View Full Version : "Aikido is not a martial art"

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07-09-2005, 01:55 PM
Aikido is not a martial art!!??!! Oddly this is what I’m both reading, and being told by high ranking Aikidoka. “We don’t teach martial arts here!” This is what one of the instructors would say at the dojo, where I spent a few years at. I found this statement to be confusing maybe even asinine, for the dojo was listed in the phone book under martial arts. The instructor, whom seemed to take pride in herself every time she made this statement, was a small 130-140 pound semi-retired women, who was able to fling my bloated carcass around like a rag doll. I have to admit, I did, and still do admire her skill and discipline. But then she would say things like, “some time soon I expect to be enlightened.” I truly felt that she believed Aikido was the vehicle that would take her to “enlightenment.” I found the routine of attending the dojo, and the manner in which the techniques are done to be somewhat stern, for me the aikido classes had that sober feeling that reminded me of going to church with my parents as a child. All the well to do members listening and following instruction with a sort of righteous ego, very similar to a Sunday mass service. The funny thing with all this fussy warm goody two shoes atmosphere, there are always a few members who always seem to torque your arm just a little more then they needed to. I’m not sure if they do this because they are tacking upon themselves to take you under there wing to teach you well, or if its because they both, like hurting people, and/or have something to prove. Either way getting your arm torque ked on for an hour half can’t be all that beneficial to your health, and many of the member at that dojo where wristbands etc… So, I’m not so sure about the claimed health benefits. Well??? As I’m writing this I can’t help but feel that I may be venting a little to much, perhaps Aikido is simply not for me, and or I’m not a big enough person to understand or appreciate Aikido. Although, a big part of me is compelled and drawn to Aikido, but I just can’t help feeling like something is missing, or something is not quite right with Aikido.

07-09-2005, 02:58 PM
Everyone will believe what they want. People interpret aikido in different ways. Some people see it as a martial art that teaches them self defense, some people believe it only teaches discipline and should not be considered a martial art, some people think aikido is completely ridiculous no matter what.

You believe what u want to believe and everyone else will too.

07-09-2005, 03:20 PM
I would suggest that you keep hold of that inquisitive mind of yours - for all of your training if you can, forever. However, seek to find a way to make that mind part of your training - the beginning of training. Seek to not have that mind, and the questions that arise from such a mind, as proof that you have stopped and/or must stop training. Let it become the beginning of all things, the start of all change, the catalyst for all transformation. For example, and in this case, work to not let your teacher's "oddities" lead you toward a position of never understanding or of this not being for you. Rather, work to let such things inspire you to more practice, more reflection, more insight, and thus to continuing your training. Work continually to see if what she says is accurate, if what you are seeing all around you can be right, and/or if these things are even worthy of being reflected upon further. Let such intuition, premonitions, and/or emotional sparkings be the guideposts of your training in the Way - not the tell-tale signs that such a Way should end. When you are able to do this, you will see the Way in everything - positive and negative will become progressive and proactive for you. It would be a shame to quit when so much is there for the taking - if you can find this way of relating your own mind to your own training.

Hang in there.

Just my suggestion,

07-09-2005, 04:08 PM
Vehicle for enlightenment ? to each his,or her own .Well I'm off to enlighten someone, testing tonight.I hope they keep there hands up and stay off line or they'll be taking a ride tonight in a vehicle.

Paul Kerr
07-09-2005, 04:32 PM

Lorien Lowe
07-09-2005, 05:41 PM
I strongly doubt that someone who says they 'expect to be enlightened any day now' will reach 'enlightenment' any time soon. Whatever it is.


Mark Bilson
07-09-2005, 07:51 PM
Enlightenment is waking up from your dream.


Mark Bilson

Lan Powers
07-09-2005, 09:35 PM
Check around with all the available dojo in your area....there are as many differant approaches as there are practitioners.(Ours is quite "martial")
Aikido is most certainly a martial art as it ia practised by the vast majority of the people I have ever seen....sometimes not the most effective, or the most smooth, or the most "devastating"....but at times it can be all those things.
Only the quality of instruction will reflect the "martial" aspect of the individual approach to training.

Kevin Leavitt
07-10-2005, 06:13 AM

Interesting stuff. I could go on for pages and pages. ( I will try not to!) :)

Enlightment. Always one of my favorite subjects. I hope to be enlightened on day to! That would be very, very nice. You will find no two people really that will agree on what enlightment is...just as you will find no two people that will agree on what KI is/isn't. It is personal in nature based on your own paradigm and perspective. That said, I don't believe it is something that happens all at once that you wake up and WHAM you are enlightened. It is a gradual path. I am more enlightened today than I was 10 years ago. It is also something that is really hard to sustain. It is sort of like a sine wave. Hopefully the peaks and valleys flatten out in your favor as time passes!

Aikido has been a tool for me on my path. So has many other things. To me any life experience if you reflect upon it correctly can be a methodology toward enlightment...even washing the dishes. There is nothing mystical about aikido that will lead you. You could practice it for 10 years, do everything correctly, wait around for it to happen..and nothing. Another person could walk in and achieve enlightment (ephiphany) in one week. It is personal in nature.

Martial Art. Another interesting concept. Aikido is a martial art....and it is not a martial art. Again, to me, it is personal in nature and depends on how you approach it. Two people in the dojo, under the same teacher one could be practicing a martial art, another just dancing around having a good time. Attitude and perspective play a huge part in what you are doing.

That said, it also depends on the skills of your instructors and what they are teaching and emphasizing. It is possible to teach poor technique and an atmosphere that is not conducive to teaching the correct principles.

What I think is more important than defining it as a martial art or not is the concept of Budo. Budo has to do more with being a defining characteristic of a warrior than the few practical martial skills that you will probably never use in real life anyway. If you understand budo and live it, then you gain more martially as a human being than the technical skills.

Based on your description of the climate in your dojo, i'd be somewhat concerned that many may not "get it". It is not about enlightment, it is not about who can "win" by creating more effective kotogaehsi with a little extra torque, it is about self discovery, cooperation, and respect, that is gained through shared experience and hard training. Those are the things that really count as Martial Artist, and hence determine whether it is, or is not a martial art!

Here are the things that I think are important in a martial art that define it as such.

Loyality. You are someone that people can depend on in time of need.
Trust. Members of the dojo can put themselves in nage's hands and know that they will do the right thing.
Honesty. You are honest with yourself and others around you both on the mat and off the matt.
Humility. You always can learn something new from anyone.
Respect. You establish a atmosphere of mutual respect with those around you.
Service. Dojo, community, and your family.
Honor. Alway do the right thing.
Physical fitness. A warrior is alway prepared. Take care of yourself so you can serve others that are weaker.
Courage. Being able to face adversity even if you are scared.

I have seen many people come into aikido that were timid, afraid, and weak. Over time, these same people learn to be strong and hold their head high. They learn that life is not necessarily about always winning or losing, but about doing what is right.

To me, if you get these things out of aikido...then it is a martial art!

Dirk Hanss
07-10-2005, 12:58 PM
Just another aspect.

AikiDO is not an art in the meaning of "jutsu", i.e. focused on learning techniques, but "do" , a way to find oneself and a philosophy. While many modern martial arts or ways have -do in their name, I have to show a little bit more , what I am focusing on.

I recently read a book about someone learning kyudo, which was about 80 years ago. It took him more than one year to really shoot the first arrow and it was far away from the target, and after 6 years he reached the master degree.

So aikido is not a martial art, which pretends to bringing students fast to qualified fighters. But it is martial and it teaches fighting techniques and going forward on the way means also improving fighting.

Some dojo focus more on effective fighting, some don't. Some students are wonderful fighters after a few years or even less, some do not even want to learn fighting. Well you might argue, why to hell are they going the martial way and not simply Zazen? It is a good question, but for our discussion, it is only important that they chose to do aikido.

Don not argue too much about effectiveness of techniques. While all martial arts have a beginner's catalog to start training most of them are not limited to them. I saw karate demonstrations that looked much like aikido, and high ranked judoka may train kicks and strikes. There it is more due to their competition aspect that most of them stick to techniques that are allowed in tournaments.

In aikido we say everything is allowed so if there is a very effective technique, we might find it - maybe in a variation - some times in aikido dojo. And some martial arts like ju jutsu always say their techniques are a mix of everything that is effective and many of them come from aikido.

But the conclusion is the same that you heard before:
No, aikido is no martial art, it can be less art or more spiritual than you expect from MA.
Yes, aikido is martial and you can train it like an art. If you want to, you can do it nearly everywhere, but you might look for a dojo where it is trained more the may you like to see it.

And in the end everything is aikido. Now we can jump over to the other thread discussing, if we are all sitting on the same mount Fuji.

:D Dirk

07-10-2005, 04:54 PM
I could be wrong, but I do believe that O Sensei's big dream was for aikido to be a way for people to become better people, that would result in a world peace. Could be way off. I think it can be everything else too, but I think the dream and the goal was ultimately peace.

dan guthrie
07-10-2005, 05:57 PM
I'm taking some classes in Enlightenment. I figure in a couple of weeks I'll get that knocked out and quit the class.

L. Camejo
07-10-2005, 09:23 PM
Great post Kevin. Spot on.


Mike Sigman
07-10-2005, 10:36 PM
I recently read a book about someone learning kyudo, which was about 80 years ago. It took him more than one year to really shoot the first arrow and it was far away from the target, and after 6 years he reached the master degree.

Hi Dirk:

The famous book about "Zen in the Art of Archery" (Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschiessens) by Eugen Herrigel was the genesis of many people looking for spirituality in martial arts. I read the book long ago, also. However, a few years ago I read a fairly interesting essay on the book that is worth reading and I would recommend it to you:



Mike Sigman

07-10-2005, 11:58 PM
And when you read that piece by Yamada - you might also want to read this thread here as well.


07-11-2005, 01:02 AM
A martial art I think. We just don't dance around in skirts. We throw, atemi, use weapons, ukemi out of danger, blend with an attack, randori, and jiu waza. I've had my share of smacks on the face, high awkard ukemis, painful locks, and Kiai's that will make one leap out of their skins.

I am not sure about other dojos, but definitely in our dojo we on our toes with the martial art of aikido.

Dirk Hanss
07-11-2005, 02:28 AM
I could be wrong, but I do believe that O Sensei's big dream was for aikido to be a way for people to become better people, that would result in a world peace. Could be way off. I think it can be everything else too, but I think the dream and the goal was ultimately peace.

Dustin, I guess you're absolutely right, but that by itself does not tell us, if aikido is a martial art or not.
Kyokushin Karate claim the same goals, as well as Zazen.
I never heard discussions about them being martial arts or not. The Kyokushin guys believe they art and seems certainly not to be one.

@Mike Sigman
thanks, I will have a look.

Regards Dirk

07-11-2005, 05:50 AM
Some people would walk in our dojo and ask, how soon will I get a black belt, can I use this for figthing? Sensei would reply, ohh this is not a real martial art, go to the other block there is karate, taekwondo and jujitsu school there. There you will learn to fight. Then the agressive fellow leaves...

Aikido is not about winning, it is about love....The techniques can be very devastating when done properly. As in all techniques, you control uke. In real life, you have the option to be kind and project love in your techniques, but you could also be cruel and bad.

IMHO, I think your sensei without naming names, is discouraging somebody in your dojo to prevent that particular someone to be cruel and bad using aikido.

Robert Rumpf
07-11-2005, 11:07 AM
Although, a big part of me is compelled and drawn to Aikido, but I just can't help feeling like something is missing, or something is not quite right with Aikido.

More likely the case that you and this dojo just don't mesh.

If the dojo is all in such lockstep about the way they behave and do technique, it doesn't sound like they're going to change for you or allow for peaceful coexistence. That's unfortunate. The places I've enjoyed most have a variety in terms of instruction styles and participant behaviors, and allow for a lot of flexibility of interpretation and attitude.

If you still have the patience for it, perhaps you could try some other Aikido dojo in the area. They tend to vary at least somewhat in tone and emphasis..

If you don't find other dojos that suit you, or you are just sick to do death of pretentious and potentially hypocritical Aikidoka.. well, I'm sorry. This type of things happens sometimes. We're only human, and the students are clearly learning their behavior from the instructor (either with our without the instructor's knowledge) or at least the instructor isn't countermanding it. The fact that most of them adopt this behavior says it is probably local in origin. Remember, the typical benchmark for instructors is their Aikido proficiency, not their qualities as a person or their teaching ability.

Maybe come back to Aikido if you're still interested in the future and the dojo will have changed, you will have changed, or there will be a different dojo available. Either that, or look again if you ever move and you'll have a fresh crop of Aikido dojos to check out.

I would also recommend trying the other martial arts of a similar semi-traditional bent (Judo, Jujitsu, Kendo, specifically) in your area to see if they may have a dojo around that is more your cup of tea. Aikido is not the be all and end all, and it's better to be doing something you enjoy and are learning from than to be trying to be that square peg in a round hole. Noone should have to endure endless frustration.

If you do decide to stay at this dojo... well.. good luck. It might be wise to remember that people are only human, and that you're not obligated (as far as I'm aware) to train with any particular partner if you think the risk of personal injury is great.

I do know that people being brutal and obnoxious to me can engender similar behave in return. I consider this to be bad training and so dread dealing with people who behave like that. My emotional training and my patience with such things is limited, unfortunately.

When I am at your point of frustration, and I am not willing to swap to a different dojo or art, I tend to train a lot less often, too. That way, it doesn't ride on my mind so much.

I tend to think of Aikido in the same way as I would a relationship with the opposite sex - if the abuse, frustration, or boredom on either side of the equation grow too large, I would expect a parting of ways. I haven't left her yet, but I've come damn close on many occasions.

Good luck,

08-05-2005, 04:43 AM
Sounds to me more like there's a strange atmosphere at the dojo rather than there being a problem with Aikido. I guess in a certain way Aikido isn't a martial art in that, at least in teh style tha I practise, it's a defensive art not an agressive attacking one.
If there's one thing I've noticed about Aikido it's how warm and welcoming most of the students and instructors are. Al sports have high level politics and things that are not in the "spirit" of Aikido but generally Aikido seems to suffer from it less than other sports.

I had a point I'm sure I did...? :o) anyway, don't let one Dojo obstruct your enjoyment of our fabulous Martial Art and good luck in the future what ever you decide to do...

Eric Webber
08-05-2005, 10:31 AM
In the past few years I have heard two great teachers talk about aikido as a martial art and "working." I shall attempt to quote them both accurately:

"Aikido works; your aikido may not work, but my aikdio definitely works."

"There seems to be a lot of aikido 'light' being practiced, which is significantly different than what was once regularly taught and practiced. I encourage you to examine the real thing, not the 'light' version." (paraphrased)

Both of these teachers are very open, kind, and compassionate, but very martially serious; I have seen them take uke to the brink of destruction without maliciously pushing them over the edge into oblivion, and everyone walks away with a smile on their face knowing that it is the real deal.

Yeah, aikido is a martial art.

08-30-2005, 04:47 PM
Hello everyone, Am I reviving a dead thread here? Anyways I saw this and had to throw in my 2 cents.

Musashi wrote "Sharpen your wisdom, distinguish principle and it's opposite in the world, learn the good and bad of all things, experience all the arts and accomplishments and their various ways, and act in a way that you will not be taken in by anyone. This is the heart of the wisdom of the Martial arts." (from The Water chapter in The Book of Five Rings)

Sun Tzu tells us that "Supreme excellence in war lies in defeating your enemy without a fight."

While not specifically about Aikido, I would say these both touch values in Aikido. In my opinion Aikido is a Martial Art as such is defined, but not about crushing or destroying. I also hope that when I wake up tomorrow I will be more enlightened than I was when I woke this morning, I do not however expect to "achieve enlightenment" anytime soon. I have never felt uncomfortable with Aikido (although I have been put in some uncomfortable positions). I'd say take a look around at some other places to train. Your Aikido should feel natural to you.

08-30-2005, 09:31 PM
it doesnt bother me what anyone else thinks of what aikido is....

aikido is my way...my path to harmony
and it is many others
they can think what they want