The Aiki Flow that Prevents Injuries

Dr. William Durbin

In the rush of developing effective martial arts skills, especially those designed for true combat, including self defense, there are those who forget that there are many situations where it is best not to hurt or kill an opponent. Anyone who has been trained in real combat martial arts knows the necessity of learning lethal responses, but those who have walked the streets in law enforcement know that restraining techniques are much more in demand on a daily basis, than killing techniques. Those who have worked in institutions for the mentally ill, retarded, or substance abuse, will tell you that the people they deal with, while many times very violent, are actually good people who have problems that need to be controlled, and not the kind of people that need physical abuse added to their already pressing problems. And for those who have had to deal with irate family members, or a loved one high on drugs or alcohol, any response that would seriously injure or kill is emotionally and spiritually unacceptable, but the situation must still be dealt with.

Thus for those situations, it is necessary to be able to use some type of restraint, that will safely control, but not seriously injure, the violent party. This begins with what can be called Aiki skills. Aiki skills are those joint techniques and body unbalancing methods, that allow a martial artist to control and/or throw an assailant. It must be understood that the skills associated with Aiki were combat techniques, originally designed to damage and kill on the battlefield.

It is a common misunderstanding that Aikido is a totally safe martial art which can be used on an attacker without doing harm to him. But this is a total misconception. Thanks to Steven Seagal, this is one misunderstanding that is being cleared up. Aikido master Seagal has shown in some of his movies the devastating results of many of the Aikido techniques carried to their fullest combat extreme. What people need to realize is that while they may intend to apply a technique gently to an attacker, hoping to exercise soft control of the person, without doing any damage, it is possible that the aggressor will react and move with resistance, so that they actually become injured.

Aiki’s so called gentle techniques are designed to damage joints, break bones, and tear ligaments or muscles. Remember, the art was developed for use against a sword wielding opponent. To not do damage to the attacker was to invite death by the blade. Thus the original purpose of the techniques was to damage or kill. But as time passed, as Samurai were called upon to guard castles and people, they were required to be able to control and capture people rather than kill. At this point the art began to develop changes in the application of the skills so that the damage was avoided or minimal.

This happened both on Japan and Okinawa. In example, Sokaku Takeda was told by his master, Tanomo Saigo, that the time of the sword was past and that the time of empty hand control had come. This is the art that Morihei Ueshiba learned from Takeda and so influenced the control and gentleness of Aikido. In Okinawa, the Motobu family was involved in protecting the Okinawan king, as such their skills needed to be exemplary. Since they were responsible for maintaining security and peace, they were just as likely required to capture and interrogate an assailant, as to kill him. The art of the Okinawan royalty was known as Bushi Te, the warrior hand, and was composed of deadly striking skills, superb weapon skills, and grappling techniques. In modern times the Okinawan grappling techniques are currently being taught under various names, some being; Gyakute, Torite, Tuite, and Toide. Thus the highest level of the ancient art was considered the ability to seize and control a person without resorting to hitting. Both arts have devastating strikes, both arts were developed so that one blow could kill, and both arts felt that the highest level of skill was in not having to use a single strike to begin with.

In order to use the skills in such a way that the assailant will not be hurt, it is first and foremost important to learn how to feel the flow of the energy of the attacker. In Aiki parlance that is to feel the opponent’s Ki. Once you can feel the energy flow of an attack, then it is possible to Ryu Ki, flow with the energy, in order to take control of the attacker and down him/her. When the situation is a straight forward defense, without regard to the safety of the aggressor, such as in a life and death situation, then the move is carried through to it’s natural conclusion. In many of the techniques, such as Kotegaeshi, wrist reversal, or Ikkyo Udeosae, first teaching arm press, this can mean that the joint is dislocated, the ligaments holding it together are torn, and bones can be broken. This is especially true when the attacker fights against the hold, there comes a point where it is impossible to break a properly applied technique, and resistance only causes extreme damage to the restrained person. A story in relation to this is that of a police officer applying the Ikkyo on the arm of a person being arrested. The officer intended to take the man down and handcuff him. As the officer applied downward pressure to put the person on the ground, he forcefully stood up, however the arm broke.

But there are times, whether making an arrest or dealing with some other type of situation, where it just is not considered appropriate to allow that type of result to occur. In that situation both advanced Aiki and Bushi Te skills teach the ability to flow from one technique, into one that is at the opposite extreme of movement. In example, if a defender were to apply a Kotegaeshi, wrist reversal, on an attacker, if the person were to try and push out of the technique, the result, if the lock is applied properly, would be a broken wrist. However, if the defender is a high level martial arts practitioner with Aiki or Bushi Te skills, then as the assailant began to resist the technique, the defender would feel the resistance, flow in the direction of the newly generated force, and blend the movement into a new lock, such as a Wakigatame, armpit lock.

The value of this skill is self evident. If a person can flow with the force generated by an attacker, then it is possible to keep from having to hurt or damage an assailant, and yet maintain control of the person, regardless of what s/he does. This skill would be of obvious benefit for people in all walks of life. Police officers, nurses, therapists, and other people in situations where they work with people who are prone to violent behavior, could have a confidence in taking care of and controlling the people under their care, without injuring them.

Moreover, with the current situation in the world, if parents could learn these skills, then they could deal with violent children without having to harm them. In a day in age where many children are literally overly violent towards the parents and grandparents, this would be a very special gift that could provide a level of protection and security for all people involved. In just the last year, in the author’s area, a daughter has stabbed her mother to death, a granddaughter beat her grandmother to death, a wife had her husband killed by a third party, and a man beat his fiancee to death. While these events cannot be guaranteed to be stopped by martial arts training, it does give us pause to think of how Gichin Funakoshi, at age eighty six, was attacked by a young man, wanting to rob him, and with one simple technique, he

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