NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

The Tres Mal Hombres

(The Three Bad Guys)

By Jonathan Wilson

Watch any aikido video on youtube, and you’ll see all kinds of negative comments like, “No one would ever attack like that!”  “MMA is better!” And my favorite, “My BJJ teacher would smoke this guy!”   Etc., etc.  

Viewers assume the techniques do not work because the attacks are so different than what they’d see in the street ~ as are the responses.  You just don’t see many chops to the side of the head in street brawls.

To some extent it is impossible not to I agree with the statements ~ as there are a lot of suspect attacks out there on the web, which is why the early Steven Seagal movies were so compelling.  Here is what aikido really looks like!  

The only problem was that many in the traditional aikido circles tried to disavow Seagal’s work and claimed, “That’s not aikido.”  (And went back to their mindless “grabbing” and “chopping”).  

A generation of potential aikido students has been lost to more combative martial arts like sport jujitsu, and fight centers (which train a conglomeration of standing and ground arts).  To stave off its decline in popularity, generalized aikido study needs to consider more realistic attacks.  It needs to replace the openhanded chops with jabs, crosses, hooks, roundhouses, upper cuts, punching combinations, and most importantly, it needs to do a better job reflecting common attacker profiles.  In my mind, there are three bad guy templates that need to be mastered for effective aikido training.

If you want to make your aikido as street effective as possible, you have to learn to convincingly play the role  of the bad guy(s); and there are more than one bad guy profile you must learn.

The Three Bad Guy Templates  

Bad Guy Template #1:  “Bubba WalMart”  

“Bubba Walmart” is a title coined by Sensei John Carter.  Generally speaking, Bubba Walmart is angry, often drunk or showing off for near-by buddies.  Emotion fuels his rage, and although he is not trained to fight, he is totally committed to landing a punch on your jaw.  Because he doesn’t know any better, he throws a punch almost like he throws a baseball.  He attacks out of emotion, he is typically off balance, and he will flinch if you feign to strike him  This equates to martial scenarios in which your attacker throws a whole lot of big sloppy roundhouse punches.  Generalized Aikido and basic grappling is perfect for defending yourself against him.  In training, ukes typically “play” this guy by default ~ and you have to start here when you are learning to defend yourself.

Bad Guy Template #2:  "Tommy Target"

Tommy Target is much more calculating than Bubba Walmart.  He is generally sober.  He might have wrestled in high school.  He might have also boxed or studied a martial art at some point. He fights out of a “stance,” and he does not over commit on his attacks.  He stays balanced.  He generally throws combination punches in his attacks, rather than a single desperate shot.  He will not flinch if you feign a strike, and will probably block most poorly contrived punches.  He can typically fight standing or on the ground, but probably not both.  Here is a classic Tommy Target example to your left.  In training, intelligent, balanced (not over committed or over extended) technical striking, and basic grappling skills should be reflected in uke’s attacks.

Bad Guy Template #3:  “Freddy Forever 21”

Freddy Forever 21 is a big step up from Tommy Target in that he is updated & practiced on his skills.  He remembers what to do, and he trained doing it just yesterday.  He is a great striker, and he can counter many defenses you might employ against his attacks.  He can fight standing or on the ground.  He tries to gain an advantage by flanking or beginning his assault from the rear.  “Surprise” is his calling card.  The ultimate assassin/ assailant, this guy is not looking for a fight, he is looking for a victim.  If you insist on fighting, he has the tools to make your life miserable.  Any feint to strike will have no value, and it will most likely be immediately countered with maximum brutality.  Even if you land a strike, he is comfortable eating a punch or two.  

You may never see him or his intention to harm you until  it is nearly too late.  It is very likely that you will begin a fight with Freddy Forever 21 on the ground ~ having already been sucker punched by him.  He may be armed with a knife, club, or a gun.  You train your whole life to protect yourself from this guy.  He represents the ultimate threat to your physical safety.    

Now in my mind, including more uke behavior templates amplifies your readiness for many self defense scenarios

So Summing up:  It’s not just the attacks themselves that are important.  I submit that all aikido practitioners in general would benefit by working on defending against the efforts of all of these attacker templates.

Regarding Nihon Goshin Aikido:  Relative to generalized aikido study, Senseis teaching Nihon Goshin Aikido handle these bad guy templates very well ~ most likely in every training session.  Not that we don’t train chops and wrist grabs (like Ueshiba influenced aikido styles), but very early in the student’s training progression, the attacks become much more realistic.  Consider the video to the left as an example.  

Might you want to begin training at a Nihon Goshin Aikido Dojo today?

Click here for a listing of Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos in your area.

# The names “Tommy Target” and “Freddy Forever 21”, and their descriptions  were coined by Elise Davis, a student in the Lexington, SC dojo.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

NGA Organizations

Dojos and Study Groups


Start an NGA Study Group



T-Shirts & Other Clothing

Gi’s and Hakamas

Training Weapons

Parallel Aikido History

Testing for Rank

Ukemi Central

The Soft Ukemi Revolution

Real Fight Breakdowns

© 2014 - 2018

The guy in the red shorts is a  Classic Bubba Walmart.  Aikido is great against him, but martial skill is NOT necessary to defend yourself against him.  In fact, he is likely to fall down by himself if you just get out of the way.  

This old man is a superb example of a Tommy Target.  It’s been awhile since he has used his skills, but he still remembers what to do in an altercation.  His blocks are on point.  He is completely cogent throughout the fight, and waits on his attacker to throw the first punch before retaliating in both engagements.  He finishes the job quickly.

Freddy Forever 21 will eat your lunch on most days.  He combines styles freely.  Notice how he moves back as he punches ~ creating a safety zone in between the initial sucker punch and the kick to the head finish.   He takes advantage of ill prepared defenders, and he wants to finish.  Uke was unwise in managing his initial distance.  At this range, having his hands up would have helped, but how much?

In Nihon Goshin Aikido, even at yellow belt (typically after 3-6 months of training) ~ students can defend themselves against a variety of realistic bad guy templates.