Is Aikido Effective? (Benefits, Pros & Cons, Philosophy)


Many of us learn martial arts for self-defense. Yet others use it for fitness, while others are drawn to the more spiritual aspects of it. If you’re eyeing Aikido as one of your choices, you might be wondering, is Aikido effective?

Here’s what I know from practicing it, among other types of martial arts:

Aikido is very effective. Some of its techniques can help you defend yourself even when confronted with someone heavier and more powerful. But it can also help keep you grounded and centered, and more at peace.

But there’s a lot more to know about aikido!

So in this article, we’ll look at the origins of aikido, some of the pros and cons, and how to know if aikido is right for you. Let’s get into it!

Is Aikido good for self-defense or street fighting?

Yes, aikido is good for both self-defense and street fighting.But, most Aikidokas (practitioners of Aikido) are trained not to fight unless it’s absolutely for self-defense, and even when they do, their aim is not to significantly harm the other.

Having said that, Aikido can be highly effective.

I recall a story that the BBC published online a few years ago of an Aikidoka who fought off four men. He fought them off while still holding on to the fish and chips he had bought. (source)

One of them was able to stab him with a screwdriver, which he took off the attacker; he disabled two of the men. They wanted his wallet and mobile phone. And he decided to fight instead of giving both up.

So Aikido is also good for learning how to fight multiple attackers and fight folks who are heavier and more powerful by learning how to deflect and use the attackers’ energy against them.

And, among other techniques, they are also taught how to fall gracefully without harming themselves.

This alone can be a life-saver in a fight. If a person is thrown or pushed away, and they don’t know how to protect themselves, that might just be the end of the fight.

After all, when you fall to the ground, your first instinct (if you are untrained) is to brace yourself with your hands. This can easily lead to broken arms and wrists.

Aikidokas are trained on how to throw people.

Most attackers aren’t trained in martial arts. They may be thugs and street fighters. But aside from experience, they usually lack formal training.

And, since Aikidokas are trained on how to confront many opponents at once.

One of Aikido’s effective and deadly facets is that a trained practitioner faced with two people may easily throw one against another. You are effectively killing two birds with one stone.

Is Aikido a good workout?

Yes, Aikido is a good workout. You will work a wide variety of muscle groups, and also do a lot of stretching, rolling, bending, and breathing exercises, as you learn core Aikido techniques. 

Ideally, practice three times per week for 1 hour per session to see results.

In time, you’ll be more than fit. You’ll probably get started with stretching. This can seem “ordinary,” but it’s a powerful part of many exercise regimes.

You’ll also be taught how to bend and roll forward and backward from a kneeling or standing position.

This makes you more flexible and makes the affected muscles stronger. Being able to move effectively is also vital later on when you learn core Aikido techniques and if you have to defend yourself in real life.

You’ll also be taught how to improve your balance and coordination through some basic standing footwork, which involves stepping, sliding, and turning.

One “odd” thing you might have observed that martial artists do are the grunts and the yells.

Funny, right? But they can be fun if you experience them. And they can help relieve stress. If you work in a place where people hardly talk, imagine the freedom of being able to vocalize as you exercise.

If you devote time to it and are consistent, you may experience weight loss, increased stamina and strength, and better concentration after a few months. (source)

How Effective is Aikido in real life?

Aikido is highly effective for self-defense, for improving strength, coordination & flexibility, but also in focusing and calming the brain, and increasing awareness.

In fact, it’s so effective it could cause severe injury or even death. This is one of the reasons why it’s always a last resort. Real-life comes with a variety of scenarios.

A trained Aikido fighter and an experienced streetfighter will probably have a tough time contending with each other, and the Aikido practitioner will have an edge if they’re highly skilled. Why?

Streetfighters are often of the opinion that it’s all about brute force and a surprise attack.

But it’s not. You’ll know if you’ve been in a street fight before. The streetfighter may seem to have an edge initially. They may simply be driven by rage and may even have the trained Aikidoka in their grip.

But martial artists have increased awareness that can easily alert them to danger before the streetfighter even makes contact.

And the Aikidoka could execute some dangerous wrist locks or throws and show they are superior to their opponent in a few minutes.

One of the reasons why Aikido is highly effective is that, like BJJ, it’s meant to be used by anyone irrespective of their size, power, and physical fitness.

This implies that a “weaker’’ person can even beat up a “stronger” person.

After all, the essence of Aikido is using the opponent’s energies against them. So, it can be deadly, especially since a person who believes that they are stronger or even more skilled might be rash when they meet an Aikidoka whose mien might seem like a weakling’s. The former might also be driven by rage while the Aikidoka waits to unleash a simple but deadly technique.

But just how effective is Aikido for self-defense, and what are the specific techniques that get used?

To learn more about its effectiveness, check out a recent article of mine. I get into greater detail about specific techniques that work great for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the philosophy of Aikido?

Aikido’s philosophy is that of a path toward the attainment of enlightenment. At the heart of Aikido is a profound philosophy of compassion. Its goal is to make a better world, even in the process of defending oneself.

It’s one of those viewpoints that can lead to a peaceful world. Contrary to what many assume, it’s not merely about being able to physically defend oneself in a fight.

It’s a worldview that’s a tad strange to the average person. In Aikido, you’re trained and expected to strive for harmony, even with your opponents.

Even in how the art is used, you can discern its philosophy in practice: The goal is not to hurt, but to use the opponent’s energy against them by avoiding and deflecting it in such a manner that both you and your assailant are not harmed.

You’re not expected to harm any soul, even if they seek to harm you. This is because Aikido sees the whole world as one, and its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, once noted that you hurt yourself when you hurt others!

It’s vital to stress that it’s not an abstract philosophy.

In fact, Aikido is a way of life. It’s a lifelong practice that transcends the dojo. It’s about being one with the energy that permeates the universe, which naturally calls for being harmonious with our fellow human beings.

It’s an incredibly powerful philosophy because if you think about it, a world where we all live in harmony is superior to one in which we are constantly fighting and trying to learn the best skills for defending ourselves.

It is also a testament to the power of Aikido that it gives us techniques for defending ourselves, but at the same time, it offers us a way of seeing the world that’s apt to make for harmony and peace.

What is the best martial art for real-life situations?

The best martial art for real-life situations is the Russian art of Systema. It works by focusing on your breath and keeping your body & mind relaxed. This makes your actions harder to predict. It also calls for allowing the body to respond naturally to an attacker rather than relying on a memorized set of movements.

But in order to decide, let’s check out Systema, Krav Maga, and Jiu-Jitsu, then we can pick the most lethal.

Krav Maga was originally developed for the Israeli Military, and it’s not about graceful movements or compassion for the attacker.

It’s about how to neutralize them quickly. If this requires a kick to their groin, so be it. If it requires wrestling or boxing, all is fair. So, Krav Maga is highly effective.

Jiu-Jitsu is about grappling techniques, joint-locks, and chokeholds used on the ground to get an opponent to submit. And it’s also good for smaller, less powerful people. But the reality is, most fights don’t actually end up on the ground, which is Jiu-jitsu’s forte.

Many regard Systema as the most deadly form of self-defense there is.

As such, it’s best for real-life scenarios where you aren’t wearing a Gi and practicing on soft mats. It takes longer to learn, but it has a similar “by any means necessary” ethos as Krav Maga.

But what about Aikido and BJJ? How do they compare?

You’ll probably be interested in a recent article of mine where I looked at Aikido vs. BJJ. I shared a lot of interesting info about how they compare and which one is better for defending yourself.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

We have learned about the philosophy and benefits of Aikido.

We explored whether it can be useful for fitness, how effective it is in real-life situations, and learned amongst others that it’s a compassionate form of self-defense with the goal of bettering the world.

But in the end, learning ANY martial art is better than learning none. So get on the mats and try a few and see what resonates with you the most!

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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