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Old 08-17-2009, 04:21 AM   #1
Reuben's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Seishinkan
Location: Kuching
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 111
My Experiences in Cross Training MMA with Aikido

Just thought i'll share my thoughts on the matter.

I cross train Aikikai Aikido with CMD an MMA style that draws from western boxing, muay thai and BJJ.

I've been training in Aikido for perhaps say 16 years.

However lately, after about 6 months into my training in CMD, I have found that certain aspects of CMD have been incorporated into my Aikido techniques and approach to the art which have unlocked insights that I would have probably not obtained in a traditional Aikido atmosphere.

Perception of an Attack

In Aikido, most students aren't really good attackers. In fact, I think in most Aikido schools, we're trained to be sloppy to let the other person learn the technique. Unfortunately even at the dan levels, due to repeated 'training' of sloppy attacks, we never quite learnt how to do a proper attack, getting further away from practicality.

However, CMD removed my fear of being punched. I no longer flinch and got used to the faster punch speeds. Hence when I trained Aikido, suddenly all the attacks were moving in slow motion and it became incredibly easy to dodge these with increasing efficiency.

You can't expect to apply Aikido to every attack

When I swapped these sloppy attacks with more realistic quick punches, you realized that there are punches that you can't do a technique on (for example a crisp jab), while others which give u a window of opportunity to do something (for example hooks and crosses). When practicing with my students who had little training of any sorts of punches, even when they were trying to punch quick and jab, I managed to complete techniques against these.

For crisp jabs, it was basically learning to keep a distance and circle (much like CMD) while deflecting them with non committal slaps. CMD talks about occupying the space with jabs, while Aikido has it all out there ALREADY occupying this space putting you in an ideal position to redirect non committal attacks without sacrificing defense. Perhaps this is a manifestation of ma-ai.

Realistic Sparring changes your Mindset- you can't always be passive

CMD also introduced me to realistic sparring where you don't really know how the other guy is going to attack. Aikido randoori or jiyuwaza isn't really 'free' in that there are still predetermined attacks and...holds....

It's one mindset doing jiyuwaza and another where there is a real danger of being punched and where it's accepted to get punched as part of the learning process. In an Aikido dojo, if you don't 'pull your punches' and actually connect with someone, you're labelled as a violent person which leads to overcompensation with fake, unrealistic attacks.

When approaching jiyuwaza with this mindset, you actually develop a more pro-active style, moving in before the person has fully gotten up and pre-emptively striking right before he strikes if his posture is weak.

It no longer is an elaborate dance but resembles a realistic scenario where you're really thinking about how to protect yourself. I think this is what many higher dan Aikido masters have found when they mentioned that in a real life situation you need to take a lot more initiative rather than waiting for an attack to come to you.

In fact you unlock true 'jiyu' where you remove the rules of what's acceptable dojo sparring and are free to innovate.

Atemi is super important

Atemi is the act of striking your opponent. Now are often told that atemi is a distracting move and there are even some Senseis who see atemi as sort of a cheating move.

I don't see it that way but as a necessary extension of what Aikido is. In fact, I believe O-Sensei advocated the importance of this. In real life, your opponent is not going to be compliant or stationary and you need a surprise jolt to buy yourself enough time to get into position for a technique.

Training counter-punching in CMD is VERY relevant to the proper application of atemi. The timing and applying the necessary force to disorient your uke is an aspect not trained.

Too often in regular Aikido training, atemi is an afterthought, done poorly and more of just a movement that in the heat of a real fight, it's often forgotten or done ineffectively.

A proper atemi hurts. Imagine getting your face smacked by a fist or being punched below the ribs, and most people will be to disoriented to resist your technique.

Some techniques remain a mystery to me

Still some Aikido techniques continue to be a mystery to me and seem only applicable against a crazy guy charging at you giving you full committal. For example, certain versions of kokyu-ho seem incredibly unrealistic unless the guy continued to hold your hand throughout the movement. This is obviously ridiculous in a real life situation.

However I do see a point in learning these techniques as it does teach you the proper flow and extension needed to execute throws but this should be made clear from the beginning rather than passed off as a 'technique'.

A technique that can only be applied on a compliant uke, is not a real technique to me. It's a practice drill.

Aikido against a trained fighter

Now I have to admit, Aikido against a trained fighter will probably have very limited usage. An experienced fighter who just does a little research on Aikido can easily see what an Aikidoka is trying to do and easily prevent it.

Aikido does rely heavily on the element of surprise. In fact I'll be quite confident if I had to spar with someone who only knew Aikido.

Aikido has no place in the octagon/professional fighting as much as BJJ has no place outside 1 on 1 fighting.

However, the majority of the guys you are going to face are untrained fighters or people who aren't actually expecting you to resist in such a manner. This is really in most cases a true self defense scenario where you're going to be caught by surprise and the attacker isn't expecting you to fight back.

Just imagine getting yourself into a boxing stance when faced with attackers, it immediately puts them on notice that you know how to fight and they react accordingly.

The great thing about Aikido is that you can still assume a non threatening stance and yet be ready to explode into action. It builds muscle reflexes where if someone grabs me, I immediately instinctively move into a throw (yes I once threw my ex-gf and almost threw my Japanese tour operator). It is also very final and yet non lethal. Sure a punch in CMD should end most fights but a proper pin or throw has a certain finality to it perhaps only less as compared to a BJJ choke.

Aikido is still relevant

So in my opinion, Aikido is still very relevant. Sure it may not be as mano to mano effective as MMA, but its applications in a self defense situation are still very real as long as a more realistic emphasis is placed on training.

We often forget that legends such as O-Sensei and Gozo Shioda perfected their art through realistic matches/fights gaining the necessary instincts to be able to pull off Aikido. In a way, realistic sparring may be that missing element to complete Aikido.

Slow and unrealistic attacks do have a role in learning Aikido. It's just that we must learn that once we have reached a certain level of Aikido, it's time to move away from the rules that were created to protect us but at the same time restrain us from the true application of Aikido.

Last edited by Reuben : 08-17-2009 at 04:24 AM.
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