Is All Bad Aikido Really All That Bad?
By Jonathan Wilson
March 31, 2017
I wanted to reach out to you with an idea that I've been musing on that "just could not wait a month" to be hatched into the website through a regular issue of “Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido” (our monthly newsletter).
So here we go: As you are well aware, I'm sure, Aikido has its fair share of skeptics, and it is reported across the globe that Aikido dojo enrollments are falling. The thought is that the advent of MMA has led people to seek a ground based fighting system (like Judo/ Brazilian JJ), over other standing arts.
To compound matters, there is no competition in Aikido ~~~~ So how do we know if this stuff actually works against someone who is not an aikido student? [This is of course why we value the brand new student. They come in with no idea, and generally leave "amazed." In every instance I've had it seems to always run this way.] Of course ~ we know that, but does the rest of the world, who has never walked in to an aikido dojo?
Still there is this ever present "Universal Critic" sitting on the sidelines hounding the notion of what we do at every opportunity, and at times ~~~ we might even support their efforts.
Spend any time surfing the web for "bad aikido" and you will find it quickly ~ and you don't actually even have to surf under that "heading." Watch 10 random aikido videos on youtube, and you'll probably come across at least one bad example. Even on the good examples, the comments section will be flooded with stuff like "FAKE!" ~~~ "BJJ is the BEST!" ~~~ "That Would Never Work On Me!" ~ etc.
Here is a video worth watching, as it possibly illustrates the point (see video on the left hand side):
The video starts out innocently enough, with some light touch technique, that is hard to see due to the camera angle.
At 18 seconds there is a technique that should look very familiar to anyone experienced in our style as the movement principle is a near clone of the movement principle taught in (Unbendable Arm Against the Kick). Further, the reaction of uke is a nearly parallel reaction to the typical uke taking the technique in our style ~ assuming uke doesn't want to take the fall. ;)
Cool so far.
Then you get to the 25 second mark of the video, and inexplicable things begin to happen. I've heard it said, "That some things are not to be taught to stupid people." Maybe I am stupid, because I have no idea what is going on here. This is where the cries of "FAKE!" can be heard. Even in the audience ~ if you watch with the sound up, you can hear them begin to murmur among themselves the minute uke begins taking breakfalls for no apparent reasons.
Then at 1:08 things get back to normal, with some pretty basic technique.
At 1:35, the Invisible Man returns to perform his song and dance routine.
In my mind, demonstrations like this are one of the reasons why people (most famously & pretty recently ~ and on a worldwide podcast ~~~~ Joe Rogan) say that aikido doesn't work.
Having said that: Could we be misunderstanding the point of the Invisible Man Portion of the demo? Might it be that nage is trying to show the power of movement principles and its ability to disrupt an attacker's approach? Is it possible that the Invisible Man ~ is actually something akin to a boxer or MMA fighter who drops his hands in the ring to simply taunt his opponents? Leading them to expend all kind of energy while punching thin air in the process?
It makes you wonder if it would be reliable against an attacker who was not part of a demonstration at the All Japan Martial Arts Expo, where aikido ukes' legendary poor balance after attacking ~ because they are expecting to get their butt handed to them immediately after the attack. Still, does the fall work outside that exhibition hall?
Even in MMA, sometimes the taunts work. Sometimes the fighter does drop his hands. Sometimes the opponent misses and gets countered.... other times the boxer gets caught and wakes up on the mat with the referee securing his neck until the fight doctor can evaluate him.
But no one ever accuses said boxer that "that will never work on the street." It's a "show" and either way, the crowd has something to discuss on the trip home. Joe Rogan doesn’t seem to have any problems with that strategy or approach as long as it is in the Octagon (I guess because it isn't aikido).
Consider following video clip as a classical "Old School" example of this same idea played out in the boxing ring.
Here Michael Dokes pins Muhammad Ali into the corner of the ring. Ali grabs the ropes and proceeds to dodge 21 consecutive punches in slightly less than 11 seconds. The video contains the entire fight. If you watch all 9 minutes of the exhibition fight, you'll see the best boxer in the world at the time spending most of his time not boxing.
What if people like Joe Rogan used this video clip to say that "Boxing doesn't work" ~~~~ would they be justified? I'm not sure what I think on this notion. What do you think, and does it even matter?
Well those are my aikido thoughts for the day!
I wish you sincerity in training, excellence in Classical Technique & Applications, and many wonderful breakfalls in the process.
Let's meet together on the Mats and Soon!
Other Articles of Interest:
Joe Rogan ~ A UFC Commentator & Aikido Critic
Here is the whole non-fighting fight with Muhammad Ali and Michael Dokes
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Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.
Is All Bad Aikido Really
All That Bad?
Float like a butterfly.... Dodge 21 punches in less than 11 seconds