Many practitioners of aikido (from beginners to advanced students) have
concerns about the practical self-defense value of aikido as a martial art.
The attacks as practiced in the dojo are frequently unrealistic and may
delivered without much speed or power. The concerns here are legitimate, but
may, perhaps, be redressed.
In the first place, it is important to realize that aikido techniques are
usually practiced against stylized and idealized attacks. This makes it
easier for students to learn the general patterns of aikido movement. As
students become more advanced, the speed and power of attacks should be
increased, and students should learn to adapt the basic strategies of aikido
movement to a broader variety of attacks.
Many aikido techniques cannot be performed effectively without the
concomitant application of atemi (a strike delivered to the attacker for the
purpose of facilitating the subsequent application of the technique). For
safety's sake, atemi is often omitted during practice. It is important,
however, to study atemi carefully and perhaps to devote some time to
practicing application of atemi so that one will be able to apply it
effectively when necessary.
Aikido is sometimes held up for comparison to other martial arts, and aikido
students are frequently curious about how well a person trained in aikido
would stand up against someone of comparable size and strength who has
trained in another martial art such as karate, judo, ju jutsu, or boxing. It
is natural to hope that the martial art one has chosen to train in has
effective combat applications. However, it is also important to realize that
the founder of aikido deliberately chose to develop his martial art into
something other than the most deadly fighting art on the planet, and it may
very well be true that other martial arts are more combat effective than
aikido. This is not to say that aikido techniques cannot be combat effective
- there are numerous practitioners of aikido who have applied aikido
techniques successfully to defend themselves in a variety of
life-threatening situations. No martial art can guarantee victory in every
possible circumstance. All martial arts, including aikido, consist in sets
of strategies for managing conflict. The best anyone can hope for from their
martial arts training is that the odds of managing the conflict successfully
are improved. There are many different types of conflict, and many different
parameters that may define a conflict. Some martial arts may be better
suited to some types of conflict than others. Aikido may be ill-suited to
conflicts involving deliberate provocation of an adversary to fight. While
there are some who view this as a shortcoming or a liability, there are
others who see this as demonstrating the foolhardiness of provoking fights.
Since conflicts are not restricted to situations that result in physical
combat, it may be that a martial art which encodes strategies for managing
other types of conflict will serve its practitioners better in their daily
lives than a more combat-oriented art. Many teachers of aikido treat it as
just such a martial art. One is more commonly confronted with conflicts
involving coworkers, significant others, or family members than with
assailants bent on all-out physical violence. Also, even where physical
violence is a genuine danger, many people seek strategies for dealing with
such situations which do not require doing injury. For example, someone
working with mentally disturbed individuals may find it less than ideal to
respond to aggression by knocking the individual to the ground and pummeling
him or her into submission. Many people find that aikido is an effective
martial art for dealing with situations similar to this.
In the final analysis, each person must decide individually whether or not
aikido is suited to his or her needs, interests, and goals.