Even When Your Hands Are Empty

There are certain styles of martial art that don’t always strike the observer as being something that would necessarily be effective on the street. And that makes sense, right? Think about something specific, like Kobudo. I’ve studied Kobudo on a rudimentary level, and although I love the fanciness and flourish of a traditional weapon, I would never study it BY ITSELF. The reason for this is quite simple: what if you found yourself without the weapon you trained yourself with?

The same can be said for a number of different arts. Some good examples include Kendo. How do you defend yourself if you’re not wielding a sword? Judo. How do you fight if you can’t get your hands on your opponent to throw them? Really, you can ask this question of many grappling and weapons-based martial arts. this is one of the reasons I enjoy and prefer the traditional, empty-hand fighting arts such as karate. Many, if not most styles not only teach the practitioner how to defend empty-handed, but they usually incorporate some weapons as well to ensure some familiarity.

One perfect example of this concept is a martial arts that has received some reasonably bad press in recent years, due to the very fact that it would likely be less than effective in a true combat situation on the street. I am referring, of course, to the Japanese art of Aikido.

Aikido was developed in the late 1920’s, early 1930’s by Morihei Ueshiba, who wanted to develop a grappling style of martial art that would allow a person to defend themselves using the opponent’s own momentum and energy, all while preventing serious injury to either party. His style was based on another Japanese form of grappling called Daito-Ryu, and incorporated Ueshiba’s core beliefs based on his following of an offshoot of the Shinto religion.

Aikido has received criticism from a number of different and popular sources, mostly because many feel that it lacks the appropriate training in areas that would make it effective in a real-life situation, such as striking and blocking. many have commented that unless your opponent is foolish enough to run straight at you in order to allow a fancy flip using their own momentum.

Granted, I can easily agree that if you put a boxer against someone who studies Aikido, you’d be faced with a situation of who will reach their goal first. If the boxer lands a hit, that’ll be it for the Aikido practitioner. If the Aikido practitioner manages to grapple and throw the boxer, the boxer will have very little in the way of a response to defend themselves. This is why, if you study a grappling art such as Aikido, you should incorporate a secondary style that incorporates striking and blocking as well.

Now, Aikido does include some rudimentary weapons training, but this is mostly as defence against such weapons as the staff, wooden sword and knife. On the whole, Aikido is mainly focused on grappling, throwing and wrist locks in order to redirect and control one’s opponent. It can be an extremely effective tool to be used in combat only IF you combine it with a traditional fighting art.

Even if I believe a person should only ever dedicate themselves to one art, I’m a big proponent of branching out so that a practitioner can experience various different perspectives on how best to defend themselves and others. Aikido is certainly a worthy style to examine if one is looking to do just that. Even if some of the criticisms are harsh, it’s important to make your own judgements. And the only way to do this is by finding your local Aikido school and giving it a shot. ☯

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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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