A recently posted article by Henry Ellis published at Mooshin has reopened the old debate about how the martial arts world views Aikido as a martial art. I have been a long time fan of Rik Ellis (see his blog here) who is a trained and successful MMA fighter who has trained Aikido extensively (sorry folks, but I am a fan of the UFC). His father, Henry Ellis a famous early pioneer of Aikido in Britain has always been quite critical of the modern version of Aikido and prefers to continue the practice of his version of Aikido with extreme directness.
As a Aikido practitioner myself, I have enjoyed the benefits of commencing by learning within the Yoseikan Aikido system (Mochizuki Sensei). The beauty of the Yoseikan system is that it incorporates elements of Karate, Judo, aikijujutsu and Aikido. Significantly we train with the use of many strikes, particularly punches and kicks and also practice break-falling to an extensive degree.
I have also studied Aikiki at various times throughout my career (I go to Bali every year and train Aikiki there) and while you always have an affinity for the style you learned first, I have learned a significant amount from this change in style. Firstly, It has allowed me to begin experimenting with a softening of my hands, which provokes better posture and some of the taisabaki practice significantly helped me understand how to move better. I am not saying I wouldn’t have achieved this through normal practice but it certainly helped me focus on it.
Back to the argument. In the article Henry mentions how he sees Aikido as being significantly watered down with soft attacks and compliant ukes. And I have to agree with him. Much of what I see practiced in a dojo is going to get you in serious trouble in a real scenario. However, whilst the Aikijujutsu side of the equation provides a great framework for learning a good martial art, the strong level of training might not be for everyone.
I think the softer styles of Aikido allow more (shall we say, less agile, less aggressive) people the opportunity to practice a martial art form. And with significant training, they begin to metamorphosize into better martial artists. And lets be honest, I cant see many Aikidoka getting into any type of trouble given the art attracts a person with a certain type of disposition.
Aikido as Exercise
What I believe is the true strength of Aikido is the type of training that it provides. Non many martial arts require falling (ukemi) to quite the degree that Aikido does. And learning to fall correctly requires a high degree of agility and balance. It is certainly not the workout that boxing or grappling would give but the benefit of spatial awareness of large areas is significant.
I guess the true strength of Aikido comes into play with weapons. Aikidoists are train to move (enter) when being attacked. It really is the only option when faced with a weapon. For most other martial arts, covering up just isn’t going to cut it when a weapon is involved (krav marga has some really cool weapons defense).
So I feel that if people want to get involved in Aikido with any style they should, it’s great for the spirit, you meet like minded people and it is something you can practice well into later life. But if your looking for an effective martial system, I would look to some form of cross training in other martial art. Most of the founding fathers of Aikido had many belts in many arts (Judo, Karate, Kendo, iaido etc.)
Speaking of cross training, when I was training boxing, some time ago, I found that that my timing in Aikido really improved. So the benefits of cross training in other arts will transition into your Aikido.
Don’t just take your Aikido for granted, train many things and have many teachers but please just never tell me you can do a technique without touching someone as we all no the outcome of that when tested.
What are your thougths? Comment below…