View Full Version : Is Aikido entirely reactive?

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10-01-2001, 12:21 PM
I haven't yet committed to beginning training in Aikido. I just had a question:

If someone verbally makes a very serious threat to you like 'give me your wallet or I'll kill you' but doesnt attack, is there a way to step in and take him out before he strikes? Or must one wait for the guy to make the first move? From what I have read about the art, it's usually someone actively attacking you before you apply a technique. What would an aikidoist do if he was the one who initiated the energy?

10-01-2001, 12:48 PM
There's no reason you couldn't grab someone's wrist and attempt sankyo. I could even see someone "attacking" by moving into an irimi nage. There's also atemi (strikes with a fist, elbow, etc.).

But the broader question is: why would you want to? Or, beyond that, isn't it a mistake to think that verbal attacks aren't an initiation of "energy"?m.

10-01-2001, 12:54 PM
The concepts of "sen no sen" and "sen sen no sen" apply in aikido just as much in other martial arts.

Many teachers in aikido will start with the person "defending" initiating a strike. I believe that in Yoshinkan aikido, that's a pretty normal way to start out a technique (with tori using something like shomenuchi to get a reaction out of uke). I've also trained with Aikikai instructors who show how certain attacks such as katatedori are responses from uke to certain attacks done by nage.

-- Jun

10-01-2001, 01:22 PM
The attack began when the assailant asked for your money or your life. In a randori (multiple attack in the dojo) I find myself initiating the attack - once the attack has begun. It is easier to control a person or a small group if I am controlling the situation.

I don't think that it is not "aiki" to make the first physical movement - especially when a verbal threat has been made.

I am sure there will be some people out there snickering at the multiple attack in a street fight scenario - and that is not what I am talking about. In a street fight scenario I would use randori techniques to get the heck out of there!!! You know - minimal damage to me! :D

10-01-2001, 03:36 PM
I am also part of the organization that Joe is in. Our Kancho stresses the principle of shodo o seisu (controlling the first move)

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

10-02-2001, 05:00 AM
Originally posted by michaelkvance
There's no reason you couldn't grab someone's wrist and attempt sankyo
Yes there is, it is hard to do. You can't force a lock onto someone they simply tense up and resist. I know my friends do it all the time :).
Being a little more serious if you want some more info on what Jun is talking about read Musashi's Book of Five Rings. Actually I think everyone should read it. Once you feel someone has "attacked" you (note not necessarily physical) then you respond however the situation calls for.
On multiple attacks I think the stats say the majority of attacks and stuff are with two or more assailants so multiple uke randori is good training. It teaches you to be fast, to know where the other uke/s is/are as well as where everything else.

10-02-2001, 06:15 AM
They say that when you decide to attack, you have already lost.

In believe that's mostly true and that's why many instructor's teach by assigning the uke to attack and that way get the nage to react. But still, Aikido is not limited to that principle. You can make a affective attack with numerous techniques. e.g sankyo is one such technique but a little too complex. Speed and accuracy are important factors in such occasions.

10-02-2001, 07:52 AM
I think that O'Sensei said something along the lines, that when someone attacks he has already lost because he has disrupted the universe.

Once someone attacks his energy has gone from positive energy to negative energy - and this unbalances the person. In the question posed at the beginning of the thread, the person who has taken the negative stance of committing a crime has already lost. Taking the advantage of this negative energy is where the aikidoka begins the redirecting of that negative energy to some kind of end.

I don't view an aikidoka beginning the physical part of this confrontation as the the person out of balance with the universe.

10-02-2001, 08:22 AM
Originally posted by jaxonbrown

If someone verbally makes a very serious threat to you like 'give me your wallet or I'll kill you' but doesnt attack, is there a way to step in and take him out before he strikes? Or must one wait for the guy to make the first move?

Why would you need to make the first move? An attacker can threaten you all he likes but he can't hurt you with threats. If you believe you are in danger, back out, run out, duck out. Do what it takes to leave. This is safer than physically engaging someone who has just threatened your life. Why heighten the danger by reaching for someone who is threatening you?

10-02-2001, 09:02 AM
Excellent reply!

One way of taking that negative energy and redirecting it to an end - is simply getting out of the situation in a way that causes the least damage to yourself. Running is an excellent way of getting away from the energy.

A few bucks is worth my life!

10-02-2001, 09:51 AM
As I understand it, in order to use a physical form of self defense, you have to be reasonably sure that you are in danger, and your action must not go beyond the level of threat you perceive. At least, this is the typical guideline that I have read about when it comes to most U.S. state self-defense laws. My (obvious) interpretation of this is if someone says "I'm going to pound you,", you can't simply shoot the person.

The thing to be careful of is, if you are in a verbal confrontation and you take the initiative physically, any witnesses may say it was you who attacked first.

I have heard that O Sensei used to say "don't wait," and then he would stand there while his uke attacked. But, I suspect he was leading uke all the while and was not just standing there passively.


10-02-2001, 09:53 AM
Originally posted by JMCavazos
One way of taking that negative energy and redirecting it to an end - is simply getting out of the situation in a way that causes the least damage to yourself. Running is an excellent way of getting away from the energy.

Yep, Nike waza!

Also, the few times that I've been in potentially threatening situations resulted in the potential attackers actually backing off after they realized they weren't intimidating me. Basically, I assumed a calm and alert attitude, and ready stance or position. Their reactions may have been either consciously or subconsciously perceived, I don't know. I know a few other martial artists where this has happened as well.

Another option is advice once given to me by one of the most capable martial artists I have ever known. That is to simply give the person your wallet. Sometimes it is much healthier and cheaper to swallow your pride and just go out and buy a new wallet. There's an old saying: "when two tigers fight, one dies and the other is injured." No matter how skilled you are at aikido or another martial art, you just never know what some people are capable of. IMHO.

Regarding whether aikido is strictly reactive, just last week in one class we were practicing techniques in which nage actually intiates uke to react or attack in a specific way which would lead to the technique to be practiced. I remember our Dojo Cho telling us how the late Kissaburo Osawa Sensei would never have to tell his uke how to attack. He would position or present himself such that uke had only a single option to attack.


10-02-2001, 12:00 PM
Originally posted by Steve
Why would you need to make the first move?
What if the attacker isn't going after you but, say, your infant child?

-- Jun

Brian H
10-02-2001, 01:52 PM
I've been a policeman for nine years and count myself as one of the "Good guys." I have NEVER just stood in place and let a subject I am dealing with act so I can respond. (letting a drunk rant/rave/flail around does not count - it entertaining) I am constantly extending my awareness to the subject(s) I am dealing with and my surroundings, and taking action to gain mental and/or physical initiative. When in all else fails attack. (WTTW - NEVER use an idle threat. I was a shiny new rookie when I told a guy I would "Kick his ass up and down the block,"if he didn't obey me -- well he took me up on the offer. A short unnecessary struggle resulted, but nobody got their ass kicked up or down the block)

Greg Jennings
10-02-2001, 02:17 PM
Originally posted by akiy

What if the attacker isn't going after you but, say, your infant child?

I'm with you Jun. I think people confuse initiating violence with initiating technique.


10-03-2001, 01:16 AM
to initiate physical, after a verbal assault is not bad. Just because you initiate an attack does not mean you will hurt a person.

I feel that a great way to defend without being attacked (if you get what i mean), and something i have been toying with recently. Is to throw your hands repeatedly towards your assailants face or body. This will draw is energy out, you don't even neccessarily have to touch him, usually hands flying at your face will provoke some kind of reaction. From there it is just seeing whatever technique falls into your hands. I've tried it a coupld of times with friends and often ikkyo, sankyo, yonkyo or kotagaeshi pop straight into your hands....the rest is simple. Even had a shihonage work once.

happiness. harmony. compassion.

10-03-2001, 01:41 AM
Brian: I still don't get your point.

Does anyone have an answer to Jun's question?

Hmm...to the actual question, why haven't anyone mentioning calling the police...then that attacker would either attack 1st or back off...hehe

10-03-2001, 08:18 AM
Originally posted by nikon
Does anyone have an answer to Jun's question?

OK, I'll take a crack at Jun's question of:

"What if the attacker isn't going after you but, say, your infant child?"

If someone is going after my son (or my wife for that matter), I will do whatever is necessary to protect them (aikido IS a martial art, after all). I believe that it still would be possible to utilize aikido techniques, since the attacker would most likely be directing energy at another person, instead of me. In such a scenario, it might actually be easier to take the attacker's balance and apply a technique, since their attention is not initially directed at you (and you might have the advantage of surprise). All of the basic aikido principles (kuzushi, shikaku, maii, atemi, irimi, tenkan, tenshin, etc.) still apply, only adjustments need to be made. Of course, this is only in my opinion.


10-03-2001, 09:43 AM
You know something, Jun's question is more difficult than at first appears.

I know for sure that my wife would run behind me and hold on to me! That is not very good for my ability to tenkan, irimi, etc... without hurting her. She has often asked me what I would do if we were attacked as a couple. I always tell her to give me room to operate! I am a pretty big guy, 6'5" & 250lbs, and I my movements would fling her away and probably cause more damage to her if she held on to me than giving up a wallet!

In an attack on my family, my first move would be to get distance between me and the ones that I love, while making sure the attacker didn't get to them. I don't know how I would do it, but I would find a way!

If an attacker got to one of my loved ones, I guarantee you it would be over for that person! At that point, me getting hurt would not be my primary concern. My concern would be to bring the universe back into balance by getting rid of the part that is out of balance - him!

10-03-2001, 05:27 PM
Jun your right on some well most of the shomen uchis ( in basics) we do attack when we are doing ni (with shomen uchi) tecniges. we have ichi and ni on all basic throws except Ryote tenchinage ichi ( not full name). bacically it is a way to teach your power to ( well kinda any other yoshinkan people can step in on this one.) it is a great way for me to learn balence and how to hit to!! dont get me wrong I would rather be more defencive ( ecxpecially when family are around) so I could see what they are trying to do.

10-03-2001, 09:51 PM
as far as combat goes, my sensei (who works at a juvenile detention center) has always said that in combat, atemi waza is what is the most effective, and that one cannot force a wrist lock to great effect on someone. wrist locks must litteraly "fall into your hands"

10-04-2001, 05:04 AM
There was a policeman in our club who had stopped someone in their car, and they gripped on to the steering wheel and refused to get out. A quick sankyo soon had him leaping out the vehicle with very little resistance.

I've thrown someone with irimi-nage after they hit someone else (just tucked their arm out to the side).

Aikido is mostly reactive, but you can generate motion through atemis. Also, many people shake their hand at you, push you, or grab you before an immenent strike.

The good thing about aikido though, is it is not something you 'attack' somebody with. Even with atemis, all you are doing is trying to get them to respond, or to unbalance them. Many of my students from other martial arts have said that, in confontational situations they no longer feel the fear they had before a fight because they were waiting for the point at which they knew they should strike them - they were more relaxed because it was up to the attacker to be aggressive, and the fight would only start if the attacker initiated it.


10-04-2001, 05:11 AM
P.S. Jun had a good point which is often overlooked in aikido. When someone grabs you they are either trying to restrain you, punch you with the other hand or trying to stop you attacking. Therefore grabs often have direction (i.e. push down if they are trying to stop you kicking, or push your arm across your body to stop you striking with your other arm). This is ideal for aikido because this grab has movement alread within it.

The way I have been taught to think of the dynamics of aikido is to assume that whenever someone is in a position in which they can hit or kick you (from both uke and nages view point) they will. This makes far more sense and tends to get out of the 'dead uke' syndrome - where uke just stays there looking at the floor. However this means as nage you must also be looking at where you can strike them during technique (often higher grades will poke an uke or nage in the ribs instead of a strike - effective to get the uke moving).


Brian H
10-04-2001, 03:39 PM
don't just wait around to see Uke/the SOB is going to do to act. When I approach someone in a professional setting, I try to immediately to gain control. I don't mean physical control necessarily. I get to a position of advantage, i.e. behind/near something that will be an obstacle/stop bullets, or put the subject at a disadvantage (have him sit down or get up against a wall). I immediately start telling the subject what I want him to do. “Keep your hands out of your pockets”, “Give me you ID”, “Stand over here/there”. Be extremely polite and professional and don’t be to unreasonable. It can be important for the subject to obey, but his actions can give you
clues to his intentions. Will he run, will his fight, is he a good guy you can rule out of involvement in whatever your investigating, is he a bad guy you can rule out of involvement in whatever your investigating but catch related to something else.

Generally, “good citizens” will
be polite and non-confrontational when confronted by rude/dangerous persons. All I’m saying is be polite and confrontational. A guy walks up to you at an ATM and asks for money or the time etc. (He is probably feeling you out a potential robbery victim), respond immediately “Sir, you
need to leave me alone,” free your hands and move away from obstacles. This is not threatening,its just rude. The guy now knows he is dealing with someone who is going to be difficult. He is then reacting to you. Then when/if he attacks you have some control over the timing, distance, and position. This is what I a find when I contemplate when I think of “When they attack, they have already have lost.” Its not that Nage/Officer Friendly is Superman, its that he has prepared to fight and set the stage for Uke’s defeat. I like this approach and it has worked for me in that I have been involved in literally thousands of confrontations and very few fights, even though I have arrested any number of people who could have cleaned my clock had they made an effort to do so. (Most people choose flight over fight) I have found that manifesting a willingness to use force will get you further than actually using force. So in the original situation, when confronted with an unwilling and formidable victim (size does not matter O’sensei was not 6'05") the Bad guy will often retreat or at least have to attack/defend himself based on your timing, not his.

As to Jun’s scenario, you threaten my family and you will be immediately dealt with by any reasonable means at my disposal. . My Family in danger because of you = You are in danger because of me

10-04-2001, 10:26 PM
Brian: ok,i got your point,hehe.