Why Is Aikido Not Used in MMA?


MMA is a rules-based sport where the goal is to win. The fighters are highly conditioned and have studied a few martial arts styles that give them an edge in the Octagon. But why is Aikido not used in MMA?

Here’s what I know from having practiced extensively with an Aikido black belt:

Aikido is not banned in MMA but also isn’t widely used as it is a soft martial art, while MMA is highly demanding and brutal. But Aikido also has an underlying philosophy of doing no harm to others which flies in the face of winning at all costs.

Employing Aikido in the Octagon would be akin to taking a knife to a gunfight.

Like Tai chi, it’s a peaceful, deeply philosophical martial art. So, there’s a disconnect between what’s required in MMA and what Aikido represents. In fact, it’s perceived as ineffective.

This is why Aikido is not used in MMA.

MMA fighters are some of the most driven, the most lethal, and the most conditioned fighters in the world. And, their intent is to give their opponent a gruesome beatdown and win as quickly as possible.

Aikido, on the other hand, is so impractical for an MMA setting. Because in the former, even in a contest, you’re expected to act in such a way that you don’t hurt your opponent!

In this article, we’ll explore why Aikido is not used in MMA and other fun facts.

What Aikido techniques are banned in MMA?

In MMA, you cannot grab an opponent, hold their gloves or shorts, throw them beyond a certain perimeter, and you can’t use wrist locks, all of which are aspects of several prominent techniques in Aikido.

These are some of the techniques that are present in Aikido.

They’re, one could argue, the trademark techniques of the “art of peace.” After all, it’s largely a defensive art form, and it’s about leverage: using the opponent’s strength and momentum against them.

You’ll have to rely on being able to grab, hold and throw an opponent. And, in extreme cases, control their wrists.

Take a classic Aikido move, such as Kote Gaeshi (wrist twist), which seems innocuous and even graceful when demonstrated in a slow fashion. In truth, it may render a fighter incapable of using an arm if it’s employed!

Another technique that’s similar in its effect (damaged wrist) when not carefully used is Sankyo.

But you can’t do this in MMA.

And, remember the expression: You fight how you train. It’s true. After all, as you train, you’re also building muscle memory.

If a person’s incorporated “banned” techniques in their arsenal, they’d be largely ineffective when they have to switch and focus on other techniques.

You’re probably thinking: I get it, against MMA, no. But, is Aikido effective for self-defense? Check out the facts in a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What Aikido techniques are allowed in MMA?

There are a few primary Aikido techniques allowed in MMA fights, which are all primarily defensive. Those are: avoid the centerline (sidestepping center attacks), randori (awareness of attacks from multiple directions), and ukemi (learning how to fall safely).

One of the most basic and yet most powerful Aikido techniques is always being aware of the centerline and swiftly sidestepping it when an assailant is about to attack you.

It’s simple, smart, and effective.

And, because Aikido is largely a defensive art form, it’s a great technique to master. It can save you a lot of pain.

At times, some fighters become cocky (and stupid). You’d notice that once or twice in a fight, they ignored the centerline and got whacked! Big time.

This happened in Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya. Silva was an older season fighter (an MMA legend). In fact, Israel was inspired to try MMA because of him.

But he seemed too cocky and would stand directly at the centerline a couple of times!

Another technique that’s simple and effective and is allowed in MMA is based on wrist control. It’s added to the one we looked at above.

Say someone throws a punch at you. Avoid the centerline, and while you’re at it, simply hold their wrist and control it. As I said, it’s simple. But when you see it in action, it’s so powerful.

The third technique is Ukemi. It’s executed as a way of falling effectively. If you’re pushed or hit by an opponent, the fall can be highly damaging if you don’t know how to.

Good Aikidokas know how to roll on the floor to minimize pain and damage.

Hey. What do you think would happen if a Judoka and an Aikidoka were to have a go at it? My money’s on the… Check out a recent article of mine, where I compared both.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which UFC fighters know Aikido?

Nick Diaz, former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion, studied Aikido, Karate, and wrestling. Jason Delucia and Daniel Cage Theodore are 2 other MMA fighters with an Aikido background. Delucia also came up with his own version of “Combat Aikido.”

Now Combat Aikido is seemingly an oxymoron as it combines fighting with the martial art most associated with not harming others.

Learn more about this odd system in one of my recent articles. Just click that link to see it on my site and learn how it works.

Jay Dodds is another. He’s known mainly for leveraging Aikido’s Tea Sabaki to have an edge over his opponents.

Kathy Long trained in Kung Fu and Aikido. She also learned kickboxing and BJJ.

Have any Aikido black belts won UFC fights?

No MMA fighter with a black belt in Aikido has ever won a UFC fight. But that is less due to an Aikido practitioner’s ability and more to do with the fact that most Aikidokas have little interest in fighting for sport or competition.

Aikido’s philosophy is so markedly different from virtually all other martial arts and self-defense systems.

Aikido is the “art of peace,” so its practitioners can’t truly be attuned to the UFC ethos. The UFC is at its heart, a lucrative and entertaining sportive engagement that brings in millions.

A huge number of people enjoy the competitions. In truth, they’re highly captivating.

But a true Aikido black belt who has integrated the art’s philosophy would probably be unable to contemplate the idea of harming a fellow human being for spectacle and money.

You’d find examples of black belts from boxing, judo, karate, kickboxing, taekwondo…but none from Aikido.

BJJ is highly popular, and you’re curious about what’ll happen if an Aikidoka were to contest against a BJJ fighter.  

I explored both in a recent article of mine. I love both arts and have practiced both. But one would clearly trounce the other between 2 martial artists with the same level of training.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can Aikido be effective in MMA?

A fighter who only knows Aikido would not be an effective MMA fighter. This is not only due to the fact that the most deadly Aikido techniques are banned in the MMA, but also that most Aikidokas would shun that type of competition and not participate.

In fact, they’re not really interested in fighting per se; they’re interested in winning.

After all, they’re engaged in a lucrative sport. As such, they’re partial to effective styles and techniques that’d enable them to win as quickly as possible. Aikido is a game of leverage that’s largely defensive.

So, when they fight, they’re as smart as hell. They’re considering what’s the best way to “end” the other dude. Can you recall how Khabib submitted Conor?

It’s a classic example. Get the opponent on the ground, cripple their ability to defend themselves, then get behind them and strangle them!

To excel in MMA, a fighter can’t play the Aikido game. They’d be mauled as each fighter knows that each inch and second counts and are constantly seeking openings they could use to their advantage.

They won’t be so easy to manipulate with an Aikido throw or wrist lock. They’re hip to what their opponent is likely to do.

And, when an opening occurs, they often charge forward like wounded bulls. The relatively passive Aikido style won’t cut it at all.

In fact, even while they’re making out as if they are at a loss about what to do, it’s a lie.

They’re actually calculating. As soon as they get a slight opening, they usually put the other party in such a position that’s not only hurtful but restricts movement and elicits so much pain that they’re forced to submit.

MMA fighters are driven by the desire to inflict intense harm. Something that’s alien to a true Aikidoka.

It’s easy to draw the wrong conclusion if you’re not familiar with Aikido’s philosophy. Many who critique it probably don’t.

That’s not a smart thing to do if you ask me.

In a recent article of mine, I devoted a lot of time to research and shared the essence of the “art of peace.” What really surprised me was how brutally Aikido came to be seen as the art of peace.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

We’ve been looking at why we don’t see Aikido in MMA.

There’s a mismatch between what both stand for. We looked at Aikido techniques that are allowed and those that are disallowed. But Aikido isn’t the only martial art not often used in UFC fights. Karate is also not often used in MMA fights.

We also looked at UFC fighters who are hip to Aikido and how many Aikido black belts have won in MMA. Zero. And we wrapped up by considering the Elephant in the room: Can Aikido be effective in MMA.

Ultimately, for purists, MMA goes completely against the philosophy of Aikido.

So just what are those philosophies of Aikido? I get into all of it in a recent article. The concept of Aikido is strong and doesn’t mean Aikido is weak or can’t cut it in the Octagon. It just means the underlying beliefs and goals are very different.

Just click that link to read it on my site.


Photo which requires attribution:

Brendan Kim by MartialArtsNomad.com is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had both a text and image overlay placed on it.

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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