View Full Version : Crippling Injury?

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Kevin Masters
09-13-2004, 07:48 AM
I know there have been some discussions about training injuries. But I have this friend who is certain that thousands of Aikidoka around the world are at risk for debilitating and possibly life-ending injury. :uch:

So I was wondering for the sake of morbid curiosity and/or hopefully also putting this friend at ease, has anybody heard of a practitioner getting seriously injured? By serious being put into traction or even paralyzed?

She keeps saying, "you guys are going to break your necks!" :D

I hope I'm not jinxing myself with this query. :dead:


09-13-2004, 09:50 AM
Hi Kevin,

I know of Ann Sasaki in California who was, according to at least one report, "paralyzed from the neck down due to a fracture of the C5 vertebra which she sustained during Aikido practice." My recollection of the incident was that she was showing a newer student how to do a back roll so was working slowly through the roll. At the point where she was inverted, someone rolled into her.

There are many reports of serious injuries including deaths in Shishida sensei's article entitled, "Aikido and Injuries: Special Report." It's available here:


Hope that helps,

-- Jun

09-13-2004, 11:03 AM
How many people have been critically injured by jogging, riding a bike, playing baseball, football, eating a snow cone? There is an inherent risk in any type of sport or physical activity. I do not have any stats, but I would bet martial arts in general have a lower percentage of injuries than other sports. Just my observation.

BTW - The Tick RULZ!

09-13-2004, 11:41 AM
Hold on.... The tick Rulz??? Ok, never mind.. I didn't get it.

As to the question, I tend to agree with Lloyd.... I'm most certian that martial arts are much safer than many other sports. No matter what tho, any sport or martial art has the risk of an injury, not meaning that you-shall-be-injered-if you-do-it-like-that .... There is a risk, as there is a risk with anything and everything. But that doesn't mean that you should stop doing what you enjoy beacause there's a risk. Take hiking for example... there's a risk that the ropes going to snap, or the knot will slip, but it's enjoyable (for some...). So what of the risks??/ It's fun. for heavens sake... There's a risk of swimming in your pool with your eyes closed... Who says that you won't crack your skull on the wall if you took great impulse on the dive or what ever??? Think about it ;) I'm sure you won't worry any more, and show your friend what we've said, I'm sure she will change her mind too ;)

Warm greetings from Brazil! ;)

Kevin Masters
09-13-2004, 12:21 PM
Thanks for the responses.
That article was interesting, Jun. Maybe I'll show an example to the smaller members of my dojo by taking a sit once in a while if I'm tired. :D
I did read somewhere ( I think on the Aikidofaq) about the greater incidences of injury in more mainstream sports. That's very sad about Ann. But I guess accidents happen regardless of what your activity is.

Tatiana, The Tick was a Saturday morning cartoon up here in the states. It was a superhero spoof. If you can ever get a copy of the show, I reccommend it. It's hilarous stuff.

09-13-2004, 12:51 PM
I'll mention that ukemi practice can - barring freak accidents like the one which happened to poor Ann - actually decrease the risk of injury through controlled practice. My Senseis son for instance took a wipeout on his bike last year and went over the handlebars. He instinctively rolled into the ground; leaving him with scrapes but otherwise no real injury.
And for myself - one who has sustained major injury; the ukemi work has really helped to loosen me up and relax my body; thus lessening the chance of injury in a fall; impact etc.
So while what we do is inherently risky; that is mitigated by the fact we are being trained to do it safely.

This is a similar argument I heard while skydiving. People say how dangerous skydiving is; and point to the fact a jump accident very nearly killed me as proof. I have to tell them that a)my accident was not 'skydiving'-related; it occurred during an Airborne drop - the difference between military and civilian jumping is critical. Also; I compare it (skydiving) to skiing. In skydiving; you must take the intro course; you must demonstrate readiness for your first jump. Unless both you and the instructor feels you are ready; you will not jump.
In skiing; they take your money; give you a set of boots and skiis; then let you go do whatever the heck you want to do. I've seen beginners trying to take on a triple-black diamond hill - very, very unsafe.
OT - other than to point out that the ukemi in aikido is inherently risky; it is as risky as the person doing it.



Jill N
09-13-2004, 05:55 PM
Hi all:

Wasn't there a serious injury at one of the aikido listserve seminars a few years ago? I thought it was a neck injury resulting from a koshi nage gone bad where uke dropped straight on to his head. (I may be remembering the details incorrectly)

At any rate, I would definitely recommend that all dojo instructors should read the article Jun referred to- I read it many years ago. I often mention to students that if you are tired and feel you can't practice safely, take a break. Also I would ask my student not to take backwards ukemi for the rest of class and better still for a week or two if he happens to hit the back of his head on the mat. I recommend doing neck strengthening exercises at home for those who find they cannot keep the proper position of the head in back break falls. It is one thing to have fun doing all out rambo style techniques, but we all (or most of us) have to work for a living and many have families to take care of so being reckless with our physical safety is a very bad idea. Resulting injuries would affect more people than just ourselves. I know my teaching style is not appreciated by some because I don't push people beyond what they think they are capable of, but I like to treat adults as if they can make their own rational decisions about when it is best to stop training and take a break.

I remember discussing this with George Simcox Sensei (I'm sure many of you remember him fondly). He suggested that when you are tired enough that your co ordination is affected, it is a good idea to bow out and sit at the side to watch until you have recovered. You can learn a lot just by watching if you are paying attention to what is happening on the mat. (Of course there is nothing like getting in there to practice when you are able to!)

my 2 cents.

e ya later

09-13-2004, 06:26 PM
I'll add my two cents worth.

Working in the Insurance Claims industry, My wife and I see a lot of nasty spinal and head injuries.
My wife works exclusively in speciality insurance involving Swimming Pools and related product liability claims.
I work for a fortune 100 insurer as a senor claims adjuster.
We both can attest that any sort of injury to the back, neck or head can, and, will be nasty. (read expensive)

A recent verdict in Middlesex county, N.J. for a 45 y/o male C4/5 HRNP with no radiculopathy, and no surgery, resulted in a verdict of $1.2 million.

Given the litigious nature of folks here in the US, Chances are if you have a dojo and someone is injured, You will be sued.
Waivers of liability generally do not release a dojo from tort claims, unless you (the defendant) can prove there is informed consent. The landmark case was where a kid on a dirt bike in California, signed a waiver of liability to ride at a dirt bike park, he had an accident and was a quadraplegic as a result. His parents sued. The court held that yes the kid can waive his right to sue, but he cannot waive the rights of his parents or living relatives. The insurer paid beaucoup bucks.

If I want to sue you, I'll find a way.
Swimming Pool manufacturers spend Millions of dollars anually defending stupid claims where Bubba had a couple of drinks, and tries to swan dive into the above-ground pool-from the garage roof; getting a fracture at C1/2. or worse, a complete spinal cord seperation with a contra-coup injury.

Talk about risk and claims, talk to the people at Bell Helmets!!!

WHAT ABOUT MY INSURANCE? Many Dojo's have a simple General Liability insurance cover, more often than not there is a coverage exclusion for anyone injured in a martial arts event or exposition. Unless you have a good broker/agent who knows your risks and needs, you are most likely not adequatly protected.

Many boxing type arts actively take steps to protect students from the risk of injury- the head protectors are a very important first step in prevention of head injury.

With our art / sport- adequate warm-up is an absolute essential. Back and neck stretching is a must.

Next, no one absolutly , NO ONE should be allowed on the mat under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, they risk themselves, the dojo and others on the mat.

Anger and "acting out / rage" types should be told to take it elsewhere. Have you ever seen someone on the mat in a world of his own following his own script not in tune with his uke?? That is an accident waiting to happen, and chances are, Sensai 's are loath to ask the guy to takethe night off because he's a "good student" Read pays on time. ( I know I'll catch some heat for this comment)

Next, allow adequate room on the mat for uke to fall. How many time have you rolled and bonked your head on the wall or someone else? Haha, no injury ( this time ) Take the time to THINK where uke will land.

Never exercise when you are tired, or foggy headed.


In review of the loss run from Shisada, provided by Jun, several facts present themseves, (1st ) The incidence of death case and cause of injury is annecdotal. However, I noted that a lot of the Injuries are a result of what we would call a "contra-coup" type injury which is basically when the brain splaters inside the hard skull. The range of symptoms can be just non-talkative and esculate to coma tose. Both Sensai and UChi Desi should be trained to recognise symptoms of TBI (traumatic Brain Injury), as well as symptom of spinal injury.

Injury or impact the the base of the base of the skull (atlas) and upper cervical region can be very dangerous- face it, our bodies wern't "built to take a likin' and keep on tickin' ".

I also suspect that cultural attitudes contributed to the severity of the injuries, i.e. delay in getting prompt mediucal treatment. Movement of someone obviously injured is a huge no-no, despite the urge to move someone with a spinal or central nervous system type in jury- inmobilise the patient, and trained medical help to as soon as possible. Only move the patient as an absolute last resort. Let the experts treat (and move) the person. Moving a person with a spinal injury increases the chance of exacerbating the injury, and endangering the person's life.
Is Aikido unacceptably risky? In my humble opinion, NO.
Can you get hurt? Yes. However- I am willing to wager that the statistical incidence of injury (both catastrophic, and minor) and death- in Aikido is very similar to the risk of injury , in say- junor varsity football or track and field.
Play safe, use your head( THINK FIRST) , learn to roll safely, and if you are injured, or if a friend is hurt, get qualified medical help ASAP.
In closing, risk management isn't just some fancy thing done by the insurance company to justify higher rates, it's a real effort to prevent loss & accidents from happening. You as an aikidoka can take an active part in making AIkido a safer sport / art by reviewing and adhering to these simple guidelines.

Kindest Regards,
Bruce Hammell

09-13-2004, 10:18 PM
I think it might be worthy to note when reading that article that university Aikido clubs in Japan are really quite a world apart from anything most might be used to (if we are training outside of that system). My experience with those clubs, which only consists of one person mind you, is that those clubs are affected by injury prone elements that are more particular to them than to other main stream Aikido dojo (even within Japan). The clubs, for the most part, are not at all supervised by a qualified instructor - not on a regular basis. Most qualified instructors visit these clubs so many times a month - at most. When you combine the lack of constant presence of a qualified instructor plus the other club specific element of a "hazing" culture - well - one is just making a cocktail for injury, and yes, even death.

If you put that kind of mixture in any dojo, any kind of workout, any kind of martial art, you are going to get serious injuries. Another thing, and again only from my personal experience, is that ukemi was not so much taught in Japan - not like elsewhere, and certainly not like in the States. While it was impressive to watch, it was dangerous, and quite common (in what I witnessed training all over the Kansai area), for folks with no breakfall training to just go ahead and try a breakfall simply because they saw everyone else doing it. The pressure to do that in a hazing culture is even more intense - minus the constant presence of a truly qualified instructor - again - back to: OUCH!

I think an accurate study is going to have to either note these elements that are particular to university Aikido clubs in Japan and/or pick a different test group. Let's face it: Regular lack of constant supervision, hazing, peer pressure driven trial and error training - these are no-no's in nearly any dojo worth its salt anywhere in the world. Yet in university clubs, all of this is given its rationale and thought of in a very positive way (for the most part). How then can that group really tell us how likely an injury is within the average Aikido dojo? My two cents says: Not very accurately.


Jeanne Shepard
09-13-2004, 10:39 PM
If you want injuries, go for horseback riding. Did'nt keep me off a horse, though...

09-13-2004, 11:26 PM
They sounded like a few hajime classes I've done.

Lots of koho ukemi & 30 minutes or so continuous practice of what is usually a shiho nage technique, presumably they can be done quickly & take little space.

Probably not the best technique though if both shite and uke are already exhausted.

09-14-2004, 07:00 AM
Anger and "acting out / rage" types should be told to take it elsewhere. Have you ever seen someone on the mat in a world of his own following his own script not in tune with his uke?? That is an accident waiting to happen
Couldn't agree more - this is how I've been injured on the mat. :mad: Perhaps sensei are reluctant to get rid of these types for other reasons - eg they don't want to admit that they've made a mistake by allowing such people onto the mat in the first place? Perhaps they've forgotten that we're all learning stuff that can be used to cripple and kill? Irresponsible types can't be trusted to look after their partners.


09-14-2004, 09:33 PM
If you want injuries, go for horseback riding. Did'nt keep me off a horse, though...
Jean- The Sensai at a local Aikikai dojo injured her neck when she was a teenager horseback riding-
Of course , we'll never forget the vivid photo of Chris Reves as he pile drives into the ground. I've been bitten and stomped once or twice by jughead, usually a serious in your face helps witha apple(giggle).
with respect to the Canadian insurance situation I can't speak to your liability needs.. However, if you are forming a "captive" or a group, that is a good idea.
Frankly, I've given some thought of trying to form an "offshore captive" to write martial arts insurance- Just a thought.
Bruce Hammell

Jill N
09-15-2004, 01:47 PM
>>Frankly, I've given some thought of trying to form an "offshore captive" to write martial arts insurance- Just a thought.
Bruce Hammell[/QUOTE]


Is this some form of bondage? tsk tsk. :p

More seriously, what does that mean?
e ya later

09-15-2004, 02:44 PM
mr. hammell,

you should write 'special risk' policies for dojos. you'll do fine, and now everyone is covered.

safety was so critical when i studied judo as a teenager that entire classes would be halted - the dangerous technique pointed out to all, consequences of such foolishness discussed, warning Never to do it again, and continue training please.

so unimportant in another school - i yelled when two were doing something unbelievably stupid during a shi ai. i was told to be quiet. the result was 180 degree rotation of nage's knee joint. don't force technique!!!! Nage was tough as nails, but i never saw him again. i'm sure he limps to this day.


09-16-2004, 10:46 AM
LOL! I remember once I went riding (when I was 7/8) and I was still learning how to ride properly... but I wanted to go fast, like the older students... So I decided to run, hit my head on a tree branch, fell off the horse, and the horse wouldn't get off my sweater... I had to wait for someone to come and help me up... LOL! ^^ THese things happen! But I still love horses and love riding ^^

If you want injuries, go for horseback riding. Did'nt keep me off a horse, though...

09-18-2004, 06:32 AM
A little more imput regarding anecdotal data-
last year, Jun ran a poll asking if anyone had ever been concussed doing aikido.
of ther 652 replys, 108 replyed that they had been concussed.!!!!
Assume that of the 108 affirmative replys that 50% just had a "bad headache for several days and maybe some blurred vision",
that means that another 58 people had - honest to god concussions, meaning loss of conconsioness, and the attendent sequalae.
Assume further of the 58 people, there is a 10%( 5 or 6 people) that had long term lasting symptoms and of that 10% anothe 25% (1 or2 people) had symptoms inclusive of PTSD , short term memory loss, aphasia...
Technically, you are looking at an unacceptable level of risk.
Jun- do you have any more "data" that might shed light on this issue?
Bruce Hammell

George S. Ledyard
09-18-2004, 10:43 AM
If you look in the archives of Aikido Journal you will find tha there was an article about this a number of years ago. There has been several fatalities on the mat and some serious injuries. In all cases they were found to have occurred at the universty club level when a not very senior person was running class. The accidents all occurred when the "hazing" type practice was going on in which folks did things like 1000 vreak falls from shihonage in a row. People simpy got too tired to protect themselves.

Severe injuries in Aikido are a rarity. Less severe injuries are not. I have two vertebrae that sustained a compression farcture at some point inthe past, a big toe on one foot that got jammed so many times that the joint doesn't bend any more, a knee that will occasionally lock on me and isn't completely stable, etc. You want to train hard in Aikido don't expect that there won't be a price because there will be.It's a very physical practice. I just happen to think it's worth it.

10-12-2004, 06:46 AM
a thought is NEVER RESIST in aikido or you may really get hurt,and another thing is bow out if you really are too tired.
yours in aiki josh