Why Aikido has lost its relevance…

It’s been a while guys I know and I apologise for this! It’s been a busy time building my business and just general life along with a lack of inspiration for posts recently, but we’re back and you can start seeing more from The Martial View again.

I was scrolling through Facebook a few days ago as I tend to do along with most of the global population when I saw that Steven Seagal was coming to my hometown of Lincoln for an evening with event…

Intriguing I thought and although I’ve never been a huge fan of his personally I thought I’d read on and see what people thought…

Wow that guy is not popular haha! So many derogatory comments on him as a person, his films and also him as a martial artist. This got me thinking… Why has Aikido become in a way, the laughing stock of the martial arts?

I’m a big fan of the art, having studied it for over 20 years and holding a 3rd Degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido but that doesn’t mean that I also can’t see its (eek, many) limitations! But just when did Aikido go from being a well practiced and respected martial art to losing it’s credibility and more importantly, why did this occur?

Did it all go wrong? If so – where?

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The founder of Aikido – Morihei Ueshiba was born in 1883 and died in 1969. A passionate martial artist, he mastered the arts of Daito Ryu Aikijiujitsu, as well as Ken Jitsu (Sword) and Jo Jitsu (Staff) as well as being a deeply religious and spiritual man, following the practices of the Omoto Kyu and it’s founder Onisaburo Deguchi. This martial influence, combined with his spiritual beliefs, led to the development of what would become Aikido.

When Aikido was first being developed, it was a highly sought after and popular martial art in Japan. Indeed you had to have two referrals from current students in order to study, and many famous martial artists from other styles regularly came to the Hombu Dojo to train with Ueshiba Sensei.

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A young Morihei Ueshiba

To understand what changed, it’s important to look at the roots of Aikido and therefore Daito Ryu Aikijiujitsu. Jiu-Jitsu as an art was originally developed by the Samurai to defend themselves in battle if they lost their weapon and therefore focused on the weak points of the body when armor was being worn. However, when the Samurai class was disbanded in 1868, jiu-jitsu and other martial arts began to be seen as distinctly uncool and irrelevant to society as a whole.

Many martial arts teachers at that time then ceased to practice their art finding it impractical yet there were a few exceptions – one of whom was Jigoro Kano who not only started to practice Jiu-Jitsu but mastered it and developed it to fit a more modern era, and hence Judo was born.

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Jigoro Kano – Founder of Judo

Kano competed against many other styles of Jiu-Jitsu, consistently winning and showing its ability as a martial art not to be messed with, so much so that he sent his top students across the seas to the USA where there was no Donald Trump and so the Japanese were free to come and show the martial art of Judo in various competitions.

In 1914, Judo hit Brazil and in 1917, one Carlos Gracie was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu and I’m sure you can see where this is going…

Carlos continued to study Jiu-Jitsu and pass it on to his brothers, one of whom was Helio Gracie, who, as a skinny child, was unable to perform many of the techniques required of him. This led him to adapt the techniques to overcome his physical boundaries and hence the foundations of what we now see as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) emerged. This art was so effective it led the Gracie brothers to start hosting a no holds barred competition, style vs style called Vale Tudo where they cleaned up at competitions! When they went to promote this style in the USA, the name Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emerged to differentiate between the traditional Japanese style.

Then 1993 happened which I am sure we are all aware was the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event. This aimed to pit style against style, striker vs grappler, striker vs sumo, sumo vs the salad bar etc etc and see which art would come out on top. Guess what – Royce Gracie smashed through the competition and BJJ was crowned victorious.

How fair the contest was is now in debate after the video below from legend Bill Superfoot Wallace aired a few home truths after he commentated on the first UFC, but no-one can doubt that BJJ is a functional martial art for sports and competition and was a main influence on the development of what is now known as MMA combining striking, wrestling and grappling.

Hence function and applicability became the basis of modern MMA and martial arts in today’s society.

And this folks, is where Aikido loses its relevance. The founder O Sensei, as already said was a deeply spiritual man and therefore disapproved of any form of competition, preferring to see Aikido as a way of uniting people together, rather than seeing who is the victor and who is the loser. A lovely sentiment I’m sure we can all agree – but a little tricky to navigate in the martial arts world…

Hence Aikido failed to develop through competition. It failed to be tested and therefore evolve through it’s weak points and even in training, partners work together to make the techniques work with very little if any active sparring or real resistance bar a few schools/instructors that do offer this. Aikido is steeped in tradition and spirituality which is exactly what the founder wanted, but does leave it open to criticism today as it has never truly been tested. Many of the top teachers also failed to develop themselves after the founder’s passing, wanting to respect and preserve the art he had developed. Some went off to study more of the spiritual side such as Koichi Tohei who practiced Ki Aikido otherwise known as Jedi Aikido…

Whereas others looked at more dynamic, precise and arguably more practical Aikido such as Shioda Gozo who developed Yoshinkan Aikido that was taught to the Japanese Riot Police and looked less at spirituality and rather body mechanics of putting yourself in a strong position, while putting your opponent in a weak one.

The problem still remains however that Aikido is steeped in Japanese tradition, even down to the way the techniques are practiced. As you can see from the video above, strikes are given willingly and usually pre-arranged as well as being traditional sword strikes e.g. Shomen Uchi (front strike), Yokomen Uchi (side strike) etc. Do they have power? Most certainly and just one look at Yoshinkan Aikido and the video above and I’m sure anyone can see the power as well as the evidence from knockouts in videos. Yet rarely do we see these techniques being applied in a real context to any great effect without the use of Hollywood effects and a certain Aikido practitioner with a pony tail, inflated ego and delusions of grandeur.

So

There are of course exceptions to the rule and I have been fortunate enough to train with some fantastic Aikido Sensei’s, most of whom also have experience of other martial arts however or at least train with others who also study other arts. These are the guys that are able to make Aikido work for them and adapt it to a real situation in terms of self defence. They arent stuck in tradition, but respect the art. They also understand however, that Aikido needs to evolve with the times if it is to stay relevant or risk becoming simply a way of staying healthy, much like Tai Chi has become to many, rather than a martial system.

Maybe it is time to see the roots of Aikido i.e. Jiu-Jitsu applied in a more realistic setting? Do wrist locks, shoulder locks etc work in the street? Arguably yes. But how? How many people grab your wrist in a street? How can you apply a wrist lock against a fully resisting opponent really wanting to hurt you?

Maybe this is what we need to see more of if Aikido is to be relevant…

Watch this space…

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A week to remember!

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Wow what a week it’s been! It’s been so good but all flown by in a blur! Firstly the Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer charity event in founder Lucci Del-Gaudio’s home town in Nottingham, then a BJJ masterclass by none other than the legend himself – Royce Gracie!!

Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer Nottingham

I’ll admit I was looking forward to this event for weeks. The Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer events have been around the country the past few months, raising money with awesome events with awesome martial artists, and this one was to be in Lucci’s home town of Nottingham so was extra special! If there was a who’s who of people I wanted to train with the UK, they were all at that event! The legendary Trevor Roberts was there teaching, the awesome and inspirational Eddie Quinn who I’ve been dying to meet for a while, the fantastically practical Russell Jarmesty and the awesome Sifu Peter Mogridge among many others! Defence Lab was there being represented by the talented Charles Hartnett and Mikey Wright, Anthony Pillage was there as ever showing his support and a wealth of knowledge and talent was all placed in a sports hall in Nottingham.

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Highlights? Eddie Quinn was top of the list for me, teaching an inspirational and fun seminar where he tried to condense 3 hours of info into 1 hour! We even got to play a game of Dodgeball and it was great to see a whole room full of well known martial artists dodge, duck, dip, dive and….dodge, then translate this into their striking! Russell Jarmesty was another one I was looking forward to meeting having chatted with him a few times online, over the phone and seen his stuff like his `Mean Streets` app, check the review here. He didn’t disappoint and did a great little section on practical jiu-jitsu he tested working on the doors.

What an awesome day!!

Royce Gracie Seminar

Wow, what can I say. It’s not everyday you get to train with legendary UFC winner Royce Gracie. Basically the guy that kicked off MMA and made Gracie Jiu-Jitsu the force to be reckoned with that it is today. The event was awesome, catching up with friends at Anthony Pillage’s fantastically well equipped academy in Coventry and learning some BJJ from the very best! We looked at takedowns, chokes, armbars and defences, giving a great overview with various levels attending from those in their BJJ gi’s and blue/purple belts, to others who had never done BJJ in their life. Energy, awesome, instructor, awesome, facilities, awesome, overall….awesome!

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It’s going to be a great few months of martial arts, from awards dinners (nominated for an MAI Hall of Fame), to trips abroad, to trips around the UK seeing friends and learning more!

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1st November we have our next Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer event in my home town of Lincoln! We have 10 awesome instructors lined up that I had a hand in picking and a great mix of styles! All done in the great Function First Academy! Be there people!

MASCWC A week to remember!

Should the martial arts be more mainstream?

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Should the martial arts be more mainstream?

So in the sporting world we have the FIFAs, the PGAs, the NFLs, the mainstream, massively funded and massively fan based sports. The closest equivalent to this in the martial arts is arguably the UFC and I think its fair to say that MMA is getting bigger and bigger on a global scale, with more and more people becoming interested in both training and spectating mixed martial arts. Should the martial arts be more mainstream however? There are obviously plus and minuses for both sides of the argument and I think it’s an interesting debate topic.

Let’s imagine the martial arts were MASSIVE, I’m talking football, rugby etc massive. Football wouldn’t be the main option in schools for children, you wouldn’t go down to the local park to kick a football around, you’d go down to the local gym and kick a punchbag around. This sounds great yeah, the martial arts as a mainstream skill or sport? I agree it does, and I want martial arts to be a bigger thing within society for the discipline, fitness and confidence that they can instill in people, especially children, however if this were the case would it make the martial arts less special?

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Imagine there was a massive governing body for the martial arts, the FIFA of the martial arts world. Again, would this lead to more problems? I’ve discussed before the prevalence of politics in the martial arts (Here’s a past article) and how ego can often get in the way of the simple formula of fantastic people, fantastic training and fantastic development and progression. Get this right and I think you’re on to a winner in the martial arts. The emergence of a massive governing body for the martial arts will bring forth its own problems and as the old saying goes, where there’s people, there’s politics. How long before standards start slipping, people start falling out, and more and more McDojos pop up offering online course black belts and guaranteed success in self protection, all due to mainstreaming? Newsflash, there is no guarantee when it comes to self protection, and black belt requires hard work, dedication and sweat, not the watching of various online videos with the promise of black belt bad-assery at the end.

Even as martial arts are at the moment, there are enough egos needing to be massaged, falling’s out over trivial matters and frankly ridiculous and awful examples of self protection, that are not only misleading but frankly dangerous! Would martial arts becoming more mainstream improve or increase this? Is there any full proof way of ensuring quality and quantity in the martial arts?

GHOST – Interview with Phil Norman

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GHOST Fighting – Interview with Phil Norman

Here we are lucky enough to read about the GHOST fighting method developed by Phil Norman that is taking the combat world by storm! Phil talks about the development of GHOST, as well as his plans for the future and his business relationships with Andy Norman of Defence Lab, Bob Breen of 4D Combat, and Eddie Quinn of The Approach! As always, if you enjoyed the article share, like, comment your thoughts, and subscribe to The Martial View!

Thanks for taking the interview Phil! Let’s start with how you began your journey in the martial arts.

I started my martial arts journey with Kung fu at a local club before going to a Dan Inosanto seminar in 1989. I was immediately hooked on his teachings and spent the next decade travelling to the USA and Europe for his seminars. I would then come back to the UK and pick up door work in between trips.

I then became a full instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto in 2000 in Jeet Kune Do/Jun Fan and also in Kali and Silat. I had already become an instructor in Thai Boxing under Ajarn Chai, Savate under Professor Salem Assli, Combat Submission Wrestling under Sensei Erik Paulson and I was ranked in Shoot Wrestling under Sensei Yorinaga Nakamura. Back in the UK I was training with Sensei Dave Kavanagh in Judo and I trained for many years with Trevor Ambrose who at that time was 5x world kickboxing champion and also a professional boxer. The latter two would be a big influence in my day to day training when I started competing. I competed in different styles just for kicks and giggles because it helped me focus in my training and I won a World title and 2 British titles. Towards the end of my days competing I was knocked out and took my first loss in an MMA match. My peers said I would grow from this and become a better martial artist.

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Can you talk me through the development of the GHOST system and what makes it different to other training styles?

What actually happened was the start of what has now become the Ghost System. The fight I lost was probably my easiest one. It was pretty much one sided but then I got caught by my opponent who pulled out a last ditch strike. To ensure this would never happen again I looked at what I could have possibly done to avoid this. This brought new shapes and structures which then required new striking angles to make these shapes fit for purpose and effective. The problem was to then to convince fighters to do it. Needless to say they didn’t! It took a young student (5 years later) who just received his black belt and wanted to know what was next to get Ghost going. His name was Jake Clarke and he helped me develop the system by literally competing and trying it out. It wasn’t long before he started beating up the more experienced fighters I was training and the techniques I taught him became an elusive fighting system which needed a name. Initially the system used big evasive movements which are similar to the weapons based system Kali, so thought about calling it competition kali, but when I demonstrated it to some kali instructors they said that it wasn’t kali.

I remembered my first sparring session with my boxing coach Trevor Ambrose and how I couldn’t hit him and that it was like trying to hit a Ghost and then that was it! I realised that I had created a style which systemised the unorthodox evasive movement that was natural to boxers like Muhammad Ali and Prince Nassem and made it so that anyone can do it.

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I see that you have developed partnerships with people such as Bob Breen, Andy Norman and Eddie Quinn, how did these relationships come about?

We started to develop it further through fighting and started to get a lot of interest from people who wanted seminars. It was whilst I was doing a seminar hosted by Eddie Quinn (friends of the Approach) that I managed to catch up with Andy Norman from Defence Lab. We had known each other for years on the JKD seminar circuit; he was originally a private student of Guru Bob Breen. I was really impressed with what I saw when he did his set. I had only really seen actors trying to do it and it was nothing like the real thing. I was about to go and speak to him when he stopped the seminar and congratulated me on what I had done on the set before him. We got chatting and he offered me guidance on developing the business side of Ghost. We have been in communication weekly ever since.

Andy was also helping his old instructor Guro Bob Breen and brought us together and created the cross branding of Defence Lab, Breen 4D and Ghost. This has lead onto us joining forces for many events and more recently our involvement with Defence Labs World Conference with our good friend Eddie Quinn. It was the best martial art event I have been involved in. They (DL) are light years ahead as a professional martial art organisation.

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So what’s next for you and the future of GHOST?

For training I want to develop the instructor program into the USA (this year we trained instructors in Germany and Spain). I will be working hard to get the online program up next year and my fighters are still making waves so my long term goals are to break into UFC. The other is to get Jake boxing in the Olympics and also to raise the profile of Ghost via Hollywood! I have already been in front of a second director and stunt coordinator courtesy of Andy Norman and it looks like we are going to be involved in a project next year!

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