Aikido-Grappling With Unreality

  • March 31, 2013

So I now get calls asking, “Do you teach grappling?”
This reminds me of years ago when I was training in Aikido and one of my dear
friends and teachers, Fred Wagstaff, would get a call, “Do you teach monkey-bite
kung fu?” His response would be, “Sure! Come on down!” I should adopt Fred’s
response, but the follow-up question always leads to the crucial issues, “Do
you, like, roll around on the ground a lot?” My response is usually, “As little
as possible.”
Let’s face it, any complete martial art has to have three components: striking,
grappling, and locking. Black Sword Aikido certainly has a striking component,
atemi waza being the heart of Black Sword Aikido, as it was the heart of Ueshiba
Aikido. The locks are clear, with the restoration of Aikido joint locks to make
them more efficient and the addition of a plethora of Chin Na locks. Black Sword
Aikido prefers to grapple in the upright position and to throw and pin at
Brazilian Jujitsu prefers to grapple in the supine position. The advantage of
grappling in the upright position is that you can deal more effectively with
other attackers, and you won’t have your head kicked in by one person, as you
roll around on the ground with another person. Lastly, it’s dirty down there,
there’s uncomfortable curb stones, broken glass, and dog doo.
Brazilian Jujitsu’s preference for supine grappling is obvious, it’s Judo! World
class Judo, Judo performed by very skilled athletes, but Judo, nevertheless. It
troubles me to see how little respect some of its practitioners have for the
Japanese and how little they attribute their martial art to their Japanese
teachers. I have no problem acknowledging my Japanese and Chinese teachers. Just
as Brazilian Jujitsu prefers to grapple in the supine position, you will note
that it prefers to lock in a supine position, as well. Judo, once again. If you
watch the UFC matches, you will see that the traditional interrelatedness of
striking, grappling, and locking remain constant. The defense to striking is
grappling. The defense to grappling is locking. The defense to locking is
There are, of course, other problems with Brazilian Jujitsu and the UFC. First,
the rules of the UFC prevent biting or eye gouging. This has to be because I
doubt many professionals would risk blindness and disfigurement, nor would
pay-for-view show it. However, the obvious defense to prevent someone with whom
you are rolling around on the ground with from choking you or locking your
joints, is to attack the eyes or bite their arm. In a real life confrontation on
the street, your attacker may not be so kind as to refrain from this. Secondly,
the length of time that it takes to subdue someone by rolling around on the
ground with them. And, incidentally, needless to say, rolling around on the
ground with someone is a one-on-one confrontation and is useless in defending
against more than one attacker. But to return to the time limit, to have as the
basis of your system that it may take twenty minutes to overcome your attacker
is a great weakness. It would be useless in a battlefield confrontation, useless
in a police situation, useless anywhere other than in a pit fight, or a sporting
event. You’ll notice how integral it is to the system that it is anticipated
that it will take a long time to subdue your opponent, that when the time limit
was imposed on the UFC, Rorion Gracie stopped fighting and sold his interest.
You will note that the rules in the UFC have been changed and now the
contestants are permitted to roll around on the ground for only a limited time
and then are returned to an upright position. This is because, from a marketing
viewpoint, it’s boring. This is the same trouble that wrestling had when it was
introduced in the first part of the century and wrestling and boxing were equal
draws. Boxing caught on because there was action. Wrestling did not because the
audience grew bored of watching someone hold another person in a head lock for
two hours. Consequently, the only thing left of wrestling as a commercial
enterprise today is championship wrestling, which is a demonstration with plenty
of action, not a contest.
In any event, the answer is “Yes, we do teach grappling, but not Judo
grappling.” This makes sense because we’re Black Sword Aikido, not Judo.