Big Aikido Mistake! Stanley Pranin asks why
we allow the attacker to seize the advantage…

A common practice in aikido is to allow oneself to be grabbed by an attacker, and then attempt to respond with a technique. This sets up the defender to be overcome in most situations because of the tactical advantage gained by the attacker who initiates. Aikido Journal’s Stanley Pranin proposes a different strategy and gives his reasons why he believes there is a superior approach.

More on the “Zone Theory of Aikido”…

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  1. Keith Kruger says:

    The magic of technology, video and the internet finally let’s me put your very familiar voice with a face. I’ve heard your narration of numerous aikido videos for years. It’s refreshing to see someone who’s been exposed to most of the original high ranking Japanese instructors take the time to examine what we are practicing. Your zone theory is similar to the approach we take at our school. Our school originated with Sensei Robert Danza 6th dan. Sensei Danza was in the United States Air Force and received his black belt in Japan during the military occupation in the early 1950’s. To our knowledge, Sensei Danza was the first American from the continental US to receive an aikido black belt. Although his training was not primarily at the Hombu dojo we have a picture of Sensei Danza out on the town with the founders son Kisshomaru and Nishio Sensei. Sensei Danza had opportunity to train and work out with them and other known aikidoka of the time. Sensei Danza opened an aikido school in 1964 in Southern New Jersey. We’ve gone through a number of changes over the years and a our school is in a different location, but our basics look very reminiscent of how we see the founder, his son and grandson move although outlook on the art is a little different from what we see from other schools. We’ve always taken the approach that we practice the art first as a self defense meant for application in the real world. Because of this mindset, we usually train all phases of the art with the UKE initiating movement…our thought process is that in the real world, someone attacking you will try to surprise you or otherwise take the advantage. All our testing is approached this way as well. We also adapted (broadened?) our view of how we classify and deal with strikes. Although aikido has it’s roots in the sword, it would be way out of the norm to be attacked with one in the real world. Hence in our practice, we don’t strike from a particular stance, nor do we use an open hand. We’ve adapted rolled, tape covered magazines as a safe weapon and always strike completely thru our target. Yokemenuchi, Shomenuchi, Munetsuki are not practiced as particular sword strikes but rather strikes that have either horizontal, vertical or thrusting energy. This outlook lets us apply the concepts to any kind of striking attack and makes us be respectful of the fact that a real weapon can be involved. How you describe zones is very similar to how we envision our movement. We enter or parry the strike with the primary focus of avoiding the energy moving to the blind spot you describe to EITHER side of the attacker (outside to back side of the attacker or inside to front side). In either case our goal is to enter with basically a tenkan turn, rotating 180 degree while moving past the attacker. We strike with real intent and practice to be realistically effective while NOT depending on strength. Everything you talk about with breaking down the structure of the body, not trying to overpower the uke all strikes home with us.

    This first link is a video from our old school with Sensei Danza from 1982. It shows some of our testing and an anniversary demonstration. At about the 36:00 minute mark Sensei Danza introduces some of the instructors at the old school and himself. At the 40 minute mark, our head instructor at the time Earl Lewis, 4th dan explains some of our approach to the art. The second link is to our current school with Sam Carney who is the owner and head instructor. I hope you’ll take a look and find something interesting within our practice. (You might have to copy and paste the links). At this point in my own aikido career (I started in 1977 at 11) I’m finding myself constantly examining, and evaluating everything we do and look for different insights from many sources. I really enjoyed yours.

    Keith Kruger, San Dan
    South Jersey Aikido Academy

    • Thank you very much, Keith, for the fascinating background on Danza Sensei and the early years of aikido in Japan. I enjoyed watch the spirited approach to training displayed in the video.

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