Dojo: Aikido of Solano
Location: Vacaville California
Join Date: Aug 2011
Re: Aikido in a street situation
A little background about myself. I trained in Kajukembo from around age eight or nine, till I was fourteen or so when I started playing football in highschool. I picked up Aikido, when I was nineteen and have been training ever since. My first two and half maybe three years in Aikido, I was hopeless!!! I started my career as a correctional officer within my third year of Aikido training, which was when Aikido started making sense to me physically. In the academy I sailed through arrest and control which was all Koga method.
I hit the line in the California Penal System in April of 97. I work at an institution with a medical and psych mission. along side general population inmates. Although a Level III institution we housed many Level IV overrides with pysch issues as well as Department of Mental Health program. Up to this point, everything I had learned in Aikido was theory! My second year on the job, I was assigned to one of the worst housing units in the institution. My Aikido education, was sent into overdrive. Where most Aikidoka hone their skills on compliant partners in the dojo, I was blessed to have the opportunities to apply what I was learning on people who were fully resisting, with back-up on the way just in case. These experiences changed my Aikido and how looked at training. Coming from a hard style background in Kajukenbo, I already had more aggressive tendencies in Aikido.
We have a saying in Corrections which is, "You can always go in strict and by the book, and relax over time, as you get to learn your inmates and they learn you." I went into Aikido hard, and learned to relax over time as well. Some of my best Aikido has been "sloppy" Aikido in real life situations. I think many of us fall in love with an ideal, that may prove to be impractical for our skill level or understanding. Seeking a technique, you become sold on it, and fight for it passing up other opportunities, in order to create the opening for your ideal.
Aikido flows.Concentrate on blending and entering of the line of attack. You can do this and maintain your guard to prevent from being hit. Nothing says, in the street, you have to keep your hands straight out in front, as in many youtube demonstrations. Get that initial entry and blend and see what is available. In my experience I have used ikyo, nikyo, sankyo, kote gaeshi, and sumi otoshi; on fully resisting people. I was surprised to realize, I wasn't rushing through techniques the way we sometimes do in class when we feel we are being realistic. In fact, I was moving very near the practice speed in class, even though the person I was applying the technique to, was moving much faster than any uke I ever trained with.
The next key, is to capture the elbow! Too many people I have trained with, practice to catch a punch or strike. Forget all that! Blend and entry take care of the strike for the most part. Make contact at the elbow, and you can quickly control center, and then adjust to the wrist or hand, after you have affected his center. Try for the wrist or hand before, and you end up in a fight over that wrist or hand. Affect uke's center first, and you have given yourself options, even beyond the techniques of Aikido. While uke is adjusting his center to regain control, you apply your technique to the appropriate wrist or hand.
Don't expect your attacker to react like a regular uke. There are two types of people in the world. Those that will back down to protect a wrist twisted to the brink, and those who will gnaw off their own arm just to knock you out. In the dojo, we practice to protect uke. In real life, you must be prepared to take that technique as far as is needed to gain compliance. If that means breaking or dislocating then that's what you do. You don't twist a little and see. You twist that thing down into the ground till he drops and/or something snaps. If you play with many techniques, with adrenaline mixed in, you may not have the momentum to finish the technique. Go with the flow of the moment, with no hesitation.
Take the stops out of your training! In class, when you make a mistake, don't just give yourself a face palm and then start over or back up to where you think you messed up. This has to do with some of the sensei too. There is always a viable technique present. If you made a mistake on the initial, continue the flow past it, till either it is present again, or take a different technique that is present. Too often we stop in our training to make adjustments. We are training stops into our technique. This results in the inevitable "freeze" when we are faced with actual resistance. We fix this by not stopping in our training and adding resistance into the equation.
Give yourself time. I feel my learning curve was accelerated, due to the opportunities of utilizing what I was learning frequently, on resisting individuals. Most dojo aren't going to allow full resistance, and you wouldn't want to injure a friend, practicing full speed. This means you will need to give yourself time to gradually build up the amount of resistance uke puts up against your technique. As a beginner there will no resistance as you are still literally learning to walk. In a few months, uke begins testing your extension and proper position. In a few years, uke can be actively trying to stop or counter your techniques. Add to this some more modern and realistic attacks, and you may see a difference in how you approach Aikido as a defense.
As you do this training you will see where your Aikido ability starts and ends. This is very grounding, in that, you aren't walking around thinking when someone attempts to strike you to the side of your head, you will do this beautiful shihonage, because you practiced it in class last week. If your sensei does not allow this type of training, try to find people in your class who are looking for the same type of experience. You may have to meet outside of the dojo for some extra practice on your own.
Lastly, once you have built some real tangible skills, you may find a need to redefine or learn the difference between a fight and self defense. In a fight you are basically doing two things. You are trying to not take on or minimize damage to yourself, while simultaneously trying to inflict and or maximize damage to your opponent. In self defense, you are merely trying to prevent injury to yourself. Now is fighting a means of self defense? Yes, of course. If you react to your attacker with overwhelming force then your odds of injury are reduced proportional to his inability to continue the attack. Most people sign on to this school of thought. In self defense, you only need to prevent injury to yourself. If this means you see a bully walking down the street, you take the next street, and have successfully defended yourself from his would be onslaught. Say you can't walk tot he next street and he is in your face. You could block, parry, and side step his attacks till he gets tired or bored, and again you successfully defended yourself.
That being said, you aren't going to use Aikido to fight by itself. You can successfully defend yourself to a point. That point has to do with your ability to apply and the constitution of your attacker. You may very well be able to blend and enter his attacks, avoiding injury. This may discourage him enough that he quits, but someone who is more devoted to hurting you, may need to take some damage before realizing you aren't the one today. This is why being familiar with effective striking techniques is beneficial. You may be able to break a wrist or dislocate a joint, but how long will that take to heal, compared to say a bloodied nose or blackened eye? In the end, which is more in line with Aiki principles; injuring a joint in which he may lose the use of for weeks or months, or a bloody nose that stops within the hour, or bruised cheek that doesn't otherwise hinder him, and is back to normal in a few days, maybe a couple of weeks?