Now that I’ve completed eight of the top ten principles used in the system of martial arts I teach, I would like to answer a question asked by one of my students, which I’m sure has also been asked by other readers of this “blog.”
That question being why I often use judo techniques to illustrate our principles instead of techniques used in Aikido. After all, our techniques, the art that I teach, must have more in common with Aikido than Judo.
Well, yes and no!
Of course, the simple answer is I’ve never trained in Aikido, so I have no idea how their techniques are explained. All I know about Aikido is what I’ve learned at a couple of seminars and from books. That is clearly not enough knowledge to discuss Aikido principles or applications.
There is no doubt that we use similar methodologies akin to Aikido, however I know for a fact our intention and focus behind our techniques is worlds apart from those taught in most Aikido schools.
Yes, it’s true we also believe in the ideals of peace, love and harmony, as sermonized in various Aikido literature. However, we only think that way if the other person has the same intention. When attacked, and forced in a situation where force is necessary, the gloves come off, and our techniques are designed to stop the aggression. If that means serious bodily injury and/or death then that’s what we will do. That’s what we train for, and the intention behind every technique we do. The samurai did not fight to lose, and they used whatever means necessary to accomplish their objective.
While I’ve never formally studied Aikido, I did on the other hand, train in judo for several years. I still keep in touch, and sometimes even practice with, some of my old judo training/coaching partners. (Though I must admit, as we get older we communicate/meet less and less, and unfortunately some have already passed away.)
Since I actually trained in judo, and have read a lot on the topic, I have some actual firsthand insight on how judo techniques work and how they are taught. This allows me to make informed commentary. And no, I don’t claim to fully understand all the intricacies that make up the art of judo. I’m no more than a passer-by, a casual observer of that martial art.
Fortunately, when I trained in judo I was taught techniques by several excellent judoka, some of whom were, or had been on the US Olympic team. I have to assume that if they reached that level they had to know what they were talking about. Many are nationally known and widely respected. Some of my teachers included:
Duke Moore – (seminars only) He made it all look so easy, and had so much technical insight to share. Though better known as a jujutsu practitioner, he was well versed in grappling.
Tim Delgman – (college years and seminars) I knew Tim before he became Soke (inheritor) of Mr. Moore’s system. In college his skills were good, but over the years have even become better.
Willy Cahill – (seminars as well as a few months at his school – right before college) As a teen, I remember Mr. Cahill as a giant of a man who moved with grace and speed. A few years ago, I ran into him again. While he no longer appeared to be a giant, he clearly still has all the skills, maybe even more, that I remembered.
Wally Jay – (Before college and several seminars up until his retirement.)
While known more for his jujutsu skills than judo, he did teach judo skills when I trained with him.
Mitchell Palacio (college) I think he does the best tai-otoshi throw I’ve ever seen. It is so smooth and effortless that you don’t even feel it until you hit the mat.
Neil Laughlin (college) (Promoted me to 1st Dan) (My main judo instructor) He was the first true heavyweight I had the chance to work with. He proved to me that even if you’re a large person, you should still use technique rather than rely just on muscle and speed. I learned a lot about mat work from him, and owe much of my ground skills to his training.
Mike Swain (seminars)
Bill Paul (college) I didn’t know who he was the first time we did randori (free sparring) and he just played with me for a full half an hour. I mean, no matter what I did he countered me instantly and effortlessly, barely breaking a sweat in the process. It was a totally humbling experience, until I learned who he was.
Phil Porter – (seminars) (Offered to promote me to 4th Dan, which I declined out of respect to those that actually practice judo on a regular basis.) I realize Mr. Porter, (I refuse to call him O’sensei) doesn’t have the best reputation in the martial arts community because of his policies regarding issuing rank and his organization’s politics, but he is an excellent judo practitioner with a lot of knowledge to offer. His technical skills are amazing as is the openness in which he teaches them.
Victor Anderson – While not an instructor of mine we have spent many hours discussing judo, judo theory, and judo techniques. He has also been invited to teach at several of the Budo seminars I have hosted.
So what is the answer to the original questions and why did I answer “Well yes and no?”
The truth is that many of our projections are very similar to judo. We just do them slightly different, with an intention of breaking our opponent, rather than pinning him. Our projections are clearly designed to snap necks, break shoulders, and damage vital organs.
On the other hand, we use the principles of aiki, (those found in Aikido) to set up these projections, and make them easier to do.
In other words we utilize the best of both approaches. Or, as I tell prospective students, we’re the type of martial art that Judo and Aikido were founded on.