This is a question a lot of people ask about Aikido. Of course, the best way to find out if Aikido is effective is to get in the dojo and find out for yourself. For those of us who already do Aikido and need a handy response to anyone who asks us this or think that Aikido is fake, here are a few points to make.
To be honest, if we’re saying that Aikido techniques don’t work or are fake – then actually yes, they are fake. They’re fake in the same way that experiments conducted in a laboratory are fake. The techniques we study and practise over and over in the dojo would not work in a real-life situation. But what we’re doing with those techniques – like the experiments in a laboratory – is creating a set of perfect or ideal circumstances which allow us to observe and study and extrapolate the principles of those techniques and movements in a controlled environment. Then hopefully in a real situation we can apply those principles in an effective way, without thinking but with an instinctive response through muscle memory or as a result of the repetitive training. The techniques are also designed to train and develop the body so whenever we are training and studying the techniques, we need to constantly be asking ourselves, “what is this technique teaching me?” or “what part of my body is this technique or movement trying to train or develop?” Also, more than any specific technique, where Aikido is most effective is in where it teaches us to read a person’s movements; to maintain a constant spatial and situational awareness around us and to maintain at all times a posture that is discouraging of attack.
If you want to put Aikido against an MMA fighter or a karateka or something then it probably won’t work because the goals and objectives are completely different. We’re not trying to score points or land punches in Aikido.
There are also many other things we’re doing in our training besides just memorising techniques: we’re increasing our stamina; we’re practising controlling our breathing; we’re developing focus and concentration; we’re learning how to respond to pain or fear or stress calmly and without tensing up. All of these things are going to be effective in all kinds of situations outside the dojo.
Also, a lot of people don’t necessarily do Aikido for self-defense – there are a myriad of other reasons. For fun, to meet people, to improve health and fitness… If it makes people happy and they enjoy it and it enriches their life in any way then I’d say it is very effective!!
The techniques don’t always work and it is actually incredibly difficult to make them work (that’s part of the charm and the fascination of Aikido. I can unequivocally say that Yoshinkan Aikido is a perfect system and if it doesn’t work, then that’s the fault of the person doing the technique and NOT because of any fault or lack in the technique itself.
Ryu HQ Dojo Instructor