The transcript below is from the video “The Problem with Aikido” by Goldenbell Training.

Goldenbell Training:

Aikido – The Martial Art of Peace. It is known for its philosophy of redirecting the enemy’s energy and neutralizing the opponent without causing them any harm. Aikido students will tell you that you will develop the fighting skills of a samurai, and if you learn to harness the Aiki, you will have abilities of a Jedi.

Aikido has had some success teaching the masses when Lawrence Fishburn’s character, Morpheus, made it look cool in The Matrix, and Steven Seagal used it in all of his movies to become an action movie star in the early 90s. But despite all of this publicity, Aikido is a bit of a laughing stock in the martial arts community. In many lists you will find that Aikido is considered the most useless, the most ineffective martial art. Why is that?

Goldenbell Training:

What’s up, y’all? My name is Prince, and I am on a journey to help people find enlightenment through martial arts and Eastern spirituality. This video, we are going to look at the problem with Aikido because this art seems to be all over the place. You have a really popular channel called “Martial Arts Odyssey” where Rohas studied Aikido for years, even running his own dojo, only to ditch it after a number of situations where his training just didn’t work. And then, on the other hand, you have another popular channel like “Aikido Flow” where these guys talk about using their Aikido in self defense situations like working event security and even working the doors at clubs and bars in the UK. So, I mean, why is it effective for one person and not the other when they both appear to be actively trying to pressure test their art? So, to look at this, I think we should start at the very beginning.

Goldenbell Training:

Aikido is based on a form of Jiu-Jitsu known as Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu that was studied by the founder of Aikido, Ōsensei Morihei Ueshiba. Ōsensei was initially teaching his take on the aiki-jūjutsu that he’d learned from his teacher, which was primarily a grappling art that had throws and joint locking as the bulk of the curriculum. Now, at some point, Ōsensei’s skills surpassed what this art was supposed to be as he appeared to have this uncanny ability to enter and exit his opponents range, turn them, and almost lead their actions with his mind. Nothing like this art he was performing had ever been seen in Japan, and this is how Aikido earned its place as a treasured art in Japan.

Goldenbell Training:

Now the thing I mentioned about Ōsensei’s skills is something that I think contributes the most to the problem with Aikido, but I’ll tell you why after I tell you a story about my experience with Aikido, otherwise, what I’m about to tell you, it won’t make much sense.

Alright, so about 4 years ago, I had this crazy idea that I was going to become a stuntman. So the three things that need to be on your resume to break into the movie game as a stuntman are fights, flips, and falls. Now I knew two things about Aikido- there were a lot of choreographed training routines, and you had to know how to take falls.

So I got on Google to find the closest Aikido school to me in north Nashville, and I decided that I would give it a shot. Now really quick, I’m going to assume that someone is watching this video and seeing me for the first time. So, my background- I primarily trained Tai Chi with my teacher in Nashville who did Shuai His, or Chinese Wrestling, and he competed regularly in Sanda tournaments, so it wasn’t, you know, like which you normally think of when you see watered down Tai Chi at the YMCA for senior citizens.

Goldenbell Training:

After that I started learning Sam Chin’s I Liq Chuan, and it’s been a long, slow grind, but I enjoy it and hope to start a school one day. So back to the story, so I go into this Aikido school, and I mean the place is beautiful, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an ugly Aikido school. They tend to look nice. The people who train there are super nice. There are two instructors at this school, but one didn’t arrive until the class was almost over. And I think he was the senior instructor and he was working late. Now, it didn’t matter because the guy teaching the class, look, he was great, like his stuff was awesome. He was a really big guy, of course, I mean I’m small, so he may not have been as big as I thought but he was big to me. Either way, I had the feeling that he could probably use this stuff if he were in a situation out on the street where he had to actually defend himself.

Goldenbell Training:

Now, the students training, on the other hand? Look, I didn’t get that feeling from the students at the school. I mean, everyone was cool and super helpful. I mean, in general, I think Aikido attracts a certain type of person, and I don’t think there are too many douchey people who are going to last long at an Aikido school. Now look, I said that the instructor who taught the class was really good, and I mentioned his size because, well, I felt like the reason he would be able to use these techniques is because of his experience with the style, but also because of his size and strength.

Now the problem with that is, I mean, well, Ōsensei was a small person. The magic in this art is supposed to be that it doesn’t rely on brute force, and if you’re going to have to use some muscle and angles to make it work, I mean, why not go train Judo if you want to wear a gi and say Japanese things while you throw people around?

Goldenbell Training:

So this kind of brings us back to someone I mentioned earlier- Steven Seagal. Now, I don’t know how much Steven Seagal contributed to the popularity of Aikido, but I think there was a time when some people viewed Aikido much differently when Seagal was at the peak of his career as one of Hollywood’s top movie heroes. It’s led to people asking maybe Steven Seagal practiced a different type of Aikido, or if he somehow modernized the curriculum to make it a more effective art. Look, I’m not an expert on Aikido, but Rohas from Martial Arts Odyssey did a video on this topic a few years back, and he arrived at the conclusion that Steven Seagal’s Aikido only looks different because of his size. Again, if we’re going to make size and strength important to do this art, I mean, why not just go train Judo. Something must be lacking in what Aikido students are learning and doing versus what Ōsensei was actually doing, and maybe teaching his students.

Goldenbell Training:

So that brings me back to my visit to the Aikido dojo a few years back. Look, after class wrapped up and the students finished cleaning the dojo, the senior teacher asked me the usual stuff- what made me check out the school, when could they expect to see me again, oh and what other arts had I trained. Now, when I mentioned to him that I trained Tai Chi, the teacher’s ears kinda perked up, and he started to ask me all kinds of questions about Tai Chi and what I knew of internal martial arts in general. I mean, I kinda wasn’t expecting to be giving this senior instructor a lesson on Chinese Internal Martial Arts. I thought I was going there to learn from him.

So, what surprised me next, was he asked if my Tai Chi teacher, Brian, was taking students, or if he’d be cool with him dropping by for a class or a lesson. So where this was all going is that he realized that I was learning “real” Tai Chi, and he wanted to try it out. What he explained to me is that all the techniques, stuff that we were practicing in class, that’s just the curriculum for earning a black belt in the art.

Goldenbell Training:

The black belt is just a sign of making it through the curriculum, but real Aikido doesn’t happen until after you have the foundation. The problem is that “the real Aikido” seems to be some closely guarded secret that only a select group of instructors is willing to pass on. He said when you see the high level instructors in Japan in action, they don’t do the techniques, they just move and they put people on the ground, or send them flying.

Now this whole thing, it was like, really blowing my mind that you have this art called Aikido, but people aren’t learning about the Aiki part, and I mean, I wondered why that instructor was so interested in learning from my Tai Chi teacher. Well, it turns out that Ōsensei spent some time in China around the time of World War II. It was after his return from China that his aikijutsu evolved into what would be known as Aikido. So it’s possible that Ōsensei had actually studied Baguazhang and a little Xing Yi while he was in China. Now, just because of the relationship between China and Japan back then, Japanese Nationalism never would have allowed Ōsensei’s school to admit that his new skills actually came from studying with the Chinese.

Goldenbell Training:

So after all that, it kind of made sense why my Aikido teacher was asking me about studying with my Tai Chi teacher. Learning Aiki seems to be some closely guarded secret, but it turns out to be the same thing that Yiquan schools refer to as Hun Yuan Li, or Tai Chi schools call Peng, Ward Off skill, or Tai Chi energy.

So the problem with Aikido is the same thing that plagues too many of these internal martial arts. Look, there are too many people that are keeping secrets, and too many people faking their skills to keep up with the few people who might actually have some skills.

But I mean, hey guys, look, this was a lot of fun and I’m going to be making more of these kinds of videos in a series where I address the problems I see with Traditional martial arts. Now, I have another video planned on Aikido, so be on the lookout for it really soon, but that’s all I have for this video, so thanks for watching. Y’all keep on breathing, and I’ll see you next time.




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