View Full Version : Aikido Principles for BJJ

Please visit our sponsor:

12-07-2007, 09:27 PM
Hello All,

I have just recently returned to Aikido, but have practiced BJJ for a long time. I love both arts but for different reasons entirely.

I have been wondering how concepts like entering , blending, redirection..etc could be added or incorporated to BJJ.

If anyone on the board practices both I would love to discuss it. I would be glad to discuss my views on BJJ vs Aikido as well, but only in a friendly, productive manner.

So if anyone would like to talk about this , great. If not...that's ok too.

12-07-2007, 10:37 PM
I'll take the opportunity to turn your question around:

I myself just very recently began training at a local Judo club as a supplement to my Aikido training. This particular club also has a BJJ guy come in twice a week to teach newaza. Because of the fact that I just recently joined as well as schedules, I haven't made it to jiu jitsu class yet...so I don't have any firsthand experience yet.

My question: as a longtime BJJ practitioner who is resuming Aikido training again, do you think the arts compliment one another?

From what little I've seen of BJJ in person, I think it rounds out the self-defense skillset quite nicely and the arts compliment each other...just as Judo compliments Aikido quite nicely. I'm really not interested in competition, just acquiring additional skills as well as having the opportunity to test & polish what little Aikido technical knowledge I have against a resisting opponent who is NOT an Aikidoka. For me, that's what interests me.

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:16 PM
I have found it all to be in there!

I think the guard is a wonderful place to discover and explore the concepts of entering, blending and redirection.

Think about it. You have someone that is between your legs, on your centerline, and in order to affect him and do any technique whatsoever...you have to open your guard, move off your centerline, redirect his energy, off balance him and then do what ever you do that comes next!

I spend most of my time working the guard for this very reason. I think it is about the best way I have ever trained to develop a good grasp of moving from your core. The guard isolates everything and the only way to start any movement at all is to move from your core!

Good discussion. I too like to discuss BJJ and Aikido principles and how they can be used to train the same things!

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:21 PM

IMO, if you are concentrating on the whole self defense thing in BJJ looking to round out your arm locks etc...I think you are missing a majority of what BJJ has to offer.

All good BJJ coaches and instructors will tell you in ain't the submission that is important...it is the position.

We spend most of the time practicing control and achieving and maintaining dominate position.

Frankly I think this is why BJJ is so successful. A decent blue belt BJJer can maintain position fairly well and control someone in multiple sequences of moves, angles, and repositions.

12-07-2007, 11:28 PM
Hey guys,

Thanks for replying. I typed up a real long post and the forum crashed on me. I will retype tomorrow, pretty late and tired.

Kevin , interesting ideas about the guard. You talk about moving off the centerline to make your attacks. Today in my Aikido class, Sensei said everything comes from the hips and proceeded to demonstrate the hips interaction with a lot of Aikido techniques.

In BJJ , it's about the hips and angles I would add. You must be able to move your hips for offense and defense. To control your opponent in BJJ you must control their hips to make any advancement in position. This relates to being in their guard, side control, half guard, and north south.

Look forward to discussing this more with you.

12-07-2007, 11:35 PM

IMO, if you are concentrating on the whole self defense thing in BJJ looking to round out your arm locks etc...I think you are missing a majority of what BJJ has to offer.

All good BJJ coaches and instructors will tell you in ain't the submission that is important...it is the position.

We spend most of the time practicing control and achieving and maintaining dominate position.

Frankly I think this is why BJJ is so successful. A decent blue belt BJJer can maintain position fairly well and control someone in multiple sequences of moves, angles, and repositions.

Thanks for the insight, Kevin. I suppose I should clarify in that I also am quite interested in seeing/experiencing how the two arts interact and not in a "versus" sort of scenario. Whatever it can teach me, I'll take it. Same with Judo. The club is primarily a Judo club, with a BJJ guy coming it to help out with newaza, so not too sure how much "pure BJJ" I'll get.

We'll see how it all works out.

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:39 PM
Yes it is all about the hips.

Because of my career, I had to leave aikido behind for several years and only practice BJJ.

After years of aikido practice, I did not really ever get the whole hip thing. It wasn't until I practiced BJJ for about 2 years that I really began to grasp the hip connection thing.

To be honest a lot of it was developing some decent core strength in BJJ, from various abs, hip flexors and other muscles unknown to me!

I think it is very challenging to learn to move your hips correctly and learn connectedness in the aikido methodology!

There is so much going on with the whole timing and distance, entering, moving the feet, recieving very "wide gaps" in the feedback with the interaction of uke!

Frankly I am still struggling much with aikido as I readapt to the ma'ai that we practice with in aikido.

I coach and teach BJJ as a purple belt now. I think if i were to teach aikido, I would still start all my students on the ground BJJ style...maybe through in some swariwaza, kokyu tanden ho....but for the most part, I think I'd keep them on the ground for the first year they study aikido so you can isolate out and encourage proper development of moving the hips, and developing the core and posture necessary to move and connect correctly!

That said, I am not qualified enough in aikido to profess what is the correct way to teach it.

Only saying that I think there is a better way to train to teach beginners how to move and understand the whole hip/posture thing!

I bet there are lots of aikido dojos out there that probably DO spend a bunch of time in swariwaza. I know I used to with many of my instructors!

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:44 PM
Brian, not sure there really is any pure BJJ out there! Just like in aikido, each instructor or school seems to have their own version or take on the game!

Funny you should mention Judo. Seems like these days that many of the guys I train with in BJJ are spending a fair amount of time with good judoka!

My instructor, from Brazil, has encouraged me to have my 7 year old son start with judo, and not BJJ.

Next month, he and I both are strapping on our white belts for yet entry into another new art, Judo.

In my school in Germany, we have several judoka and we all share the best from both those arts when we train. Mainly throws from judo and the newaza from BJJ.

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:50 PM
FYI. another great guy that may jump into this thread eventually is Roy Dean. He is a BJJ black belt and an Aikidoka as well.

Check out his website: http://www.roydeanacademy.com/

I haven't seen him around here for a while, but Jason DeLucia is also around. I don't think he does BJJ specifically, but definitely well versed as a Martial Artist and has experienced fighting a few BJJers, one in partiicular we all know! :)

Anyway, there are some others out there as well like Michael Fooks who also I am sure will offer their input!

Kevin Leavitt
12-07-2007, 11:53 PM
Check out the video on Roy Dean's website. I think you will see some very interesting similarities and blending of aikido and BJJ.

Roman Kremianski
12-09-2007, 12:53 AM
Well Jason competed in Pancrase...so I assume he trained all kinds of grappling and wrestling.

I can list many similarities I noticed during my first few months in BJJ...but each can easily be argued against. I remember one that really came through to me was the emphasis on breathing and relaxation. Kinda a far cry from the testosterone violent adrenaline induced apeshit many Aikidoka claim anything related to MMA is.

12-09-2007, 01:29 AM
Hi Russ
To give you some brief background on me - I taught Aikido for around 10 years and now have a bjj club (which somehow grew into an organisation with 3 going on 4 schools) although still just a blue belt.

Certainly I see many parallels between the arts. Concepts like centreing, leading, blending are to be found in both. Interesting that Kevin mentioned he would get people to start out the aikido career on the ground. I think there would be some real benefits with that.

When I started running BJJ classes many of my students were ex-aikidoka like me. Now that it's more of a mixed bag I find I have to spend extra time explaining stuff -because the aikido guys understood some of the principals really well, whereas the newbies I'm starting from scratch with some of the concepts. So I've often found myself wishing everyone had an aiki background as it translates well to bjj.

In fact the guy I run my bjj org with comes from a karate background. And he has commented a number of times that he's noticed the aikido people have a much more technical mindset than the average student, which I found interesting.

I think the concepts are very similar. One of the nice things about bjj is that some of the stuff happens more slowly on the ground which gives you more margin for error with things like blending, whereas aikido requires more "split second" timing as their whole body is in motion. I also think bjj is good for developing tactile intelligence. there's so much stuff you have to do by body sense - hooks being a great example. I think that in Aikido that principal is the same, but that people will instinctively rely on visual input more and for longer into their training. So that tactile intelligence formed in bjj would carry over very well into Aikido.

I would love to teach aikido and bjj classes back to back, maybe someday I will - although I'm conscious much of that would be my own indulgence. But I think aikidoka would gain alot of insite into how to perform aiki from bjj, and bjjers would gain alot of insight in how to grapple better from aikido.

Kevin Leavitt
12-09-2007, 08:28 AM

To clarify, the reason I brought of Jason is that he is very experienced in grappling and MMA and for the past few years has been exploring aikido from that perspective.

Also, very good points about the breathing. I too think it becomes much more amplified if you are not doing it correctly in BJJ than in Aikido. Doesn't mean it is less important when training in aiki methodology, just that I think it becomes even more apparent maybe?


Very good points. I agree about things going much slower, they also are closer, and you have less room to move or make up for your mistakes or to "jump the gaps", this is probably why I learned so much about kuzushi through BJJ.

As you know, we get into the whole GI or NO GI training issue. Some think it is better to train mostly with GI, others without these days. I think it depends on your focus, if you are going to NO GI submission tournaments...well NO GI is the best way.

I think if you are learning principles and want a good base...GI is the way to go, as it slows things down and forces you to train slow and concentrate on principles.

However, when you start talking street effective..I think 50/50 GI/NOGI is probably the right balance. I do like 80% GI and 20% NO GI.

12-09-2007, 11:21 AM
My coach once said that training no gi for beginners is a bit like like taking your kid who's never ridden a bike, putting them on a racing bike without training wheels, throwing them out on the ice and saying good luck.
Ideal situation would be you in the gi them without - in gi improves your defence as they have all the handles, without improves your attack as they can slip out more easily.

But yeah there's a progression there. When you think of it, Aikido is really a no gi art - the gi is just there for tradition sake, I'm struggling to think of a time it's used in the sense it is in Aikido. Perhaps that would make the progression BJJ (gi)->sub wrestling->aikido?

I've actually cosidered introducing some aikido techniques under the guise of drills. Which is I think what there utility would be - here's some stuff to give you some principals...

12-09-2007, 12:29 PM
I think if i were to teach aikido, I would still start all my students on the ground BJJ style...maybe through in some swariwaza, kokyu tanden ho....but for the most part, I think I'd keep them on the ground for the first year they study aikido so you can isolate out and encourage proper development of moving the hips, and developing the core and posture necessary to move and connect correctly

Hi Kevin,
I just wanted to echo the idea you're offering about suwariwaza. It can be hard on the knees, particularly at first, but I'd have to credit it for much of what I've learned so far.

Kevin Leavitt
12-09-2007, 01:23 PM
Not that I am any expert on what aikido is and isn't, but I would think from an aikido standpoint on how we train within this methodology, that the type of GI training done in BJJ....that is, using the GI as a tool in the way we do it in BJJ...climbing, taking up slack, manuevering...would serve to continue the struggle and fight and detract from the teaching point of principle that we are trying to focus on in aikido.

I have to say...I would agree to this on one hand, yet on the other, I think what we are saying from a BJJ perspective that the struggle and conflict (slow and focused) that the GI training in BJJ presents...provides a very good classroom that focuses the student and forces them to work very hard through those issues.

Both methodolgies, Aikido and BJJ, have strong points in the way they are trained. I think this is the crux of what those of us that study both are really saying!

On another note that is sure to come up on the whole grabbing/GI issue:

There are those out there that are reading this saying..."hey wait a minute...aikido has grabs!"

Absolutely. However, I think there is a distinction in many dojos when you consider the big picture of how they are approached in BJJ vice Aikido....at least in my experiences.

One thing I have to remind myself when training in aikido is to remember that the atemi is there and to move appropriately with respect to this. We tend to forget this in BJJ alot...and it does change things up when you are focusing on grabs....which is why I think both aikido and bjj have good approaches to training grabs that are complementary!

The point is...I am not looking at this from a reality based scenario, or bunkai context...but purely principle learning methodology.

It is hard to describe with words...I hope this makes sense!

Roman Kremianski
12-09-2007, 06:26 PM
I've done mostly Gi grapping before just going no Gi and I'd have to agree with Kevin. No Gi is in my opinion excellent for teaching basic body mechanics. Desperately clinging on to someone's sleeve or pants during competition is hardly on the same level as learning the fine points of wrist control. (Often an important part of being on the bottom during no gi)

Sure, the former is a lot easier, but the whole point is to learn the hard stuff.

12-09-2007, 07:48 PM
I have been studying Aikido for almost 19 years, and am coming up on year 10 in BJJ. My instructor made a very astute observation on my training in BJJ about 7 years ago. He told me it was making my aikido "combative". He was right. I took about 2 years off from BJJ and really thought about it. There are so many principles that mirror each other in both arts, but the application and *wanted* final outcome is much different.

Both arts can compliment each other...but they can hinder too.

Kevin Leavitt
12-09-2007, 08:27 PM
I can see how it might make someone's aikido "more combative". It could tend to amplify certain aspects of things.

For myself, I have not found this to be the case at all. However, I tend to take a different angle on the BJJ I do. I try to never use power, speed, or strength...but to go at it slow, methodical and principally oriented.

Probably explains why I lose alot in tournaments!

at 42, I cannot compete with the younger guys at the level that they can perform at...so I try and figure out the puzzle in a little different approach.

Not sure the outcome is much different. Could you elaborate on that a little? A conflict/fight starts, and the conflict fight ends with you in control and the other guy not in control. I see it as the same thing really.

Certainly when you start talking the "game" of BJJ, that is, submission fighting, then there are certain aspects of it that are beneficial such as stalling, turtleling, waiting out a bad headlock etc...that are rewarded that would not be such a good idea in realty.

12-09-2007, 10:37 PM
I too am a little unsure as to how the final outcome differs betwen the two arts. In fact I've often thought the "position before submission" philosophy of BJJ, along with the utility of chokes in particular fits bjj into a similar camp as aikido in terms of giving options to subdue with minimal harm...

12-11-2007, 12:22 PM
Hi Everyone,

I am only a blue belt in BJJ (Renzo Gracie Academy-NYC) and a 3rd kyu in Aikido (Aikido of Forest Hills) but I feel that both arts complement each other. For me, I try to train Aikido as relaxed as possible and this has carried over into my BJJ training. I use much less strength as a result of training Aikido. As a result, I feel that I am using more technique as possible instead of trying to muscle my training partner. Anyway, this is my humble opinion based on my limited training experience in both arts.

Yours in Budo,


Kevin Leavitt
12-11-2007, 12:37 PM
Thanks Ralph. Do you find that you sometimes get beat or dominated because you are training this way.

I get beat a fair amount because I am trying to move correctly than taking sort cuts that other guys take.

I am pretty much okay with it, but it does get frustrating.

Keith R Lee
12-11-2007, 01:19 PM
For what it's worth I give the gi...a big two thumbs down! :D

Stopped training with the damn thing 2-3 years ago. Of course, I only bother with sub grappling and working out with MMA guys so it only makes sense for me. It's really interesting to watch guys who do both, or just gi primarily workout with the other no-gi ever guys at the gym. It's very clearly a different beast.

I also find BJJ to be more Aiki without the gi personally. The gi slows everything down to much and interrupts "flow." No-gi lends itself to a more continuous and fluid style of rolling, IMO.

12-11-2007, 02:27 PM
I agree that no gi probably turns out to be more aiki in the aikido sense. The benefit of the gi is it slows things down. If you look at aikidoka who first start to do jiyu waza, one of the things they struggle with is doing in a more realtime, less scripted way, at speed. IMO gi bjj is a good intermediate step to applying aiki principals in an environment where uke may do anything, but not do it so fast that you will have no chance of blending.

12-11-2007, 02:55 PM
I always wear gi pants, even in nogi competiton. I like the friction it provides. But yes, nogi is a very different animal all together.

12-11-2007, 08:09 PM
Ideally you would have gi type material on the inside of your legs and on your chest (where you need friction for subs) and lycra on your arms and back (where you need slipperiness to escape). But that would be unsporting.

Kevin Leavitt
12-11-2007, 08:15 PM

I go in phases it seems, sometimes I am really into the GI, other times not. I like both. Last year I spent a great deal of time without the GI, your right it is different and I think GI and NO GI has improved my GI!

However, I agree more with Michael on the benefits of GI. It teaches things such as posture, posture, posture.

You simply cannot be good in a gi without it.

It is always interesting putting a greco roman guy in a gi for the first time! :)

Vice, it is always fun to take a Judo guy out of his gi and up against a Greco Roman Guy :)

Lots to learn.

I do agree with the whole grabbing thing though. I think NO GI does a good job of reinforcing it.

I think you need both kinds of training.

Kevin Leavitt
12-11-2007, 08:16 PM
I like old school pancrase where you just wear olive oil. oops...wrong forum!