Dark Aikido: The side of Aikido traditional experts didn’t want you to know
Dark Aikido comes from within
This article about ‘Dark Aikido’ has been in my draft folder now for months. I didn’t really want to publish it because I want to promote good Aikido on this site.
I was talking about this post to a friend the other day. I mentioned my concerns about talking ‘Dark Aikido’ in a space where I promote Good Aikido. He then asked me, ‘What if the good Aikido in this article are the Aikido Techniques and leave to that, would it pass’? I replied with a nod and a simple ‘yes’. So here we are.
I looked for Dark Aikido to understand it
I am in my 40s and I have watched every single Star Wars movie. I see the classic battle between the light and the dark side of things. I am aware that Aikido is neutral, it is up to the Aikidoka to use their skills. Most of us like to think we are on the light side, including me. So out of curiosity, I decided to look into Dark Aikido so I can understand it.
Is Aikido for self-defense only?
This is one of the most heated debates in Aikido. I’ve heard Aikido Masters say that Aikido is only self-defence. If you use Aikido for offence, you are now entering the realms of Dark Aikido.
I don’t think that is true because the best self-defence is offence. If the proverbial ‘Aikido is 99% atemi’ is true, then Aikido can be used offensively.
Just look at the ‘Shomen Uchi versus Dai Shomen Uchi’ example. ‘Shomen Uchi’ you are blending with the attack (defence). ‘Dai Shomen Uchi’ you initiate the attack (offence). You can use Aikido for both defence and offence.
Think about it, the people that use Aikido in real situations are the police, soldiers, riot squad, marines, special forces and the SAS. Their actions can be neutral and some are even viewed as heroic.
Aikido is a martial art
As a kid, my first experience of Aikido was through ‘Steven Seagal’ movies. I remember the beginning part when Seagal Sensei bowed, clapped and demonstrated Irimi Nage in the movie ‘Nico Above the Law’. I was so impressed with what I saw that in that scene, that I made up my mind and decided to learn Aikido so I can do that Irimi Nage.
The Aikido I saw in the movie was brutal. I would say that Aikido in that movie was dark.
Steven Seagal was my Aikido role model. I started Aikido because I wanted to learn how to defend myself. I would like to know how to put the offenders in a lock. Having said all of this, let me say that I am a big Steven Seagal fan. Without Seagal Sensei I’d probably be still doing Karate. I knew he was acting in that movie and I took the Aikido examples in that movie with a grain of salt.
When I started training Aikido, I was taught of another famous Aikidoka, Morihei Ueshiba Osensei. That’s when I started subscribing to the philosophy of ‘Aikido is the martial art of harmony’.
I believe that Aikido is generally good. If you follow the philosophy of harmony that Aikido teaches, I believe you will have good Aikido and you’ll turn out to be a good person too.
Dark Aikido: Aikido without the peaceful philosophy
Aikido is a martial art. Aikido is a martial art that comes with a harmonious philosophy. Aikido without the philosophy of harmony, ki and light are Dark Aikido.
Dark Aikido concentrates mostly on the self-defence or the offence part of Aikido. Dark Aikido, on the other hand, believes only in the martial concepts. Dark Aikido embraces the combat aspects of Aikido techniques sometimes without mercy or good intentions. Dark Aikido is the offspring of modern Aikido fused with the temptation of ‘glory’ by winning over the other person.
The Dark Side of Aikido
The Aikido world is polarised. We have the ‘scholars and priests’ on one side who can talk about Aikido concepts all day and we have the ‘brawlers’ in the other side who just wants to learn how to ‘beat someone up’.
These two sides are the minorities. The majority of Aikido practitioners I have encountered and read about are somewhere in the middle. The majority of Aikido practitioners live with their effective martial art and harmonious philosophy in fine balance.
On the ‘scholars and priests’ side, these are Aikido schools that concentrate mostly on the ki aspect and spiritual side of Aikido. Some of these schools have wandered so far from the martial concept that their budo is no longer effective. I wouldn’t say this is a place for good Aikido, this is a place where the Aikido is bad.
Where to find Dark Aikido
On the ‘brawlers’ side, there are Aikido schools and Aikido practitioners that disregarded the harmonious philosophy and spiritual side of Aikido. They concentrate on the Aikido techniques, the martial concepts and combat aspect of Aikido alone.
The Dark Aikidoka’s disregard of the harmonious philosophy is justified in their minds. They view the harmonious philosophy and spiritual side of Aikido with contempt. They call the spiritual side of Aikido as ‘airy fairy’, ‘hippy stuff’ and ‘religious cult thinking’. They look at the spiritual side of Aikido as a ‘weakness’. I found a lot of Dark Aikido on this side of the fence.
I’ve travelled and trained Aikido in Europe, US, Russia, Asia and Australia. I have seen and met a lot of good Aikidoka around the world. Most are there to train, however, there is a certain type of Aikidoka that is there to fight and to destroy anyone that crosses them. These Aikidoka have taken Dark Aikido as their path.
Aikido with Pain and Injury
You just know when you are training with a Dark Aikidoka. They have a very serious temperament and they want to look good. Anyone that makes them look bad or stops their technique, expect them to give you pain to the point of injury.
The Dark Aikidoka loves giving pain, they almost get off on it. It is a power and ego thing. When practising with a dark Aikidoka, I have to be aware of my body and make sure I was safe.
‘Us against them’ philosophy
Instead of the harmonious “let’s all get along” philosophy, the Dark Aikido believes in the ‘Us against them’ philosophy. The Dark Aikidoka believe that people are out there to get them. They are paranoid, they believe people talk about them behind their back. They have a defensive demeanour. They don’t like criticism. If there is criticism, it will be viewed from the ‘us against them’ point of view. Your criticism will be laughed at and branded as inferior because you are not one of them. A criticism is also viewed as an attack against their belief.
Dark Aikido has anger in its heart.
You can notice that an Aikidoka is from the Dark Aikido side when they are chronically angry, very serious, they love giving pain and they don’t mind injuring you when training.
I believe that one of the lessons we learn when training Aikido is Emotional Mastery. One of the virtues of the Samurai is Fudoshin (immovable mind). The Dark Aikido believes it is alright to get angry. Yes, that is partly true. However, we need to be a more emotionally intelligent about it. We also need to know that chronic anger is toxic. It will destroy you from within.
The Dark Aikidoka are quick to offend and as quick to get offended. They may view your feedback as insults. They will give you the pain to prove their point.
For beginners avoid these types of Aikidoka when training. As a beginner you will be prone to injury if you train with a dark Aikidoka. and you may also inherit their anger.
Having said this, if you have to train with them do so with courage and patience. Do not catch their anger, stay focus on your good Aikido.
Unfortunately, it is part of your training to learn and deal with contention and toxic people.
I believe that Dark Aikidokas are the bullies that learned Aikido Techniques.
If you are on the streets and in a bad situation, your training on the mat with the dark Aikidoka may help you compose yourself with courage and rational thinking. You will experience emotional mastery when training with a Dark Aikidoka.
Some Aikido strategies to use when training with a Dark Aikidoka:
- Dark Aikido has anger, ego and malice in their mind. Accept the fact that they may hurt you. Your primary objective is to survive training without injury.
- Tap louder and twice when training with a Dark Aikidoka to mentally awase with them and feed their ego. If they don’t get the ‘sound’ of the technique working, they will crank it up to injury.
- Do not catch their emotion. Don’t have an ego competition with them. Someone will get injured.
- You have to awase with their temperament. Do not let them annoy you or piss you off. Nothing good comes out of anger and pride during an Aikido technique.
- If you want to prevail over a Dark Aikidoka make sure his turn is short and your turn is long.
- Make sure your turn is longer than his.Tire him out. One of the things I noticed about humanity is we are not Angry when we are tired and exhausted.
- Give him a firm yet neutral almost sticky grips and strikes. I use the ’30 second sticky’ grip. When I am uke, I have a sticky grip rather than tight and full strength. The Dark Aikidoka will exhaust himself quicker with a sticky heavy grip.
- Awase with his techniques and concentrate on your escape (ukemi).
- When I am doing the technique to a Dark Aikidoka, I do it slowly, precisely and with a neutral temperament.
- When doing katame waza to a Dark Aikidoka make sure there are no holes in your technique. Assume that he will resist, get up and hit you. Stretch him that it feels good, hopefully, he will feel better and maybe you can lessen his anger. A slow and effective katame waza is also a reminder to the Dark Aikidoka that you also know Aikido.
- On the last ten minutes of the Keiko. Crank up the awase and ki no nagare to the next level. If you have been neutral from most of the keiko, then you are just warming up. On the other hand, the Dark Aikido with all the power and ego has used in the beginning would exhaust himself. If you play your Aikido well, then you will be fine.
- Walk away. Life is too short to put with people that you don’t like. If your Aikido training is becoming toxic, then it is time to leave. There are other Aikido dojos that can help you become the person that you want. There are other dojos where you can learn Good Aikido. Go there and enjoy Aikido.
Dark Aikido is within all of us. It is up to you who you want to rule over you and your Aikido.