I recently remembered something that happened decades ago, in the spring of 1979, I guess. I think I've written about it on these forums before, but now I suddenly see it in a new light. In the past, I always saw it as a funny incident in which I showed another laborer what aikido was about. But now, I think this incident was actually an example of intended assault that was foiled by aikido.
The way I usually tell this is that I was working in a steel mill and one day a guy said, "Hey, Orange, show me some of that aikido you do." So I took a stance and put out my arms and said "Grab my hand!" and the guy grabbed my hand and I just barely started to cut his grip with a circular movement when the guy came off his feet and flipped onto a conveyor belt that, fortunately, was inoperative at the moment.
Recently, looking back, I suddenly thought, "You know, that guy was probably actually intending to assault me."
Think of the surroundings: I was at the bottom of a tunnel, alone, down a side tunnel that ran 90 degrees off the first tunnel, down at the end, when this guy came along and said, "Hey, Orange, show me some of that aikido you do."
Now, the guy was not tall, but he was really stocky and sturdy. The conveyor belt was to his left, at about his shoulder height and a couple of feet over, behind a safety railing. I was down there to clean the tunnel around the conveyor belt. This was all situated beneath a rail line, below an opening where hopper cars dumped tons of crushed rock. The conveyor was of a size and power to be able to catch those tons of rock and pull them along the tunnel fast enough for the flow from the hopper car not to back up and block the tunnel. And from there, the crushed rock went to the blast furnace, I think, where it was added to the mix. So we're talking about a hefty conveyor to hell. There was a narrow space to the side of the conveyor where people like me would come down and clean up the spillage.
I was down there, alone, with a shovel, scooping up spilled rock and throwing it onto the conveyor to be taken next time the hopper cars dumped on it. I don't remember what that guy was down there for, so, thinking back, I'm thinking he came down there to assault me. If I hadn't been able to convince him in a moment, I would have picked up the shovel next, but, fortunately, that thought never crossed my mind. I thought he just wanted me to show him some aikido. He came toward me fast in that narrow space beside the conveyor when I was at the very end of the tunnel, with nowhere else to go, and said, "Hey, Orange. Show me some of that aikido you do."
At the time, I didn't think anything of it. I just moved into hanmi and put up ki arms and said, "Okay, grab my arm."
Now, at that time, I probably weighed under 150, at about 5'11". In ordinary terms, I was at a real disadvantage to this guy, who probably stood 5'8" or so and maybe weighed 170 or maybe more. And he was coming at me fast in a narrow tunnel. I was at the end of the tunnel "with nowhere to go."
In fact, I could have slid behind him with tai sabaki, but it never went that far. I said, "Grab my arm!" and he did and I just started the cut with my ki arm when he came off his feet, went over the safety rail and onto a shoulder-hgh conveyor belt a couple of feet to the side. He bodily went up, over the rail and into the conveyor belt (which was in a deep "V" shape), and landed on his back.
We were both shocked and I quickly helped him out and apologized while I got him back to the tunnel and onto his feet. If the conveyor had been running, he would definitely have been dead.
But think about this: what if my aikido had failed and he had remained unmoved?
What would he have done next?
Recently, I thought of this and realized, it probably wouldn't have been good. This was not an intellectual. He was a laborer with maybe a high school education and who knows what kind of background? I think he had heard some things about me and just flat didn't believe them. So he sought me out when I was alone and down in a place where there was "no escape." If my aikido hadn't almost killed him, I think he would have followed through with some kind of assault....if you know what I mean....
Now, the aikido I applied was the Mochizuki ryu, the yoseikan aikido, with a few years of Patrick Auge's instruction on top , adding judo, karate and kenjutsu to the training. It was close to the time when I first met Minoru Mochizuki.
One thing it shows me is that Mochizuki Sensei's aikido was very strong and it had given me a lot of power after only a few years of training. Another thing is that I didn't even have a chance to get started on a technique. I only slightly made an arc with my right arm and he came off his feet and went through the air into a much more dangerous position. So I know he wasn't faking it. I doubt he could have jumped up to where he landed. I blew both our minds and I didn't feel like I had "done" anything at all. And I went away thinking it was just a funny incident until some 35 years later, I happened to think, "What would have happened if my aikido hadn't worked?"
Would "other" aikido training have given me the same results?
Frankly, I'm doubtful.
If my first tiny movement hadn't thrown this guy, bodily, through the air, I'm thinking now that he would have tried seriously to overpower me. I'm sure that my aikido would have led him into an elbow lock or something that would have shut him down, but I'm not sure that any "other" aikido would have enabled this. Maybe yoshinkan, Tomiki or Iwama...
Would your aikido have gotten you out of this situation?
Has aikido actually gotten you out of something similar?
Would your aikido work if the person attacking you were not giving you "an energy pattern" but were actually attempting to assault you?
I just thank God for leading me into the yoseikan ryu and for being with me that day.
Best to all.
Re: Attempted Assault
I'm in Yoshinkan, and we definately do practice with this in mind. However, one of the things we are harped on is the metsuki maai concept. We need to have situational awareness and keep our distance. As a martial artist you can never be caught off guard and always assume someone is going to attack you, unless you know for sure that person will not. In this case, a co-worker is hard to judge, so I don't blame you, but if it was a stranger, I would definately consider being more alert. Also, your personal area should never be violated, as that would ruin you chances of responding to the attack.
Now, if this guy comes to me with a brisk walk, and he ask me this without stopping at all, and I'd be suspicous. I mean, usually people stop in front of you, and then talk. If he is talking to you loudly a good distance away, when in fact he can just come up to you can talk to you in normal volume, and he's actually asking to see Aikido, I'd be worried about his intentions. I've been assaulted in cases similar to this, and they always start the taunting from afar. Nobody taunts in front of you unless they're sure about you not fighting back. If you do show fighting spirit, then they get a good distance away. That's just how the fighting instincts work.
Now, if this happened to me, this would be my approach. This guy is coming in hard, but I'm not sure about his intentions, and I'd hold off an actual martial response until I can get a confirmation. Now, because of my experiences with violence and bullying, I'm very very sensitive to people's intentions. How they speak and how they ask is very distinctive. If I can sense that the tone is confronting and harsh, and the word choice is very commanding, I'll know he's actually psyching himself up. If he went "can you show something cool from your Aikido training?" even reading it you can tell it's friendly. A commanding tone shows that he wants to dominate you mentally already, before even touching you.
Now, I can do these two things:
"Ok, but not here. Let's go somewhere safer and more matted. Don't want you getting hurt yeah? How about after work on a grassy field?"
"OK, grab my shirt and try pulling me to you"
"Nah dude, we're working. Don't wana get in trouble with the boss for play on the job ya know? Let's do this another time and place, maybe at my dojo?"
"No man, can't show anything outside the dojo, sensei's orders. Come to the club and I can show you some really cool stuff. You can even try out a class if you'd like to know more"
F) Point out the obvious
"Too dangerous here man"
If he refuses to go along with your flow, then obviously he's already established his own timing and flow, which means that he is already in a combatitive mindset, ready to compete against you to prove himself or something. Afterall, if you ask nicely and he still says "No, show me here and now" then there's only one thing he wants, and only one thing you can then do. You've already ruled out a peaceful resolution, since it's obvious he's not gonna let it end well. Escaping was never possible to begin with, down in the shafts. So the only thing to do is to let your training take over. Set the distance and timing, focus on him, get ready to respond, and send him flying. He will come charging in if he sees you taking a stance, so a simple redirection like you did would work, as well as other ura techniques. You can invite him to grab, and then either use it as a feint for iriminage, or do a technique. Even more devious, go along with it, and ask for munemochi like I asked. If he listens and pulls (likely to happen based on human psych), then you can go for irimizuki, my fav technique for dealing with aggressors. He falls away from dangerous machines, and you used one of the most powerful techniques in Aikido. He's sure to be impressed and scared after that one. If he pushes, just do a pivot will send him flying away with his own force. Shihonage is also fun, since he's so much bigger than you, so you can also opt to let him grab your hand just as you did, and do the perfect katatemochi shihonage 2 (or ura katatedor shihonage).
Re: Attempted Assault
Well, I believe the Aikido I am learning would have provided a good solution, it has helped some friends of mine in various situations of a fight.
On the other hand, it is the person and not the Aikido that makes the difference, and as long as I have not had to go down that test, I will never know. Further, seems to me my answer would have been much more definite a few years ago, when I was younger, and trained much more, these days, I have a family with small children to run after, and very limited training time.
And since you were so damant about the style - I learn Korindo Aikido,
from a very good teacher, who has learned Judo and Karate to a high level besides the Aikido. and, as I wrote, I know other students of my teachers who faced attacks with their Aikido, and also a student of a friend who did the same, and this friend is a Kohai of mine, and i helped him to teach (replaced him) on days he couldn't.
And as a side comment: It seems like a very low leel of confrentation, if he is willing to grab your arm just as you asked and does not take advantage in order to punch your face. Perhaps your original grasp of the situation was closer to the point?
Re: Attempted Assault
Part of my point here is that aikido training must be oriented to an instant, decisive end, with the attack fully destroyed or controlled. I don't think this can come from training in such a way that you don't actually intend to take full control. The slight movement of my hand threw this guy so profoundly because it was just the beginning. If he hadn't flown onto the conveyor belt, he was going into ikkyo, nikkyo or something like that. I was going to take him very firmly under control in the blink of an eye. But the combination of his force and my small movement sent him flying. It was quite a shock, really.
So I'm saying that even when someone seems friendly, they may well just be trying to get your guard down. I didn't worry about it because I had my own dojo and I was training so hard in those days that people around the mill asked me to slow down and work easier because I was making them look bad--even though I was skinny and didn't look like anything at all. I had always been the last chosen for any sport in school and I still looked the part.
Once, the supervisor sent me to clean up a big scrap yard full of big pieces of wood--I think they were 4" X 4" and about 4 or 5 feet long. It would normally take a man two or three hours to clean up all that wood and stack it because he would have walked to where each piece was, picked it up and carried it back to the stacking point, then walked to another piece and carried it back--or maybe two or three pieces at a time, but I did the whole thing in about 20 minutes. I went around the yard and used rotational body movment to pick up a piece of wood and throw it with the same motion, sort of like the "hammer throw" in track and field competition, pulling the weight off the ground with the turning of the body and letting it fly. I threw all these pieces across the yard and they landed in a small space. Then I just stacked them quickly and I was done. And then I was idle again. But the whole point of the task was that they didn't want someone idle. They wanted them slowly walking around the yard, slowly carrying pieces of wood and "looking busy" for a couple of hours. That kind of thing never occurred to me in those days. If they sent me to the commisary for something, I ran through the mill yard, wearing steel-toed boots. If I was just standing around, I did head-high side-kicks with those steel-toed boots on, twenty or thirty in a row, just to pass the time.
So when the guy approached me down in that narrow, isolated tunnel, I was so confident that it never occurred to me that he was doing anything other than several other guys had done, asking me to show them something because they were interested. Its only now that I look back and see how isolated I was and realize that he probably had very bad intentions.
So, #1, you never know what another person is really thinking--especially if they are a pscyopathic or sociopathic type, who can present a charming front with seriously bad intentions behind it.
And #2, aikido technique is technique, meant to accomplish an end, and the devolution of that intent into such confusion that people really don't know in practice whether they should intend to control the attacker....is not an improvement and is not likely to produce the ability to handle a situation such as I have described.
The word randori comes from the terms ran, meaning chaos, and tori, meaning seizing. So randori means the practice of seizing chaos, or taking control of chaos. It's also funny, thinking of the earlier thread concerning whether we're actually supposed to intend to throw in aikido technique. Most aikido styles call the "defender" nage, meaning "throwing". So why would we question whether nage should intend to throw? It's who and what he (or she) is. In yoseikan, we called the defender tori as in both judo and sumo. It is only with the intent to develop the ability to seize pure chaos that aikido can be highly reliable for self-defense. From that can emerge the ability to do unexpected things, but we always learned that such things were a mere by-product of very serious training.
Less than that, it seems that "unintentional" aikido can only be effective "by accident" and that the accidents are more likely to come upon the "unintentional" practitioner than to a serious attacker.
Re: Attempted Assault
So I think the person has to be his/her best, but the aikido cannot contain any BS elements. It has to be grounded in combative reality at all points.
As I got older, I came to realize that the self-defense methods of aikido really are pretty simple and clear: they just get buried under form and ritual and the confusion of whether we're really supposed to intend to do what we're trying to learn to do....
But if you get clear grounding in the self-defense elements of aikido, then those can become simpler and clearer (another way of saying sharper) as you drop all irrelevant content.
The reason he grabbed my wrist instead of punching is that my arms were between him and me. He couldn't have punched effectively. I think he grabbed my wrist with the intention of getting my arms out of the way so he could punch. If he had tried to enter without getting my arms out of the way, I would have had tegatana to his face, as in shomen ate. That's why yoseikan taught that stance and the arm position as a kihon method before any waza at all.
Thanks for your comments.
Re: Attempted Assault
can't say what it would have done for me in that situation, but it worked well enough for me the two times I've had to physically use it. Once when a guy was starting a fight with me over, I think, my choice of friends...or maybe my long hair at the time. During the typical "I'm going to beat your ass" monologue I watched the guys body language and felt that he was going to eventually throw a right at me. After some back and forth, which I could have probably diffused, but did not, he threw a right cross which I cut down and whipped into a shihonage. I didn't slam him down, but held him bent back for a second. While I mentally crapped my pants that I did what I did, he was yelling "what the F man, get off me" and then I shoved him away and that was that. The second was when someone, again for reasons I don't exactly recall, shoved me in the chest out of nowhere. Never saw him coming, but when he hit me I hooked his left elbow with my right hand, pulled it down while moving back a and lifted up on the other side, tossing him a few feet away, pretty much face first into a gravel driveway. It was pretty text book ryokatatori randori. He got scraped up pretty bad. Nothing serious, but it was enough, probably from the shock of it and less from the fall, to make him not want to try again.
Both outcomes were, IMO, the result of good, hard, honest training with people who valued that type of training. Getting pushed hard, not going through the motions and practicing not just to do a technique, but to protect myself if technique wasn't there for me. And for the record, I think that quite a few of the people I was training with at the time would given a suitable response in that situation.
Re: Attempted Assault
Re: Attempted Assault
Well, he said what he said and then came quickly toward me in that narrow space (a narrow concrete space with a lot of metal sticking out everywhere). So I put up my arms and said, "Grab my arm!" and he did.
My biggest point here is that we should NEVER count on a "second chance" to succeed with aikido. (the following relates to that point and is not directed "at" you. I'm just going on with the main thought.
Aikido has to work in the very instant of contact. We mustn't expect that if we just brush the attacker away the first time, he won't come back pulling out a knife.
Training has to focus on ending the attacker's ability to attack in the first split second of contact.
Now, recently (last five years or so), I've been seriously considering aiki to be a force within the body and not a matter of outer movement and technique.
So maybe that puts all technique back to the state of jutsu or jujutsu.
But if technique is all you have going for you, there's technique and then there's technique.
Since we find so many people believing that Japanese "spirituality" is as dualistic as Western spirituality, dividing spirit from body, we also find a lot of very poor technique passing as "spiritual" when it's neither physical nor spiritual but a mere misunderstanding of aikido on every level.
So not all "technique" that we find under the name of aikido can even qualify as "technique" in the sense of jutsu, or art.
It will only lead one into a position where the attacker can gradually cut him or her into a corner and overpower them.
Jason describes it very well above.
Just because we train for physically effective technique, we don't continue to brutalize the attacker once we have stopped him, and that's where the spirituality of aikido can be seen.
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