Aikido as Self-Defense

The art of self-defense in Aikido is based on understanding the principles of nature and making them a part of oneself. The ideal of Aikido is not to defeat others, but rather to harmonize with them mentally, spiritually, and physically, thereby gaining control of the situation. To harmonize and become one with others, we must first learn to control ourselves. The ideal in Aikido is “Masa katsu agatsu” or “True victory through victory over oneself.”

An example of a standing Sankyu used by police and civilians.

An example of a standing Sankyu used by police and civilians.

By practicing Aikido techniques of self-defense, the Aikidoka comes to appreciate and understand the mental and spiritual aspects of the art. A well-executed Aikido technique is highly efficient, requiring very little effort. This means that Aikido can be an effective and safe art for all involved — even the attacker. Aikido arts follow the principle of “katsujin-ken,” the sword to let live, instead of “satsujin-ken,” the sword to murder or destroy. When one attempts to execute a technique with the intention of injuring or destroying an opponent, the defender becomes the attacker and there is no resolution to the conflict. Instead, Aikido training advocates the peaceful resolution of conflict through harmonizing with the attacker’s energy.

Aikido has become widely used by police officers around the world- including the United States. In Aikido’s homeland, Japan, the unarmed special division of Riot Police are required to take a yearlong intensive Aikido training before beginning street work. Aikido’s gentle nature allows officers to remain safe without fear of their actions being labeled as police brutality. Offenders on certain types of illegal drugs, such as PCP, cannot feel pain; however, Aikido operates not on pain but rather physics. Finally, police officers (like the general public) vary in size and age. Because Aikido does not operate on one’s physical strength, its ability to help an officer defend themselves does not decrease over time. Police officers focus on Aikido’s joint locks, like Sankyu, that allow them to control and individual, keep them upright and mobile and themselves safe.