COFFEE BREAK: An Aikido experience

You may have come across people questioning Aikido’s practicality in a ‘real’ situation. You might have seen comments on YouTube or someone you know saying, ‘Oh, Aikido is scripted and fake… but what if this happened… what if that happened… or, you need competition test yourself’. I often enjoy having these conversations with boxers, Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu Jutsu (BJJ) or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) practitioners I know and train with. I love exploring with them the pitfalls of martial arts competition and rule-bound combat sports where winning a match by points or submission is the objective as opposed to surviving or having to use lethal force against an aggressor that has come to seriously harm you.

Well, I’d like to share a story with you to instil further confidence and offer a ‘real’ example of why Yoshinkan Aikido is an effective and practical system of self-defence (over and above all the other incidental benefits of physical and mental health, wellbeing, community, confidence, strength, flexibility etc.). For other examples of Yoshinkan Aikido being used in life-or-death situations, you may want to read Gozo Shioda’s Aikido Jinsei or Aikido Shugyo. But here is one of my experiences.

I was out at a party at a friend’s place one Saturday night. The party was quite big, full of people I didn’t know and, to tell the truth, didn’t really want to get to know. Anyway, let’s just say it wasn’t the type of party you’d take a first date to; there was quite a bit of drinking taking place and a little abuse of other substances too, unfortunately. The evening continued without too much trouble before people started to spill out into the street as the party broke the boundaries of the house in which it was held. By midnight I had had enough of the party and decided to leave. I said my goodbyes to those I knew and headed for the door.

I left through the front and headed out into the street to grab the taxi I had already called. Out on the street I was met by quite a bit of commotion. People were arguing and as moved past the two main participants I could make out that the dispute was over whether a guy should drive home. Those around him, including his girlfriend, were trying to convince him to get a cab as he had been drinking. He obviously wasn’t drunk, and he thought he was able to drive, despite undoubtedly being over the legal limit of 0.05. Anyway, I couldn’t help myself – I know, I should have kept my nose out of it – and I mentioned to him in passing that he could kill someone else on the road and that, “he shouldn’t be a bloody idiot” (much like the TV campaign). I didn’t really care too much for him, but I was concerned that he might cause an accident and kill someone else. The news was and still is full of drink-drivers surviving crashes while innocent people around them pay the price as victims of their stupidity! Anyway, needless to say he blew up and decided to take his frustration out on me, the stranger who called him on his stupidity. I guess it was better to get violent with me than with his girlfriend, eh?

After hurling verbal abuse at me and not getting the abuse back from me that he was expecting, his frustration soured to even higher levels. Well, he dove into his car and before I knew it he was wielding a crowbar and threatening to kill me with it. Interesting how quick things can escalate. I remember thinking, ‘Is this guy for real? He wants to kill me for trying to save his life!’. Anyway, after fielding more abuse I decided to step into his space, which he wasn’t expecting. I guess he was hoping that I’d step away as he had a weapon and this would allow him to swing with ease. He rose the crowbar to swing at my head and I entered. I checked the strike the same way we block yokumen uchi (side strike) and quickly slipped over the arm into a reverse hiji shime (elbow break). I broke the man’s arm in an instant. He screamed and ran for his car, jumped in and flew off. I guess I had failed in the original plan to stop this fool from driving.

Despite the violence, my point here is that Yoshinkan techniques are dangerous when applied purposefully with intent and are more than sufficient to save your life when confronted with danger. Afterall, these techniques have been practiced for centuries and many Japanese have lost their lives in battle testing them. We need to remember these people and continue to pay them respect as we sweat through our sessions in the Sunshine Coast Dojo striving to improve our proficiency. After all, it is thanks to them that we have this wonderful art to practice still today in a time of relative peace, and it is up to us to train it with integrity and spirit to maintain it! Like any self-defence system or martial art, it takes dedicated training and time to build the proficiency and confidence in your ability. Train hard and take confidence in our martial art and it will be there when you need it most!


Ryan Slavin

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