Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aikido is not a throwing art

Often in the martial arts we categorize art form by the desired result. We call karate a striking art, and judo a throwing art. Several of my teachers and I seem to be growing in a direction away from the traditional view of aikido. I believe many in the art would consider aikido a throwing art, or maybe a joint locking art. In these narrow views of results a great many tools get ignored or left out from the martial artist’s tool set. Very few aikido artists include ashi waza, foot sweeps into their practice of aikido. Similarly shime waza and quality atemi waza are often disregarded. Ground work is also ignored. Throws and pins are the vast majority of the curriculum.

Perhaps I would like to redefine my own art. It is not a throwing art – though I do use a lot of throws. Aiki, in my vision, is an art form where is the result is a crumbled structure of the opponent. Kuzushi, or structure crumbling is the primary goal. Throws happen because a structure is broken. Control happens when a structure is broken. Good atemi needs not cause percussive damage; it should cause the structure of the person to break down. Chokes and foot sweeps are also great ways to cause misalignment in an opponent’s structure. The deeper I explore the challenges of ground fighting, all I see is a direct correspondence to structure breaking.

Aikido is not a throwing art. Aikido is a structure breaking art with varied results happening from kuzushi. Redefining the goal is important. Many of the great teachers say that kake, or the execution of technique happens on its own if the structure is correctly broken. Maybe that is the result we should label our practice as. I know that is my current practice.


  1. I concur. Mostly. Keep up the good work, and Don't let the bastards grind you down.

  2. I could write volumes on this (and probably have, elsewhere).

    Like any art, it's tough to say definitively what aikido is or isn't. It has elements of this or that, but it's (appropriately) difficult to pin down, is always larger than what you think it is, or even want it to be.

    For me, aikido is not a balance-breaking art either, although that sometimes happens too. At its best, aikido is about the confluence of forces, synergy, and symbiosis. At it's best, aikido promotes balance and extends the degrees of freedom throughout the system.

    Counter-currents like striking, locking, throwing, pinning, and balance-breaking may be necessary and inevitable. But overall, I think aikido is about keeping people standing, about engendering balance systemically.

    Too, if balance can shift without being lost or broken, such as when we walk, sit, or lie down, then maybe it's possible that a "throw" can happen even while balance is preserved for all.

    Just my perspective, and thanks.


  3. To Me, Aikido is a feeling art. Kuzushi is a great concept but to me anyway, any untrained person can do that (I often do it when I'm not in Aikido "mode").

  4. You rebels... GET BACK IN LINE! ;-)