Practice of so-called "non-traditional" attacks is quite useful and
has a necessary place in the practice of Aikido as a viable martial
art. But that isn't the main thrust of the critics of Aikido
attacks, of whom I am one. My problem is that in many dojos I see,
there are NO attacks.
I was at a
seminar in which visiting Ikeda Sensei called up a shodan to take
ukemi. This young man was directed to do munetsuki but Ikeda Sensei
didn't move when the attack was made. Six inches from his chest the
young man's tsuki suddenly deflected off into space. Ikeda Sensei
directed him to really hit but after five attempts, the young man
was still unable to get himself to make contact.
This is a massive failure of training. This man has gotten up to
Yudansha Rank and can't do a tsuki. Having this person for a partner
is not just useless but actually counter productive for one's
training. Repetitive parctice of technique from attacks which are
energetically false imprints a whole range of associations which are
wrong and will prove disastrous when a real committed attack is
One doesn't need to get into non-traditional attacks to find out
where the problem in Aikido attacks lies. Stick with Shomenuchi,
Yokomenuchi, and Munetsuki. I consistently visit dojos in which
mid-level yudansha routinely deliver strikes to each other in
training which one would find vaguely annoying at worst if one were
I have watched Randoris on Yudansha tests in which several
ukes did their level best not to strike the nage but rather held
their arms out for the necessary time to allow the nage to do the
technique of his choice. There was no need for nage to develop
proper timing and spacing as the ukes fascilitated everything for
Aikido is to have any real value other than as a dance form then
things need to be seen and practiced for what they are. A shomenuchi
is a knife edge strike to the front of the head. Whether you do it
off the front foot, off the back foot, as an extension outwards
(like the Shingu folks) or as a powerful vertical downwards strike
(like the ASU folks) doesn't matter. What matters is that it is a
strike and that the uke is attempting to strike the nage.
If nage is too junior to handle a full out attack then
the attck is adjusted to make it safe. But if he makes a mistake it
should still hit him; it just doesn't hit hard enough to injure.
When you get to yudansha level you should be seeing committed and
powerful attacks. If nage makes mistake he should get hit.
Attacks in many dojos are completely lacking in intention. You can
casually move off the line of attack and the uke will dutifully
strike the spot where used to be standing. No matter how slowly you
make your entry somehow the uke never hits you. You attain O-sensei
level of ability to move around without anyone ever hitting you (as
long as the attackers are from your own dojo where this type of
detrimental practice is condoned).
I consistentlly encounter people at
seminars who are shocked to find that they can't actually do the
irimi movement they thought they could. Repeatedly my hand stiops
touching their heads no matter how they try to escape. Their problem
isn't that I am somehow so much faster than anyone else they train
with... it's that I have a clear intention to strike when I strike.
They'd been cruising along in their dojos thinking that they could
actually do that irimi nage and then they find out it was all a
again I was at a nidan test in which the person testing looked
fairly competent but was not, in my opinion, being challenged in any
way by the ukes who were all from his own dojo. At one point Saotome
Sensei called fr a new uke and a student from outside that person's
dojo stepped in. His first yokomen strike went right through this
fellow's attempted deflection and bopped him upside the head.
To his credit he was able to make the adjustment
and handled the next few committed attacks. But you could see the
shock on his face when that first "real" strike came in. It made it
painfully obvious to everyone present who cared to look that none of
the previous ukes were actually trying to do a strike.
I think that people need to make an attack be what it is. It is a
strike and the person doing it needs to think of it that way. He
should be trained to have the strongest intention to hit that safety
allows. This starts with the teacher. If the teacher accepts unreal
attacks from his ukes than the whole basis for training at the dojo
My teachers, Ikeda Sensei and Saotome Sensei absolutely
expected you to do your level best to nail them. On those very rare
occasions when one of us would succeed you'd get a smile and a "very
good". We trained with each other the same way. In my early yudansha
days I got hit as many times as I succeeded on my entries. But as
frustrating as that was sometimes, when I pulled one off I KNEW I
had pulled one off. I didnt have to wonder if my partner had given
it to me.
In many dojos
there is so little intention in the attacks that when someone who
can really attack does so, the students can not stand in front of it
and keep their centers. You can feel their energy field collapse as
you start to move forward with the strike.
If you can't hold your mind steady when the
attack is delivered, then no amount of training, no amount of
technical acquisition, no amount of detailed understanding of how a
technique works will make any difference. If your Mind goes into
retreat at the instant of the attack, everything else is over before
you even make physical contact. It doesn't matter that you know
hundreds of techniques. They are simply hundreds of techniques which
you can't do.
the fundamental issue with Aikido training today. You take care of
this issue and adding some practice once in a while using
non-traditional attacks is just a detail in the development of the
students skills as martial artists.
History | Founders
Austin Aikido TENSHINKAI
Dojo, Austin, TX. USA . ( 1995 )