What Is Combat Aikido? All You Need to Know

Most people have heard of Aikido, a martial art with a highly spiritual and peaceful philosophy. Critics say it’s not good for self-defense, but recently, I saw a book about a fighting style of Aikido and wondered: what is Combat Aikido?

Here’s what I discovered:

Combat Aikido, unlike traditional Aikido, focuses on self-defense. It applies the deadliest techniques from Aikido and applies it for dealing with multiple attackers and street fights.

So, Combat Aikido stresses traditional Aikido techniques, such as blows and strikes, that are effective in real fights.

Traditional Aikido has elements of self-defense in it, but that’s not its primary purpose. It’s actually about peace and harmony. That makes it perfect for some but leaves it open to criticism from others.

But let’s explore what remains the same and what’s different between the 2 styles of Aikido.

How does Combat Aikido differ from regular Aikido?

Combat Aikido focuses on Aikido techniques that are effective in real fights. While it does not promote violence, it also does not push the traditional Aikido ethic of doing no harm.

It’s a hybrid form that stresses Aikido’s martial roots.

But, Combat Aikido is not about harmony or flowing with the opponent’s energy and protecting oneself in such a way that the opponent is not hurt.

The Combat Aikidoka is intent on hurting their attacker. While regular Aikido is lofty, Combat Aikido is intensely practical.

So, when we get right down to it, it’s not that the techniques are markedly different. It’s more of a question of intent and emphasis.

In Combat Aikido, there’s more stress placed on atemi (blows or strikes to the body), while throws and wrist locks are often more common in regular Aikido.

And perhaps the most important difference has been hinted at above.

Regular Aikido, in my opinion, is the most sublime martial art there is. It’s the most profound. At its core, it’s not about defeating a fellow human being. It’s not about crushing them; it’s about finding peace and harmony within and helping to spread it without.

This is the sentiment reflected in one of the sayings of Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba. To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.

Considering its lofty aim, it’s understandable if you’re wondering if Aikido is worth doing.

That’s the theme I explored in a recent article of mine. I actually worked with an Aikido black belt for many years, and let me assure you, if push came to shove, he could hold his own against any attacker.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can regular Aikido be used in a real fight?

Traditional Aikido can be quite useful in a real fight even though its intent is largely defensive. You can use your opponent’s energy and momentum against them and deliver devastating throws, wrist locks, and joint locks.

If you’re properly trained, you can defend yourself against most people, even if they’re taller, faster, and bigger than you.

Really? Yeah.

Unless they’re highly trained fighters, they’ll most probably rush at you. In other words, their anger has hijacked their ability to think well. So they’ll assume that they have the edge over you (a trained fighter) and rush at you.

You could easily deflect an attack and have the attacker on their back in less than a minute by knowing this simple fact:

Most people don’t know how to fall without injury.

So, as they fall, without any protection, they could realize to their shock that they’ve broken a part of their body, or in some cases, they may be too dazed to be able to even know what actually happened! Especially if their head lands on a concrete floor!

Joint and wrist locks are also what is used by Aikidokas.

At first glance, both seem harmless. But, they can cripple the opponent’s capacity to defend themselves, and of course, they’re actually very painful. Fighting, at its most basic level, is about defense and offense.

Can you imagine how dominant and more effective one becomes when joint locks and wrist controls are applied? Your opponent would probably struggle repeatedly…and then realize it’s pointless.

Does Combat Aikido go against the philosophy of Aikido?

Combat Aikido does cast aside some, but not all aspects, of the traditional Aikido philosophy. Aikido is a path to enlightenment. It’s not about being able to crush an opponent. In fact, Aikido is the art of peace. Combat Aikido places that secondary to being able to defeat an attacker.

It’s hard to imagine how one can foster peace and harmony after one has broken someone’s ribs or jaw!

Combat Aikido is a narrowing down of the holistic and harmonious insights of Aikido.

Our world can be dangerous and full of conflicts, alienation, and sadness. So, are we making progress by focusing on how to excel at fighting (the Combat Aikido way) or by developing ourselves in such a way that we embody peace and spread it in our communities? (the traditional Aikido path).

Traditional Aikido is not naïve.

That’s one of the reasons for atemi (blows and strikes) and randori (free-style practice), but it’s profound in the sense that it recognizes that aggression and conflicts would only breed more aggression and conflicts.

Aikido knows violence is progressive and not sustainable.

There’s something immensely powerful about the traditional Aikido’s way: Imagine if you were not harmed by someone you’re positive could give you a gruesome beatdown.

The self-control they showed could transform you. They’re showing that simply having the ability to fight and beat others does not mean one should.

Aikido is indeed the art of peace.

You’ll probably want to know more about Aikido’s effectiveness.

I explored it in more depth in a recent article of mine. I got into all the best aspects of Aikido for self-defense and addressed the top concerns of Aikido that critics have, including the 1 criticism that makes some people call Aikido a “fake” martial art.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What are the core techniques of Combat Aikido?

One of the most important techniques of Combat Aikido is regarding the importance of maintaining one’s balance. Another one is a counter to the front lapel grab and a counter to being choked.

Don’t worry. We’ll get into specifics below.

Since one of your goals is to unbalance an opponent, you must master how to attain balance yourself.

If you’re not balanced, you simply can’t utilize the leverage that’s integral to Combat Aikido.

The counter to the “front lapel grab” is so simple. Its effectiveness is astounding!

Say an attacker grabs you by your front lapel (a common approach in most street fights).

You raise your hand as high as you can and then bring it forcefully back over one of their arms, clutching your lapel. It’ll break the grip, then slide down and step in by positioning your leg forward, and then pull the attacker over it. They’ll land on the floor!

Another is a counter to the “front choke” (which is also very common in real fights).

As the attacker grabs your neck, you drop down and turn your neck sideways and upward to free your neck.

Then spin or pivot to your left while at the same time trapping their nearest arm. Twist it and lean on it to force them down on their face.

At this point, they’ll be in a lot of pain.

After all, they were going to choke you…but are now having their arm twisted unnaturally.

This is the time for you to flee. But, if you really want to inflict more pain, you could turn that into a Kimura (that could easily lead to a broken arm).

Is Combat Aikido better than Jiu-jitsu?

Combat Aikido is not better than Jiu-Jitsu. Combat Aikido is effective, but Jiu-Jitsu offers a wider array of techniques and a much greater focus on finishes to disable an opponent completely. In fact, Aikido itself is derived from Jiu-Jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is more of a grappling art, and truth be told, grapplers are often the most deadly folks.

Once most of them take the fight to the ground, it’s virtually over. They’re absolutely top-notch at take-downs.

I don’t believe that a master Combat Aikidoka can trounce a Jiu-Jitsu fighter.

The Aikidoka may have an initial temporary advantage. But, the Jiu-Jutsu fighter would eventually take them down and would apply a leg or arm triangle, a choke, or a Kimura (which is really a Judo technique that was imported into BJJ and then added to Combat Aikido.

That’s not to say that Aikido is not effective.

If you can swing it, it’s almost always better to be skilled in more than one martial art. But, can you teach yourself Aikido? I answered the question in a recent article of mine.

While it’s always better to train in a dojo with other partners, there’s actually a lot you can do with Aikido from home by yourself.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Five Wrist Locks from Aikido for Combat (Part III)


It’s been a fun exploration.

We looked at Combat Aikido, Traditional Aikido, and Jiu-Jitsu. We explored some of the differences between the traditional and combat aikido systems and whether the traditional or regular style can be used in real fights.

We also looked at whether Combat Aikido goes against the philosophy of the traditional form, Combat Aikido’s core techniques.

And we wrapped up by wondering if Combat Aikido is better than Jiu-Jitsu.

Photo which requires attribution:

Aikido by rudresh_calls is licensed under CC2.0

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