Aikido – A forgiving approach to self-defence

Zenponage - Ian Grant and Brendan Carter A couple of weeks back, I was talking after class with a relative newcomer to our Art who had been pondering on a number of philosophical issues relevant to the martial practise of Aikido. The discussion went along the lines that if Aikido is not about teaching people how to fight, then what is it really about.

There is probably no right or wrong answer to this question.  Speaking from a strictly martial context, my own view is that Aikido is about giving the practitioner skills to allow them the choice between a forgiving response and a destructive response to an attack.

I think it would be fair to say that in most violent altercations the respondent to an attack ordinarily only has the option of a destructive response.  This response involves either applying a destructive force to repel the attacker or accepting self destruction through submission.  What Aikido facilitates is giving the recipient of an attack another option.

In Aikido we learn to merge an attacker’s energy (or ki) with our own energy such that the attacker’s centre of balance is taken while our centre remains strong. The result is that for a moment of time the attacker is completely vulnerable.  It is at this point that the Aikido practitioner is in a position to make a choice between one of 2 options.

The first option is a forgiving response where damage to the attacker is minimalized to that necessary to end the attack (i.e. through the application of an Aikido technique). The second option is to take advantage of the attacker’s weakened structural position and execute maximum damage to the attacker, such as a strike to a vital organ.  In Aikido we obviously advocate the first choice.

Taken from this perspective, Aikido is not about learning skills to destroy an attacker, but rather learning skills to have the option of a more forgiving response.

All the best

Ian Grant

Other references which may be of interest

(a) Some thoughts on self-defence by Dan James Sensei at

(b) Toppling (kuzushi) by Dan James Sensei at

(c) Aikido: Christan TISSIER in Budapest 2013 (teaching) at (particularly at about 11.07 mark) – Christian Tissier Sensei comments on the destruction/forgiveness choice in Aikido applications.

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