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Why Does Aikido Have a Bad Reputation? Here’s a Closer Look

Photo by Yoseikan

Aikido is a martial art originating in Japanese and has not been around for very long. It is known for its defensive techniques and its philosophy of peace and harmony. Many other martial arts practitioners do not consider Aikido to be an effective or serious martial art, and its reputation has suffered as a result. There are many reasons why Aikido has a bad reputation, but the following is the most notable reason in our view:

Aikido’s bad reputation can be traced back to some celebrities who misrepresented Aikido as a combat art to the public. However, Aikido is not a combat art because it is designed to neutralize an attacker in a peaceful, nonviolent way. As such, many view it as weak art.

Aikido techniques and philosophies are perceived as being too soft, which has given the martial art somewhat of a bad reputation in the martial arts community. Certain high-profile individuals, as mentioned above, have also contributed to Aikido’s bad reputation, causing many people not to take it seriously. We will investigate some of the main reasons why Aikido has this reputation and whether or not it’s deserved.

What Is Aikido?

Aikido is a relatively new Japanese martial art developed in the 1920s by the founder Morihei Ueshiba. Aikido’s foundation is deeply rooted in Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, the martial art Morihei Ueshiba studied.

Ueshiba became a deeply religious man and incorporated his philosophies into Aikido to be a primarily defensive fighting style rather than an aggressive fighting style.

Aikido gained a lot of public exposure when Steven Segal, an Aikido practitioner, became an international action star by displaying his Aikido moves in the action scenes in his movies.

Even though Aikido is considered a soft martial art, the techniques taught can cause serious injury or death if they are not executed correctly. For this reason, students are taught to perform the techniques with the amount of force necessary to defeat an attack but not harm the attacker.

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Why Does Aikido Have Such A Bad Reputation?

There are several reasons that Aikido has gained a poor reputation causing other martial arts practitioners to view the art with contempt.

One reason is that people in the public eye claiming to be Aikido experts have boasted about their martial arts prowess, only to be easily beaten when confronted by other martial arts practitioners. However, the truth is that Aikido is actually a very effective martial art that can be used to great effect in self-defense situations.

Secondly, Aikido techniques are very difficult and take a long time to learn and execute effectively. If the techniques are not executed properly, they can easily be countered by an opponent. As a result, Aikido takes a long time to learn and become proficient to the point where it can stand against other martial arts.

Thirdly, Aikido’s techniques are designed to neutralize an attacker, not to inflict serious damage. This makes it seem a less effective fighting style compared to more aggressive martial arts like Karate or Muay Thai.

Another reason for its bad rap is that Aikido relies heavily on joint locks and throws rather than strikes. This can make it difficult to use in a real-world fight where strikes are more common. 

Finally, because of its emphasis on peaceful resolution despite being a martial art, some people see Aikido as “soft” or “weak,” lacking the adequate aggression to defend against an attacker.

While it’s true that Aikido may not be the best choice for everyone, it’s important to remember that every martial art has its own strengths and weaknesses.

What works for one person may not work for another. So if you’re interested in trying Aikido, don’t let its bad reputation deter you. It just might be the perfect martial art for you.

Is Aikido’s bad reputation justified or not fair?

Aikido has a bad reputation. It’s often seen as a “soft” or “passive” martial art, and its techniques are often derided as ineffective. But is this reputation justified? Or is it simply unfair? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

There are several clear reasons why Aikido might have a bad reputation. Aikido is not taught in many gyms and doesn’t have the same visibility as other arts like Karate, Judo, or Taekwondo. This lack of visibility can make it seem like Aikido is not serious martial art.

Additionally, Aikido techniques can be challenging to learn and execute correctly. They often require precise timing and positioning, which can be hard to master.

Also, Aikido relies heavily on redirecting an opponent’s energy; it can be easy to look like you’re not doing much when you’re actually doing a lot. This can make Aikido appear ineffective, even if it’s not.
However, there are also some equally valid reasons why Aikido’s bad reputation might NOT be justified.

First of all, despite its reputation, Aikido is a very effective martial art. Its techniques are designed to control and subdue an opponent, not to score points or look flashy. In a real-life situation, Aikido can be incredibly useful.

Second, Aikido is not just a “soft” or “passive” martial art, even if perceived as such. While its techniques may not be as flashy or exciting as other arts, they can be just as devastating. In fact, because Aikido relies on redirecting an opponent’s energy, its techniques can sometimes be more powerful than those of other martial arts.

Ultimately, whether or not Aikido’s bad reputation is justified depends on your perspective. If you’re looking for a popular, flashy martial art, Aikido might not be for you. But if you’re looking for an effective self-defense system, then Aikido is definitely worth considering.

Is Aikido a Dying Martial Art?

Aikido’s bad reputation has not helped the development of martial art in the public sphere, but that does not mean it is a dying art.

Several reasons besides its reputation have lowered its popularity among the general public as a suitable martial art to study.

Aikido is a relatively new martial art, so it doesn’t have the same long history and tradition as other martial arts like karate or judo. Aikido is a very technical martial art that relies heavily on proper form and technique, and many people find it difficult to learn. 

Aikido is a non-competitive martial art. There are no tournaments or competitions, so there’s no way to prove your skills against other practitioners.

Despite these factors, Aikido is still a valid and effective martial art with a substantial worldwide following. 

Studying Aikido is also a great way to get in shape and learn something new. If you’re interested in trying Aikido, there are plenty of schools and instructors available who can help you get started.

Is Aikido an offensive or defensive martial art?

Aikido is often seen as a defensive martial art but can also be used offensively. Aikido practitioners believe it is better to defend oneself than to attack. Still, if necessary, they can use Aikido techniques to disable an opponent. 

This has given Aikido a bad reputation for being soft and ineffectual, invalidating it as a fighting style in some quarters. Still, many people consider it a great martial art for self-defense.

Aikido was not developed to be a combat sport or an aggressive fighting style. The martial art aims for self-defense, using only enough force to defend against the attack and get out of the situation rather than cause an attacker grievous bodily harm.

Is Aikido Actually Practical In A Real Fight?

So, what’s the truth? Is Aikido actually practical in a real fight? There are a few things to consider when answering this question. 

It’s important to understand that Aikido is not a sport; it’s a martial art. This means its primary purpose is not to score points or win matches but to teach self-defense. 

As such, Aikido techniques are designed to be used against larger, stronger opponents trying to hurt you.

Aikido is not about brute force or violence; it’s about using your opponent’s energy against them. This means that even if you’re not the strongest or biggest person in a fight, you can still use Aikido techniques to defend yourself effectively.

Aikido includes training with weapons and how to defend against an attacker with a weapon, whether you have a weapon yourself or only an empty hand. The weapons in the curriculum include the ken (sword), jo (staff), and how to defend against a knife attack.

At higher levels of Aikido training, a lot of sparring and randori or free-style fighting is included, so practitioners are well-prepared for actual physical confrontations. 

In other words, Aikido is practical in a real fight because it’s designed for self-defense, not for sport.

Hard Aikido techniques

Who Is The Most Famous Aikido Expert?

There are many experts in Aikido, but the most famous one is undoubtedly Morihei Ueshiba. He is the founder of Aikido and is responsible for popularizing the martial art. Ueshiba is also considered one of the greatest experts in the history of Aikido.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido
Image Credit: Wikipedia

A student of the founder, Morihiro Saito, or Saito Sensei, as he is affectionately known in the Aikido community, is also a famous figure in the martial art. 

The most public figure in Aikido, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, is the actor Steven Segal, who studied Aikido in Japan and became proficient in the art. Unfortunately, his wild claims and boasting also contributed to bringing Aikido into disrepute in the public eye.

Is Aikido taught in any police or military forces around the world?

Many law enforcement agencies are taught Aikido techniques, even if they do not entirely study the art. The non-aggressive methods of effectively subduing a person without causing lasting damage have gained popularity in many police forces worldwide. Notably, the U.S. Dept of Justice has looked into Aikido for law enforcement and mentioned the following on their website:

An adapted form of the Japanese marital art of Aikido, which means “art of harmony,” provides police a method of restraining suspects that is less violent than other methods; Aikido can thus help reduce the potential for police brutality.

U.S. Dept of Justice (Office of Justice Program)

The Japanese police force actively trains in Aikido techniques as part of crowd control measures to subdue aggressive individuals in a crowd. In addition, they use Aikido as a defensive strategy should an unarmed police officer face an armed attacker.

US Marines have also been taught Aikido techniques, especially when deployed in a peacekeeping role rather than an aggressive force. Richard Heckler, an Aikido black belt, consulted to the Marine Corp to teach troops these techniques.

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What Are The Belt Levels In Aikido?

Traditional Aikido has multiple levels, called kyu, all of which wear a white belt until the student reaches 1st dan level when a black belt is awarded.

However, many non-traditional Aikido dojos offer belt colors for each kyu level to make the martial more appealing to the general public.

Each kyu level has its own techniques and moves learned as foundational elements for the next level.

The kyu levels and associated belt levels are as follows.

  • Ungraded: White Belt
  • 6th kyu: White belt
  • 5th kyu: Yellow Belt
  • 4th kyu: Orange Belt
  • 3rd kyu: Green Belt
  • 2nd kyu: Blue Belt 
  • 1st kyu: Brown Belt
  • 1st dan: Black Belt 

All the dan levels have a black belt to denote the rank in Aikido. The belt colors for the levels are not standardized, so dojos in different regions may have different colors for each level.

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Why Doesn’t Aikido Have Kicking Techniques?

Aikido does not include kicking techniques as part of its curriculum. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, intentionally left kicking techniques out of the fighting style for two main reasons.

Ueshiba felt that kicks were too brutal and did not fit with the principles of Aikido because the style focuses on balance and grounding. The theory is that it is impossible to be well-balanced and well-grounded to face an opponent unless both feet are kept in contact with the ground.

Final Thoughts

Aikido is a very gentle martial art that focuses on using an attacker’s energy against them, leading to the art being labeled as soft. Despite the bad public reputation of Aikido, it is still an effective and enjoyable martial art focused on self-defense rather than competition.

If you’re interested in a martial art to help you build self-confidence and learn how to defend yourself, Aikido is definitely worth considering.