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An Analysis of Aikido’s Achilles Heel ~~~ Are Those Attacks Realistic?

By Gary Boaz, Sensei

Sensei Gary Boaz is a 4th dan in Ueshiba Influenced Aikido, Aikikia, this article was posted to the website with Sensei Boaz’s permission, and its origin was a post to his facebook page.

“There may be some confusion on some of my particular views on aikido that I would like to clear up. First of all, in many of my posts I make a distinction of "traditional" aikido and "practical or modern" aikido. Some people take this to mean that I feel that traditional aikido is not practical or effective as a martial art. Nothing is further from the truth.

What it comes down to is a matter of technique, or physical movements. I have said, and will continue to say, that physical technique does not make your art aikido. It is the PRINCIPLE that makes these physical techniques work which makes aikido unique and powerful.

In a self defense situation, technique may fail you. But...the principle of the technique can be applied in any situation and THAT is what can save your life. This is aiki in my opinion.

Where I have been openly critical is the vast number of videos demonstrating the same aikido over and over: Kotegaeshi done from a lunging punch to the stomach (see the picture), Ikkyo done from a formal shomen uchi to the forehead...the list goes on.

My issue is this (REALISM): How many times have you EVER witnessed a person use a straight punch to the stomach like those found in typical aikido kata?  Never. No one attacks like that. And yet in every dojo in every country you will see aikido technique applied against these ridiculous attacks. It's the same in so many tired demonstrations.

When I talk about aikido evolving, I'm not talking about the principles. I believe that these are sound. It is the "playing aikido" in the dojo that I refer to as needing to change.

As martial artists we need to take our art, our budo and learn to apply these principles to new situations, new attacks...always refining, always honing what we do.

Unfortunately I don't see this except in some small glimpses. In my opinion, one of the few people working to further our art is Stanley Pranin (who has said that unless it changes drastically, traditional aikido will cease to be a martial art in 20 years or less).

Watch his videos, read his articles ( and you'll see someone that refuses to just accept the way things are. He's always exploring and refining. Even though I may not agree with everything they do, the Realni Aikido groups are on the cutting edge too. They take the principles and apply them in many diverse ways. Crazy ways that seem to actually work!

There are individuals like Pranin-Sensei that are taking aikido to the next level. A list of others would include: Brandon Needham, Greg Sinclair, Steven Seagal, Niko Huffman, Jason Graham, and some others.

One final thing: I don't believe in or condone changing for the sake of change itself. If it's not broke don't fix it. But I'll never be one to sit back on my butt and say "I've got it all figured out."

Consider these thoughts on zenponage for instance (see video in the left hand column). For years I've done this technique in the dojo on a willing uke and it works flawlessly. Do it on a person not trained to take ukemi and you'll never get him to roll out of it ~ does that mean the zenponage technique is flawed, or is our understanding of uke’s response flawed?

It's this type of thinking we need to utilize in order to refine what we do. It's what will take aikido to the next generation of aikidoka. The next time you train, look for weaknesses in what you do. Find the strengths. And always hone your budo. Train with integrity.


Alex: Sensei Gary ~ Don't listen to the naysayers.Just do what you do best and keep that line.If you try to damage control all the broken egos and explain yourself to all who are offset by your martial philosophies you will be pushed off the line.Do what you do and ignore all else.Mushin...No mind.

Gary Boaz:  Thanks Alex. I'm not worried about naysayers. I just want to make sure people know where I'm coming from and don't misunderstand. But you can't please everyone that's for sure!!!

Marc: I think it's true for many Martial Arts. The 'traditional' way is not always as effective as some want us to believe. I have the same feelings about Shotokan. There's little wrong with the techniques but if you just look at sparring matches you won't see much of the basic moves.

Gary Boaz:  Oh, and how could I forget Mitsugi Saotome? I think his aikido has really progressed far beyond just the strict traditional structures.

Brandon:  Again, I completely agree with you Gary. Very well written!

Leif: Great informative post!

Albert:  I think there are two big views to two kind of aikidoka. The first is the group who copies, and then there are those who think about what they are doing. The first group find aikido as a nice way of moving around and study the way of moving.  Those who are pushing the envelope see it as something much more martial.

Gary Boaz:  Albert I agree! Even though I approach aikido from a martial perspective, that doesn't mean that everyone else does. Some people don't want to work against a hook punch and the basic straight punch or shomen strike is fine. But for guys like us, we are always striving to improve. For us it's a martial path and yet still and entire way of life. Thanks for the post!!!

Stanley Pranin: Excellent comments to be taken to heart! Thank you, Gary.

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A crisp $20 bill for the aikidoka who ever gets attacked on the street from a punch like the one above!

Sensei Gary Boaz ~~~ his roots are in traditional aikido, but he has really diversified his training, and has great martial insight.

Zenponage from a double wrist grab has a lot of similarity to applications of the Spinning Hip Throw and/or The Drop

Here’s a what a real gun defense might look like ~~~~  Shazam!

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