“A single person, regardless of his martial skill level, cannot hope to compare or prevail against the overwhelming force and strategies that can be brought to bear by today’s military and law enforcement personnel, or even members of an armed street gang.”
I published an article recently about the decline in the number of aikido practitioners which I believe to be accurate based on an abundance of anecdotal evidence. I don’t think anyone has produced any confirmable statistics on the subject that would refute what I wrote.
I would like to direct this blog to the subject of young people, mostly males, who are contemplating the study of a martial art and their motivations for doing so. Given the current martial arts scene with the plethora of options, aikido will likely not be their first choice.
I have touched upon this topic from time to time and would like to first mention the subject of motivation. I believe that fear, the desire to safeguard one’s physical well-being, and unrealistic illusions of becoming invicible fighters fueled by action movies, video games, and such material are among the common reasons for young people embarking on the path of the study of a martial art.
Being young and inexperienced, most of these youngsters are incapable of following long, complex chains of reasoning that place such an important life decision in perspective. Thus, they set out on their journeys with a present orientation and fail to weigh possible long-term consequences of such a decision.
A few observations…
- Few beginners will follow through with their training for any length of time due to lack of discipline
- The amount of physical effort, pain, and overall discipline needed will overwhelm most
- The focus of instruction may be less on self-defense and personal development, and prioritize rapid advancement in ranking primarily for financial purposes related to the operation of the school
- Those who persevere will be encouraged to enter into competitions to represent their schools, often motivated heavily by financial considerations of the school owners
- Those who become competitors will fail to forsee the pain, frequency and long-term effects of injuries they are likely to incur during their preparation and matches
Surely, many other factors along these lines could be mentioned, but I think this list will serve to illustrate how different the methods and mentality of the violent fighting systems offered today differ from the spirit and reality of aikido training.
I believe many young males are at least partially motivated by the desire to be strong, standout martial artists who exude self-confidence. It is the modern day version of the image of the knights of old, the invincible gunfighter of the Old West, the soldier-hero of the non-stop wars infesting our world, and so on.
If those who practice martial arts, particularly those who engage in competitions, regard themselves as the strongest warriors of society and brethren of the modern military hero, they are seriously deluding themselves.
The elite fighters of the modern age, be they members of the military, police or government agencies, are of an entirely different breed. Their skills exhibit rapidly increasing sophistication both in terms of weaponry and strategy.
A single person, regardless of his martial skill level, cannot hope to compare or prevail against the overwhelming force and strategies that can be brought to bear by today’s military and law enforcement personnel, or even members of an armed street gang.
Today’s elite military and law enforcement officers operating in the field are veritable bionic men connected to computer networks. By comparison, the study of martial arts by the general public can be viewed as a casual pastime to learn limited self-defense skills, for exercise, and social interaction.
In such a rapidly changing competitive environment, prospective students of aikido should reevaluate their thinking. No one will become invicible through the study of aikido or any martial art. The benefits of serious practice will take the form of character building, good health, improved powers of observation, the exercise of courteous behavior, sensitivity to others, the ability to remain calm and compassionate under duress. Such are the tools of survival and success in today’s violent world.
The fighters among us will pay heavily both physically and mentally for their fascination and romance with power and violence. They will serve as the tools of others who wield power behind the scenes and may be discarded at any time and easily replaced.
The serious aikidoka will find in the art a peaceful lifestyle, seldom find himself in a violent altercation, and avoid confrontational behavior. Not very exciting, to be sure, but a receipe for success and happiness in life.
P.S. Stanley Pranin has practiced aikido for 54 years. The above article is a sample of his writing. His aikido looks like this.