View Full Version : My answer to the big question..

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Scott Sweetland
06-23-2003, 06:51 PM
This is my first day on this board and I see the old question being asked over and over "does Aikido work on the street?". Well I've read all the responses and I haven't seen any which share my view on the matter:

YES unequivocally and without doubt Aikido is THE most practical and effective martial art being taught today. Here's why:

Because O Sensei was a genius. While Aikido had it's roots in Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, as he progressed in his discovery of the Way, he moved farther and farther from those roots, until only the most basic form remained. This is what makes Akido a Do instead of a Jutsu, and this is why it became the straightest path to Budo. (even Jigoro Kano said so). What O Sensei did, his special genius, was that he used the form of the killing arts to develop a way of training which teaches the LANGUAGE of aggression in a distilled and incredibly efficient manner. The katas we perform in class are not martial arts techniques, which is why people look at them and say they are ineffective on the street. They are exercises intended to teach us the rules of aggression. How it looks, feels, how two bodies interact in a space, the flow of energies, balance, etc. It is the difference between learning a language by memorizing phrase books or by studying the principles, rules, phonemes, etc. of the language. The latter results in fluency. The former does not.

Seeing a conflict between people as a dialogue and the language used in that dialogue is aggression, I will draw a parallel with learning a spoken language. Take french for example. The students sit in class and practice conversing in french. "Hello" one says. The other responds "Hello, how are you?" The first responds "I am well." Now that student goes to France. He walks up to someone and says "Hello." The other person responds. "Beautiful day, isn't it? How may I help you?" Uh-oh, the student hasn't learned that question or it's response, and can not answer. "hmm" he thinks "I guess french works great in the classroom, but it's not effective on the street" That's EXACTLY what people keep doing with Aikido.

The aim of Aikido, and it's special genius, is that by performing the techniques as O Sensei intended with sincerity and dilligence, one will learn the principles of aggression. As one masters the basics, the exercises become less and less staged and more chaotic, "conversational" if you will. Eventually, as with a spoken language, the goal is for the practice to become free and without set forms. Just as with a spoken language, this will lead to fluency. Since all aggression works according to the same rules, be it verbal, financial, whatever, one who is fluent in the language of aggression, can apply Aikido equally well in any conflict. This would be effective even against a man 20 feet away with a machine gun. If you can speak to him or engage his mind in any way, you can use Aikido. What could possibly be more effective or practical than that?

Yes you can reach this level of mastery through any martial art if you approach it seriously as a path to Budo, But Aikido is the straightest, clearest route, because O Sensei made it so over a lifetime of practice.

Charles Hill
06-23-2003, 08:00 PM
Hi Scott,

I like a lot of what you said, and I have a few questions.

What is the source of your understanding that O'Sensei intended for people to learn "the principles of aggression?"

You wrote of martial arts possibly as a path to Budo. What do you think is the difference between the two?

Can you explain specifically how you think training the body will lead to skill in dealing with aggression verbally?

I like the metaphor of learning a foriegn language.


Scott Sweetland
06-23-2003, 09:27 PM
What is the source of your understanding that O'Sensei intended for people to learn "the principles of aggression?"
I base this upon the way Aikido practice is performed. Why do we practice defending against so few different types of attacks when there are so many ways to attack a person? Because the attacks we use demonstrate broader principles; understand Shomen and you can defend against any attack from above, understand Yokomen and any attack where the energy is directed against you in a circular path will be understood, etc. There is a quote from O Sensei's book "Budo" which sums this up: "The best strategy relies upon unlimited responses. Pursue the Glorious Path, use the one to strike the many, and then the one will open the way to ten thousand vital principles"
You wrote of martial arts possibly as a path to Budo. What do you think is the difference between the two?
Budo is a way of life wherein a person uses the martial arts to perfect the self by achieving a perfect blend of action and intention. This can only be achieved through sincere practice. If Uke's attack is not sincere, then there is no real encounter and neither will learn anything. We learn by placing ourselves in extreme situations. Not life or death as the practitioners of the arts that Aikido was based upon did, but as real as we can. One method: by doing a technique over and over with all of our energy, we become exhausted to the point where we can no longer concentrate on what we are doing and suddenly the mind and body speak to each other directly without passing through the distortion of the ego and something "clicks". You suddenly see something you never understood about the technique and it works in a way you never were able to make it work before. The body knows its place in the universe and once we get that part of ourselves which says "this won't work", "I can't do it", "I already know this", etc. to shut up, the body can teach us things. In a sense, Budo is the martial arts, but not all martial arts are Budo. There's a lot more to this, but I don't want to write a book here. ;)
Can you explain specifically how you think training the body will lead to skill in dealing with aggression verbally?
Have you ever watched water trickling from a garden hose in the dirt and noticed that it looks like the grand canyon as seen from far above? That little trickle of water and the raging river both are subject to the same rules. This can be seen in many other places in life and it applies to aggression too. When pushed, tenkan. When pulled, irimi. Here's an example: Someone approaches you and says "You acted like a real jerk last night!" This is a direct attack upon you, a "push" now you can say "Who are you calling a jerk you jerk!", but then you are pushing back. You are meeting the incoming force directly and there is no Aiki. Or you can say "You know what, I agree, I wasn't on my best behavior. I don't think either of us were really at the top of our game last night. I apologize." You accept their attack, turn around it and redirect it. If they push in again, you can tenkan again, etc. Just as in a physical encounter. Someone can be unbalanced mentally the same as they can be unbalanced physically. The underlying principles are the same.

Hope that clears some things up about my views. :)

06-24-2003, 04:02 AM
I enjoyed your discription, a really interesting read.

06-24-2003, 07:37 AM
interesting and insightful post scott.

Alec Corper
06-24-2003, 07:55 AM
Great post,Scott, I agree whole heartedly and recommend that your post be reprinted every time that old, tired question rears it's head

regards, Alec

Charles Hill
06-24-2003, 09:09 AM

I really like a lot of what you said. I'm just going to nitpick on a few things, though.

There seems to be a lot of confusion on what the Founder really taught. In my studies, I have come to believe that a lot of what we see as Aikido, really comes from the Founder's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. I think that there has been some misdirection going on that needs to be cleared up so we can see that Kisshomaru Sensei himself was a genius with a major, major role in the creation of Aikido. I read that Koichi Tohei believes that doing "intoku"(good deeds done in secret) to be very important for human beings. I believe that Aikido is Kisshomaru Sensei's intoku.

After WWII, a lot of the more "martial" techniques were taken out. The Founder seemed to teach less and less. His own teaching consisted of a large number of techniques against a large number of attacks. This is hinted at in the book, "Budo."

The Founder also seemed to feel that Budo was a step on the way to Bushin, a much more spiritual concept. This is what differentiates Aikido from other Budo. We are supposed to start with Bujutsu and then work up to the other two.

It is clear to me that the Founder's vision was to pass his deep art to a very small number of people. Kisshomaru Sensei's vision was to pass a very wide art to a large number of people. These two visions blended together forming a kind of yin/yang to form Aikido.

This doesn't really change anything you wrote. I just feel that it is important to be clear on how things are.


Lyle Bogin
06-24-2003, 10:07 AM
The problem is, not everyone speaks proper agression. There are those who cannot be manipulated by anything but disabling force. I don't think that devalues aikido, but believing that when you do the right thing, the other guy will too, seems naive.

06-24-2003, 10:44 AM
I like what has been said by both Scott and Charles

C. Emerson
06-24-2003, 11:30 AM
Aikido the most effective art for the street. Come on, are we really having this conversation. This sounds like the first week of class, pride in my art. Aikido has strong points as well as week points. Like every art has.

All arts have usefull aspects. And some work better for some people than others.

Lyle Bogin
06-24-2003, 12:16 PM
Agreed, Chad.

I wouldn't really call this subject a "big question"...more like a "common question".

Peter Klein
06-24-2003, 12:32 PM
mixing arts is still the best. u cant just take any attack sometimes you need to attack first to be honest

06-24-2003, 03:40 PM
I disagree; completely and unreservedly.

First; what's best is not Aikido or Kung Fu or Ti Kwan Leep or a blend of arts; what's best is what the individual student finds most effective. Too often; those that state "This art/technique/combination is The Best" is stating what he finds best for him; believing it to be a blanket that covers all.

Second; my disagreements to the whole argument stems from the fact that people seem to imagine that the streets are just filled chock-full of screaming maniacs on every street-corner ready to jump out and maul every passerby. Look; I'm going to be frank; if you're having to use your martail-arts training to defend yourself weekly; your MA training is not the problem; your lifestyle is. This may be different in Dade County or inner-city Detroit; I don't know - never been there; but in the vast majority of places I've lived attacks are exceedingly rare; I've had to use my own training exactly twice in my life (not counting military action).

I've had a lot of people tell me how often drunks and other bad types wind up trying to attack them; in every single case, when looking at the situation, the complainer has been the cause of the situation by mouthing off; or by jumping into situations best left avoided, or by strutting downtown with MA T-shirts on literally daring people to attack.

Quick example: just happened Saturday. I was walking downtown; admittedly in the role I just mentioned: dressed in the TKD pants; light slippers and net shirt I habitually wear in summer. One guy - obviously drunk and very tough - took one look at me, cracked his knuckles and headed in my direction; his few friends in attendance. He was unquestionably spoiling for it. I gave him a big grin, and a hearty "Hey! Great night for a party eh?" He smiled back; said "Right on, dude!" and kept walking.

A huge digression; my point is that too often; MA practicioners are too ready to demonstrate their skills on others; and it often shows.

Third is my objection to this statement: "Sometimes you have to attack first". If a person attacks you; he is committing a crime. He is therefore a criminal. If you attack first in defence; you have initiated the attack; and are therefore the guilty party! YOU are now the criminal. Is that where you want your MA to take you, the successful commision of the crime of assault?

Scott's post was excellent; I think it covered the entire question nicely. I say congrats to him and good work - I look forward to more posts in the future.


Chris Li
06-24-2003, 04:23 PM
Some historical points:
Because O Sensei was a genius. While Aikido had it's roots in Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, as he progressed in his discovery of the Way, he moved farther and farther from those roots, until only the most basic form remained.
His study in the Shinkage ryu school was most likely quite brief if there was any real study at all (the records are fairly unclear on this point). Even Kisshomaru Ueshiba said that there was very little left of Morihei's early sword studies in his later movement. I don't think that you really have to go much further than Daito-ryu to see what his major influence was.
This is what makes Akido a Do instead of a Jutsu, and this is why it became the straightest path to Budo. (even Jigoro Kano said so).
In "Aikido Kaiso: Ueshiba Morihei Den" K. Ueshiba recounts the quote from Jigoro Kano as:

"This is my ideal conception of budo, in other words, genuine Judo."

According to students who questioned Kano about the statement later the comment was meant in a broader sense - not in the sense that Aikido was superior to Judo.



Scott Sweetland
06-24-2003, 06:28 PM
Charles: That is really interesting, thanks! I actually was commenting to someone just yesterday that I knew so little about Kisshomaru because he is always so quiet. :)

Lyle: Aggression is aggression. That's my point. Everyone speaks it, but not everyone is fluent enough to control the direction of the "conversation". Without letting the language analogy get out of hand, simply put, if you boil down ANY conflict of any kind you will find that they are all subject to universal laws. When someone attacks you, they have to direct force at you in some way, be it verbal, physical, financial, whatever. They can't attack without doing so. That is just one example, but you see that once you understand the basic underlying principles which govern conflict, you can apply that understanding to any situation. It is impossible for someone to not speak the "language" of aggression, because the "language" I am referring to is the universal laws which govern any destructive exchange.

Dave: I agree with you that this is a tiresome and largely irrelevant argument, but it seems to pop up over and over, not just on this board, but everywhere. My main reason for making this post is that I had never seen my particular viewpoint expressed anywhere in response to the question. I just wanted to throw it out there and see if there was anyone around who feels the same way I do. Thanks. :)

Christopher: Thanks for the historical insights! I love learning more about the history of my art. :)