View Full Version : Aikido from a street cops's perspective

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06-23-2015, 04:59 AM
I should say at the outset that this thread is not another threat about Aikido's efficacy, or lack of, in 'real' situations such as front-line policing. So if you were expecting something about "Does Aikido work? Here's what I think..." and some patrol anecdotes... Sorry.

What I actually want to post about here are some personal views on why Aikido has been helpful to me more from a therapeutic point of view, for want of a better word. Why, after years of using force in the course of my duties, sometimes in precarious situations, Aikido practice has felt like it provides a breath of fresh air.

I am about halfway through my career and I would say that I have had a run-of-the-mill service to date. I was told when I was being trained that the reality of the police role is that although you try to police by consent you may, at the end of the day, have to coerce people by force into obeying the State. That's the hard reality. I have been in many confrontations from the pedestrian to the very, very serious.

By and large when I was younger I did not reflect overly on the confrontational aspect of policing whereby it sometimes feels like you are having a fight every day. As a police blogger once wrote, you could go to a call about a late library book and verbal altercation that is occurring and you'd end up rolling around the aisles in the fight of your life. It can be a crazy job and irrespective of how good your verbal skills are it often gets physical.

Like many experienced police officers I found my own way of dealing with the situations I found myself in and there were some good adaptations that I made and some which were probably less desirable.

I became pretty innoculated to stress and there's no doubt that my performance was better as a result. In the beginning of my career my hands would shake and my motor skills would degrade. Time and experience ironed this out almost completely and I think this was fine.

Probably not so good is that I became a less open, more sceptical and less empathetic person. I realised a few years in that I was finding it difficult to really care on a human level about the victims of crime / members of the public that I was interacting with.

I would also admit now that I developed a pretty bad temper which very rarely came out, but when it did was quite serious, when it was put alongside the willingness I had developed to get into confrontational situations. I would have a confrontation with someone at the drop of a hat.

Really this only started to change as I got older. I can't say with certainty why but basically when I settled down and started a family of my own I think I started to become a more compassionate person again. It's a very basic human thing but things like having a child of my own made me look differently at (for example) some troubled young people I might have dealt with.

I always enjoyed practicing martial arts but a related change that came about for me over the past few years was that I stopped seeing them as a way to just become more physically safe and dominant at work. Partly I think I felt like I had achieved a level of competency that made me secure, but also I started to want a longevity of practice and to do a physical cuture that was actually *different* from what I was doing in my work, not simply a way to get better at doing my work!

Some friends and old training partners found this puzzling, but basically I decided that I would practice things for their own sake as opposed to imposing my filter or ideas around what was worth doing on the basis of its being 'functional' or not.

Aikido practice, for me, was something I started because I consider myself a Japan-o-phile. Love the culture of giri and civil order, love the earnestness of the people, love the food. I was not really expecting to connect with Aikido practice on any emotional or spiritual level. I just wanted to practice a Japanese budo which was widely disseminated and had enough people practicing it that I could find clubs and training partners easily wherever I went.

Sometimes I hear younger people in class wondering about the practicality of their Aikido or the self-defence applications.

I feel in a different way about it: I feel a little like I have "been there and done that" and when I look at Aikido as a practice I actually see something that is almost like a post-conflict activity for me. It is something that makes sense to me after all the fights I have found myself in, it is not a preparation for the next one!

If I glove up and spar in a boxing class, or if I do some competitive BJJ rolling, then I feel like I am hitting some of the same triggers and patterns as I have in confrontational situations I've been in. With Aikido, my feeling is that there is a similarity but I am working to internalise some of the ideas about blending, being careful of the opponent etc. and my intuitive feeling is that it is a relief to not just be focused on 'coming out on top'.

I don't want to arrogantly compare myself to the senior karateka and judoka who trained with O'Sensei in the early days. I am reading various Aikido books and articles and it seems to me that it is not easy to generalise about what highly experience yudansha might have seen in Aikido. From reading some interviews with early uchi-deshi it seems like some of them were young guys who didn't really overly internalise or think about what they were doing at that stage either! There's a very funny interview where one famous uchi deshi basically says he was in his 20s and didn't understand most of what O'Sensei said at all... Not until much later in life. I guess what I'm saying is that undoubtedly some of there were there purely because he was an impressive budoka, full stop.

But I wonder also if there weren't a few guys who had done the competitive martial arts thing and were there because they really did believe in or want to experience what Aikido philosophically promises - a way of resolving conflict that is more than slamming your opponent into the mat with a mighty uchi mata throw or punching them out cold.

Sorry for the rambling post, but I hope it was of interest to someone out there.

Kei Thrace
03-04-2017, 09:48 AM
I realize this post is from 2015 - however, I have been sitting here combing through threads to find ones that will help me think through my current situation, and yours has resonated with me. I enjoy watching martial or "balletic" feats of action as much as the next person, but have felt for some time that they represent a necessarily limited subset of aikidoka. I have been training at a dojo which tends to attract a lot of types in their 20's and early-30's, as well as practitioners the next decade up who used to be those young bucks (yes, they are predominantly male) and still retain quite a bit of their athletic prowess. I love to see them train and have learned quite a bit from working with them on the mats, but find their style of practice unforgiving, and not geared to a "longevity of practice" as you aptly put it.

Everyone comes to aikido for different things, and sometimes different things at different times, depending on how long they practice. At this point in my life I have to balance the intensity of my training with having a family. An injury severe enough to interrupt my training will also necessarily impact the time and quality of my family time. Then, too, I find that I value the aikido community as much as if not more than my training. I have had to make changes in training but I hope to keep my aikido friends as I move through life. I love the fact that I may have trained with someone for years and still not know what they do for a living; yet I know their character, their quirks, their habits just from working with them on the mats. My aikido practice may or may not equip me to deal with an assailant on the street, but daily I see its benefits in my improved reaction time as a driver; my ability to anticipate and avoid small accidents; or even just to fall safely if I should lose my footing.

Perhaps others will say my aikido is not "martial" enough. I love what Ledyard-sensei says about aikido as a martial art though, and will quietly go on believing that my reasons for practicing the art are as good as anyone else's.


"So, while I do care about whether my Aikido is effective, and my teachers absolutely maintain that Aikido should function as a practically applicable form of Budo, for most of my students, their lives would not be made one iota better if the could execute that irimi nage against some BJJ or MMA guy or a visiting karate practitioner. I get to see, on a daily basis, what Aikido training can do for people; how it can change their lives, how it can develop their confidence, deal with aggressive personalities, stay centered during crisis, and so forth."