"Oh, he's just falling down for her."
An Aikido throw can look so improbably smooth and effortless that it is easy
to believe that it is faked. It isn't -- it's physics.
The laws of physics are as strictly enforced at Aikido schools as they are
at ski slopes. If you have ever been a beginning skier, you know from
painful experience just how devastating those forces can be. Saying that the
attacker fell down "for" the Aikidoist is like saying that the beginning
skier fell down "for" the mountain.
The advanced skier has learned to use these forces; a small shift in weight
or position determines whether the skier crashes into a tree or swooshes
effortlessly through a turn and down the slope. An accomplished skier flying
across the snow is as improbable to the frustrated beginner as an
accomplished Aikidoist flying across the mat -- but neither one is faking.
"It's too much like dancing -- It would never work."
What is dancing? It is controlled motion. Watch Fred Astaire and Ginger
Rogers, the two moving in harmony, whirling around the floor in perfect
What would have happened if Fred had let go of Ginger at a critical moment,
she would have gone flying across the room and fallen.
What happens when the Aikidoist lets go of an attacker at a critical moment?
The attacker groes flying across the room and falls.
Yes, it is like dancing.
Yes, it works.
I think [aikido] is the most difficult of all the martial arts to
learn. Its demands for skill, grace and timing rival those of
-- Physicist Jearl Walker
The genius of Aikido is to transform the most violent attack, by embracing
it, into a dance.
-- George Leonard.
"It didn't work."
It is useful to define what you mean by "it worked" or "it didn't
work." If someone grabs you and you prefer that he not do that, you
have many options. Some techniques (especially those known as
kokyunages) depend on the attacker (uke) holding on to the defender
(nage); he is in danger of being thrown only so long as he does so. If
he lets go, you have no throw. But if your purpose was to pursuade uke
to let go and he did, then the technique "worked." You do not have to
put him on the ground to achieve that purpose.
On the other hand, if you purpose is to learn a technique, there are
other considerations. Some students are afraid of falling. Others may
see doing the throw as "winning" and falling as "losing." Consequently
many beginners counter every move or let go as soon as they fell
themselves in danger of falling -- then confuse the cessation or
change of their own attack with failure of nage's technique.
In Aikido there is no losing. We learn to give the appropriate attack
and we learn to fall so that we can help others to learn. They will do
the same for you. You "win" by being a good teacher.
Winning means winning over the discord in yourself. Those who have
a warped mind, a mind of discord, have been defeated from the
-- Morihei Ueshiba (Founder of Aikido)
"But instead he could..."
Yes. But don't worry about it. The possibilities of attack and defense
are unlimited. Beginning Aikido is like beginning arithmetic: we stage
a particular attack with a particular energy in order to practice a
particular response or its variations. Calculus, with multiple
variables, comes later. For now, give the appropriate energy, respond
with the appropriate response. This is how we learn.
"What is Ki? Do you really believe it's real?"
Aikidoists think of Ki as the universal energy or spirit present in
all things -- often a difficult concept for Westerners. If the idea
of extending a beam of energy from your fingers out to the edge of the
cosmos violates your sense of reality, then think of it as "attention"
or "mind" and use the ideas as a tool, like Einstein riding his
hypothetical beam of light; if it were true, what would you see? What
Did Einstein "really" go riding on a beam of light? Not in the usual
sense, but the thought was "real" in that it produced "real" results
-- he was able to see using this image and what he saw is now
considered very real indeed. If you begin a ki test by imagining
yourself nestled at the center of the earth, are you physically
attached of billions of tons of water and rock? Not "really" -- but
if your thought results in stability and power, what, then, is
Use the concept of Ki as a working hypothesis. Soon you may develop
your own ideas of what it is and how it works for you.
"Have you ever had to use your Aikido?"
In the usual sense of physical attack and physical defense, no. In the
larger sense I use it every day. Budo, the "way" or "path" of the
Japanese samurai, is usually translated as the "way of the sword." The
characters, however, actually mean "the way to cease using the
Aikido emphasizes control of the situation -- and of yourself. Self
defense is a side effect of something far more profound. Aikido, the
Way of Harmony, is a path well worth following. And it can be followed
for a lifetime.
If you pit negative force against negative force, there will always be
a collision; even if you win, you still lose. So I always go out of my
way to avoid an altercation. Having this attitude is probably the
reason why, to this day, I have never had to use karate in an
aggressive manner off the mat.
-- Chuck Norris
Virginia Ki Society