View Full Version : To Kill or Not to Kill

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07-15-2005, 09:28 AM
There always seems to be at least one tough guy in the dojo who likes to talk about "out on the street". Like this. "...out on the street, i'd just kick him in the nads!"

I've been thinking about the idea that Aikido is 99% atemi. When teaching techniques in slow motion, the movements are often stopped to demonstrate the atemi to the ribs or the face or the back of the neck etc. It's usually just to get uke moving in the right direction, but if the atemi were done with full force, uke could be seriously injured. The bigger picture I've taken away from this over the years is that Aikido gives you lots of options to kill someone, but civilized people should find the option that doesn't require that killing blow.

So here's a question to ponder. Is it ever ok to deliver the killing blow?

Steve Nelson

Kevin Leavitt
07-15-2005, 09:41 AM
In training..obviously no. I think you should certainly understand how to deliver killing techniques effectively otherwise what we call a martial art is not.

The tough part is a personal one. Deciding and justifying when such action is appropriate, if ever. It depends on your personal belief system, norms of society, and the situation.

In budo, I think it is important to develop your mind, body, and spirit to prepare yourself for the day you either face having to make that choice, or facing your own demise either through violence, or natural causes. Better to prepare now and never have to use it than to face it and not make the best decision you could possibly make!

07-15-2005, 10:02 AM
Almost all of the books I have read on Aikido mention one key belief, that it is the nature of Aikido to return the universe into a state of harmony. Aikido teaches that when you enter a conflict the resolution should be best for both parties and thus creating harmony. Now it is also my belief that if you are able to enter a conflict with a mastery of conflict resolution (in this thread being aikido) and determine that harmony will not be restored unless or until this threat is eliminated than I believe that lethal action should be taken. An example to clarify my belief is that if someone is loud and annoying than lethal action is way beyond what the situation calls for, which would be talking. Now if you got someone jacked up on heroin or coke or some other thing like that and are shooting wildly or in the act of attempting to take another's life than perhaps throwing him to the ground isn't going to cut it, on the way down he may start shooting. In that situation the best outcome for the innocent is to take the aggressors life. It is my belief that if you take the time to master a martial art than defending yourself should not end in a death, without extreme circumstances, but also that it is your duty to protect others, that haven't that skill. I can't remember who said it or in what book but I heard from one of the great Aikidoka that sometime restoring harmony is to simply take what's disrupting it out of the picture. I am paraphrasing by the way. Just my two cents.

07-15-2005, 10:50 AM
Well is there a difference between in the dojo and not in the dojo? If you punch someone in the face with all your might, whether there is soft padding under your feet or not is pretty irrellevant. no?

btw, Kevin do you train with Gordan Sakamoto in Northern Virginia? If so, tell him hi for me. I trained with him about a dozen years ago when i was a teenager. He made a profound difference on my life.

Steve Nelson

07-15-2005, 11:57 AM
In Amdur Sensei's fantastic text, he asserts that all killing is murder. This is a very old way of looking at things which makes it very hard for a martial artist to defend himself morally. Nevertheless, that is the mountain path, to protect not only yourself, but your enemies, to preserve your attacker's karma. As a student of the modern defensive handgun, I have thought so very long and hard about the value of human life, and the spirit which allows human life to flourish rather than be snuffed. In this world there is no guarantee of safety, and I sometimes feel that the moral man must look at each conflict not with the presupposition that he deserves to emerge the victor, but with the intention of determining whether or not this is his time. How is a such a man supposed to differentiate between another man's intention and the universe's intention. Is universe's will not executed through ordinary means? In the end I hope that when battle is joined between myself and another, I will bring about whatever is supposed to happen (not just what I want to happen).

07-15-2005, 04:30 PM
Oy vey.

If one is unfortunate enough to find onesself in a lethal encounter; there's not gonna be time to think about it; to decide which is the right course of action; to philosophise about the harmony of the universe, etc.

You don't 'enter into' a lethal encounter. It lands on you like an avalanche. You've got no time to think, plan or prepare. You've got only what you had before the encounter started and 99.999% of the time far less than that.
In a lethal encounter; I personally would respond with lethal force. So would a few others on this site.
Most everyone else will do something completely useless - most likely in the area of throwing their hands over their head and screaming in panic. Or just freeze.
Well is there a difference between in the dojo and not in the dojo? If you punch someone in the face with all your might, whether there is soft padding under your feet or not is pretty irrellevant. no?
You're joking, right? PLEASE don't tell me you're so overwhelmingly naiive to think that what happens in the dojo is the same as real life?

My advice: Don't worry about what happens if you enter into a lethal encounter. Just train in aikido and forget about the hollywodd BS about 'if this happens or that happens...'. Unless you've actually BEEN in that situation you're just blowing smoke, so my advice is if you're intent on looking at aikido as viable defense; look at how it works to create opportunities for avoidance and escape.

07-15-2005, 05:32 PM
Restoring harmony to a situation can be a muti-faceted issue. If the person is trying to kill you, is the same in turn justified when defending yourself? Moral, legal and ethical issues arise. As pointed out, however, everything is likely to happen so fast that your control over the situation may be limited. Your intent will also be an issue from a legal perspective.

07-16-2005, 09:02 AM
Seems like that atemi statistic changes everytime heh :confused:

Adam Alexander
07-16-2005, 02:11 PM
So here's a question to ponder. Is it ever ok to deliver the killing blow?

Ever okay? No. Ever necessary? I can imagine situations--so, yes.

07-16-2005, 03:22 PM
Maybe I am talking out of turn because I have never had to kill anyone. However, growing up very close to New Orleans I have been in several situations that could have cost me my life. Consequently, I have thought about this subject a great deal and also spoken to many people who have had to kill other human beings to survive and I believe there are circumstances that justify the decision of one person to end the life of another.

The psycology involved in killing is another subject but worth a look. Most of the books that I have read on the subject suggest that men are intrinsically opposed to killing their own kind which would appear, to some, to reinforce the argument that it can never be justifiable under any circumstances. In any event, you might check out the book "On Killing". I think the authors name is Col. Dave Grossman(not sure) but I think I loaned the book out and didn't get it back as I haven't seen it in quite a while.

I would also like to add some thoughts from a conversation I had with one of the aforementioned individuals who have had some real experience with this sort of thing. "Many people see a problem with killing because they have associated the word with violence. It is true that some death is voilent but it is a mistake to deem all killing as violent. In order to understand that sometimes killing is necessary we must be able to look at it without that emotional weight. It is possible to kill someone with out judgement or malice or anger." I believe these statements to be true. I have, on more than one occasion, had to use a gun to protect myself. Thankfully, I have never had to press the trigger as the mere threat of being shot was enough to save my stuffing, but I can tell you this: you are not pondering whether or not its OK to kill somebody at the moment of truth. I know I wasn't. You will be extremely focused on the moment and doing everything you can to make sure you wake up tomorrow!

As always just my thoughts...I could be wrong.

Jason :)

07-17-2005, 04:21 PM
In modern life we are so rarely in the situation of having to protect our very lives. I agree with just about everyone here that it's unlikely anyone can escape their fight or flight instincts. But on a much smaller scale we encounter the 'killing blow' all the time. Hopefully few aikidoist take it. For example...

Someone cuts us off in traffic, being good drivers we don't crash. But it makes us so mad we chase after them and drive them off a cliff.

Your kid is about to spill some milk. You grab the glass before anything happens. Then you spank your kid for *almost* spilling milk.

That's kind of what I'm referring to. More from the perspective of once you've gained control of a situtation...any situation... how do you handle yourself? Does your atemi lead the attack or do you take the atemi to actually hurt the attacker?

This is just a bit of philosophy that's running through my head at the moment. I'm still trying to understand my own thoughts! :-)

Steve Nelson

07-17-2005, 05:04 PM
I got you, Steve. We kinda got off on a tangent didn't we.
I think running a guy off a cliff (while i have been tempted) in this situation seems like revenge.
As far as spanking your kid for almost spilling the milk it depends on how many times you had to tell them to stop crawling up on the table. :)

07-17-2005, 08:26 PM
That's an interesting point Jason. So maybe the ideal Aikido atemi has no hint of revenge, spite or anger in it. It is truly a different style of punching. This is a worthy topic for a class! Any ideas how to demonstrate, to a class of Aikidoka, the difference between a vengeful atemi and a leading atemi?


07-17-2005, 08:55 PM
I believe if you want the technique to demonstrate revenge throw uke and pin him/her and after the maitta signal stomp uke to the back of the neck and say "that's for trying to get me". Just kiddin:)

But seriously, I will have to think on that some. That's a tough one.

Lorien Lowe
07-18-2005, 12:46 AM
Well is there a difference between in the dojo and not in the dojo? If you punch someone in the face with all your might, whether there is soft padding under your feet or not is pretty irrellevant.

Weeelll the padding underfoot may be irrelevant, but when you punch someone in the face with all your might at the dojo, chances are they are a little better at getting out of the way than the Joe Schmuck who attacked you 'on the street.'