There’s always been question about the effectiveness of Aikido. Of late, with social media and YouTube, the voices are getting louder about what Aikido is or is not, and all those things about how ‘good’ is Aikido?
Without too going too much into the details of the argument, and if we do, the cow will never get to come home.
“It’s the singer, not the song.”
Commitment, focus, intensity and loyalty
I too have questions about how ‘good’ Aikido is as a martial arts, but the crux of the question is, how good is my Aikido? How good am I as a martial artist?
And I am not that good.
Training, training, and training
It all boils down to clocking the time in training, and since Aikido is an incredibly difficult art to be proficient in and you really need a lot of time on the mat to get the moves right. You cannot just attend training twice a week and say: “Okay, I’m good in it.” The moves in Aikido involves E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, the body, the mind, and the soul. An Aikidoka needs to be mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually trained, and it is a long, long process.
The motor movement for a punch in the face is simple, or at a more complex level, a straight kick, is also quite straightforward. Even a take down, or shoulder throw can be executed by novice, with minimal training. Things are not so straightforward with Aikido. To successfully execute an Irimi-Nage, takes years of practice, and even with that, things can still go wrong. There is so many moving parts that needs to come together for Irimi-Nage to happen, and when it does, it can be a very effective moves where the opponent, once, caught, has no way of escaping.
Stop thinking the song is bad, just start singing and enjoy singing it, you will get better, and so will the song.
Top Tier Aikidoka
When you don’t train enough, you talk about training. I’m saying it because I am also guilty of not training enough, and talking too much. While there is no world ranking in Aikido, no top 100 Billboard charts to say who’s who, we may never know how good an Aikidoka really is. And since there is no competition to determine the top-dog, everyone is talking about how good they are and showing off all over the internet.
There are very good Aikidokas, I’m sure, folks with really skillful moves and they are off the grid. No one knows who they are or how good they are. All they do is train, and train hard, with no interest in telling anyone, or the world, they are good.
These are the fame-less and un-famous ones. These Aikidokas are really skilled, technically competent and finds no need to show off. They train with commitment, perhaps 4-5 times a week, focused in training and dedicated to the art, no matter what people says. They live, breath, eat and poop Aikido, and they have no question about their ability with Aikido.
I’m not out to permanently address any arguments about how good or bad Aikido is, that’s not the point. I know how good or bad my Aikido is, and I need more training, for sure. One other thing I know for sure; the human body is all about conditioning, you train the body hard, it becomes an instrument, a tool. That’s all the body is, a functional mechanism; you will get better in what you put time to.
So if you put in an insane amount of time in training, you will become very good in your Aikido, and at the same time you will be mentally, and psychologically sharp. Things will flow around you, and techniques will happen. Your opponents will maim themselves trying to get to you, because that’s the design of Aikido, help you get around people without you having to do much.
Before anyone can reach that level of effortlessness, we all need to train hard, train long. It takes a lot of effort to appear effortless, so when anyone take a look at an Aikido video, they only see the flow and question why the uke so willingly takes a fall.
Okay. There are some bad videos about Aikido (mine included) and some really good ones.
With a trained eye, you can see those really ‘good’ ones, where the uke have no choice but to fall. And the nage is executing a very simple, direct, close contact technique. There is no fancy twirl, no dance-like movement, it’s mostly straight take down, pins and throws. If such techniques is used on an untrained person, the outcome is predictable.
The ukes in those videos has put in an insane amount of training so that they can skillfully work around the pins, take downs and throws safely, without injury. Of course with a very well trained ukes, a nage can also effortlessly execute, nice fanciful throws, dramatic pins and awesome take downs, if you see those, then these I would consider ‘showmanship aikido’. It’s done for a performance.
A Difficult Song to Sing
Aikido is a very difficult art to master, which is why there is so much misunderstanding about it. Generally, other martial arts have a kind of baby steps for practitioners to learn. Basic kata for beginners and advanced katas for senior belts. There is a kind of structure that helps the practitioners get better.
The problem with learning Aikido is the free-form style. Basically, we do the same Irimi-Nage, beginners and senior belts alike. The difference, is our understanding and depth in the technique. And going back to Irimi-Nage- it is a very technically challenging technique even for an advanced student, and beginners have to start grappling with it very early in their journey into Aikido. There are tonnes of doubts beginners have (I still have them!) about Irimi-Nage, some used those doubts to fuel for their training, some turn those doubts into answers, as to why Aikido don’t work. The only way to find out what Aikido can do, is to turn up for training, preferably-5 times a week.
So are you a bad singer, singing a very difficult song? Stop thinking the song is bad, just start singing and enjoy singing it, you will get better, and so will the song.