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June 2012

129. Real, Not-Real, Un-Real, Really Real - Part 1

In lessons for the last week or so we've covered ne-waza, the bane of Aikido players.  Classically and traditionally Aikido has no ne-waza, or grappling either ........

Ask any self-respecting Aikido Sensei and they'll tell you ... O'Sensei's Aikido never had and wasn't intended to have any groundwork.  If it did, then O'Sensei would have included it.

Being the contrarian that I am, I of course believe otherwise.  It's always been my opinion that in the early years, when Ueshiba was teaching and developing Ueshiba-ha Aikijutsu and then Aikibudo that likely everyone who came to him already had more than a smattering of all areas of martial arts including grappling.

Tomiki for example came to Ueshiba holding a 7th dan in Judo that he had earned under Kano and Kano had taught several old, classical forms of jujutsu such as Kito Ryu.  Takashita had prior experience as did Inoue and everyone else; especially since many accounts hold that in order to train under Ueshiba a prospective student needed senior rank in a prior art form and/or a personal recommendation from someone important along with demonstrable intent and ability.

So if everyone who trained at the "Hell Dojo" already had extensive experience in various areas including some form or level of ne-waza then they had no real reason to study ne-waza from Ueshiba.  They were there to learn aikijutsu  ........ Daito Ryu Aikijutsu more specifically, and Ueshiba-ha Aikijutsu/Aikibudo.  In a sense, IMHO, they already knew much and they were there to engage in a high-level PhD study of a much larger Budo than what they already knew; something more expansive and with a much greater potential for personal growth.

However, with that said unfortunately, most present day Aikido is taught by, and to, players who have for the most part never trained in anything other than Aikido and if they have, it likely contained no grappling.  So in their universe Aikido simply has no ne-waza and never has; their having no understanding that Ueshiba's original students came to him with that knowledge already in their possession.

Ne-waza systems can be very sophisticated with great potential for submission of the attacker.  This potential comes from the very tight control of the attacker that tori can establish by using body dynamics, weight distribution and efficient application of internal power.  Because of this potential, practice has to be very tightly disciplined which I find to be a good fit with the Aikido mentality for logically structured practice.  The benefits however are immense.

I have observed many Aikido players over the years with a fear of truly committing to the throw due to a fear, albeit it subconscious, of falling or being drug down to the ground by the attacker.  Knowing, and having confidence in a groundwork system removes that fear or hesitation and allows the defender to commit fully and totally to the technique.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho, Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

June 2012