Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why are there no foot techniques in Aikido?

This is a question that was asked in the Hombu dojo newsletter, "Why are there no foot techniques in Aikido?" I have heard Aikikai Shihan state "foot sweeps are for those Judo guys, we don't do them." The Hombu newsletter clarified the idea somewhat.

Full Article

The article makes two main arguments. The first one being...

"One characteristic of Aikido is the absence of foot techniques and because of that, Aikido techniques attain dignity."

I think this argument is silly. Humans are too evolved to use our feet for martial arts? This argument is absurd.

The article goes on to have a somewhat more logical argument against foot sweeps.

"The other reason for the absence of foot techniques in Aikido is that they are used far from an opponent and the feet cannot reach the opponent."

This idea initially makes some sense. Aikido training tends to focus on a mid range attack. Someone is coming in from a distance and striking or grabbing in some way. At the extended range it is difficult to execute a foot sweep technique.

I find this logic is somewhat flawed. The instant a attack happens, range is broken and now the two people quickly enter a grappling range. Most Aikido training assumes successful technique and uke happily falls over. I have an earth shattering question to the Aikido community, What if attacker does not fall over and he begins grappling? Does Aikido fail here? What if the most effective and appropriate motion is to do a foot sweep? Wouldn't it be Aikido?

Aikido absolutely has foot sweeps. It has sutemi waza (sacrifice throws). It has ne waza (ground techniques)

The real reasons Aikido people tend not to do foot techniques are not because these motions are not Aikido. The reasons are...

1. Ueshiba Sensei's personal techniques did not include them. Many of his students, rather than innovating and taking aiki from other traditions have made themselves happy in photocopying one man's version of Aikido. There is a continuing fallacy in many Aikido schools. Many people believe Ueshiba's aiki was perfect and all of us are mere followers. We must try to recreate the work he did. Humbly I suggest that idea is not the true way.

2. Poor uke training. Many Aikido schools lack a system of free play randori. Instead the attacker takes a nice pretty fall every time rather than engaging on a grappling level. Realism must be a factor. The first technique does not always work! People can throw Aikido artists! Does the conflict end there?

I make no bones about it, I think there are foot techniques in Aikido. I think a good Aikido program should contain exercises that challenge the student at all ranges with a variety of problems. If an Aikido artist is not able to generalize the concepts of aiki to different problems, ranges and connections then there are weaknesses in the system. There are large holes to exploit. If an artist becomes comfortable practicing Aiki at range, in grappling and the ground...etc, then and only then Aiki becomes a true martial strategy, not a mere collection of techniques.

Here is some of our basic work at KyuRyu AikiBudo at the ashi waza range.


  1. Interesting thoughts. If I may add something to consider, just a thought, since I have never studied aikido and know only what I have read of it and seen online and at a local demonstration, it would be that aikido's body of technique seems largely derived from battlefield scenarios. On the battlefield, your opponent generally has a weapon, and if he is attacking, he generally has some momentum and some ground to cover. Most of the aikido I have seen online appears perfectly geared to take advantage of this sort of thing, and less well-geared to handle the nose-to-nose sort of situations that often characterize self-defense situations in our society. The sort of foot techniques to which you refer seem to me to have a greater role in civilian self-defense, in other words, than in the battlefield situations from which (seems to me) aikido techniques are mostly derived.

    Just a thought. Like I say, I don't pretend to actually know.

  2. Are there foot techniques in Daito Ryu?

  3. none that I was ever taught or experienced. However there is always a chance, there is a lot of daito ryu out there.

  4. Ahh you practice the sweeps.. but can you sweep my mat this next friday?


  5. your ashi waza is improving! nice

  6. Hehe, that was the same film from April!

  7. Very nice, I see some cross-over with push hands!

  8. i was thinkin of an older film i saw of your work i think -- way back before we met, no?

    i think your point about applying aiki principle across the broad spectrum is cogent -- aiki is universally applicable--i think the resistance to making aikido more inclusive is probaby a prefeerence of stickin to brand-- when a system departs too much it appears diluted to the orthodox -- the other menkyo, Mochizuki built a more universalized system that included aikido, judo, karate and weapons but as a result he kindof seemed to marginalize himself (his brand) in the aikido community--
    Tomiki suffers the same problem on a lesser scale-- blurring the lines between aikido and judo, particularly with shiai, results in turning the vast majority aikido folk off
    --as a point of comparison Shioda did his own thing but stayed closer to the image of the classical hombu and as a result had much wider appeal -- in some ways his technical departure is just as distinct as Mochizuki's or Tomiki's but he dressed it up differently -- better marketing i think

  9. Interesting comments RE: brand, Nick.

    I agree, Strange's ashiwaza is improving from the first that I saw. I also agree that ashiwaza can be included under the umbrella of aiki. In fact, it's probably the easiest group of judo techniques to re-integrate into aikido (considering that aikido already has much of the judo tewaza and koshinage in it.)

    i guess if your mission were to create a union between judo and aikido, then you could take it a piece at a time, get your aikido and your tewaza to unity, then work on ashiwaza, then, sutemi, and newza.