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virginia_kyu 08-27-2002 10:16 PM

Choose Death or Possible Death
I am very curious to see how different aikidoists think one should respond in the following situation.

(Also this is not meant to be realistic. Its more of a philosophical or ethical question.)

Suppose you are being attacked by someone armed with a large knife. The attacker is slashing with the blade so fast that it is almost certain that he will get at least one slash or stab in.

Being an Aikido practicioner you know of many different techniques to apply to his attack but you are faced with two general choices, do you try and kill him right away (yes, you know a technique that you could perform that would have a high likelood of killing the attacker) or do you take the inevitable wound, risk possible death, and attempt to subdue him without doing him harm? This 2nd choice of course will put you at risk for further injury or death if you fail to subdue him.

(BTW, you are cornered so you can't run away)

PS: I am also assuming in this scenerio that (unlike me) you have many years experience with Aikido and could perform techniques in real life encounters.

DaveO 08-27-2002 10:38 PM

Bit of an unrealistic question, if you don't mind my saying so; I can't imagine a situation so cut-and dried, nor could I imagine any 'instant death' technique that could a) be applied in that situation and b) could not be modified into a non-lethal technique - it's harder to kill someone with bare hands than some people think.

That said, the question is written that there can be only one possible answer; no matter how passive a person, no-one would voluntarily choose suicide by knife.


virginia_kyu 08-27-2002 10:43 PM

It wasn't meant to be realistic at all :)

Also, you are not guaranteed to die if you try and subdue him, you just have a higher likelihood of dying than if you killed him outright.

Edward 08-28-2002 01:39 AM

Well, an experienced aikidoka will not put himself in such a situation in the first place ;)

ian 08-28-2002 02:25 AM

The same thing happened to me several years ago (and sometimes you don't have a choice of being 'put in that situation' - it just happens. It was so fast there was absolutely no time to turn and run without being stabbed in the back (so that option is out the window).

In fact, like any real situation involving high adrenalin levels, you don't make a choice - you respond instinctively. Luckily for me my first instinct was to move off centre line following the first stab (and yes, it was quite a conventional tsuki - since he was trying to get the suprise in immediately and wasn't 'showing' he had a knife). I did an atemi to the face which stunned him for a second (whilst cutting down the knife hand), however I didn't do a 'technique'. After a few more strikes he ran away. Though I didn't realise it at the time I had been slashed on the arm and neck (although quite shallow cuts).

People often think aikido isn't realistic because they apply it to a competitive 'sparring' situation. However, this event made me realise that it is the simple, instinctive training which saves you. We train for the first strike in aikido, and this is why I believe 'sparring' is not as beneficial for self-defence training: the first strike CAN kill, and often you are not aware they are going to strike, nor are they aware of what your response will be.

As far as killing or not - I think you should always allow someone to live to regret their actions. Surely aikido is about influencing people through example, rather than changing them through force? If you truly believe that 'you are the universe' killing them is no more of a win than getting killed yourself.


SimonW11 08-28-2002 03:08 AM

The Capoeristas have I am told a saying. "There is no such thing as deadly tecchnique there is only the fragile human body".

To which I will add something My sensei said

in another context "just survive"

your first objective is to survive.


Kevin Leavitt 08-28-2002 04:05 AM

Whether you kill him right away depends on your skill level and your ability to control the situation.

The ethical answer, IMHO, is to use minimum force necessary to resolve the situation.

It is awful hard not to get caught up in your emotions in this kind of situation.

Ideally you would be so well trained that you defend yourself without regard for life or death, calmly and with compassion for your attacker. Once the situation is resolved you would attempt subdue your opponent, or help him, give him first aid or whatever until the authorities get there, you would show him whatever kindness you could.

That aside, you attempt to suppress anger, revenge, or fear. When you become un-aiki is when you pass the point of resolution, and you enter into revenge and "over do".

My goal in life is to refine my skills so that I can perfectly resolve the situation with no harm done whatsoever. Where I am today is probably somewhere in the "he would be hurt very badly, or dead" stage.

Kevin Leavitt 08-28-2002 04:13 AM

Oh, there is always risk involved. Even in personal must put a little of yourself outthere and risk being hurt or injured in order to have a relationship.

When you form this "relationship" with your attacker, in order to resolve the situation with no injury to him, would require you to put yourself in harms way slightly, philosophically, if you do not do this,then you cannot form the relationship necessary to not hurt him. Not saying that it is inevitiable that you will get hurt, but there is no way IMHO to resolve this situation without harm to him without incuring risk on your part.

You must decide individually how much risk is worth it, and if your skill set allows you to take that risk to begin with.

This whole philosophical discussion is why I do not drink when I go out to bars or anything in public. I might be a little extreme, but have had several senarios in the past that I had to end up resolving on my behalf or someone elses. Alcohol impairs my ability to make critical decisions which may make the difference if I hurt someone or not, therefore, I choose to not drink.

erminio 08-28-2002 04:45 AM

The problem is: the first strike can kill you, so you try to avoid it, maybe you can manage it, but I'll be wondering "I'm really sure I'll do the same trick if he or she tries it again?".Why don't try to react tough enough to ensure that he or she can't do it again? I'm going to start with Aikido, so I suppose that is better for me if I begin to think about it.

Have a good day


Abasan 08-28-2002 04:46 AM

Since it's a do or die situation, i will approach it whole heartedly in trying to end it as soon as possible. After all, someone posted this before... in the spirit of loving protection of myself... i'm just being ultra realistic. better him dead then me.

Jim ashby 08-28-2002 05:18 AM

I was taught that it's better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

Have fun

guest1234 08-28-2002 06:18 AM

I'd agree with what I think Kevin is saying: given this somewhat unrealistic situation, as an Aikidoka that skilled would not be in that cornered do-or-die situation to start with (no offense Ian, but are you at the level of 'touch of death' that Michael described), then the only somewhat skilled might have to choose killing to save himself, the truly skilled would be able to subdue his attacker (perhaps without a punch--recall the drunk on the train story, empathy with the assailant overcame his belligerence) even if if meant being open to his attacker. That fear is what would drive the Aikidoka to kill rather than use a technique that would not kill. Those who are afraid and/or unskilled would choose to kill, because they lack the skill or courage to not kill.

Applies in the modern world as well as the unrealistic situation, as well, Michael. And the 'touch of death' techniques exist only in The Simpsons and Bruce's version of reality.

IrimiTom 08-28-2002 07:02 AM

Doesn't anyone here watch Seagal's movies? If you were that skilled you would kneel on the floor and tell the guy to "come and cut your heart out", then you would disarm him and mess him up real good, I don't remember how it goes exactly, I think then you would ask him if now he feels like a victim and then toss him into a couple of cabinets or through some glass evileyes

seriously though, unrealistic or not, I think the scenario Michael has described has more than two possibities. Why does it have to be either (trying to) kill the attacker or (trying to) "subdue him without harm". I'd take the knife away from him, and then subdue him, with a bit of physical harm, maybe break his wrist, his face, whatever. That'll get the point across. I mean people are talking about giving uncooperative ukes a hard time on the mat... I wouldn't even consider giving an armed (or unarmed for that matter) attacker on the street the benefit of the doubt.

guest1234 08-28-2002 07:14 AM

Well, Ian's post certainly showed that there are a variety of endings, but Michael's script allowed for only two. I think he was trying to make a point, which to me is: in a hypothetical situation like that, with only two solutions (yes, even though in real life it is not that black and white) fear and lack of skill can drive even good people to kill, but courage and skill will allow them an alternative.

virginia_kyu 08-28-2002 07:59 AM

I am not saying that there is some instant death technique out there, but I can say that a swift powerful thrust to someone's throat is the kind of "killer" technique I am talking about here. What I am saying is that in the scenerio you are skilled enough to use such an attack in a very effective manner.

But if for some reason you can not bring yourself to accept that there is a killer technique, suppose you have a gun and the attacker simply does not aknowledge you have it.

In this scenerio you did not have a choice whether to get in this situation or not. You don't have be acting irresponsibly to get attacked. You could get attacked by a burgler, walking to your car after going to the store, crazed coworker, etc..

Yes Colleen I think you are one step ahead of me here :) but I am not sure that attempting to subdue him is the right choice.

My follow up is what if your Aikido skills were less than competant raising the chance of you getting killed even higher?

Paul Clark 08-28-2002 08:01 AM

Hi all,

I'd suggest that there's no moral failure if the person attacked responds with what is his/her best guess as to what is required to survive. I'd also suggest that nobody should be faulted for erring on the side of caution. In other words, the response to a sudden, violent, full-power attack which might result in my own death justifies an equally violent, maximum effort response which risks serious injury or death to the attacker. The latter, after all, has chosen his own course with his own assessment of the risks involved. Since I doubt that many of us will ever have the skill to kill with one blow, if you survive, you have controlled uke with some injury, most likely to both of you. If this restores some control to the situation, now is the time for moral choices--ie, a second blow, a coup-de-gras? How you make that choice requires courage and control. Uke may himself play a part in that decision, of course!


SeiserL 08-28-2002 08:01 AM

IMHO, as a trained knife fighter, I always teach and assume that in a knife fight I will get cut. Then if it happens I'm okay and if I'm not then better.

Ethically and philosophically, to be congruent in the Aikido position, I would choose to subdue the attacker without doing harm to either of us.

Realistically, and knowing myself, I'd take him out.

Until again,


Kat.C 08-28-2002 09:08 AM

Well, I'm not willing to risk my life in order to preserve the life of someone who is attacking me, that's insane! I also don't believe it would be unethtical to kill an attacker is such a situation either.

Cyrijl 08-28-2002 09:49 AM

how quickly we forget that o sensei was often in battle and i'm sure killed many opponents when faced with the situation described above...This is why i left aikido: People not only take the non-confrontational approach in the martial aspect, but become spineless and weak in all confrontations...The response "I would not be in that situaiton, i don't drink, etc." are the exact thing i am talking about.' Sometimes people just want to hurt you. There is no escape!

While i was taking aikido my sensei said something i still take to heart:

Nice people are neither....

in the example offered, even O sensei would kill his opponent...Killing one's opponent does not mean that you have to jump for joy or be pleased with what has transpired. One could try to help him medically after (supposing he was on the brink of death). The question is whether one would respond with full force in a kill or be killed situation...

my have to go home safe

Alfonso 08-28-2002 10:25 AM

I've been taught by someone who knows to

- accept that I'm already cut

- not expose the underside of my arms

- enter decisevely (Marubashi)

This is where this shit hits the fan, rubber meets the road etc. If you can't take center without killing, then it's not the best outcome. Of course If I'm dead it's not the best outcome either, and if we're both dead then it's only marignally even.

I've also been given to understand that a knife shown is a sign of an unskilled knife guy, so probably a small glimmer of hope.

I've also been told repeatedly that if I can kill then I can spare. I can only imagine killing someone out of discontrol and desperation, and if that's so then chances are that I'm dead meat.'

I just think you can't believe this stuff about relaxing and love. You think love is for pussies. You're wrong and if you stick to training you might realize it. That's what practice will show you if you can learn.

Cyrijl 08-28-2002 10:54 AM

if you modify the scenario a little bit and add a second attacker the need for disabling one of the attackers becomes more apparent...perhaps killing goes to far, but that is only the logical extension...

perhaps we should ask "Should we break an arm to stop an attack, or dance around, get cut and hope for reflection and redirection?"

Like someone said comes down to instinct. It would be nice to believe that we could stop and talk to our attackers, offer them some tea and have a chat and go our separate ways. Unfortunatley, in the street the attacker(s) are less concerned with manners and more concerned with hurting you.

Alfonso 08-28-2002 11:29 AM

Add one more person to the equation and it gets even worse. If you stop to disable , break or kill the first guy you're dead.

ChristianBoddum 08-28-2002 12:07 PM

Hi !

Love is not a feeling it is doing,

I'm sure the love O'sensei dicovered was

the love that is not attached to sentiment,

the feeling is a byproduct - so to speak !

The feeling will not protecet you and your opponent - the doing will.

yours - Chr.B.

Kevin Leavitt 08-28-2002 12:48 PM

It is unethical to kill someone if you have other options at your disposal.

That said, it is ethical to kill them if you have no options and killing them perserves your life or someone elses.

Everyone must take inventory of their own situation and own skills and decide what they must do.

Even if the court rules that it was self defense. Spiritually and philosophically you still must be true to yourself, since that is the person you must ultimately answer to. (or God if that is your belief).

Kevin Leavitt 08-28-2002 01:08 PM

Another thought to add.

If someone of O'Sensei's skill level were placed in the exact same may be wrong if he/she killed the assailant.

If it were someone of my skill may not be wrong.

Again, ethically speaking...not legally.

I would submit legally that both would be okay.

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