Real Self Defense – Does Aikido Work in a Street Fight?

Does aikido work is a question I’m often asked as a long time student of the martial art. Of course we have to ask, ‘What do you mean does it work?!’

Action movie star Steven Seagal is one of the best known faces of aikido. The moves we see in his action movies like ‘Hard To Kill’ are what many people will recognise as aikido. In his later movies Segal has added kicks and martial arts moves from other arts.  This is just to make his fights look more ‘exciting’ for the screen and many aikido purists would hate to see this.  In reality, aikido moves are often far more subtle than the horrific joint breaking and high throws we see on screen.

The first time I went along to observe a class I certainly had the thought in my mind ‘is this real?’ The class was the ‘old school’ Yoshinkan aikido and I watched in a state of confusion and awe as I saw people ‘attack’ the Sensei. They appeared to fall or even ‘dive’ after a small counter move or application of a technique was made. Some years later I appreciate the true power of the art and have experienced first hand some of the amazing techniques. The smallest move from a very slight aikido exponent can have a shocking effect on you. 

But does aikido really work in a street fight? On the basis of the basic foundations and ideas I would say yes. After a couple of years of training I would have had better chance of survival in a real street attack than I had before my studies. Simply moving out of the way would be one of the core principles and even before that having an awareness of your surroundings. Awareness is of course key in any self defense. The best defense is avoiding conflict in the first place.

Aikido teaches you how to defend yourself against multiple attackers and this will certainly help in an ‘outside’ confrontation. In reality we are likely to face 2, 3 or even more attackers in such a situation. In any modern city gang culture exists in some form. The ability to move around and between a group of attackers is something we learn and also the need to avoid being backed into a corner and having no escape route. Using an attacker as a shield or even as a weapon to throw into another are other principles we can take from aikido. Similarly there are basic principles of balance and movement which are very relevant.

With roots going back to the Samurai, aikido is one of the older martial arts. I do believe there’s a practical use for the art in the today’s world. You should not expect to have any effective techniques until you have studied and practised for a long time and this puts many people off. If you want to know how to defend yourself on the streets I would explore other more modern self defense systems.

I have studied aikido and other traditional martial arts for many years and now study and practise modern street self defense. Read more at my free resource site
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