Last month we introduced a new concept. You shouldn’t be claiming aikido is lethal unless you’ve given it some serious thought, and worked out how to do it. The first part of that is actually quite simple and easy to achieve. The second part though, how to actually make your aikido dangerous, requires a bit more consideration, and a fair bit of practice.
The techniques of aikido, the ones we see in every session on the mats, are brutal. As aikidoka we have a tendency to focus on the opposite. There are many reasons for that but ultimately this focus has led to the techniques becoming neutered in terms of brutality. In aikido all the techniques contain a choice over how much damage to inflict. This is part of how aikido makes you a better (or worse) person.
Over time aikidoka have come to emphasise the choice towards minimal damage. We have done this to such a degree that the other choice, maximum damage, is almost lost to us. Not completely though, it’s still there, but you have to look a little bit harder to find it.
In this post, we’ll look at a technique and consider how we could shift it along the track towards maximum damage. Please note, I’m not advocating that you do these things, only that you become aware of them.
First of all, let’s consider irimi nage. A popular technique and one of the cornerstones of almost every organisations syllabus. It’s not uncommon to teach this as early as 5th kyu. While there are some notable exceptions (such as Steven Seagal’s version) the vast majority of aikidoka perform this in a similar manner.
Irimi nage, as shown here, is quite effective in its own right. On solid ground, against an opponent that does not know how to fall, this could do some damage. It might, at the very least, cause them to think twice about getting up and attacking again. Sadly, there are situations where this version would not be a good solution to the problem. If you’ve tried the thought exercises from the previous post then you’ll be familiar with what they are. Sometimes, you need to use a higher level of force. What would that look like for irimi nage?
Before going any further there are certain assumptions that are being made. The first of those is that you have good enough timing to get behind your attacker. So, let’s begin with that entry. A simple fact is most aikidoka do not enter far enough for irimi nage. If you do enter far enough then you discover certain choices become available. For instance rabbit punching.
A Vicious Strike
Rabbit punching is an illegal move in just about any form of organised pugilism you can name. The reason for this is very simple. It has a high probability of removing your breathing privileges. If you’re unaware of what a rabbit punch is it’s a sharp blow to the back of the head below the visual cortex. It can damage the cervical vertebrae (and thus the spinal cord) and even detach the brain stem. A nasty move by all accounts. If you enter correctly for irimi nage, then you are in the perfect position to rabbit punch the uke. It’s a natural movement from that position, if you choose to do it.
There’s the first option then, for making irimi nage a step towards deadly. What comes next? If we assume that you’ve executed a rabbit punch then you’ve at least nudged the uke’s head forward. Their whole body may have come with it, or it may not, regardless, their head is likely to be facing slightly down. The handy thing here is that you have two hands, and you’ve only used one of them so far. As we know, the second hand in irimi nage remains in front of the uke and can help to guide them. This time, because their head is forward you choose to guide them in a different manner.
Hidden Follow Through
Instead of making any large turns you let the hand (not the arm), drive up the centre line. Keep your hand open with fingers extended and the palm should make forceful contact on the chin. It should be obvious that this depends on the angle of their head, don’t be surprised if you get nose and eyes instead. You have to make sure you follow through with this strike. With your hand attached to their face, their whole body now arches up and backwards. This gives the option to continue the motion and drive their skull into the ground.
Make absolutely no mistake. This will severely injure a person. I do not for a moment recommend that you do this. I’m only pointing out that the technique itself is designed in such a way that this is an option. An option that you now have to choose not to take.
What we have here is a standard aikido technique that has built in openings for a rabbit punch, double eye gouge, and head spike. Note that all three of those things would be illegal in almost every combat sport.
It should be obvious that this is not the only option. Irimi nage presents opportunities for neck cranks, chokeholds, ganseki otoshi breakfalls, internal organ damage, bone breaks, and joint dislocations to name some.
Beyond Irimi Nage
I’ve used irimi nage as an example here but this is true of all aikido techniques. Ikkyo, often regarded as the most harmless technique imaginable presents options for: multiple joint dislocations, multiple bone breaks, internal organ damage, concussions, rabbit punching, and general striking.
Every single technique in aikido has the option for extreme levels of violence. As aikidoka though, we neither take them nor teach them. The vast majority of sensei will never teach these things. This is partly because they are unaware of them, and partly because that’s not what we’re about. Personally, I do teach these things, both in regular classes and at seminars. I teach them because I believe that you cannot truly learn the lessons of a technique unless you know the whole thing. It is very easy to choose not to do something when you are unaware of it as an option. Your strength is only tested when you know what you can do, and choose to do something else.
Make Your Aikido Dangerous
In the previous post I said you should not claim aikido’s lethal effectiveness and yet here I am claiming it. The difference is that I have sat down and considered when, whether, and if I could make it that way. I have also considered how to do it. Until you undergo a similar journey you’re unlikely to ever reach a place where you can make a lethality claim. For the record I still would not claim my aikido is lethally effective; it’s about the willingness part in my case. I know how, when, and why, but the answer to whether I could is, “No”.
If you do want to make your aikido lethal then I would suggest that you approach the ‘how’ aspect last. There is a lot of work to do before you reach that part and you may discover that you no longer wish it to be that way. Once you do reach the point of how though be warned, you may never look at the techniques in the same way again. As an example an opening that tends to unsettle people is the knee strike to the head in shiho nage.
A key thing to realise here is that none of this requires anything extra. There is a push in some areas to make aikido more martial, violent, aggressive, or lethal. The majority of this involves taking aspects from other martial arts and adding them to our own. In essence creating a random mix of martial arts that is very different from person to person. From my perspective this is neither desirable nor necessary. What you need to accomplish that goal is already contained within aikido. All you have to do is find it.
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