Why Does Aikido Have a Bad Reputation?


I trained with a black belt in Aikido for many years, and he was awesome. He would easily be able to hold his own against an attacker or someone who had trained in other martial arts. So why does Aikido have a bad reputation?

Here’s what I think:

Aikido has a bad reputation because many believe it’s not effective in a real fight. Aikido’s primary goal is not to harm others. So, some see it as weaker since it focuses more on “harmonizing energy” instead of deadly attacks on others.

It’s the art of peace. Of course, it’s good for self-defense.

But even when an Aikidoka is unwittingly caught up in a situation where they have to defend themselves, maiming or killing their assailant is the last thing on their mind.

That might be true. But that’s not what it’s designed for.

I have been involved in martial arts on and off my whole life and seriously for 7 years. In the next few minutes, we’ll explore why many think it’s ineffective and some of its deadly techniques!

Why do MMA fighters hate Aikido?

Many MMA fighters hate Aikido because they’re convinced it’s ineffective and won’t allow them to defeat an opponent.

Truth be told, they’re probably right.

In the Octagon, fighters are focused on unleashing intense pain and winning. The idea is to either knock out their opponent or get them to submit as soon as possible.

And, this is almost always done by giving them a gruesome beatdown and hurting them.

It’s a winner-take-all domain. Here, nice guys don’t eat the last bone; they starve. They get crushed. That’s the ethos of MMA.

Now, contrast that with Aikido, where fostering peace and harmony and overcoming one’s ego are the dominant values. Even in conflicts, you’re meant to act in such a manner that you don’t hurt your opponent.

Some MMA fighters see Aikido as impractical and lame.

It’s hard, perhaps it’s even impossible, to use Aikido to defend yourself in the Octagon when some crazy bully is intent on using elbow strikes, oblique kicks, neck cranks… to knock you out or get you to give up.

To be fair, we shouldn’t compare something we don’t understand to another that we know very well.

To have a deep grasp of Aikido, which is arguably the most profound martial art there is, check out a recent article of mine where I explored its philosophy. What really surprised me was just how deadly it actually could be despite its focus on doing no harm.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How good is Aikido in a real fight?

Aikido can be very useful in a street fight against an attacker who is untrained in another martial art. However, some of the classic Aikido moves may be hard to execute in street clothes in a dark alley and/or against multiple attackers.

By that, I do not mean that it’s useless. I meant: it’s not as effective as another martial art might be.

Why? A martial art that’s so fixated on maintaining peace and harmony such that you’re not expected to hurt others when they intend to harm you is not ideal in a real fight.

Aikido is largely defensive.

But, to be effective in a real fight, where somebody might be trying to cripple or even kill you, you’ll need lethal defense and offense techniques to be able to escape unscathed or at least with minimal injury.

Now, there are a few lethal Aikido techniques such as wrist and joint locks, throws, and strikes that you can employ to good effect in a real fight.

But an Aikidoka’s mindset is probably their worst enemy in a real fight.

A real fight (let’s assume it’s the really dangerous variety) is the last place on earth where one should be concerned about peace, harmony, and not hurting others!

If you’re using Aikido in a fight where the stakes are low, you’ll probably win.

By that, I mean where both parties are not intent on mangling and mauling each other and where the opponent is an untrained fighter, and they’re unarmed. You’ll probably win.

But, when the stakes are high, it’s better to flee.

Why is Aikido not used in MMA?

Aikido is not widely used by MMA fighters as some of the classic Aikido moves such as Nikkyo and Sankyo are banned by the UFC. Additionally, many see it as too peaceful to be useful in a high-stakes fight.

MMA fighters are skilled in many martial arts.

So, they know which ones help them in the heat of battle. And some of the most common arts practiced by MMA fighters include:

  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Judo
  • Boxing
  • Muay Thai

MMA fighters know that every inch and every second count. As such, it’s not a smart move for them to employ any martial art that won’t give them an edge. Aikido won’t.

Aikido tends to attract folks who have a peaceful mindset, not a combative one. MMA, on the other hand, is combat.

Like Aikido, it has its rules, in the sense of what’s allowed and what’s unacceptable. Some of what’s lethal in Aikido are legal in MMA, too.

But, they’re not moves that are unique to Aikido.

They’re learned in other martial arts that are more combative. MMA fighters, therefore, have no reason to see Aikido as a vital weapon they ought to add to their arsenal. The mindset it fosters is the last thing an MMA fighter wants.

Aikidokas are not the best examples for the UFC.

There’s hardly any stress placed on conditioning in Aikido. Since it’s essentially a game of leverage, there’s no incentive for an Aikidoka to be lightning-fast, lean, ripped, and strong.

The goal is to use an opponent’s energy and momentum against them. This might work with an untrained fighter, but not when your opponent is an MMA fighter who can anticipate your moves.

To excel in MMA, the fighters know that the smallest disadvantage could be their undoing. If an opponent is lithe and strong, and they’re able to wrap their arms around your neck after they’ve cunningly slipped behind you, you’re almost a goner.

The fact is that Aikido doesn’t produce the most disciplined fighters.

The type that can withstand the kind of heat an MMA fighter is compelled to experience. In other words, MMA is hard, while Aikido is soft.

There are some similarities between Aikido and Judo.

So, if you have to choose which one’s better? This is the theme of a recent article of mine, where I advised which option is better. What really surprised me was how similar they are in some ways.

Just click that link to read on my site.

Can Aikido be deadly?

Aikido has many deadly techniques designed to break bones, disable an opponent, or knock them unconscious. However, it is rare for an Aikidoka to use these deadly techniques as it goes against the spirit of this martial art.

That said, let’s look at examples of how the art of peace can help you crush an opponent.

Take throws, which are an integral part of Aikido. Most people, even trained fighters, are not experts in the art of falling.

An Aikidoka can throw an opponent in such a way that they’d break a part of their body! When pushed or thrown, those who’ve mastered the art know how to break their fall so that they’re not injured.

The average person, however, would probably be stunned, disoriented, and hurt when thrown, and might be immobile for a while.

If the Aikidoka sensed that they’re in grave danger, they could throw the person against a wall or in such a way that they land on their head!

Other seemingly soft but lethal techniques are wrist controls and joint locks.

The wrists, for example, can be extended and twisted in such a manner that incapacitates an opponent. This might even be the first thing an Aikidoka does.

And, it’s enough to elicit intense pain. Even when an arm is not twisted, there’s a way it can be positioned under an opponent’s body to render the arm useless.

If you’d like more info about how effective Aikido can be, take a look at a recent article of mine. I get into all the best Aikido moves for self-defense, including the 1 technique that works every time!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What is the most useless martial art?

Tai Chi is the most useless martial art if your goal is self-defense or for aggressive purposes. While every Tai Chi move does have martial applications, the goal is to focus inward and not act aggressively towards others.

So, by useless, I do not imply that Tai Chi has no benefits. It’s good if you’re not interested in vigorous martial arts and you’re more into centering yourself, both body and mind.

I love it and have practiced it, in addition to several other martial arts, for many years.

As the name implies, it’s about clearing your thoughts and really feeling your body’s internal energy; your chi.

But, if self-defense is what you’re interested in, don’t look to Tai Chi. There are a lot better options, such as BJJ, Systema, or Krav Maga.

When you see Tai Chi being practiced, it’s like a graceful dance!

Of course, if you stick with it, and practice for many years, some of the movements could easily translate into self-defense movements. In fact, my Tai Chi teacher, Sensei Gene Smithson, could easily use Tai Chi movements quite effectively in a fight.

But most of us won’t get to his level. Fortunately, there are many martial arts that work great for self-defense.

BJJ is one a lot of fighters swear by.

In a contest between a BJJ fighter and an Aikido, who do you think will trounce the other? I explored which one’s better in a recent article of mine.

What really surprised me was how similar they are. Not surprising since they both stem from the same ancient martial art.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

One of the most vital takeaways from our exploration is that Aikido is largely misunderstood.

If we’re being logical, we should understand a martial art’s philosophy and scope before comparing it to any other.

We learned that because it’s focused on peace and harmony and overcoming one’s ego, it’s not the best choice when the goal is to give an opponent a gruesome beatdown.

That’s not to say it’s not lethal. It is. We looked at reasons it’s ineffective in an MMA context, and we concluded by looking at the most useless martial art for self-defense.

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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