Note: This article was first posted on the Aikido Journal website in this
thread on their bulletin board.
The problem that arises out of comparing Aikido to other martial arts
is that Aikido exists in the absolute world while other arts deal with
the relative world. This is not to say that everyone is in the place
of no contest: the absolute, but O'Sensei pointed the way through his
practice and his character and gave the art direction. It seems that
everyone these days is worrying about Aikido's effectiveness or how it
will do against this art or that art. Let me give an example of Aikido
training's "effectiveness" from my own experience.
When I was living in Korea I organized and led an Aikido class on the
military base gym in Seoul. The martial arts room was divided into two
sections, separated by a short wall. On the other side, at the same
time as mine was a tae kwon do class. While his students were busy
doing their kata, the Korean teacher would lean on the divider and
glare at me and my students. Japan or its martial arts were not liked
by most Koreans at that time for historical reasons.
One day after both our classes were over, he came over to my side and
said: "You! Teach me Aikido!" I could tell from his voice and
aggressive posture that he was not interested in learning anything
from me. Both of our students had gathered round and the tension was
so thick, you could cut it with a knife. I realize that this was a
challenge and he only wanted to show his students how Japanese Aikido
was inferior to Korean martial arts. I politely told him that he was
already a great martial artist and I didn't need me to show him
anything. But this only increased his anger. "No," he shouted. "You
teach me Aikido, now!" Realizing there was no way out of this. I
asked him to extend his hand and grabbed HIS wrist. I asked him to
pivot and bend his knees. When he did this I followed his movement and
took ukemi for him. This continued with various moves, myself always
as uke and taking the ukemi for him. After a few throws, the anger in
his face began to fade and finally became a big smile. His students
and mine breathed a sigh of relieve as no one had lost face. Finally,
he reached out his hand in friendship and said: I like this Aikido!
From then on he smiled whenever we met, and when he watched my class
during his breaks, it was with genuine interest, rather than
The power of Aikido lies in the subtleties of mutual victory. Often
the importance of receiving (ukemi) is lost in the rhetoric of this
technique versus that technique.
Be careful not to "win the battle, but lose the war."