ethics of defense.  In this fashion, O'Sensei's aikido did not cover ground game tactics (judo), and striking (karate) because O'Sensei's students already had significant experience in those arts. However, when you only teach O'Sensei's aikido, but never address the ground game, or striking (the way they would be taught in judo or karate), you miss a large part of the "prerequisite aikido curriculum."

Rather than an all inclusive form of self defense, O'Sensei's Aikido might best be described as the "cherry" on top of all of the judo and karate arts.  It seems to me that his Aikido was possibly the final touch to his martial experience.

#5.  Keep in mind that "Aikido" was the name given to the aiki arts’ *yawara schools* by the Dai Nippon Budokukai (and the name was selected to not upset the kendo or other martial arts organizations).  As such, O'Sensei's Aikido is not the only aikido.  I mention this because in other aikido styles, who do not trace their lineage through O'Sensei, these well documented "martial holes" do not exist. For example, Nihon Goshin Aikido, began in 1940 by Master Shodo Morita, includes some judo, some karate, and realistic modern attacks with the aiki based Daitō-ryu Aikijujutsu underneath.  Rather than forcing the student to study judo, karate and aikido independently, Nihon Goshin Aikido’s combination of styles provides a single path to becoming a very balanced martial artist.”

What did I miss, or What would you add?  Please post your comments below!  (You do not need an account to post, just post as a “guest”).

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Very well thought out and very well produced video discussing the waning popularity of O’Sensei’s Aikido.  It attempts to seek an answer to the question ‘why?”

The Tenshin Movement

The Tenshin Movement ~ draws uke into the space nage was holding ~ unbalancing him.  Uke’s back heel rising is a sign it’s being done well.

The Tenshin Movement ~ modified to operate out of a shizentai stance.  It is a movement back and off line, offering tremendous kuzushi (balance breaking) opportunities.  The Tenshin movement works especially well against round attacks.  Unlike Irimi and Tenkan Movements, the Tenshin Movement draws uke into the space nage was holding.

The Tenshin Movement

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