“The problem with Nikyo and Kote Gaeshi” by Phil Davison

“If you use Nikyo in a contemporary self-defence situation, your enemy
may simply stand there, and possibly hit you with their free hand.”

When I first started doing martial arts I trained in a Hapkido dojo (dojang) where the sparring was reasonably intense. We had a lot of injuries. I don’t agree with this sort of training and nowadays my students very rarely injure themselves. But in training like that I learned a few valuable lessons, and these have got me thinking about Kote Gaeshi and Nikyo.

Way back then, I was sparring and my left little finger got caught in the sleeve of my opponents gi. We both heard a crack, but I formed a fist with my left hand, and carried on favouring my right hand until the instructor called break. There was no serious pain (until later), and I was young and tough (and perhaps stupid as well). An X ray later revealed that one side of the second metacarpal bone had been shattered. Lesson: Firstly, it’s surprising how much damage a fluke accident can cause, and secondly – having a finger bone shattered is not enough to stop a fit young man.

Another time I was doing a demonstration, and my partner and I got our timing wrong on a gyaku hiji technique. We both heard my ulnar collateral ligament tear. I knew something was wrong – but hey – it was a demo so I was hyped. Of course I finished the demo (I was young and tough (and stupid). Did it hurt? Not that I remember – I was too hyped up with doing the demo to let it stop me, although I was aware that I no longer had full control over my right arm.

Yet another time I got up from a session of groundwork sparring to find that I had a ‘mallet finger’ injury (the tendon is torn off the bone meaning the finger goes into a mallet shape. I don’t precisely know how I did it because I was completely unaware of it until we stopped.

And one more example: I received a powerful kick to the back of my knee, breaking my anterior cruciate ligament. I felt a popping sound and fell down, but I was soon able to get up, and I was able to walk. Had it been a real fight I might have needed to stay on the ground, but I would certainly not have given up the fight. Did it hurt? No. Although I’ve worked on it, and have regained almost all of its normal function, the joint has in the past been loose, but not especially painful.

Note the common thread running through here – a series of reasonably serious injuries, none of which has caused a great deal of pain at the time of injury (the shattered little finger was very painful by the time I got to hospital). One reason for this is that there are not too many pain receptors in ligaments, but I think the main reason is that being hyped up and adrenaline fuelled tends to mask any pain, at least temporarily. This is all the more the case if someone who has taken a few knocks in the past – once you’ve had a few knocks your body gets used to the idea that something that hurts is not the end of you.

Now, this relates to Nikyo and Kote Gaeshi very directly. Here I am extrapolating from my own experience: I have never applied Nikyo or Kote Gaeshi in a real fight against someone who was doing their best to hurt me, but I do have a lot of experience in applying those techniques, and from my experience with my own injuries I think that these techniques are at least a little problematic if used without caution.

Firstly, neither technique can be used as a restraining technique. As I have shown, a torn ligament does not necessarily cause incapacitating pain – at least not in the heat of the moment. I would not deny that Nikyo can be extremely painful when applied in the dojo – but the dojo is a completely different situation.

Anyone who has done any full contact fighting will attest that, when your opponent is trying really to hurt you, your body will rise to the occasion. You don’t worry about minor inconveniences. Your mental state changes your body chemistry, and your body goes into overdrive.

In a dojo, one works with one’s partner, you are not (or should not be) angry or running high on adrenaline. The lock should be applied gently so that your partner can either yield to it or tap. In a real self-defence situation you are likely to be faced with someone in a hysterical rage possibly fueled by alcohol or other drugs – a person in this state is unlikely to feel much pain. Moreover many belligerent people have been in a few fights before – they have had a few knocks in the past. (If you are facing someone who is calmly trying to hurt you, you are in real trouble.)

Also, in a dojo you will apply the techniques a number of times in succession – as you do this your wrist will become sensitised, the technique will hurt more, and seem to be more effective than it really is.

It’s very easy to create a myth in the dojo that these techniques are viable for self-defence and that they work in the way they do in the dojo. With Nikyo your opponent goes to their knees in pain, and with Kote Gaeshi they somersault into a beautiful fall.

What I think will happen if you use Nikyo in a contemporary self-defence situation is that your enemy will simply stand there, and possibly hit you with their free hand. If you are skilled in applying the technique, you may well tear the ligaments holding their wrist together, and at this point the lock will not work at all, since their wrist has a new-found flexibility. They are unlikely to hit you with that hand for the next few months, but remember that they are now probably running on adrenaline, and have three other limbs to attack with. If you are not skilled in applying the technique, it just won’t work at all, and you may be in a worse position than you were before, because your opponent is now really angry.

With Kote Gaeshi it’s a very similar situation. Unless you have completely unbalanced your opponent in the entry to the technique I don’t think it is likely to work at all. If your opponent has six months of kickboxing or some similar rough-and-tumble style behind them they may well not give their balance away so easily.

If you are highly skilled, and you do get Kote Gaeshi to work as a throw, you are likely to cause serious injury to your opponent since they may not be skilled in falling, and they will not be landing on mats. Think about this for a moment: if you are defending your family against a lunatic this might be appropriate – but if your opponent is a drunk brother-in-law who you need to restrain, or if you are a security guard, or a psych nurse – well, this should not be your technique of choice.

I think many people underestimate how much skill is required to get either Nikyo or Kote Gaeshi to work in a real combat situation. Both of these techniques require very precise application – if the angle is slightly wrong the technique will not work at all. If the entry to the technique is not impeccable you will never arrive at that precise alignment. If your mind is not calm you will never achieve the correct entry. I think it would require at least ten years training to get to a point where the techniques are burned in to the point that they are viable in the heat of the moment.

A real fight is a lightning fast affair that will usually only last a few seconds. People don’t obediently stick their hands out to be grabbed – a skilled person will deliver fast, powerful punches from a mobile, balanced stance; an unskilled person may well flail away with both hands as fast as they can – three or four punches per second. What is more likely to happen is that, in the desire to get the technique to work quickly, someone with only a few years experience will try and get the entry to the technique over too quickly – they want to get the technique on before they get hit – and this means that they botch the entry and end up trying to muscle the technique on. Once again – if these techniques are not applied perfectly, they don’t work at all.

As far as I’m concerned there is a lot more to martial arts practice than self-defence – if I wanted only self-defence and fitness I could have brought a large dog and saved myself the injuries described at the start of this article. I don’t have any problem with a technique that takes ten years or longer to learn if the process of the learning is itself valuable. I’m not planning on getting into any fights – I’m a nice family guy with grey hair and glasses. Who would want to fight me? For me martial arts are about the process, and if I could learn it all in a couple of years I would have stopped long ago.

phil-davisonHowever, I do think it is important to recognise the limitations of some techniques. Self-defence for me is a possibility that gives my practice meaning, even though I don’t think it will ever be likely that I will need my skills. I think it is important to recognise that these techniques can be very problematic in a real situation and to recognise how different dojo training is to the real world.

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69s Comments

  1. I totally agree, I once fell off of a ladder at work, my immediate reaction was to put my hand down, (before I did Aikido)thus it took all my weight, I got up and carried on working, it was only when I was driving home that I realised it was swelling up, a visit to the hospital; and an x-ray later showed that I had fractured the wrist, I had’nt felt anything all day. Another time, a drunk in a bar was holding a swiss army knife blade to someones throat, I grabbed his wrist and managed to pull the blade away from the other guys throat, but when(in my earlier days of Aikido)I tried to put on Kote Gaeshi, he was so tensed up, that I could’nt twist his wrist,by then some others came to help and we all disabled him, but it gave me a lesson in how not to apply a technique, whilst I was concentrating on the K.G. he could so easily have hit me with his left hand.There have been a couple more incidents like this over the years,especially in school fights, where me and another are just punching and twisting and grabbing etc and it’s only afterwards that yourealise what damage has been done.
    My brother was a 1st Dan Kyokushinkai Karate and was training for the European Championships in Crystal Palace, one night we were in a bar in London and as we walked outside, a guy started an argument with us and my brother walked over to take him on, but this guy was’nt playing by international knockdown rules and so just lashed out, and what I at first thought (and probably my brother)would be an easy victory for my brother, ended up only being stopped by 2 or 3 of us getting involved as well.
    It is completly different when it’s real.

  2. Konnichi wa, minasan!

    Since the nikajo(nikyo)and kotegaeshi-related techniques vary from style to style a bit I must say that it is difficult to understand which version exactly is meant.

    Yet I do agree there are limitations to the application of waza. But it seems only natural too, right? Sometimes a powerful atemi or two could do the preparatory work for us with the nikajo/kotegaeshi following naturally 🙂

    And talking about aiki-related budo, isn’t it also about developing a sort of sixth sense? I mean we might need to try and achieve the level where the aforementioned waza would come in naturally (when appropriate, of course :)).

    Thank you very much for your post, Mr. Davison! It does make you think.

    Best regards,
    Yoshinkan Aikido practitioner

  3. Agreed as to the ability to carry on while injured. Won’t go into gory details, but have experienced and seen examples.

    The interesting thing about PROPERLY EXECUTED aikido nikkyo and kotegaeshi is that they don’t really go against the strength of the joint, but rather attack the balance through subtle weak links in the skeleto-muscular system. Can I consistently get that off in practice? Honestly, more than half the time, but far from 100%.

  4. The small finger has the 5th metacarpal the index has the 2nd. The keypoints here I think are the dojo is the lab. Do the stuff there in a safe environment free of injuries & perfect it so it will work in the real world. Uke’s need to be honest without jamming the nage so that the injury rate is kept low. One of my training partners resisted the kotegaeshi of someone other than myself & awoke the next morning with a wrist fracture swollen to the elbow. That fellow was stronger than him. He was off the mat for almost 2 months.

    Don’t try to bend what is hard & stiff unless you are physically strong/stronger. Hit the hard things & bend the soft things. It is much easier to fold a bed sheet than a hard piece of metal. If you punch the bed sheet it does not seem to do much. You need to put your mind wherever the opponent’s mind is not i.e. if they throw a punch side step it & apply the nikyo/kg to the other hand because both hands can’t be truly hard at the same time. It would be foolish to try & do it to the tensed wrist of the punching hand or hand tightly grabbing a blade while it is tense unless of course you are stronger than the opponent. I am sure Andre the giant could catch punches in his fist & over power them all day long. As I age I find there are more people every day who are stronger than me so i prefer the path of least resistance. The trick is doing that in real time in the real world & figuring out a way to do so on the mat in the dojo.

  5. One point to stress –
    The more you practice in the dojo, the more uke’s wrist becomes sensitized, and the better the technique seems to work. It can seem like “I was having trouble when we started doing this, but now I’m really getting it to work!”whereas in fact it is only working because of the cumulative effect on Uke’s wrist. There’s no avoiding this since we can’t damage each other in the dojo, and we need to practice – all we can do is note that the technique is easier on a sensitized wrist, and not fool ourselves.

  6. Agreed with Aaron’s comments. Think Martial Art as Budo, not only power, but also strategies and tactics.

  7. I understand your point of view here, but I think you are missing the point of these techniques. Other than a few ways that Nikyo can be applied in ground fighting, neither of these techniques were ever intended to:

    1. be used in a fight or assault scenario; or
    2. be an actual restraint or conflict ending technique.

    Wrist control techniques are intended to be used to take control of a situation before it turns into a fight or self defense scenario. These techniques are only intended to be used to defend from set-up type attacks (grabs, shoves, etc). or a way to take a belligerent person down to the ground where you can restrain and control them before things escalate into a fight.

    As an eight year jujutsuka, and an assistant restraint and control tactics instructor for law enforcement, we never teach these techniques from the context of defending from a fight or assault scenario. However, many of our police officer and security personnel students have effectively used both nikyo and kote gaeshi on the streets in the course of arresting people.

  8. I forgot to mention in my last post; in our law enforcement and private security programs, we also teach both of these techniques as part of our weapons defense curriculum. Although I don’t actually know anyone that has successfully used them on the street for weapons defense, I do think they would be quite effective within the contexts we teach them.

  9. Excellent points. There are two important items here. One using controls before a person is in full blown andrenalized combat mode is essential. Second items is pain compliance often doesn’t work because of all the reasons pointed out in Phil Davison’s article. These can be effective when used as starting points for take-downs needed in law enforcement.

    The issue of atemi is debated to death, but Gozo Shioda’s quotes O’Sensei as saying a real fight is 70% atemi. Pain compliance controls when someone is swinging for the fences at you is not the best strategic choice.

  10. If I want to write in another language, I do not learn “key words”. Rather, I learn the fundamentals of the language itself, practicing constantly to make it second nature to my original one.

    In Aikido, we do not strive to learn techniques, as much as we learn the fundamentals of Aiki Principles, and construct our training regimen around total respect for all aspects of potential training. This would then include cross training, for those so inclined. This would include being exposed to different versions of the Founder’s gift, if one has the time and resources.

    For me, it is about preparing myself to be balanced, to be in condition, and to be fully prepared for the opening that the opponent will eventually reveal to me. I realize that I must be fully committed to execute the appropriate technique that fits that particular opportunity, with everything I have. It is foolish and foolhardy to attempt to fit the occasion to the techique of choice. The situation itself chooses the proper response, and I must simply be prepared from long hours of training and introspection, to follow through without further thought. Ichi go, ichi e. That is what makes SENse to me.

  11. This is a very good point, Gil. There are people who think that aikido is ineffectual because they have seen that joint-locks and pain compliance don’t work much of the time. Like you say, you need to de-stabilize an opponent first before proceeding with any technique or immobilization. If adrenalin has kicked in, your chances of succeeding are greatly diminished.

  12. I did work in a psych hospital, and I did get into Aikido to learn an art that would spare my patients injury. It’s difficult to not injure and still control. Pain compliance does not work on a drug overdose or a psychotic. Threatening to break a limb in higi-kime does not stop someone out of touch with reality. People who have no ukemi skills will not protect their head when you take them down with Ikkyo. I can affect their balance, but that’s very difficult. I have taken away knives with kotegaeshi on two occasions, but these were sick, heavily medicated people. Aikido’s goal of controlling an attacker without injury is a worthy but very difficult one. One aspect of practice is that we do get hypnotized – I feel pain, I learn to move a certain way, I learn to expect pain and I move to reduce the pain. In a long time student, we can elicit and monopolize on reflexes that the general population would never have.

  13. Will someone please tell the last thousand years of samurai that they got it all wrong.
    And that we are still practicing their training techniques.
    Then explain why.

  14. Why would we practice Aikido if our techniques were supposed to be the “last word” in an altercation; we would be much better in almost any martial art and it would be much less work to become effective. If we are judging techniques by the unrecoverable pain that they inflict then the entire curriculum should be thrown out and we should return to older forms where there is a decisive winner. We shouldn’t be blind to the fact that the successful application of a technique in aikido only stops the attack of the moment, realizing that the attacker is going to get back up and will decide on their own whether they still want to hurt you.

    Secondly, all techniques come out of a particular context that is not predetermined by an omniscient aikidoist. The attacker determines the technique by how they attack. A similar criticism is that blocks are useless because they don’t work against baseball bats.

    Be careful on ladders, don’t block baseball bats and start looking for a good chance to find kotegaeshi.

  15. Oddly, the opposite is true, I can resist a nikyo better now because I can understand it and my wrist has been stretched over the years. Saito Sensei would tell stories of how receiving nikyo was how you should get your wrists to be strong.

    Maybe you have ukes protecting themselves because they assume that you are going to do a great nikyo or because being a good uke is too hard.

    Maybe in a night your first and last nikyo (certainly yonkyo) goes from tolerable to painful, but the long term requires a better nikyo on an experienced uke.

  16. “Because it’s been done for a long time” is almost never enough of an answer for me.

    That aside, these techniques are sometimes workable and sometimes not – as is any tactical approach.

    The bigger problem with most Aikido wrist locks, IMO, is that most folks can’t even get to them on a non-compliant opponent. Applying the lock itself once you’re in position is really the easiest part of the equation.

  17. In my own experience, ikkyo omote is not effective against an opponent (street) with fat arms. You end up rolling the skin around the bones.

    As for nikyo – used in nightclubs without any trouble. If done properly, uke will hurt themselves by trying to punch with the other hand. It important to test effectiveness of techniques – and important to know when not to use them.

  18. I’ve trained in Tomiki Aikido for over 20 years, and we all know that every real self defense situation is different based on the attacker’s intent, posture, the attack, setting, momentum, body type and many other variables, and that to be effective in any art you have to get to the point that your responses are intuitive and automatic, just like driving a car. That said, if the worst thing that happens is that I break his wrist so that he cannot punch me with that particular hand anymore….I can live with it.

  19. Douglas Loudon

    Nikyo applied properly is not just painful, but if the “opponent” attempts to resit, or once down on their knees tries to stand the two bones in the forearm twist and you can get a nasty spiral break of both bones with bone coming through the skin. I have seen this happen more than once. Over 30 years of Aikido practice I have seen Nikyo done poorly many times, but when it is done well your uke must go down to protect themselves. As they go down you can easily pin them. If you know nikyo in the sense that it is truly yours you have not only control of the technique but the other person as well.

    One of the great things about Aikido is that through years of practice you learn understand how to receive a technique. You understand when you can attempt a reversal, and when you must go down and submit. This greatly helps in understanding how to apply a technique properly.

    Any technique may be problematic, all we do is change technique, that is Aikido. If your opponent wants to stand and you do not want to break their arm, let them stand, and while they are, do a something else.

    If you are doing Nikyo and your opponent can stand and hit you then you are doing something wrong. Practicing with many different Shihans over the years when taking nikyo from them ther was no way but down. Not only from Shihans but anyone who practices nikyo well can give you little choice.

    I hear people say it is different when it is real. If so, then their practice must be wrong. Proper practice will always be more difficult than the “real world” if not then it is not proper practice. In the dojo as you practice over time, you progress those who go with you. They will take advantage of your errors, you move forward together, understand more not just with the body but the mind and spirit as well. This type of practice may be painful, but not hurtful. My sensei Kawahara Sensei Shihan said many times, practice with joy, practice daily and hard, but do not injure. Above all, he said practice properly, for 30 years of bad practice will lead you nowhere.

  20. There have been a lot of good points, so far but one very important point has been missed by everyone. That is that Nikajo and kotegaeshi are not meant to control the person through pain. Any pain felt is just a by product..

    What they are both meant to do are to be used as a vehicle to eventually lock the shoulder. Once you lock the shoulder the body has no where to go but to the ground in both cases. And this works whether the person feels pain or not.. When you turn the wrist in both cases you are locking up the wrist and elbow joint which then travels up and locks the shoulder. Now if the person resists it will cause pain and damage but the locking of the shoulder should be the main goal.

    If you analyze all the techniques in Aikido, you will see that many of them involve locking the shoulder. For example, sankajo also locks the shoulder, but it makes the person move backwards instead of downward but the shoulder is locked nonetheless. And like NEV said earlier, the samurai used these techniques for hundreds of years against people who were trying to kill them with a real live sword. After 30 years of training that I still continue to this day that’s good enough proof for me that these techniques are very effective.

  21. NEV has a very good point. I think we have to remember things like Nikajo were derived from samurai being grabbed by another to stop them from being able to draw the sword out of their case. Once they were grabbed it was easier to grab their wrist and manipulate it into a nikajo lock. Due to the fact that they were fully armoured no enemy tried to kick or punch them as the punches or kicks would have no effect on the armour. So they spent a lot of time grabbing the enemy and trying to restrain them from using the sword.. In today’s world, if someone was punching rapidly and repeatedly at your face you may want to use a throw against them instead. It would be difficult to catch their arm and turn it into a Nikajo.It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be a lot of work and greater chance of error. Most martial arts say you should use what they give you instead of trying to change it into what you want.

  22. This will be met with opposition. I disagree. Both waza are designed to do injury. They don’t require high skill. When practiced in the dojo they ares done as kata with the intent of injury with the understanding of the purpose of combat. Not self defense as framed by Ueshiba ‘s vision. Fitting these waza to any construct other than to produce injuries is equal to putting a square peg in a round hole. I speak with over 30 years of Aikido.

  23. AGREE Brad.. People are missing that breaking is NOT the point, but a byproduct.. Imagine a rope or chain, it has many degrees of freedom and stretches or twists quite a bit.. To effectively lock up the chain, one needs to pull AND twist AND rotate, basically engage ALL the degrees of freedom concurrently.. A knot is created which is STIFFER than what was once flexible.. THIS is the point, nage is creating a knot on uke that restricts their freedom to move.. These are JOINT LOCKS (osae), not joint breaks.. Breaking just gives the opponent a greater degree of freedom once the joint is broken..

    So when practicing the joint techniques, think not of the throw or the break, but think first of producing a knot TOTALLY on your opponent’s body.. Even rope can be steel tough once its twisted, stretched, and bent to its limit..

  24. Tobin Threadgill


    I’m sorry but much of this discussion I find rather dubious. Let me explain why.

    Several of my best students are LEO professionals who use the techniques in question regularly. To a man, these professionals will reiterate that the techniques themselves are not the problem. When applied at the right time and in the proper way, they are very effective. The issue is poor teaching and inappropriate application. One of my students who is now a Garland, Texas police officer was previously a jailer in the Dallas County jail. He was very adept at using both kotegaeshi and nikyo in violent confrontations. He stressed he had no problems applying these techniques on resistant or even violently angry inmates when the conditions were appropriate. And there’s the rub… It’s not the techniques, it’s having the skill plus the real world experience to recognize when the conditions are right to apply them. Following an unusually impressive application of a nikyo on a violent inmate by this officer, we had four Dallas County jailers show up at class wanting to learn jujutsu. I had to explain to these men that their co-worker had invested over a decade to learn what they witnessed. It was not something they could learn in a few weeks. None of them returned after one class but they did profess a new level respect for jujutsu .

    If budoka were better trained in the underlying principles driving such techniques, and recognizing exactly when the application of these techniques is a practical option, there would be little question as to their practical veracity. But we must remember, not everyone pursuing budo has the goal of being a real world walking weapon. Most people do budo as a physical hobby, not as part of their profession. So, let’s not confuse these two vastly different paradigms.

    In the AJ interview with my teacher, Yukiyoshi Takamura, he reiterated that most dojo training is far too passive to instill the adrenal stress and physical violence required to learn the practical application of jujutsu waza. So, identifying specific techniques as a problem is misguided in my opinion. Training intensity is the issue. If you want to learn to apply any technique in a genuine high stress environment, you must make your training intensity match your expectations, otherwise you’re just doing martial calisthenics. Is such high intensity training dangerous? Hell yes, but any high stakes investment like this has risks. In TSYR we employ some unique resistance methods to mitigate injuries as part of our high level training, but people still get injured when the intensity level is pushed very high. That’s just part of the game.

    Tobin E Threadgill / Kaicho
    Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu

  25. If you address a fight with a preconception of what you are going to do such as a particular technique in mind you will get smashed. Aikijutsu is the opposite of seeking to use power. It is pre-eminently strategic, i.e. it relies on what your opponent offers, identifying it and capitalising. The opponent determines which Aiki technique you will effect, and you will not know what that is until the last moment. Further, the first “technique” to emerge generally fails. It is expected to and is more of a ruse/feint to draw the opponent into a flow-on technique or more until the ki and biomechanics is just right to finalise. Also, there are no rules or restriction. Weapons may be present and the local environment may offer opportunities as well as the ground. Mushin is paramount, but is generally useless in the untrained. You must first know your techniques well and have imbued the bio-efficiency they teach innately, before you can discard them for pure and “formless” bio-efficiency, which will in any case most usually be identifiable as either a variable of basics or combinations of basics.

  26. Thats true, Carlo. My brilliant instructor gives the example of a chain that you would pull a car with. The chain is seen as a tool that can only pull something. But as my instructor points out that if you twist a chain enough until all the links are twisted, they tighten up and the chain almost becomes a solid. You can almost use it to push things with, Disbelievers can try it and it works. It’s the same thing with the joints when you twist the wrist enough all of the (links) joints lock up and forces the person to the ground. I will say again that if they resist there will be pain and damage. But it’s not the pain and damage that makes them go to the ground. It`s the locked shoulder that forces them to the ground….It`s very mechanical, and I`m still studying it after 30 years. Still finding little subtle details……

  27. If the Aikido techniques are done properly, then it is not about pain compliance. The techniques do not rely on pain compliance except at very low levels of skill. Done properly, these techniques will completely off balance and allow for control of an attacker. Who wouldn’t want to do that in a real attack? The above article seems to come from an “external” martial arts perspective. From that perspective, I can agree. However, Aikido is an “internal” martial art, so things aren’t always as they appear.

    It is not about the techniques; it is about how the body is used (or rather not used) within the techniques. It makes all the difference.

  28. I believe with the fusion of pre WWII Aikido a.k.a. Daito Ryu some confusion occurs naturally. Many Aikido wazas are straight Daito ryu Aikijujutsu. Many others are a variety of modified Daito ryu wazas done by O’Sensei. Many of those wazas and Daito ryu wazas learned from O’Sensei are modified and altered by O’Sensei’s close deshi. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Therefore, the very popular statement of “done properly” is wildly subjective. It is often very much over used and greatly misunderstood, mostly unintentionally, and by convention. This also is true for the “pain compliance” phrase. A very delicate phrase that doesn’t apply to all Aikido techniques at the face value it is given.

    Again, it doesn’t take special knowledge or insight to see the demarcations I previously mentioned mirror another layer with its own divisions. The poster John being my sempai for many years touched on the following I will expand further upon. The layers are in the area of wazas as being combat, self defense and martial art demonstrative. Daito ryu wazas or Pre WWII Aikido are combative historical wazas developed to do harm. To turn those wazas into martial arts demonstrative doesn’t work well for most students who lack the key elements to do so. Meaning it takes years and special skill and know how to do them without pain. These wazas being geared for combative environments include variables and other forces that dictate the use of pain. Whereas when these combative wazas are modified to fit the martial art demonstrative area. That isn’t easy to do, to take a pain based waza, and turn it into a non-pain base waza making it work as a demonstrative waza. When people realize this ability they give difference. Think of a trick shooter, who takes gunfighting and turns it into an entertaining trick shooting. This isn’t the standard idea in Aikido “all wazas done properly” are non-painful wazas. There are levels and demarcations when it comes to wazas.

    New terminology has arisen in the past few years that takes from the Chinese martial arts lexicon. Training with John and under his teacher, I have come to understand the Aikido tower of babel. Terms Internal and external creep into the vocabulary of Aikido only further confuses and adds to further abstraction and misunderstanding. Internal and external are simply terms for principles working in a polarity relationship within the lexicon of Chinese Daoist philosophy. Again nothing special in order to observe and pay attention to the relationship of polar opposites. Here too we have the same issue and misunderstanding of popularly used terms. As Daoist philosophy commands, you can’t have yin without yang. If your art is “external” it means there are elements working within it that are internal. The emphasis is on the external and is the dominate, this doesn’t mean the internal isn’t present but it is recessive, not as emphasis. This is true, vicea-versa You can’t have external without internal or internal without external. The big lie is that they tell you, this art or this way is internal and that other are is external. They are components that work together that with out each other neither would exist. Without up, there is no down. You travel up, you must than travel down. They are one…..thing.

    Aikido is both an internal and external art. It is both an art of pain and no pain – depending on your purpose for it. It is Daito ryu and it isn’t. It has basics and advanced techniques. The techniques are simple but can become complex, again it is due to the purpose of the practitioner; combative, self-defense, martial art demonstrative. The wazas of Kote Gaeshi and Nikyo, and are all others other wazas in the same class, as John said, are simply intended for pain. To say the class of these wazas are advanced, done without pain, and alike are said because there is much misunderstanding brought about in Aikido. That misunderstanding brought out by a host of terms and changing vocabulary confused the very important divisions of Aikido, and there proper understanding.

    John who wishes just to use his first name is a one of those guys who doesn’t seek the limelight and follows the traditional view all there is to martial arts is not the scholarship, the rank, or the number of scrolls, but it is the training and practice. Something drilled into him by his old style sensei. Really at the end of the day, that is what really matters, isn’t it?

  29. Good day to all!

    As I read this ,I find that most agree with the article, which I find mind-boggling. As I understand Aikido, it is about balance not pain. If your intention is to cause pain, the technique will have limits, which many have pointed out. If your intentions is to create movement through momentary pain, for the purpose of unbalancing the opponent then you are on the right track.

    The problem is rarely the technique; it is usually the practitioner.

  30. “Will someone please tell the last thousand years of samurai that they got it all wrong.”
    Because they lived in an armed society. Techniques found in Daito Ryu and Aikido were intended to be used against weapons, especially wakizashi. The techniques were intended to work in a situation where you were facing an armed attacker and were unarmed yourself.
    This is nothing like a contemporarily self defense situation, facing a kick boxer on speed or alcohol.

    Please note I don’t have a problem with the techniques, or with the idea that control of balance is vital.
    But I would not want to let someone who has a couple of years training think that these were effective self-defense techniques.

  31. Hi everyone! I am a total beginner in Aikido. However, I thought some of you might be interested in a resource that explores some of the things talked about in this article and the postings that followed. I hope it won’t be breaking any rules to mention it to you.

    Anyway, I have a friend, Keith (Kip) Pascal, who wrote a book on wrist locks. It is titled Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert. You can find out more information about the book at http://www.kerwinbenson.com. Kip also has some free stuff at the website on wrist locks.

    Full disclosure: I’m one of the guys in the photos in the book being locked. And, just to let you know, none of the photos in the book where I look like I am in pain are faked. I really was in pain! Also, Kip is NOT an aikidoka. His teacher is Steve Golden, who was a direct student of Bruce Lee’s and a Kenpo blackbelt. So, Kip’s perspective on atemi is more “violent” than the Aikido approach seems to be. 🙂 So, to be clear, this is NOT a book on Aikido.

    By the way, I have no financial connection to Kip, and I am not trying to “sell” his book to anyone. I just thought some of you might be interested in knowing about it since it is outside of the “world” of Aikido. Plus, I think the free resources on wrist locks at Kip’s website are pretty cool.


  32. Kotegaeshi is not a throwing technique but pinning technique and if uke can hit me, because he is too close – I can hit him fist, so it is up to him to find the proper ma-ai.

    Nikyo works best, when uke tries to hit with a free hand and to disable one of 4 basic punching bodyparts increases chances to survive the attack, so it is not bad idea to do it…

  33. Interestingly, as a judo player, a method which has “can I apply this technique with full gusto and still have my opponent be able to train next week” inherent as well as someone who has trained in the other plethora I do believe the OP has a point. Non cooperative training yields truth. Judo is quite distilled – I either exhaust my opponent (holds during ground work), render them unconscious (chokes&strangulation) or destroy an arm. Tl; dr Simple good

  34. Wow! Lot of good things since I checked in last a few years ago.

    Taking a few – yes: if you seriously injure an opponent in a “real situation” to some extent it will degrade their fighting ability. If it doesn’t degrade it sufficiently you can try again for a more decisive outcome. These techniques survive over centuries because people who know them when they need them survive more frequently than those who don’t.

    It is true that in times of general peace the martial virtue of dojo training tends to degrade. It DOES take years of training to get these pretty complex techniques about right most of the time. Pretty hard to “pay the rent” with that sales pitch.

    Since writing my first time Dan Harden shared a book, Anatomy Trains, with a class I was in (http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Trains-Myofascial-Meridians-Therapists/dp/044310283X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375289390&sr=8-1&keywords=anatomy+trains+book ). For those who mistrust mysticism as an effective principle of combat techniques, check this out. It isn’t mystical. The implications for physical techniques are subtle and sophisticated. You may end up preferring to subsume it all into some general term, like “ki”.

    Bottom line is my original point is reinforced. There are subtle principles which make good technique amazingly effective, possibly so effective at unbalancing an opponent as to be lethal from head or neck injuries. If you don’t achieve that level of mastery, however, it is possible you may simply wear down your opponent by a number of injuries.

    btw – Shime waza is awesome… assuming you have the time to devote to subduing that single opponent. I’ve had some training, more or less as a parenthesis in aikido, and found it very useful on occasion. I recommend anybody who thinks they may find themselves at “the pointy end” learn something about it.

  35. Hello Mr. Li

    I’m a old Aikido Instructor you had known in Hawaii back in 2000.
    As you mentioned: Applying the lock itself once you’re in position is really the easiest part of the equation. It’s a good point. Tactical approach is the key in any situation. The intention of the attacker and your mental attitude to resolve this conflict. If one comes to attack you with the intent of harming oneself. Don’t have tunnel vision in any situation. Be aware of your surroundings. In dojo training, the more experienced UKE has the ability to protect himself and the instructor has the freedom to execute the technique fully. The UKE feels the power of the technique and thus he learns from that experience. These locking techniques are just techniques one trains in the dojo and can be used outside as a tool. But depending on the situation you have these options. But muscle memory and constant training makes everything second nature. It’s your mental attitude at that moment of conflict determine the outcome.

  36. I hope everyone who ventures here reads your comment, Sensei, as I find it contains quite a bit of wisdom about how to train and how to prepare for circumstances off the mat.

  37. Now I haven’t been doing Aikido very long (only 5 years) and I’ve never tested past 6th kyu but I’ve had 8 years of dabbling in Hapkiyusul, some great aikido instructors, plenty of access to footage of some of our time’s greatest budoka via internet, and some cross training with my more martial sports oriented friends. I’ve noticed that the common mistake seems to be attempting to rely on the pain of a lock as your shield. As Mr. Davison pointed out, with adrenaline, one can ignore pain with ease. If that’s your tactic, you’re just going to get punched in the face. My instructors try to emphasize atemi, not just as a means of unbalancing, but also as a way of establishing positional advantage. If I’m in a place where I can deliver atemi, I should also be out of reach of my uke’s atemi. If I am within uke’s range, I have not properly placed myself or I have not controlled him correctly. Sometimes it’s a matter of changing your hip positioning. Sometimes it’s a matter of turning uke away from you more before you tenkan. Atemi, then, becomes a test to see if you are properly in control, allowing you to maintain uke’s off-balance and neutralize him/her.

  38. Very interesting article and discussion. I found it by googling “kote gaeshi street fight”, and I did so, because having trained ju-jitsu for ten years I’m starting to question, whether many techniques I’ve practiced would be applicable in a self defense/street fight situation. Untill recently my theoretic strategy or game plan under threat would be to get a hold on a wrist and depending on the circumstances apply either kote gaeshi or another pinning/locking technique.

    Then I picked up Geoff Thompsons biography “Watch my back,” which changed my perspective on Martial arts as self defense. He stresses that only gross motor skills will hold up in a real situation because of your own adrenal reaction under stress, and the inevitable tunnel vision, and that you therefore need to pressure test your techniques training with a noncompliant partner (ideally, your partner should be shouting obscenities in your face to imitate a real confrontation, and get your adrenaline going) if you want to know their worth (in self defense terms). Furthermore, he points out that only unconsciousness is guaranteed to stop a psyched up, adrenalized opponent.

    I have decided to test my kote gaeshi, nikyo, shiho nage and others against a noncompliant boxing friend of mine, to find out if my original game plan is viable (boxing helmet involved of course), but until I do, I will not rely on catching a punching/flailing arm, but rather a more preemptive punching strategy in worst case scenarios. Luckily, I have never had to use my training in self defense, but I trust the words of those who have. While I have the greatest respect for Aikido as a mindset, and I find the whole reactive approach admirable, I don’t think I will have the cool to just stand and wait to find out what attack is coming from a threatening thug in a dark alley (hoping he will just grab my wrist).

    I will paraphrase Geoff Thompson in saying that the samurai developed techniques to survive and adapt to the dangers of their day, and that mindset is what we should imitate (if self defense is the goal). Yes, aikido techniques worked hundreds of years ago, but so did the horse and cart, and we would be fools to drive such instead of our car! If the samurai were around today, they would adapt to the present day violent, deceptive, knife-concealing, sucker punching dangers. I don’t mean that kote gaeshi and nikyo are useless in self defense (again, I have never tested this), but rather that maybe they should be part of the reserve arsenal in a life threatening situation, where the well being of your attacker should be your last concern.

  39. My apologies in advance for not putting this comment in more politick terms, but I find various aspects of this article rather puzzling.

    Firstly, if uke is simply standing there, then why is tori even trying to “force” a technique while open to an attack? Isn’t that simply poor martial arts practice no matter what school or style?

    Has anyone here ever heard of O-Sensei having a problem applying nikyo or anything else he used or demonstrated? Whenever I had a problem with some aspect of a technique it was invariably a problem of my lack of understanding and skill of how and when to apply the technique, rather than any “deficiency” of the technique. That’s why we train, seek advice, insight and instruction from other aikidoka, and research this stuff, isn’t it?

    The author’s younger years of vigorous training that incurred a series of minor injuries will resonate with most of us. I don’t know how I survived my first ten years in MA and had to unlearn many bad habits from those days of vigorous hard style practice. We greatly reduce the occurrence of such injuries with increasing experience (luckily my first Sensei, an experienced judoka, as well as an aikidoka, was big on teaching his students how to avoid injury) and the abandonment of relying on physical force. When we quit using brute force, mauling and crashing into our training partners, in favor of extending and harmonizing with ki, then we begin to really start learning.

    In forty years of training I’ve seen various diverse and effective ways of doing most aikido arts, and here is just one story. In a London, UK, dojo (back in the 80s) there was a strong young trainee who didn’t feel any pain from nikyo, not even from the visiting Sensei (chief instructor) demonstrating it on him for the class, but he did feel the increasing tension on his forearm, yet still just stood there “proving” he could take it. Sensei, a diminutive old man smaller than his young uke, stopped for a second to ask if his uke was okay, got the nod, and promptly snapped the uke’s forearm. And that “crack” was bloody loud! That’s what a properly applied nikyo does when uke can’t feel it (for whatever reason). The uke is simply transfixed, immobilized while standing there, and unable to do anything, except go down (or get his forearm snapped in half), when he is either firmly pinned face down, or thrown away. That day the trainee learned to go with the power instead of resisting it, and it reinforced the teaching for all present that uke is also supposed to be practising aikido and learning to harmonize! That trainee was back on the mat next day with his arm in a plaster cast, albeit taking it easy without any heroics. Many others would have just quit.

    Keep on studying and training!

  40. Your joints don’t get “sensitized” or whatever that means, they get very stretched to the point that you can take a very powerful nikyo and not feel pain.

  41. As one who had a problem with nikyo in a real life situation, this article is partucularly interesting, the dojo where I was training was trying to cram dozens of techniques into a 1 1/2 hour session instead of teaching the mechanics of a few techniques.

    These days I am sufficiently skilled to change techniques very quickly and in given circumstances would not hesitate to apply techniques be it strikes, chokes or throws to ensure that the attacker is either subdued or dead, it is also for this reason that I will avoid confrontation if at all possible.

    Dojo training has to be done properly without injury to one’s partner, but the techniques are there to perhaps one day save your life or that of others, outside of the dojo it is the mind that controls the way the techniques are used and applied in a real situation, there is also no shame in backing away or running, survival is about fighting another day and, as special forces say ‘we believe the other man should die for his country.

    My brother in law was a black belt but four inches of knife went through his heart and killed him, rely on your intuition and your need to survive at all costs instead of putting your trust in techniques that in large part, bear no relation to real violence on the streets.

  42. John lagerqvist

    Kotegaeshi is never about the hand but the turning of uke’s body. I practice MMA also and to my experience the idea of kotegaeshi is one of the few techniques that works – not in an aikido way but in the cage. It becomes more of a koshinage…

  43. Great discussion. I can add another variation that I hope wont bore.

    Recently my Sensei has been, well, emphatic and loud regarding asking the question.

    “Peter, what is Aikido?”


    “Maximum effort with the legs.”

    He keeps pointing out that strength will fail me, and that I must make maximum effort with my legs to move, and move quickly, into position to do anything at all. He is approaching 70 and beats me e every time. His speed is phenomenal, to me.

    Also, on a separate issues, some of the discussion here is the kind of dilemma that, I believe, led Tomiki Shihan to develop the competitive style of aikido, so derided by many in the aikido world. However, the value of the competitive style of randori is that I get to work, at different levels, with uncooperative ukes. I only hope i=when/if I have to fight anyone they do not know how to fight. Most of our techniques can be thwarted pretty simply by a trained fighter or another aikido practitioner. Place a hand on your grabber wrist or shoulder and keep a front on maii will defeat most things. If I keep my maii what can anyone do. Which is why Tomiki Shihan introduced the tanto to try and avoid grappling. It is clearly still a work in progress, as anyone can see in the various you tube videos, but it is a good beginning and does address some of the issues here. It still does not approach street fighting, especially street fighting with a trained fighter – but hey! thats what runner are for.

    Cheers and thanks for the great posts.


  44. I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    Sorry you’ve been injured and the dojos you practice at have mannequins for uke.

  45. Hi all
    i asked sensei Tamura how he would deal with a real situation, his reply was “Irimi Atemi” (enter and strike),

  46. I have used kote gaeshi and nikyo in real combat and it worked every time for me.
    Kote gaeshi against two knife attacks and against a gun.
    Nikyo walking out patrons in a bar I worked at.
    I trained law enforcement for 20 years and both have worked for them.I get feed back from officers.
    I think it’s the person putting it on not the technique that may have issues.

  47. El poder del aikido se obtiene REDIRIGIENDO la energía del oponente; está basado en la no confrontación, si no hay movimiento no hay energía que redirigir, las técnicas se realizan de forma fluida, para no detener la inercia del oponente, y están pensadas para aplicarlas cuando el oponente está en desventaja, no deben aplicarse a capricho sino cuando estamos en una posición favorable. Para ser un experto en aikido se necesitan muchos años de práctica constante, y si no les ha funcionado no es culpa del aikido sino del maestro.

  48. Maybe some definitions are needed for me.

    The movements of Nikyo and Kotegaeshi are present in virtually every martial arts system. Rotate the shoulder to the extreme in either direction, there you are.

    Most arts also agree that locks are a secondary movement. Get to a safe spot. Unbalance the attacker, usually with a strike.

    Best not to fight. Better to not hurt than hurt. Better to hurt than injure, better to injure than maim, better to maim than kill. But the hardest of all is not to hurt.

  49. Nikyo wont work in a fight? Don’t do it then, do karate, or even better run fast. If you do it and snap somebody’s arm though, see how they get on with the attack after that. Aikido may be pretty to watch in a club with people rolling all over but doing a throw properly, if you can under a real attack. ….. fractured necks would probably make an appearance. Aikido on a drunken idiot? Not sure if that would be more difficult than somebody who’s sober….depends how drunk someone is. More likely, you just flinch and can’t remember anything you’ve learned and end up rolling around on the floor which is how most fights seem to go…

  50. It amazes me people of aikido response on these techniques here. True aikido is about one thing. Taking your opponents balance & keeping yours. Once his balance is taken you lead it. All this other stuff you are talking about on here is WWF wrestling and not Aikido. People that know true aikido know what I’m talking about. The rest doesn’t matter if you take their balance. Plain & simple.

  51. I would expand my previous comment to incorporate Pranin Sensei’s Zone Theory. If you try to do almost any aikido technique from a frontal, oppositional, confrontational and hazardous “zone” you will find it difficult or ineffective. That might be part of the buzz about how aikido doesn’t work. An interesting aspect of this, though, is how subtle the difference can be between oppositional and blended. I watched Terry Dobson working with a Japanese woman on ikkyo once upon a time. Terry was big. She wasn’t and could NOT do ikkyo irimi… until she got his message. She had to spiral his arm out away from his body in an angle along his off-balance axis. There were several minutes in which I just thought Terry was being a jerk, frustrating his partner because he could.

  52. The underlying issue here is a fundamental misunderstanding of Aikido technique. It stems from the fact that most Aikido, despite the name, is not done with any understanding of “aiki”. Most Aikido practitioners execute their locks as if they were attacks to a given joint. The partner (notice I didn’t say opponent) falls down because it hurts and he or she wishes to avoid injury.

    But as the author points out, it may be that a true opponent will not comply and avoid injury. They may just take the wrist sprain and knock you cold with his other “tools”. If a technique does not create kuzushi and negate the ability of the opponent to deliver attacks in combination, then they are really fairly limited in effectiveness.

    When a technique like kotegaeshi or nikyo is applied with “aiki”, often it isn’t very painful at all. Rather than a painful joint and the opponent moving to avoid the pain, the result of a properly applied technique is immediate kuzushi with the opponent headed for the floor. If it is a real confrontation, atemi is delivered after or upon kuzushi when the opponent’s ability to defend against it is compromised.

    Most Aikido we see is just about being physically strong. You torque the heck out of a joint and break the wrist if the opponent doesn’t take the ukemi. One, it only works like this when the partner’s “intention” isn’t too strong, or the partner isn’t physically strong. Two, it requires so much strength that people with smaller stature or who are getting older cannot successfully apply technique this way. Aikido if done properly is an art at which one can get better as one gets older, in which it shouldn’t matter than one is smaller in size etc. But that is not the Aikido that predominates, hence an article like this which points out the problems with techniques that are not applied correctly.

  53. I have very poor proprioception and after 7 years of aikido have come to the conclusion that this aspect of ukemi can’t be altered. I can observe by imagination the pathway of falling to the mat but cannot ‘feel’ it. I tried sticking lumps of Velcro at various places on myself when rolling but could only get aware of the individual lumps as a localized pain sensation and not ‘join up the dots’. (I am, however, very empathetic in the role of nage and can ‘feel your pain’ and so am pleased to say I have never gone overboard and caused anyone damage by joint locks.) After years of doing the standard nikyo where uke drops forward onto his knees, I was uke for a variation of nikyo that sends you backwards instead. My brain knew I should alter my ukemi but my muscle memory of 7 years told me to do the usual forward drop. So I got trapped in the middle of the two systems of reacting and went nowhere, stayed upright and got a painful wrist. I went to a Chinese acupuncture doctor who instantly brought about an 80% reduction in pain by inserting the needle on the back of my hand where a nage would press between the 3rd and 4th fingers of uke for a kotegaeshi takedown. This illustrated to me how techniques can seem to be the opposite of one another, as John points out, such as ‘ rotating the shoulder to the extreme in either direction’ and gave me a glimpse of O’Sensei’ dictum that all techniques are the same.

  54. I agree though I am aiming to drop uke’s center rather than their shoulder – thus yes to locking up their whole body (shoulder is a by-product).

  55. Look guys, I have had the privilege of some training with Phil sensei and apart from some military stuff I had only done aikido when I went to Dunedin.. Now this this guy knows his stuff and what I think he is saying is dojo aikido is great practice but people who only practice aikido think its the be all and end all. As an anti weapon system, especially knives, it’s awesome. And I have 15 years of Aikido practice with our few techniques. But here is the rub, when in a self defence situation you need much much more clout than this.. Think groin strikes and eye gouges. Home invaders or worse require a degree of force to be used against them that is an awful prospect to even think about. However, all this being said I love aikido more than ever and prefer to leave my bag of nasty tricks in the dark recesses of my mind. Thanks Stanley and Phil Sensei’s for your insights. Sean.

  56. Excellent comments, George! I would even take this one step further by suggesting that it is possible to take uke’s balance even earlier. In other words, at the moment of applying nikyo or kotegaeshi, uke cannot mount any resistance at all. The technique itself simply moves his core resulting in a fall but with a minimum of pain.

  57. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think that Nev and Phil are closest to the mark. It is my understanding that aiki-jujutsu was developed by battlefield samurai warriors to defeat or disarm armed attackers. Just now, I held the phone receiver off of my desk phone and performed nikyo and kotegaeshi on that hand. Very painful!! We all know that they are also most effective when practicing jodori, tantodori, and tachidori.

    Aggressive randori-waza almost always relies on techniques like iriminage and koshinage. Your favorite MMA gladiators never use osae-waza and The Man himself emphasized using atemi well into his seventies. Kokyu dosa is seen by many master Aikidoka as a doorway to true mastery. There are reasons for all of this!

    I’m not saying that osae-waza doesn’t work. I know better than that! But their application must be done properly to be effective and, conversely, the waza itself is meant to give us subtle lessons about aiki that accumulate over time to make us into better budoka.

  58. Interesting points all around. I think there is some benefit in pointing out that pain is not the goal of these techniques. I had the pleasure of instructing a young man when I was a new Shodan and this young fellow got himself into a brawl that he said involved a large group of people all fighting each other (it was Winnipeg). He happened to find himself with his opponent on the ground and he was in position to dislocate the shoulder with a standing pin. He did so and was quite impressed with the results, which included the opponent running around screaming in panic. But, as noted, this was not a wrist technique with submission due to pain. This was somehow ending up in position to dislocate the shoulder.

    Another point I like to make is that these techniques were not just tested centuries ago. Up until the 1970s, there were still dojo-busters going around to dojos trying to make fools out of the various instructors. I met a man who was chosen to defend Hombu around that time, and was able to use kotegaeshi against a tsuki attack. He was surprised and happy, as he was quite nervous at the time. I agree that adrenaline plays a huge role in fights on the street. However, I feel that it’s the other martial arts that suffer more from this type of delusion, with their promises of victory with one punch! Thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion.

  59. Oh gosh. Here we are again. What can I add after a year? Timing. Aiki is timing. Any engagement has timing. When you get to the range and timing of exchanging blows you are probably also in a confrontational, square, relationship. Wrestling has some techniques that look like aikido, but executed from confrontation. Wrestling is rarely easy.

    O Sensei said that he didn’t mean the same thing that older arts did when he said ai-ki. But do we even know what he meant by that? I’ve constructed my version of aikido from what my teachers taught me, long ago now, and by de-constructing modern aikido techniques, trying to trace them back to their roots. It’s been interesting. In Hagakure it’s said, “Why study martial arts for 30 years? You’ll just be an artist…” I resemble that remark. But what are you going to do? Let your training stagnate, and that’s obvious; 30 years – one year, thirty times. Stop training and that’s obvious too. Yeah. Once upon a time you learned something, but you’re out of practice and your body may have changed for the worse since. So, assuming we’re in for the long haul and curious, welcome to art.

    A problem with the old term ai-ki is that it was probably an oral and practical teaching. O Sensei had learned it, but probably the first generation of post-war teachers hadn’t. So, what do I think it was? I think it had something to do with ai-uchi, mutual strike. European fencing hates that. In foil neither side gets a point. In epee, both do, “the stroke of two widows”. So develop the ability and feel for actually doing that. One way is to simply walk into each other in a straight line and collide. As the distance closes, note that you will have instinctive reactions. Make notes. Ignore them. Go ahead and collide. Among my notes are three distinct reflexive observations. The first is when a collision is imminent, the second is a “last chance to avoid”, the last is brace for impact. Now, repurpose those reflex points. At the first be sure that you ARE aligned to collide. At the second change, say increase, your pace. At the third execute your blend. Irimi is good. Now there are other things you can do at those points, but I think these are a good place to start.

    Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. The Boyd OODA Loop – the one who can go through the process fastest wins. Arguably the Western Front in WWI pitted opponents with equal processing speeds, both predicated on railroads and feet. In 1940 the Germans speeded up the clock, even though they still used a lot of railroads and feet.

    I was at a Terry Dobson class once where he did the old “clap once when you see the attack” drill. You know. Two people opposite each other spot when one attacks. It is extremely easy to see. That’s why successful fighting attacks need either deception (information overload) or overwhelming speed. The three timing reflexes are still there. Once my dog ate a blue jay. Blue jays land, fold their wings, flex their legs and look around. Their vision probably covers 150 degrees or so with their heads facing front. Luke got him at the wing folding stage. Game over. In this case I think Terry was opposite Steve Brown, a Frank Doran student whose aikido I admire, they approached each other to about ma-ai and settled in. At about “settled” I clapped once. Nobody else did. Everybody in the room laughed. Terry shook himself all over, got out of stance, turned around and walked back where he came announcing, “There is a master.” I was in the back of the class, but still wildly embarrassed. Next time I did what everybody else did and waited to see the punch or kick.

    Last year I talked about the geometry of engagement. Pranin Sensei, our kind host, teaches that as The Zone Theory. This year for anybody who has patiently gotten this far, I recommend research on aiki timing.

  60. Interesting discussion… Where do you guys live to have to defend yourself so often? I’ve trained MA for 15 years now, and never even had one altercation where I could use any of it (not that I didn’t want it to happen when I was younger!!)

    Shouldn’t we try to not rely on hand/wrist level lock when applying kotegaeshi or most other wazas?

    I do believe from my limited experience and knowledge that O-Sensei was pushing for a more peaceful approach in application of wazas to uke/attacker. No ?

    I believe I am fortunate to have found a dojo where the sensei focuses on harmony/balance and energy vs. pain, locks and stiff techniques. We do not even apply any wrist lock when practicing kotegaeshi as keeping the balance and locking the whole arm/shoulder is usually more than enough to smoothly roll/throw the uke to the ground.

    Unless a professional necessity, training in any MA with only the intent to use it for real life defense must be very, very deceiving. There is just so much more to be found, personally, in MA and notably in aikido …

    I am also taught, not to use any “brute” force when applying wazas, or it else means that I was unable to apply it correctly. It was very counterintuitive at first, coming from a kickboxing/kungfu/thai background, but the more I try not to resort to using my muscles, the more effective my techniques become.

    Aikido is a wonderful thing, makes you realize how wrong you were on soo many things. 🙂

  61. Mind first to execute Nikyo and kotegaeshi. When there is tension or resistance, try to change directions, the basic forms become formless and shapeless, become one with the partner with the same feelings. I know it is very hard to understand but when we practice regularly so easy to apply it.

    In the dojo we practice with apartner with whole connection, nage and uke has perfect harmony. But outside the dojo or in a street fight we don’t have connection with assault attack , no harmony and no technique. Meaning ” No Technique ” but Mind first.

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