Ki-Aikido: neither aggressive, nor defensive
By Jan Baars, instructor Ki-Aikido Haarlem, Netherlands
In Ki-Aikido we learn many effective techniques such as locks on joints and throws, in combination with practicing how to handle the jo (wooden stick) and bokken (wooden sword). Ki-Aikido is different from other forms of martial art in that it is neither about winning – it is not a sport - nor is it a form of self-defense. Often people think of self-defense as learning how to fight. In a sports situation you train based on common rules, you fight with each other according to those rules and the best player wins. There is applause and admiration and previous fierce opponents become friends again. However, everyday life is not a sports situation. During my teenage years I practiced intensely judo and I remember well that we were very confident that we would do very well in a fight and would not mind being provoked so we could send someone flying. Of course, such self-confidence remains tricky because you may also encounter a stronger fighter or just make a mistake and get seriously injured. But even if you succeed in throwing somebody he may break his neck or fall under a driving car.
There are countless examples of martial arts practitioners getting into trouble for kicking or hitting someone as they were taught to do and get arrested for physical assault. Or they may become the victim of an attack they didn’t learn to expect because there are no shared rules or standard forms of fighting in the street. Moreover, if you win you may have to fight again the next day, because the person you have subdued or his friends may seek revenge. So, it is better to avoid fighting.
But if you become defensive or show an attitude of fear you may attract those who are looking for an easy prey. Criminological research has shown that street robbers select those who seem to be easy victims; they want to have as little trouble as possible. So you need to show self-confidence and determination to stand your ground while continuing to move. The practice of Ki-Aikido is very useful when you are attacked or in any way disturbed in the street but we also develop qualities that will improve your daily life. Training for ‘self-defense’ has its problems because by concentrating on being defensive you tend to wait for an attack, which can make you very vulnerable. The way of Ki-Aikido is to put yourself in a position that you are protected and to learn to anticipate attacks, without provoking them and to give a non-violent but still effective answer that brings closure to the situation.
The role of nage (‘the one who throws’) in Ki-Aikido is to anticipate the movements of uke (‘the one who falls’) who plays the role of the attacker, so that nage gets ahead of him although he started later than uke. Nage executes her technique with confidence, although she can never be sure that she will be able to lead uke. The role of uke is to simulate an attack so that nage can learn how to respond and anticipate, while he accepts that he will be led by nage - although he may also show nage the reality that her technique is failing - and maintains his stable posture until the final stage of the movement. Nage avoids the attitude of the triumphant winner and uke avoids the role of the submissive victim. After he falls down, nage and uke both transcend their relationship of practice in which both challenge each other to improve each other’s abilities… and continue their lives. Both roles are necessary in life: to learn that you can change situations with confidence and that you can face and accept realities that cannot be changed with dignity and calm.
The point of this training is to learn to take attacks not as something you would have to defend yourself against, but as invitations to move in such a way that no harm is done to both sides. Ki-Aikido is a way of protection and non-escalation that gives peace and reconciliation a chance.