There are people who say that Aikido is useless for self-defense. I do not agree.
When I came back from Iwama to America and opened my own dojo, I always taught my students that the best self defense techniques are awareness and avoidance, and if they actually have to resort to unarmed defense it is because they screwed up badly.
Two of my students, Mary and John (not their real names) were nervous about telling me about their experiences because they were afraid that I would disapprove of their actions. I wasn't there and can't verify that these stories are true, but they are both good people and I chose to believe them.
Assuming that these stories are accurate, they did exactly what they should have done and I am very proud of them. In each case, they defended themselves using techniques exactly as they learned them in class.
I have always enjoyed teaching martial arts and firearms techniques to women because it empowers them and makes me feel good.
There was a gang of punks going around Mary's high school verbally sexually harassing the girls. Mary reported them to the school authorities and by doing so made herself a target.
She felt that they were going to go for her, and came to class one night and asked "Sensei, what should I do if I get cornered against a wall?".
So, I spent the whole class having the defenders start with their backs against a wall and do a variety of techniques which were modified so that the attackers ended up getting their heads smashed against the wall.
The next day the gang made its move. The leader walked up to Mary and grabbed her by the shoulder. She put him down with a nikkyo and said "Leave me alone or I will have to use my martial arts training", and then let him go.
Mary backed up against some lockers. The leader saw red and came at her with a rhino charge. Mary threw him with kokyu-nage and smashed his head against the lockers. He was taken to the hospital with a skull concussion and broken collarbone.
The school authorities investigated the matter, and took no action against Mary because they concluded that she acted in self-defense.
The gang was disbanded in disgrace because nobody would be intimidated by a gang whose leader was put in the hospital by a 14 year old girl.
John was walking down a beach in San Diego minding his own business when a gang of skinheads spotted him and decided to teach him a lesson for being a Hispanic man on "their beach".
I always teach my students that if you feel that someone is about to go for you, don't wait for an attack - take him out immediately using full power.
The gang leader got in John's face. John felt that he was about to make a move and did exactly what he was taught -- he hit the guy in the center of the face with a full power palm heel strike.
The guy went down screaming with blood gushing out of his nose. Another guy came at John with some kind of stick in an overhead strike. John grabbed his hand from below, went under, and threw him down as hard as he could with koshi-nage.
Neither guy was getting up and the rest of the gang members ran away. John quietly left the scene.
I always teach my students that if you ever have to fight, shut your brain off and let your body react in full auto mode. Whatever comes out, comes out, whether it is an Aikido technique or something completely off the wall. But, who would think that koshi-nage would be the technique that would come out in full auto? Whatever, it worked, and like they say, reality is stranger than fiction.
More tales from Iwama at Westlake Village Aikido website www.iwama-aikido.com