It’s time to take a look at the next of our new rules, it’s about aikido being lethal. This is something that so many people are guilty of and it’s time to stop.
New Rule #2: You are not allowed to claim lethal effectiveness for aikido unless you can prove it.
Aikidoka seem to love to claim that it is ‘lethal’, or ‘too dangerous for competition’, or ‘incredibly deadly if we want it to be’.
I understand why we claim that. I really do. There’s a whole host of reasons that would drive us to make these claims. From trying to look like a total bad-ass with members of your preferred sex; to laying waste to trolls that want to say aikido is ineffective; detouring through shoring up your belief in your own skills along the way. This is all understandable, nobody should blame you for this, I certainly don’t, but there is a catch to it.
When most of us make these claims we don’t have anything to back them up with. You think it’s true, but you don’t know it’s true. Chances are you’ve never even considered it enough to reach a conclusion either way.
Knowing What It Takes
Let’s think about it for a little bit now though. Do you know what it takes to end a life? Have you ever bothered to find out what level of trauma you would need to inflict on a human body to render it lifeless? How hard is it to strike a head with enough force to kill that person? (Wrong, uppercutting the nose into the brain is a myth for so many reasons. Yes, I know you went there.) How long do you need to choke someone for before they’re dead instead of unconscious? Do you know how to, and can you actually cause enough internal organ damage for someone to perish? All with your bare hands and using only your aikido techniques.
Most aikidoka have never seriously considered/ researched the answers to these questions. As a result they have no idea what it takes to kill a person with their bare hands. If your primary source of information for this comes from movies then I have some bad news for you. The information you need to answer those questions is available, you just have to go and look for it.
The Mental Strength
If you do know what it physically requires to end a life then here is the next problem to contemplate. Most people never give any thought to this either, but it is vitally important. Do you have the mental fortitude to do it? When determining this here’s something to think about. The vast majority of aikidoka that I know would not be willing to train for and then enter a competitive fight. Be it boxing, MMA, or something else. If you aren’t willing to fight someone on those terms, what on earth makes you think you have what it takes to kill someone?
You can make arguments about self-defence being a different scenario, and I agree that it is. You can claim that in the heat of the moment you would do what it takes, and you might. But if you aren’t even willing to strike someone voluntarily after training to do so, what basis do you have for thinking self-defence would be any different? If you cannot bring yourself to do it voluntarily, why would you be able to do it involuntarily? That’s not a trick question by the way. It’s not a ‘gotcha’. There are answers to it, and good ones as well, but unless you have those answers then I don’t believe you could do it.
The Right Moment
The consideration of whether you could do it also leads to another mental exercise. When would you do it? Would you do it if I tried to stab your children? What about if it was your partner? What if it was a stranger? What if I was only threatening you with a knife? What if it was someone half your size? What if you woke up and found a stranger in your house? It’s too easy to say, ‘I’d kill them if they tried that with me,’ without considering all the factors of the situation. It’s also meaningless to do so.
Consider for a moment professional UFC fighter Anthony Smith. During preparation for a UFC fight, so while he was approaching his maximum physical fighting capability, he awoke to find a strange man in his home. He fought the invader.
Take a moment to reflect that Anthony Smith’s job is to enter a confined area and attempt to defeat the world’s best one-on-one fighters in a physical contest.
Now consider that in an interview about the fight with the intruder, Anthony described it as the toughest fight he has ever had, and that it was terrifying. He had extreme difficulty restraining and subduing this untrained individual. The room where the fight took place was covered in blood after the altercation.
You Were Never Taught This
Another aspect of this that must be acknowledged is blindingly obvious but seldom recognised. None of your aikido training has actually taught you a technique to kill a person. Irimi nage is an obvious one here. It’s designed so that the first thing to hit the floor is the back of the head. On concrete that has the potential to be fatal. It’s not guaranteed though. If you wanted to make sure it was lethal, you’d have to deliberately take the face with your hand, and drive the back of the head into the ground with force. That’s not a guarantee either but the odds are much higher that it would be. I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you’ve never practiced that (unless you’re one of my students).
To a great extent the techniques of aikido have been neutered to remove their lethality. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, just that you’ve never trained them in that manner. A subtle but important difference. It’s important because if you never practice something you’ll find it very difficult to do. Playing a driving simulator, is not the same as driving.
I Would Have…
Do you know what one of the most annoying things about videos of people defending themselves is? It’s the samurai cosplay squad commenting about how they, “…would have destroyed that asshole if he <insert scenario here> with me.” That’s a very comforting thought but completely unfounded. The vast majority of people have never actually been in that situation, whatever it was. Also, there is a big difference between the story we tell ourselves about what we would do, and what would actually happen. This is a terrible thing too. One of the most humbling and soul destroying moments in anyone’s life is when they discover that the story they built for themselves, was not the story that happened. Learning that the hard way can be devastating.
Those are some of the reasons why claiming our lethality is unfounded, and until you have addressed these things personally, then you cannot claim your aikido is lethal.
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