© 2012 niall. All rights reserved.

aikido | fighting and not fighting

at ease talking or remaining silent
moving or staying still
serene even when greeted with sharp weapons
Yoka Genkaku, The Song of Enlightenment

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs
Rudyard Kipling, If

This is a true story about a famous aikido teacher.. One day he got into a fight. He let himself get provoked. The blood rushed to his head and he lost his cool. But instead of using aikido he punched the other man. He got into a punching match. It should have been easy for him to handle the situation. All he had to do was keep cool. And let his training kick in.

So decades of training. And great technical ability.

Out. The. Window.

I saw a similar thing happen once with someone who had done judo for many years. He made a completely unjustified aggressive comment to somebody. The man warned him. But the judoka didn’t cool the situation down. He took the rudeness up a notch. So the man just punched him. The judoka didn’t throw him. Or control him. Or wrap him up and take him to the ground. He headbutted him.

The final result was that the other man punched him a few more times. The judoka ended up in hospital. The other man ended up in a police cell.

Years of training. Forgotten. In an instant.

These weren’t beginners. One was a professional aikido teacher. The other was a veteran of many judo tournaments.

I think this is a really important lesson.

If experienced budoka can forget all their training so easily then ANY ONE CAN.

You can learn this. How to stay calm. You can learn it from aikido if you have the right teacher. And if you are not getting it from your aikido training perhaps you need to do something else as well. Or instead. Run. Or meditate or do zazen. Or yoga. Or play tennis. Whatever works for you. But if you can’t stay serene under pressure aikido is just a bunch of self defence techniques.

The aikido teacher had one of the highest dan grades. Although based on this story he certainly didn’t deserve it.


e-book and poems
Rudyard Kipling, Rewards and Fairies including the poem If

You can read If online on several sites including wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If%E2%80%94

and also on the site of Aikido Academy USA http://www.aikidoacademyusa.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=324&p=514#p514%20%20

Yoka Genkaku/Yongjia Xuanjue, The Song of Enlightenment

calligraphy: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/z/zen-calligraphy/
Dragon and Tiger by Yamaoka Tesshu from the Victoria & Albert Museum © Hitsuzendo

posted contemporaneously on aikiweb

my aikido columns on aikiweb

© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Thanks Carina. I wrote about the problem of beautiful aikido from a person whose heart was not pure in http://mooninthewater.net/aikido/2012/01/23/does-your-aikido-reflect-your-heart/. My conclusion was that his aikido was not beautiful. When you have eyes to see it you can find that it is hollow and sterile.

  2. Thank you Niall for this reflexive and instructive post, I agree that beside of learning the techniques we must fight against ourselves, remaining cool and calm against any attack by word, by hand or weapon. It is not the first time that I thought that Dan grades should not be give just for being perfect in Aikido. I was even thinking about writing a post about that. We have also a case in the islands of a high dan grade with a beautiful aikido, who is evil as human.

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