Aikido Blog 

The Ethics of Defense

In my opinion, Aikido is a defensive martial art. Its techniques are primarily for neutralizing various attacks like holds, grabs, punches, kicks and various combination of them. I like Aikido because of that. In Aikido, I learn how to subdue aggressive attackers with effective and efficient techniques. Aikido is not totally defensive though. There are some basic strikes like shomenuchi (strike from the top to the head), yokomenuchi (strike from the side to the head) and tsuki (thrust); and some basic kicks like mae-geri (straight kick), yoko-geri (side kick) and ushiro-geri (rear kick). There are also various atemi (strike to the openings to make the attacker off guard).

I read an interesting topic in my Aikido book titled “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” about the ethics of defense. It is very interesting to me. I’m always thinking, what if in the real world I have to face a situation where there is physical conflict and I’m forced to defend myself. What kind of defensive action can I make? The topic in the book above gives a little perspective on that.

There are three kind of situation. The first, in the middle of a conflict one person suddenly attack the other person. The other person defends himself by applying a technique; the attacker is subdued and injured. The second, in the middle of a conflict one person provokes the other person. The other person becomes provoked and attack the provoker. The provoker defends himself by applying a technique; the attacker is subdued and injured. The last situation, in the middle of a conflict one person suddenly attacks the other person. The other person defends himself by applying a technique; the attacker is subdued and not injured.

In the first situation, the defender reacts to protect himself and the end result is the attacker is injured. In my opinion, the defender can not be blamed although the attacker is injured in the end. In the mind of the defender, his safety is the first priority; that is basic human instinct to survive. In the perspective of martial arts, I think many martial art techniques fall into this category. Forceful and lethal techniques are used to disable attacker that can cause serious injury to the attacker. Striking and kicking are trained to the level of being able to break bricks. Throwing and locking techniques are done in a way that if the attacker doesn’t know how to perform ukemi (falling safely), he will be severely injured. Lethal points of human body are being targeted for striking or kicking. I think even if the techniques themselves are lethal, the one who has mastered them should be able to control them at appropriate level so that the attacker will not be severely injured.

In my opinion, in the second situation the defender is the attacker because he is the one who starts provoking. It is not right and not gentle to do that and to injure the provoked person. It is even more not right if the provoking person know that he could handle and he has the intention to injure the provoked man. I had a little conflict long ago with my neighbor over small misunderstanding. There was arguing and intense emotion; it was irritating. At that time I tried not to provoke the irritating and intimidating man; I knew if I did so there would be physical conflict. I did so not because I was afraid. I was confident I could handle the man physically with my level of training at that time. And so the conflict ended with some understanding. I think no martial art teaching teaches provoking.

According to the book, the third situation is the most ideal. It is the purpose of an Aikidoka to subdue an attacker without causing severe injury to the attacker. I agree to that. In fact, many Aikido techniques reflect that philosophy. For example, ikkyo (first control) based techniques. When performing ikkyo, nage (defender) pinned uke (attacker) to the ground, controlling the back of one of his arm by grasping the wrist with one hand and pressuring the elbow with the other hand. In ikkyo, nage can give uke a choice: to surrender and go away or to suffer the pin further more. Ikkyo can injure the elbow if further applied, thus it is called elbow break in other martial art if I’m not mistaken. Ikkyo in particular or osae waza (pinning techniques) in Aikido reflect the same philosophy.

In my opinion, it is rather difficult to be able to apply the principle in the third situation. We tend to act like in the first situation, especially in life threatening situation. I read it in one of my Aikido books that to be able to apply that principle, one has to be strong. To be that strong, I think it can be achieved through our daily practice. From my books again, I think it is “The Principles of Aikido”, when practicing we should treat every attack that uke delivers as a deadly attack. Uke has the responsibility to make his attack like one. Consider shomenuchi, we should not treat uke’s shomenuchi as it is. Shomenuchi itself, in training, is not a dangerous attack; we could let it through and can suffer the blow. We should instead treat it as if it were a blow to our head with a baseball bat maybe. If we practice that way, we develop our awareness and we learn to harness the instinct to over-react when attacked. That is what I’m still practicing to achieve.

Merry Christmas 25 Dec’ 2005 and Happy New Year 1 Jan’ 2006!


When people see Aikido demonstration, they are often amazed by how elegant and smooth the techniques are. It is partly because of the uke who knows how to perform ukemi (falling correctly). Uke performs ukemi to safeguard himself from unnecessary injuries. Ukemi is not only useful in Aikido, it is also useful in every day life and in certain sports. A person practicing a certain kind of sports can benefit from ukemi, for example motor sport racing. Once, I saw on television a motor sport racer got thrown from his bike as if he was flying because of a collision; I thought he was going to be injured badly by landing with his head first or landing flat on his chest, he instead performed a smooth mae ukemi (front roll) which save him. That action was replayed in slow motion so I could observe it; I bet that man had learned ukemi, possibly he had learned Aikido. I think there are many kind of sports that have risks of falling that can benefit from ukemi. In every day life, sometimes ukemi can save us from injury. Once, I fell because I stepped on slippery floor and I managed to perform yoko ukemi (falling to the side) instinctively saving my back bone and the back of my head from hitting the floor.

In my opinion, Aikido has an extensive array of ukemi. In Aikido, there are mae ukemi and ushiro ukemi (backward roll) from sitting and standing position; and yoko ukemi. From that basics, aikidoka learns how to take the fall from different angles according to the technique performed by nage. An adventurous friend of mine who holds black belt in Aikido said that he once attended Judo and Jujutsu class and he was able to become a good uke; with his ukemi skills in Aikido, he could adapt more easily to other ukemi techniques.

Ukemi has always been beginner’s drawback. Most of the new students can’t do ukemi. They don’t know how to take the fall. Therefore, training with new students requires extra care. Nage must perform the technique gently thus allowing uke performs basic ukemi. At later stage, whenever uke is more capable of performing ukemi, nage can perform techniques with more speed and power. Uke in the other hand, must be consequent. He must take the fall from whatever angle with no fear in order to let nage learning a technique. I read in one of my Aikido books, it is said that not only nage who emanates ki when performing a technique; uke must also full of ki and emanates ki when performing ukemi. Uke also has an advantage of performing ukemi by being able to ‘feel’ the technique. By being uke, one experiences and has the feeling of how a technique is being performed so one can perform a correct technique when being nage. There is a saying in Aikido: “To be a good nage, one must be a good uke first.”

I found it difficult to perform ukemi in my early training days. When I attended Aikido test, I saw third kyu (equals blue belt in my organization) examination. The blue belt holder was required to attack shodan (first degree black belt) as instructed and the shodan performed the technique with enough speed and power to make the blue belt performed nagare (‘flying’ ukemi). That examination bothered me. I was afraid at that time that I would not be able to perform nagare and get injured. Luckily, through practice I could perform ukemi properly later when I was at third kyu.

To be able to perform ukemi, especially nagare, correctly, it is important to master the basics that are mentioned above before. From there, it is important to practice gyakute mae ukemi. It is the basic position to perform nagare from various techniques. After that, practice nagare as uke from a technique, particularly technique that starts from grabs. Katatedori Sumi Otoshi (one hand grab, hand – push throw) is a good technique for uke to begin performing nagare from. Then practice to be uke performing nagare from Katatedori Kotegaeshi (one hand grab, wrist twist) and Katatedori Koshinage (one hand grab, hip throw). Extra care should be taken when performing nagare from Katatedori Shihonage (one hand grab, four direction throw). To practice falling from behind, practice nagare from Ushiro Ryotedori Koshinage (two hands grab from behind, hip throw). The key is to practice to take the fall from various angle safely.

Body positioning is also important when performing ukemi. Uke must take a safe position to perform ukemi. In order to do that, uke must blend with the technique in a controlled movement, not ‘over – extended’ and it is important to be relaxed. If the body is stiff and not relaxed, then when it hits the mat the resulting sound will be “Bukk!” It is because when it hits the mat, its weight is not distributed but centered in one point. It will be unpleasant to fall that way. Instead, if the body is relaxed, then when it hits the mat the resulting sound will be “Bumm!” That is the sign of correct falling; it is not painful as it seems, even more it is like getting a massage for the body which is good. As I mentioned before, uke must also be filled and emanates ki in order to take the fall with no fear.

Visualization also helps when performing ukemi. I read in a Zen or Tao comic book, there was once a wrestler who got defeated by his own student. He seek help by going to a temple. The monk told him to meditate and visualize himself as a big wave that cannot be stopped. After a while, he came back and he defeated his ungrateful student. I tried that before I took my third kyu examination that I mentioned above. I visualize myself as a nimble uke performing various ukemi correctly. It worked. But visualization only helps if there is a good foundation first. The progress of performing ukemi can be gained by constant practice.

Teaching: Learning How to Learn Aikido (John Riggs)

[B]Teaching: Learning How to Learn Aikido[/B] - 51 Replies
From: John Riggs on 5. Jan 2005, 06:26pm
I agree showing common errors if no one is doing them would seem to be a waste of time. Showing how the technique feels can be valuable feedback. I also find it is a nice way to show nages deliberately hurting you what their technique feels like. I have used that before to tell them that this is what your technique feels like and if you don't like the feel as I don't then you might want to let up. :D

Techniques: Break Falls (sunny liberti)

[B]Techniques: Break Falls[/B] - 14 Replies
From: sunny liberti on 5. Jan 2005, 07:11pm
I'd like to add to Rob's drill that the extended arm would be behind you with palm up while walking. It feels (and looks) really goofy! As you tuck your head and flip, keep the arm stationary out behind you and relaxed - DON'T TRY TO SLAP THE MAT!! That arm is "feeling" for the ground. Let it make contact due to your movement. If you slap, your elbow will be at great risk, especially b/c you won't have a good sense of how far away the ground is.

And know that you may have to do it in controlled circumstances for a long time before you can handle doing it in action. Build your muscle memory to do it right. We ususally need that ukemi for getting out of a tight spot quickly, so you'll want your body to do it correctly without thought when you need that ukemi.

Good luck!

General: tattoos (JAHsattva)

[B]General: tattoos[/B] - 56 Replies
From: JAHsattva on 5. Jan 2005, 09:02pm

check the link again on my previous post.

there's a celtic tree of life on my back.

it did hurt. :D

Introductions: Hi Everyone (ali og)

[B]Introductions: Hi Everyone[/B] - 5 Replies
From: ali og on 5. Jan 2005, 09:43pm
Hi Amanda! It sounds like we're in the same boat - I just signed onto aikiweb and I've been training about four months as well. I bet your aikido will help with that phd work, too! Best wishes...

Open Discussions: The Welfare of each ... (Chuck Clark)

[B]Open Discussions: The Welfare of each ...[/B] - 2 Replies
From: Chuck Clark on 5. Jan 2005, 11:18pm
The willingness to share is the real power.

Happy New Year to all,

Techniques: aikido vs jiu-jitsu (senshincenter)

[B]Techniques: aikido vs jiu-jitsu[/B] - 59 Replies
From: senshincenter on 6. Jan 2005, 12:47am

In case this might be of interest?

Unless another study has been done, or unless you are referring to a different study, I think you might be talking about the study done by Mr. Greg Dossey, in 1988 (later updated in 1992). When I ran an advanced Arrest and Control course for Mr. Dossey?s ARCON instructors I was privileged by receiving a copy of the study. A university did not do the study. At the time the study was first compiled, Mr. Dossey was a sergeant at the LAPD and he was also the department?s Exercise Physiologist. That was in 1988. In 1992, the study was replicated for reasons of comparison and cross-validation by the Training Review Committee of the LAPD. The study dealt with arrest situations that required an officer to address resistant and/or aggressive subjects. The purpose of the study was to determine how to make law enforcement training more efficient by addressing those cases or those types of cases more officers see more often. From that study, an Arrest and Control training program was developed and that program has gone on to influence many agencies across the globe (as you may well know).

As to the 90% quote:

The study determined that the most common type of resistance/aggression that an officer faces in the field during arrests is the suspect pulling his arm away after the officer has made contact with the arm in order to commence cuffing. Four other categories gained large enough a percentage to be noted. As far as going to the ground, the study only says ?62% of all altercations involving resistance and/or aggression ended with the officer and the subject on the ground with the officer applying a joint lock and handcuffing the subject.? The surrounding context implies that we are dealing with something akin to how Nikyo ends (for non-law enforcement agents) ? not two folks grappling on the ground fighting between the guard and the mount, etc. As far as two folks going to the ground and fighting it out down there, the stat was only 40% of 10.5% (you all can do the math please) ? a very small figure.

Personally, I do not know of another study and I think Mr. Dossey would have handed me any later relevant information if such a study had been done. However, I could be wrong and/or talking about something completely different.

In my opinion, that stat of 90% came from the Gracie?s tagline. I do not think it is actually supported by any kind of legitimate study ? not the kind that Mr. Dossey did at least.


Feedback: New Feature: AikiQuiz! (Zato Ichi)

[B]Feedback: New Feature: AikiQuiz![/B] - 22 Replies
From: Zato Ichi on 6. Jan 2005, 01:11am

Well, I deserve what's coming to me. I blew through that quiz in about about 20 seconds or so, and didn't really read everything... accurately.

Tenkai kote hineri, not tenshin.

In my defense, they both started with ten :D

General: Aikido & Pilates (Jordan Steele)

[B]General: Aikido & Pilates[/B] - 5 Replies
From: Jordan Steele on 6. Jan 2005, 01:29am
My sensei is a certified pilates teacher and a personal trainer. I use his personal training services about once every six months and have been to a few pilates classes. Pilates is truly an excellent complement to Aikido on the conditioning side. It doesn't do a whole lot cardiovascularly but everything else (strength, posture, flexibility, etc) is improved. The effects are subtle but powerful.

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