Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
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.